Fun Shih Tzu Facts and Information

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The Shih Tzu breed are a generally a happy and well-adjusted little dog.

Those who are already share their household with a Shih Tzu dog, are already aware of this little tidbit.

But there is so much more to this breed that some may not have known and may have been wondering about.

Below are some fascinating and fun facts that you may find interesting about this graceful little dog.

Person holding a tan and white (actually liver color) Shih Tzu dog named Max

Fun Facts on The Shih Tzu Dog Breed

  • Shih Tzu dogs originated in Asia

You may have already known this, but what you may not have known is that the Shih Tzu is believed to have originated in Tibet and given to the Emperors of China as gifts.

However, the Shih Tzu that we know and love today were mostly developed in China.

  • Shih Tzu is pronounced “Sheed Zoo” and in Chinese is said to mean “lion” dog 

Although their name may sound like you are cursing in English, in Chinese the characters translate into lion. Lions were held in high esteem in Asia, and the Shih Tzu are said to be little "lion dogs"

  • Shih Tzu were bred to be a companion dog

And what a great companion they are. Many toy breeds are bred to be companion dogs and not much more than that.

The Shih Tzu is very good at his purpose of companionship, as they bring us so much love and happiness. When we're having a bad day, these little cuddle bugs know just how to get us out of our funk.

  • Shih Tzu are also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog

The Shih Tzu were given the nickname "Chrysanthemum Dog" because the way their hair grows up and around the nose and muzzle which gives them the resemblance of the flower.

  • Today's Shih Tzu are descended from just 13 Shih Tzu

When the communists came to power in 1949, these noble dogs were viewed as a symbol of wealth and privilege, as well as a drain on resources and were eventually all destroyed except for a few.

  • A Few Shih Tzu were imported to Europe

Lady Brownrigg (wife of Douglas Brownrigg the Quarter Master General to the North China Command) is credited with saving the Shih Tzu breed by importing a few Shih Tzu into Europe for breeding. Eventually, this small dog made their way to the United States during the 1940's and 1950's when American soldiers stationed over in Europe had become enamored by the breed and returned home with them.

  • Was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969

Even though the Shih Tzu breed had been around for centuries, they AKC finally accepted them into the "Toy Group" back in '69, largely in part to their popularity in the US growing so fast. 

Their momentum was unstoppable it seemed and the AKC could not ignore this breed any longer.  Better late than never.

  • Classified as toy dog breeds by the American Kennel Club

The "toy dog" basically refers to a very small dog. It also refers them as non-sporting breeds, meaning they aren't used for hunting, or other sports and are simply a companion breed.

  • Has a long luxurious double coat made of hair (like humans)

The Shih Tzu are known for its long and luxurious long hair and it is so soft and silky too. You can't help but notice this feature while running your hand over their long mane as they sit upon your lap.

Washington State University demonstrated reductions in students' cortisol levels while they were hanging out with dogs and cats. But we as pet parents already knew this though, and do not need a study to tell us how awesome our pets are when it comes to increasing our happiness.

  • Shih Tzu don't shed...well...that much

Yes, it's true Shih Tzu are a great choice for allergy suffers because of their low shedding nature.  Yet it isn't entirely accurate to say they are a non-shedding dog breed.

Shih Tzu do shed, but it so much less than dogs than dogs with fur.  The fact that they don't shed so much, is a huge time saver when cleaning your home.

Tan and white Shih Tzu getting a health check
  • Are generally a healthy breed with few medical problems

Generally, Shih Tzu are a healthy breed, however they can have a disposition towards some health issues just like any dog, or human for that matter.

  • Shih Tzu dogs are sensitive to heat

You may think it's because of all the hair the Shih Tzu have is the reason for their heat sensitivity.

While that is certainly part of it, the bigger reason Shih Tzu are sensitive to heat is due to their flat faces and short noses. 

The nasal passages on a Shih Tzu are very thin compared to other dog breeds which doesn't give them an efficient means for cooling the air they breathe before it reaches their lungs.

Because of this, they are prone to overheat and heat stroke is a real risk for them. 

It's best to leave them indoors when the temperature is very hot, and never leave them in a car even with the windows rolled down.

You may find our article "How to Keep a Shih Tzu Cool in the Summer" helpful when the temperatures rise in your area.

  • Life expectancy is 13-16 years or better

Sadly, dogs don't live as long as most humans, so we will most likely have to say goodbye to our beloved pets sooner than we would like to.

However, the Shih. Tzu as with many small breeds, usually live longer than larger dogs on average.

The life expectancy of a Shih Tzu can be higher or lower than the 13-16 years depending on several factors, but generally they are a healthy breed.

The oldest living Shih Tzu was one named Smokey from Florida, who lived to be 23 years old.

  • Prone to ear, eye and respiratory problems

As mentioned above the Shih Tzu have breathing problems due to their thin nasal passages, which is why you may have heard them snoring when they sleep. 

The ears of a Shih Tzu are covered in hair that hang down over their ear canal which hinders air circulation and can trap bacteria causing infections to arise.

It is very important that you or your vet does regular ear cleaning to avoid infections.

A Shih Tzu eyes are large and protruding.  Although they are beautiful, these bulging orbs can get scratched very easily when playing with other dogs and children, or by the rope of a retractable leash.  In addition, their eyes are like magnets for dirt and debris.

  • Prone to spinal problems (best not to let them jump down from high places)

Although it isn't as common in Shih Tzu as it is with other breeds, it can happen.

Proportionally, Shih Tzu have a long back. Dogs with long backs make them more susceptible to spinal disk ruptures.  

Just jumping down from high places, like beds and other furniture, can cause a rupture to happen. If this happens it is usually followed by a "yelp" and your dog will refuse to move.

Should you hear and see this it means an emergency visit to your Vet as quickly as possible, as it could result in permanent damage.

  • Tend to lose their teeth easily and must be cleaned on a regular basis

If you ever looked into a Shih Tzu's mouth you have seen that they have a lot of teeth.

With so many teeth overcrowding can become a problem in their small mouths.  This can lead to crooked teeth, gum disease and tooth decay.

This is why regular teeth brushings and yearly dental cleanings from your Vet are so important.  Simply brushing your pup's teeth can help keep these issues to a minimum.

And if teeth become too crowded, your Vet can simply remove some.

Personality & Behavior

Beautiful light colored Shih Tzu walking towards camera happily smiling
  • Shih Tzu dogs are social animals and love to be petted, groomed and played with

Shih Tzu really thrive when they are around people and other dogs.  They don't handle being alone for an extensive amount of time.  So if you are away for several hours every day, having a pair of Shih Tzu, or maybe even a cat, as a playmate would be ideal.

  • They are not “yappy” dogs

It's likely you have come across a yappy dog in your lifetime.

A yappy dog is one that barks at everything and anything causing a lot of frustration.

A Shih Tzu, while they do bark, thankfully they are generally a quiet dog. However, some may have a tendency to bark at night or occasionally barking at another dog which can be easily resolved.

Keep in mind they can make great watch dogs as they will alert you to something that is unusual or suspicious.

  • Shih Tzu have been known to snore.

Hearing a Shih Tzu snoring can be quite adorable and even humorous. But snoring occurs because their small, flat faces restrict the airflow in the nasal passages or the throat.

Typically, there is nothing to be concerned about when they snore however, pay attention if your Shih Tzu seems to be having a real breathing problem, and discuss your concerns with your Vet.

  • Shih Tzu are loyal dogs and can be stubborn and come across as arrogant

Shih Tzu are very loyal to their family; however, they do tend to be more loyal to one member in particular.

Don't be offended if it isn't you because Shih Tzu do love all their family members. It's just that they do have their favorites and won't see the need to keep it a secret.

Shih Tzu also have a tendency of being on the stubborn side too, and they can be very independent minded dogs.

Yet that doesn't make training them an impossible task. 

Potty training a Shih Tzu is not as difficult as you may have been led to believe and, they will listen to basic training commands as long as you are consistent with your training.

Keep in mind that patience and understanding and lots of praise is what a Shih Tzu will respond to.

  •  They love to sit on your lap and cuddle

If you love to cuddle you will absolutely love cuddling with a Shih Tzu. They love nothing more than to be with their human, loving on them and being loved in return.

It's one of my most treasured moments when spending time with my four-legged baby boys.

Appearance and Grooming

Shih Tzu getting groomed
  • The Shih Tzu is a small breed

The official breed standard Shih Tzu is a small dog breed categorized in the "toy dog" group by the AKC. A standard Shih Tzu typically weigh between 9 and 16 pounds and stand 9 to 10 ½ inches tall.

A smaller Shih Tzu, commonly known as a tea-cup or Imperial Shih Tzu, will be much smaller and weigh less.

Overall the Shih Tzu may be small, but don't let their size fool you, they are actually quite more sturdier than your typical small dog.  However, they will still need to be handled with care.

  • Shih have a long luxurious double coat

Basically, a double coat means they have two layers of hair.

The hair closest to their skin is called the undercoat (or bottom coat) which is made up of dense short hairs with a soft, downy appearance that works to protect their skin from cold weather.

The topcoat is made up of longer hairs which protect them from sunburns and insect bites.  This layer can be grown out for a beautiful, luxurious mane of hair which can be groomed to give them a variety of fun and distinct styling options.

  • Long coated Shih Tzu need daily grooming

Leaving a long coat on a Shih Tzu can be undoubtedly gorgeous.  However, keeping their hair long will mean you must brush it daily.

Daily brushing and combing will help remove dirt trapped in their coats and will also remove any of those hairs that have fallen off into their undercoat and will keep his coat from getting tangled and matted.

You'll also have to pay attention to cleaning a Shih Tzu's eyes as they are especially prone to dirt and debris which can lead to an infection if left to sit to long.

Paying attention to his face is important as well.  With his long hair his muzzle will become saturated with food and water if it isn't wiped away.  This is likely the reason you may see "dirty" faces on a Shih Tzu.

Are you finding it more and more tangles when you brush your Shih Tzu's hair, read our article "How to remove matted hair on a Shih Tzu"

  • Have large wide set eyes

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and when looking into a Shih Tzu's eyes you can clearly see what they mean by this, they will melt your heart.

Their eyes are large and round, filled with a friendly warmth.

  • Shih Tzu don't have fur, they have hair like humans which they gradually lose while being grooming.

Hair or fur, what's the difference?  

Technically hair and fur are the same thing...made up of keratin.

However, when referring to hair on a Shih Tzu it comes down to texture.  Soft, silky, long hair that doesn't come flying off your "hair" covered dog every time you rub your hand down his back. 

While "fur" will easily come off your dog while you are petting them, and it may leave clumps wherever your dog lays down (think Pigpen of the classic Charlie Brown cartoons) and are often the reason they are banned from your new couch.

Final thoughts

So, there you have it, the Shih Tzu dog breed in a nutshell.

Hopefully this will give you a general idea of what to expect when deciding on bringing home this beautiful little fur baby into your family.

My personal opinion of course, is that you can't go wrong with a Shih Tzu dog.

One final thought however, if having a purebred dog is not very important to you, consider adopting a dog.

Sometimes you can find a purebred, but more than likely you'll find a Shih Tzu mix, which can be just as wonderful!

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