Shih Tzu

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Shih Tzu
Shihtzu (cropped).jpg
A Shih Tzu in full show coat
Other namesChrysanthemum Dog
Height Dogs 20–28 centimetres (7.9–11.0 in)
Bitches 20–28 centimetres (7.9–11.0 in)
Weight 4–7.5 kilograms (8.8–16.5 lb)
Coat See Coats section below
Colour All are permissible
Often multiple color coats
Dark/Light Brown
Litter size 2–9
Life span 10–18 years, average is 12 years old
Kennel club standards
China Kennel Union standard
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)
Shih Tzu
Chinese name
Literal meaningXi Shi dog
Alternative name
Traditional Chinese獅子
Simplified Chinese狮子
Literal meaninglion

The Shih Tzu (UK: /ˌʃˈts/, US: /ˈʃˌts/;[1] Chinese: 西施犬; pinyin: Xī Shī quǎn literally "Hsi Shih dog") is an Asian toy dog breed originating from Tibet. This breed is well-known for their short snout and large round eyes, as well as their ever growing coat, floppy ears, and short and stout posture. Although small in size, they are notorious for their largely fun and playful personality, and calm and friendly temperament.[2][better source needed] They are highly independent dogs, and are able to adapt well in different situations. Though, due to their independent nature, they are not considered the most obedient breed.[3][better source needed]


A Tricolor (black, white, brown) Shih Tzu in show coat.

The Shih Tzu is a sturdy little dog with a small muzzle and normally has large dark brown eyes. The Chinese have described their head shapes as "owl head" and "lion head", and their mouth as "frog mouth".[4] They have a soft and long double that will tangle and mat easily if not brushed at least every 2 or 3 days. A Shih Tzu should stand no more than 26.7 cm at the withers and with an ideal weight of 4.0 to 7.5 kg. Floppy ears are covered with long fur, and the heavily furred tail is carried curled over the back. The coat may be of any color, though white and with blazes of grey are frequently seen. A very noticeable feature is the underbite, which is required in the breed standard.[5]

The traditional long silky coat, which tends to reach the floor, requires daily brushing to avoid tangles. Because of their long coat and fast-growing hair, regular grooming is necessary and important, which may be expensive and should be taken into account when considering adopting one of this breed. Often, the coat is clipped short to simplify care, but the coat still requires daily brushing. For conformation showing, the coat must be left in its natural state, though trimming for neatness around the feet and anus is allowed. The shorter cut is typically called a "puppy cut"[6] or a "teddy bear cut" when the puppy cut is accompanied by a fuller, rounder face, resembling a cute and cuddly stuffed animal.


The name comes from the Chinese language word for "lion" because this kind of dog was bred to resemble "the lion, as in traditional oriental art".[7] (The Pekingese breed is also called 獅子狗 "lion dog" in Chinese.) "Shih Tzu" is the Wade-Giles romanization of the Chinese characters 獅子 "lion".

A female Shih Tzu at around 18 months of age.

In contemporary mandarin, the Shih Tzu is generally known as the "Xi Shi dog"; Xi Shi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China. Shih Tzu were nicknamed the Chrysanthemum Dog in England in the 1930s.[8] The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog, but whether the breed should be referred to as "Tibetan" or "Chinese" is a source of both historical and political contention, as the subsequent section notes. A book on the breed states that "dog historians tend to have very strong opinions" on the subject.[9]


One theory is that the Shih Tzu descended from a cross between the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso.[10] The dogs were favorites of the Chinese royals and so prized that, for years, the Chinese refused to sell, trade, or give any away. The first dogs of the breed were imported into Europe (England and Norway) in 1930 and were classified by the Kennel Club as "Apsos".[10] The first European standard for the breed was written in England in 1935 by the Shih Tzu Club,[11] and the dogs were categorised again as Shih Tzu. The breed spread throughout Europe and was brought to the United States after World War II, when returning members of the U.S. military brought back dogs from Europe and Asia, in the mid-1950s. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 in the Toy Group.[10]

In 1934, the Shih Tzu Club of England was founded[12] and the breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club (UK) on 7 May 1940. When it became eligible for Challenge Certificates, none were awarded until 1949. The breed is now recognized by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world.[5] It is also recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale for international competition in Companion and Toy Dog Group, Section 5, Tibetan breeds.[5] In the United States, the Shih Tzu ranked the 15th most popular breed in 2013, falling slightly in popularity since 2012 when it was placed in 11th position.[13]


A number of health issues, some of them hereditary, have been found in individual Shih Tzu, and are listed below. The popularity of the breed has allowed for extremely poor breeding in general, leading to generalized and lifelong diseases, often from a fairly early age.


Shih Tzu - Brachycephalie - Qualzucht.jpg

Due to the ideal of beauty regarding the shape of the face the skull malformation brachycephaly was increased by breeding selection.

Eye issues[edit]

It is very common for Shih Tzus to develop eye problems at any age, and even more so once they are older. Most veterinarians will recommend eye drops to assist with any eye irritations. Some dogs have allergies which causes excess discharge around the eye. Older Shih Tzu are known to develop cataracts which can be corrected with surgery. If not treated, the dog may become blind in the eye that has the cataract. The distinctive large eyes can easily be scratched which may cause an ulcer. The dog will normally have the injured eye closed or half closed and may have excessive tears. The most common problem of Shih Tzus concerning eye conditions is the formation of epiphora caused by the fur on the eyelids scratching the conjunctiva and the cornea. However this can be mediated by the application of prescribed eye drops from a certified veterinarian.[14]

Ear issues[edit]

A very common issue for Shih Tzus is the development of ear infections, as they have a long coat and hair grows in their ears. If ears are not plucked and cleaned often, ear infections will reoccur and need to be treated with ear cleaner and possibly medication, prescribed by the veterinarian. Ear infections may be spotted by an odor coming from the ears, as well as frequent shaking of the head and scratching of the ears.[15]

A cream coloured Shih Tzu

Life span[edit]

The UK Kennel Club survey puts the median lifespan of a Shih Tzu at 13 years and 2 months, with most living 10 to 16 years.[16]


Kennel club differences[edit]

There is a difference between the Shih Tzu of the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club (UK):

The AKC (American Kennel Club) Shih-Tzu[edit]

  • Their front legs (forequarters) are straight. Their hindquarters are muscular. Neither should be too short nor too long.
  • The standard head is big and round and is set high with face looking forward or up.
  • The neck and body are the most important and should not be exaggerated.
  • The eyes are large and face the front.
  • The shoulders of the American type of Shih-Tzu are frontal.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Upton, Clive; Kretzschmar, Jr., William A. (2017). The Routledge Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 1231. ISBN 978-1-138-12566-7.
  2. ^ "Shih Tzu Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  3. ^ Juliette., Cunliffe (2007). Shih tzu. Kennel Club Books. ISBN 978-1-59378-216-0. OCLC 232358683.
  4. ^ Juliette., Cunliffe (2007). Shih tzu. Kennel Club Books. ISBN 978-1-59378-216-0. OCLC 232358683. Archived from the original on 1 May 2021. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Federation Cynologique Internationale Breed Standard" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 October 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  6. ^ "United Kennel Club: Shih Tzu". United Kennel Club. 1 May 2007. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. ^ Shih Tzu, by Jaime J. Sucher, p. 5, Barron's Educational Series, 2000, ISBN 0-7641-1043-8
  8. ^ Shih Tzu For Dummies, by Eve Adamson, p. 257, For Dummies, Publisher, 2007, ISBN 0-470-08945-8 quote: "Lady Brownrigg, who brought the first Shih Tzu into England, coined the phrase Chrysanthemum Dog."
  9. ^ Shih Tzu For Dummies, by Eve Adamson, p. 27, For Dummies, Publisher, 2007, ISBN 0-470-08945-8 quote: "...dogs related to the modern-day Shih Tzu probably came from Tibet, but how long they were there and how much influence they had on the present day Shih Tzu may never be known." The author then says, "Dog historians tend to have very strong opinions." It is often mistakenly said that the Shih Tzu is Chinese royalty.
  10. ^ a b c Clark, Anne Rogers; Andrew H. Brace (1995). The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. Howell Book House. pp. 416–417. ISBN 0-87605-624-9.
  11. ^ The Shih Tzu, by Audrey Dadds, p. 29, Howell Book House, 1975, ISBN 0-87605-309-6
  12. ^ "The Kennel Club". Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  13. ^ American Kennel Club 2013 Dog Registration Statistics Historical Comparisons & Notable Trends Archived 17 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The American Kennel Club, Retrieved 30 April 2014
  14. ^ Christmas, Richard E. (June 1992). "Common ocular problems of Shih Tzu dogs". Canadian Veterinary Journal. 33 (6): 390–393. PMC 1481255. PMID 17424020.
  15. ^ Juliette., Cunliffe (2007). Shih tzu. Kennel Club Books. ISBN 978-1-59378-216-0. OCLC 232358683. Archived from the original on 1 May 2021. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  16. ^ "2004 Purebred Dog Health Survey" (PDF). KC/BSAVA. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  17. ^ "Shih Tzu Dog Breed Information". Archived from the original on 11 December 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.

External links[edit]