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Shih Tzu

Country/Date of Origin: China/1600s

Although it is associated with the Emperors of China, the Shih Tzu is of Tibetan origin. The dogs' introduction to China was probably as gifts from the Dalai Lama. There was a religious significance, as the little dogs were said to be the living embodiment of the lion, which is revered in the Orient as the guardian of Buddha. They remained the property of the Chinese nobility for centuries and it was not until 1930 that some reached the West. Most of the little pampered pets were destroyed in the Chinese Revolution but several were sent to England, and from there they spread around the world. The Shih Tzu was admitted to the American Kennel Club registry in 1969.

Other Names Body Type Personality Coat Health Concerns

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Chrysanthemum Dog

AKC Group: Toy

Breed Club: American Shih Tzu Club

Rescue Club: American Shih Tzu Club Rescue

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Body Type:

  • Small, stocky, short legged dog of Oriental origin with a profuse coat that often sweeps the ground
  • Height: 10 1/2 inches (at shoulder)
  • Weight: 10-16 pounds
  • Tail is held high and arched over back like a plume. It is not altered
  • Long, hanging ears are not altered
  • The gait of a Shih Tzu is slightly rolling with a strong rear action


  • Gentle and loyal
  • So charming that it will worm its way into your heart
  • Proud and aristocratic temperament
  • Can be stubborn


  • Very long, dense double coat. The undercoat is woolly. The outercoat is extremely long and may be slightly wavy but never curly
  • Head hair is tied with a barrette or rubber band to prevent eye irritations
  • Called the "chrysanthemum-faced dog" because the hair grows about the face in all directions
  • Professional grooming suggested
  • All colors permissible. A white blaze on the forehead is highly desirable

Health Concerns:

  • Carries a genetic kidney disease that is fatal
  • The pushed in face of this breed gives rise to breathing difficulties and respiratory infections
  • Large eyes are often injured or irritated by hair
  • The short muzzle causes teeth problems
  • Slipped stifles (subluxated patella) are common. They cause the dog to move the rear legs with a little hop
  • Difficulty whelping
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Tasty Tidbits:
  • Shih Tzu means lion in Chinese
  • Often confused with the Lhasa Apso, the Shih Tzu is smaller, has a denser, slightly wavy coat and the hair is traditionally tied on top of the head
  • This is a very sturdy toy breed that can and will tolerate the rough and tumble play of children
  • The gentle nature and low exercise requirements make it an ideal pet for the elderly

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