Shih Tzu Dog Breed

Country of Origin: Tibet (China)
Height: 8–11 inches
Weight: Males 9–16 pounds, females less
Coat: Double coat with long, flowing, luxurious, dense outercoat and good undercoat
Colors: All colors permissible
Other Names: Chinese Lion Dog, Chrysanthemum Dog
Registries (With Group): AKC (Toy); UKC (Companion)

Origin and History

The Shih Tzu probably has ancient roots in Tibet as the smaller cousin of the Lhasa Apso, but the breed was developed and perfected in China. The elegant and docile little "lion dog" was highly prized by the Chinese court for centuries, living a life of luxury in the royal palace. The breed was further refined during the reign of the Dowager Empress Cixi (T'zu Hsi, 1861–1908). After her death, the palace kennel was dispersed, and the breed became scarce in subsequent years. After China became a republic in 1912, occasional specimens made their way into England and later to Norway and North America, where breeding programs were begun.

The Shih Tzu became virtually extinct in China after the Communist takeover of 1949. Luckily, a few individuals survived, and seven dogs and seven bitches became the foundation of all Shih Tzu now existing. Today, he is one of the most popular toy breeds in the world.

Personality Profile

This spunky little fellow is both a gentle lapdog and a playful companion. He's surprisingly sturdy and is tolerant and affectionate with children. He can be stubborn one moment, then disarm the next with his charming clownishness.

Care Requirements


Because of his small size, a short walk every day supplemented with some indoor playtime is sufficient to meet the Shih Tzu's exercise needs.


When his luxurious coat is kept long, in the traditional style, it should be brushed daily to prevent tangling and matting. The topknot must be maintained (tied up neatly with a rubber band) to hold the hair away from his eyes. Many owners and breeders keep their pets and older animals trimmed shorter for greater ease of coat care.

Life Span

The average life span of the Shih Tzu is 11 to 15 years.


The Shih Tzu can be obstinate, but patience in training will eventually pay off. As with some toy breeds, housetraining can be a challenge.

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