Shih Tzu Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

The Shih Tzu (Shih Tzu Kou) or Chrysanthemum Dog (Lion Dog, Chinese Lion Dog, Xi Shi dog) is an ancient companion and lap dog, whose true origin is still veiled in mystery. However, there are actually three theories on how Shih Tzus came into being. According to the first theory, the breed originated more than 2.000 years ago in Tibet, where it was bred by lamas in lamaseries. The lamas gifted a few of these dogs to rulers at the Chinese Imperial Court in the 17th century, when the breed was finally given its present name. If this theory is correct, then this is officially the smallest of all Tibetan breeds. According to the second theory, the breed was actually developed in the 17th century in the city of Peking (Beijing), China, by crossing the Pekingese with the Lhasa Apso. The third theory suggests that the breed actually originated in China around 800 B.C. Anyhow, the recent DNA study confirmed that the Shih Tzu is actually one of the 14 oldest (ancient) dog breeds in the world, which are closely related to the wolf. In this group, apart from its “relatives,” the Lhasa Apso, Pekingese and Tibetan Terrier, are some of the most famous breeds around the globe, such as the Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Siberian Husky, Basenji, Samoyed, Afghan Hound, etc.

In China, Shih Tzus were held by the royalty with the highest respect because of their fancy appearance. That was especially the case during the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (1861-1908). They were regarded as little lions or lion dogs (just like the Pekingese), which is actually the very meaning of the breed’s Mandarin Chinese name. At the Imperial Court, these dogs were selectively bred and couldn’t be given, nor sold to anybody outside the royal family. This explains why it took so long for the breed to finally reach the West in 1928. That year, when the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) was in full swing, General Douglas and Lady Brownrigg were given a few of these dogs, which they had brought with them to England. This was a crucial thing for the salvation of this breed since it was on the brink of extinction during the Communist Revolution in China – only 14 dogs remained in the whole world. In 1935, the first European breed standard was established by the Shih Tzu club of England. The breed reached the USA after the WWII and the AKC recognized it in 1969. The Lion Dog was recognized by the FCI on a definitive basis in 1957. However, it is not included in the Spitz and Primitive Types group, but in the Companion and Toy Dogs group in the Tibetan Breeds section.

Shih Tzu Temperament And Personality

The main qualities that truly define the Shih Tzu are calmness, fondness, liveliness, kindness, tenderness, happiness, and cuteness.

Kind and cute :)

The Shih Tzu is a loyal, kind and lively dog that is highly prized for its cute, lion-like look, which is quite reminiscent of the Lhasa Apso. However, although it is almost identical to its Tibetan counterpart in appearance, this breed has a completely different personality. Unlike the Lhasa Apso, which is over-confident, grumpy, stubborn, and strong-minded, the Shih Tzu is a less aloof, peaceful, happy, and easy-going dog, which is why he is more popular in general of the two. On top of that, he is very intelligent, devoted, attentive, outgoing, friendly, affectionate, cheerful, playful, and eager to please its owner. In the past, these dogs often served as royal companions (in China) and as sentinels (in Tibet), but today they are mostly known as house pets. Indeed, the Lion Dog is, before anything else, a wonderful and kind family companion. The human companionship is literally the spiritual food for this little dog, which is why he will always look to spend as much time as possible surrounded by his family. He will always seek your attention and will very much enjoy cuddling and caressing. Know that whatever you do – eat, rest, watch TV, clean the house – he will always gladly join you. The Chrysanthemum Dog is typically not a one person dog and will equally respect and cherish the company of all members of the household, doesn’t matter if someone spends more time with him.

Another lovely thing that separates the Shih Tzu from other Tibetan and Chinese toy breeds is its trustworthy, calm temperament when it comes to children. This dog truly makes an outstanding playmate with kids, even the small ones. However, like it is the case with the majority of other dog breeds, he is first and foremost recommended for the families with older children (6+ years). Anyway, there are many qualities to this dog that make him such a lovely kids companion. Unlike its close relatives, the Chrysanthemum Dog is usually very playful, cheerful, happy, and whacky. Besides, he can be really calm, cuddly and gentle at times, almost like a cat. So, your children will definitely have a lot of things to like about this cute dog. Of course, there is always a small possibility for the Lion Dog to nip a child, especially if a child is very rude, or if it messes with his food. Children, especially small ones, can sometimes be very reckless and rude with no apparent reason. Not only that they can enrage a dog, but in the case of such small breed as the Shih Tzu, they can even hurt him – fell on him, step on him, or just throw him down. Also, some dogs can be jealous of toddlers and babies, although rarely. That’s why it is important that you raise a Lion Dog with your children. Also, early socialization is always a good thing in this case. On top of that, you will have to teach your kids to properly treat a dog.

The Shih Tzu is almost always very watchful and alert, ready to sound the alarm if there’s anything suspicious happening in or around the owner’s property. This makes him truly an amazing watchdog, who will announce every stranger with high-pitched bark. However, this will usually be only his instinctive reaction because this dog is generally not suspicious or wary of strangers like some other toy breeds. Also, he is naturally not at all aggressive towards strangers. In fact, the Shih Tzu will often welcome unknown people quite politely, like true friends. Of course, he may be aloof and untrustful at first, but will easily get accustomed to new people, especially if they are greeted by their owners. This dog will almost always look up to his master – if he/she approves something, that’s it, a dog will fully trust the master’s opinion. So, as soon as he figures out his owner is ok with that unknown person, he will be too. The Xi Shi Dog has such a loving personality – he will return your love with interest. Cutie :*** However, although he is kind with strangers, that doesn’t mean he will be quiet all the time. Indeed, this dog is quite prone to excessive barking because of his super-sensitivity to all strange sounds and movements around him. That’s why you will, as soon as possible, have to socialize your little lion with different people, sounds, situations. This will also help him to not become shy or timid.

The Shih Tzu‘s huge love for all things familiar makes him a great companion for all other petscanine or non-canine. He is not a hunter, has no prey drive, and he certainly isn’t a guard dog, nor is he extremely grumpy or bossy. Besides, this dog is small and light, with short, harmless jaws, so you won’t have to worry he will hurt any other pet, especially if raised with them. Of course, hamsters and such tiny animals might intrigue him, but he’ll probably just play with them out of curiosity. However, I suggest you keep them away from your Shih Tzu (or any other toy dog), just in case. Cats and other pets of similar size, on the contrary, usually won’t have any problems with this dog. Though he may be snappish and naggy at times, especially if he is bored, or if he seeks attention. Almost the same thing can be said in the case of other dogs. The Xi Shi Dog will usually be very playful, peaceful and nice with familiar dogs, but it may exhibit aggression with unknown dogs. However, that can easily be corrected by proper socialization. Also, he can get in trouble with other dogs when he steals their toys! And steal their toys (and other things) he will because of his mischievous nature – sneaky little thing :) Anyway, it would be wise to socialize your Lion Dog with other pets and dogs as soon as possible. Also, always keep an eye on him in the dog park because larger dogs might hurt him during the play.

If you don't intend to show your Chrysanthemum Dog in conformation, it would be wise to leave make him a shorter, puppy cut of hair.

How cute I am :)

Chrysanthemum Dog Training

You thought that everything will be easy peasy with the Shih Tzu? Well, think again. Though this is a rather calm and well-mannered dog, he is still an independent thinker, eager to do things on his own. He can also be quite stubborn, independent, spoiled, and self-assured, which can make things harder. However, the Chrysanthemum Dog is nowhere near as heard-headed as the Pekingese or Lhasa Apso when it comes to training. That’s why this breed is also recommended for novice owners. Of course, that doesn’t mean you will accomplish its training in a couple of days, but he will definitely learn demanding commands faster than some other toy dogs. After all, this is a very bright and intelligent dog with excellent memory, eager to learn new things when motivated the right way. So, what you need to know to train your Shih Tzu properly? First of all, you will have to be a pack leader, one that is dominant and consistent, but never rude or aggressive. You will also have to be very patient, calm and relaxed. You should start with the training as early as possible (around 6-8 weeks). The training sessions should be regular, short and fun. Positive reinforcement techniques are highly recommended – praise and food rewards will do the trick. In the end, it is very important to teach your dog that all family members are above him in the hierarchy of the pack, otherwise, he may develop the small dog syndrome. For this reason, you will have to call other family members to join you during the training.

Other Characteristics And Traits

Main Shih Tzu characteristics are high intelligence, loyalty, affection, independence, self-confidence, stubbornness, playfulness, cheerfulness, alertness, boldness, tenderness, curiosity, and low stamina. Like other toy dogs, this one also has the short nose, which means that he is prone to heatstroke because the inhaled air can’t be cooled efficiently on its way to the lungs. Such breathing difficulties also affect his overall need for daily activity. In other words, the Shih Tzu is not a highly energetic dog and will do just fine with a small amount of daily exercise. Nonetheless, you will have to exercise your dog regularly if you want him to stay healthy both mentally and physically. A daily exercise should include short walks and some interesting games. I would recommend take your Lion Dog for a short walk on a leash twice a day – in the morning and also in the evening. That will suit him perfectly and will satisfy his need for exploring the surroundings. However, avoid walks in very hot weather. Also, try to combine walks with vigorous, interactive games in an enclosed area (or even indoors). So, get some toys and balls and have fun with your dog, it will make you all happy. Remember, avoiding to exercise your dog is unacceptable because it can have serious consequences for his overall health – obsessive barking, obesity, chewing, separation anxiety, aggressive behavior, etc.

You will definitely have a lot to play with when it comes to the Xi Shi Dog's lush hair, just let your imagination soar.

I look kinda silly, yes? :)

The good exercise is necessary for all toy breeds, the Shih Tzu included, because they normally live indoors with their owners, where the living space is often quite limited, especially in small apartments. In some of them, there is literally no place to run and play, which can make things unbearable for a dog without the regular exercise. So, there is no excuse to not exercise your little friend! It’s a must! Speaking of living conditions, we can safely say that this dog can easily adapt to all kinds of living environments. Whether it is a suburban house, a farm, or an apartment in the huge city, this little lion will feel fine in all of them. However, you have to know that this is first and foremost a housedog, which means that wherever you live, you will have to keep him indoors for the most time. The Shih Tzu is a tiny, fragile dog, which can easily get into all sorts of trouble if not supervised, especially when outside. Also, this is a dog that thrives on human attentionhe is the happiest when in company of family members. So, wherever you go or whatever you do, the Lion Dog will always look to be at your side. With these things in mind, it is understandable that you will have to provide him a nice and cozy place in your home, where he will always be close to you. This will make him incredibly happy and in return, he will do whatever he can to share his happiness with you <3

However, there are a few things you have to know in order to keep properly your Shih Tzu indoors. First of all, this dog can prove a hard nut when it comes to housebreaking. This can be a serious problem in puppyhood, when your dog is prone to frequent peeing because of the small bladder. You will literally have to always run around the house after a puppy to stop him from making a mess. That’s why it is recommended that you put your little lion through regular crate training. Considering how stubborn and independent the Chrysanthemum Dog can be, it will probably take you at least four months to housebreak him. So, arm yourself with abundance of patience and do the job right. Another thing you will have to seriously take care of, being the grooming. The Shih Tzu is a long haired dog that has a spontaneous hairfall similar to humans, which is more intense during the spring and autumn. Generally, it will take you a lot of time to keep his coat in good shape. So, you will need to brush your dog once or twice a day to keep your house clean. Also, you will have to trim his coat once or twice a month. That’s why it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have at least some kind of yard around the house. This would definitely save you from extra cleaning of your interior. In the end, you also have to know that this dog can’t stand too hot or too cold weather. Try not to take him outside during such days, better play with him indoors.

Shih Tzu Health

The life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is around 12-14 years. This dog is considered relatively healthy since there are no major concerns for his health. However, Chrysanthemum Dogs are susceptible to various types of health problems that are more or less common for all toy breeds (including some hereditary diseases), such as hip dysplasia, luxating patella, intervertebral disk disease, juvenile renal dysplasia (JRD), portosystemic liver shunt, umbilical hernias, exposure keratopathy syndrome, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, brachycephalic syndrome, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand disease, renal cortical hypoplasia, trichiasis, entropion, progressive retinal athropy (PRA), cataracts, proptosis, keratitis, otitis externa, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), epilespy, various types of allergies, obesity, respiratory problems (snuffles and snorts), fold dermatitis, arachnoid cysts, some tooth and gum issues (periodontitis and retained baby teeth), etc. This is quite a long list, but don’t let that frighten you. Many of these health issues are very, very rarely seen in this breed, but it’s good to know something about them anyway. You should mainly pay attention to your dog’s eyes, limbs and breathing. Always buy a Shih Tzu puppy from a reputable breeder, one who can provide you for health clearances for both of a puppy’s parents. Also, the breeder should provide you with the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) clearance and the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certification that the puppy is screened for both limbs and eye problems.

Xi Shi Dog Physical Characteristics And Appearance

This "chrysanthemum-like face" is the main reason the breed is often called the Chrysanthemum Dog in China.

It’s me, your karate teacher :)

The Shih Tzu is a small and light dog of rectangular shape – a bit longer than tall at the withers. It has an attractive appearance, characterized by the gorgeous, lush hair. Its body is well-balanced, compact and sturdy, covered with the long, abundant double coat. The undercoat is moderate, soft and dense and the top coat is long and silky – it’s usually straight, but can be slightly wavy as well. The hair is very long all over the body (reaching the ground), even on the muzzle, but it’s not excessive. It is very sleek and quite human-like, ideal for various haircuts. However, if you intend to show your Xi Shi Dog in conformation, you should leave it almost in its natural shape – trim it only close to the ground because it should not restrict the dog’s movement. Otherwise, I would suggest you keep a shorter, puppy cut if you have no time for extra maintenance. Indeed, its coat mats quite easily, which is the reason the Lion Dog requires a lot of regular, daily grooming. You will literally spend hours and hours on combing and brushing. Regular bathing (once every week) is also necessary to keep it clean. On top of that, you should take your dog to a professional groomer once every two months. As you can see, this dog is not a joke when it comes to coat maintenance. That’s why I suggest you start the grooming sessions at an early age so that a puppy can get used to all that combing and brushing. Main Shih Tzu colors are various shades of black, white, red, cream, grey, gold, brown, etc. The usual color patterns are solid, parti-color, or brindle. Almost all colors are allowed, but it is very desirable that parti-colored dogs have a white tip to tail and white blaze on forehead.

The Shih Tzu has a big, broad and round head. It is wide between the eyes, with the well-defined skull and flat face when you look it from the side. The muzzle is short, square, flat, and unwrinkled. The mouth is slightly undershot, which is why the teeth meet in a pincer or level bite. The dog has the broad nose and level lips that can be black, blue or liver pigmented. It is interesting that the black pigmentation is determined by the coat color, while the blue or liver pigmentation actually determine the coat color itself. This rule also applies to the eye rims. The large, rounded eyes are set wide apart, but not very prominent. They can be dark or light colored, depending on the color of the coat. Keep in mind that the hair should not affect the dog’s ability to see. The large, heavily coated ears are pendant and low-set, with long leathers. Inspect your dog’s eyes and ears once every two weeks. The neck is strong, lightly arched and well-balanced with the head. The chest is quite broad and deep. The back is firm and level and the loins are sturdy and well-muscled. The heavily plumed, naturally curled tail is set on high and is usually carried over the dog’s back. The forelegs are short, muscular and straight, with the ample bone. The hind legs are strong, short and powerful, with well-rounded and quite muscular thighs. The rounded feet with firm pads are covered with insulating hair. The Shih Tzu has an arrogant and very smooth gait, which gives him a truly proud and confident appearance.

Shih Tzu Dog Size And Weight

Male
– Height between 9 and 11 inches (23-28 cm)
– Weight between 11 and 16 pounds (4,5-7,5 kg)
Female
– Height between 8 and 10 inches (20-25 cm)
– Weight between 9 and 14 pounds (4-7 kg)

Note: there are even smaller Shih Tzus known under the name “Imperial Shih Tzu” or “Teacup Shih Tzu“!

The Xi Shi Dog has the long, silky coat, which is quite luxurious and sleek, giving this dog the impression of a living plush toy.

Can you please brush my back, hm? :)

Luxurious Coat And Chrysanthemum-like Face

The one of the most authentic traits of the Shih Tzu is its long, silky coat, which is quite luxurious and sleek, giving this dog the impression of a living plush toy. The coat is characterized by the long, straight (or slightly wavy) hair, which is flowing nicely all the way to the ground. If not trimmed regularly, it can easily grow even longer. However, the most interesting segment of its coat is the facial hair. Particularly amazing is the hair on the bridge of a nose, which is actually growing upwards so the owners usually tie it in a knot on the top of the head. Besides, the hair on the muzzle also forms a nice, full mustache as well as a long, dense beard, which together remind me of Lu Zijian – an old karate teacher from movies :) Because of such unique hair the Shih Tzu’s head has a look of the chrysanthemum flower. This “chrysanthemum face” is the main reason the breed is often called the Chrysanthemum Dog in China. With such wonderful and unique coat, there is no doubt that this dog is truly a thing of beauty. You will definitely have a lot to play with when it comes to its lush hair, just let your imagination soar. Figure out some nice haircut, trim it, comb it. Make your dog some nice mustache, or make him some nice palm atop the head. The possibilities are numerous – be creative and have fun. Don’t just have your own Xi Shi Dog, make him your own in every way! I’m sure many of you will enjoy it so much, especially you dear girls and ladies.

Cute Companion And Therapy Dog

The Shih Tzu is such a lovable dog of many qualities. Ok, he can be quite stubborn and aloof at times, especially when it comes to training, but unlike many other toy dogs, this one is truly a joke in comparison. Besides, he is probably the less grumpy, less yappy and less self-possessed of them all. The main qualities that truly define the Chrysanthemum Dog are calmness, fondness, liveliness, kindness, tenderness, happiness, and cuteness. When you look at these, it is not surprising that this little lion is such a wonderful companion and family pet. He will literally always strive for human attention and will feel better when in the company of his loved ones. What’s even better, he will do anything he can make you happy. Such a heart :) This kind and lovable side of Shih Tzus is also the reason they are often used as therapy dogs. Indeed, they can be very fond of old people. In fact, they’re recommended for people that mostly stay at home, including old men and women. Of course, to put your dog in order, you will certainly have to train and socialize him properly, but in the hands of an experienced owner (trainer) it will be a walk in the park. So, as you can see, the Shih Tzu is truly a magnificent toy dog that will easily find its place in almost every home. This dog will literally be your shadow at every step and you’ll love him for that! Besides, you will have the cutest thing possible to always put a smile on your face :)

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