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Adopt a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu Dog Breed

Picture: Robert Dowling/Corbis


companion, herding

Area of origin:


Original function:

lap dog

Average size of male:

Ht: 8-11, Wt: 9-16

Average size of female:

Ht: 8-11, Wt: 9-16

Other names:

chrysanthemum dog

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    Friendliness towards dogs

  • Friendliness towards other pets

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    Friendliness towards strangers

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    Ease of training

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    Watchdog ability

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    Protection ability

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    Cold tolerance

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    Heat tolerance

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Shih Tzu Dog Temperament

The spunky but sweet Shih Tzu is both a gentle lap dog and a vivacious companion. He has an upbeat attitude and loves to play and romp. He is affectionate to his family and good with children. He is surprisingly tough and does have a stubborn streak.

Shih Tzu Dog Care

Despite his small size, the Shih Tzu needs daily exercise. Because of his small size, he can meet his requirements with vigorous indoor games or short frolics outside or with short walks on leash. He does not do well in hot humid weather, and he should never be expected to live outdoors. His luxurious coat needs brushing or combing every other day; puppies should be taught to accept grooming from a young age. Pets may be clipped.

Shih Tzu Dog Health

Major concerns: none
Minor concerns: renal cortical hypoplasia, entropion, trichiasis, PRA, KCS, CHD, otitis externa, portacaval shunt, inguinal hernias
Occasionally seen: vWD
Suggested tests: eye
Life span: 11-14 years

Dogs Related to the Shih Tzu

Japanese Chin

Interested in the history of the Shih Tzu dog breed?

Shih Tzu (or more properly, Shih Tzu Kou) means "lion dog," designating the breed as one of the most esteemed animals in China because of its association with Buddhism. Even though the Shih Tzu is most often associated with China, he probably originated in Tibet as early as the 17th century, where he enjoyed status as a holy dog. The Shih Tzu, as he is known today, developed most distinctively in China during the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (Tzu-shi, 1861-1908). The Shih Tzu and Pekingese share similar histories; however, the Shih Tzu can usually be differentiated from the Pekingese in Chinese art by the presence of bumps on the tops of the head, denoting a topknot, or pien-ji. The Shih Tzu was a favored house pet during the Ming Dynasty and was highly prized by the royal family. When the British looted the Imperial Palace, most of the dogs were lost, and the breed suffered a great setback. The Shih Tzu was first exhibited in China as the Lhassa terrier or Tibetan poodle. In 1935, he was exhibited as the Lhassa lion dog; by that time, he was becoming very popular. A similar state of confusion existed in England, where the Lhasa apso and Shih Tzu were both lumped together as the apso (meaning shaggy). In 1934, soon after the apso was first shown, it was divided into two separate breeds, with the smaller, wider-skulled, shorter-nosed dogs from Peking dubbed Shih Tzu, their colloquial Chinese name. In 1952 a single Pekingese cross was authorized to improve certain points, but such crosses have never again been permitted. In the United States, the breed began to become extremely popular in the 1960s, leading to AKC recognition in 1969. His popularity has continued to grow, and he is one of the most popular toys.

Copyright © 1998, 2005 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. based on

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Some animal welfare organizations with Shih Tzus ready for adoption:

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