make them who they are. AKC
standards have defined both the look and
temperament of the breed. Thanks to the
diligence of breeding programs of the
past, a well bred Shih Tzu puppy can be
expected to grow into an adult dog that
will fit this standard. On this page
you will find a quick look at some of
those technical attributes. I have
also included a not so technical section
on these funny little creatures from the
observation of my dogs and their
The ancestry of the
Shih Tzu is generally thought to be of Tibetan origin.
The Shih Tzu (whose namemeans “lion”) is thought to
have been the oldest and smallest variety of the
Tibetan “holy dogs”. The breeding of this small dog
was a favorite pastime of imperial rulers
during much of China's history.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) promotes the sport
of purebred dogs and closely monitors the registration
of the various purebred breeds. The
AKC formally recognized the
Shih Tzu breed in 1969. The AKC has
developed a standard that defines what a Shih Tzu
should be, both physically and temperamentally.
The following are excerpts from the AKC
Shih Tzu breed standard. For the complete
standard, click on the AKC link.
The Shih Tzu is a sturdy, lively, alert toy
dog with long flowing double coat. The Shih Tzu
is proud of bearing, has a distinctively arrogant
carriage with head well up and tail curved over the
back. Although there has always been considerable size
variation, the Shih Tzu must be compact,
solid, carrying good weight and substance.
Mature weight between 9 to 16
pounds. Ideally, height at
withers is 9 to 10 1/2 inches; but, not less than 8
inches nor more than 11 inches. Regardless of
size, the Shih Tzu is always compact, solid and
carries good weight and substance.
Round, broad, wide
between eyes, its size in balance with the overall
size of dog being neither too large nor too small.
Warm, sweet, wide-eyed, friendly and trusting.
Large, round, not prominent, placed well apart,
looking straight ahead. Very dark. Lighter on liver
and blue pigmented dogs.
Large, set slightly below crown of skull; heavily
Square, short, unwrinkled, with good cushioning,
set no lower than bottom eye rim; never down turned.
Nose, lips, eye rims are black on all colors,
except liver and blue pigmented dogs.
Undershot. Jaw is
broad and wide. A missing tooth or slightly misaligned
teeth should not be too severely penalized. Teeth and
tongue should not show when mouth is closed.
Neck, Topline, Body
Utmost importance is
an overall well-balanced dog with no exaggerated
- Of sufficient length to permit natural high head
carriage and in balance with height and length.
- Short-coupled and sturdy with no waist or tuck-up.
The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than tall.
- Broad and deep with good spring-of-rib.
- Set on high, heavily plumed, carried in curve well
- Straight, well-boned, muscular, set well-apart and
under chest, with elbows set close to body.
- Firm, well-padded, point straight ahead.
Legs - Well-boned,
muscular, and straight when viewed from rear.
Luxurious, double-coated, dense, long, and flowing.
Slight wave permissible.
Color and Markings
All are permissible.
Straight effortless movement with good front reach
and equally strong rear drive, level topline,
naturally high head carriage, and tail carried in
gentle curve over back.
As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is that of a
companion and house pet, it is essential that its
temperament be outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly
and trusting towards all.
The dog that will
make you feel like royalty.
The original goal in breeding the Shih Tzu was to
produce a companion for Chinese royalty. Today
the Shih Tzu does an awesome job of fulfilling this
roll, whether its owner is royalty or not. The
Shih Tzu was not bred to herd, hunt, pull sleds or dig
rats out of holes, so it does not have some of the
bothersome instincts found in many other breeds that
interfere with its suitability as a house pet.
One of the nice advantages about buying a Shih Tzu
puppy is the breed's consistency in personality.
If you buy a well-bred puppy you can reasonably
predict a lot about it. Each dog is an
individual, some are more out going, some are more
reserved. It is, however, uncanny how much they are
alike. These little dogs win everyone over with
their funny antics, their silly way of lying and
sitting in such undog like positions and their "I love
you" adoration. Top that with having a small dog
that isn't yappy and does not shed and the perfect
package is complete.
I have never met a Shih Tzu that is not a toy
freak. Give a Shih Tzu a little stuffed toy with
a squeaker hid inside and it will be as happy as the
proverbial clam. Toys not only make the dog
happy but provide hours of entertainment for the
owner, as they watch the dog play.
These little guys are the Cadillac of lap
dogs. Be prepared for company if you ever sit
down. They love lying on their backs cradled
like a baby and being on the receiving end of a good
tummy scratch. If your hands are busy they are
more than happy to curl up anywhere on your person
where they can find or make a little spot. Shih
Tzu are very much people dogs and thrive on contact
with people. They are not a good choice for
those who want a back yard pet who occasionally
requires their humans attention.
Although the Shih Tzu is the Cadillac of lap dogs,
it is by no means a sissy or a wimp. These
little guys are sturdy dogs. They love rough and
tumble play and long adventurous walks. A pile
of leaves or a snow bank will provide them with hours
of fun and keep you entertained in the process.
Their small size makes them a snap to clean up when
the smell of adventure clings too strongly to
them. A quick dip in the sink and a blow dry and
your lap dog is all set to curl up under your chin for
Shih Tzu come in all sorts of colors and patterns
of colors. These variations give each dog added
personality. The puppies dark markings often
lighten or completely change color by the time they
reach adulthood. Many people are surprised when
the red and white pup they brought home, changed to
such a light gold and white that as an adult they
could no longer see their markings. Looking at
the parents and being aware of the colors in the
puppies pedigree can give strong clues to their adult
color. Dogs with dark faces do not
have the visible face staining problem that affects so
many of the dogs with light faces.
The coat of the Shih Tzu can differ more than by
color. Some will have very straight coats,
while others have a slight wave to
their coat. Regardless of their coat
characteristics, the coat will continue to
grow and the length it reaches is determined by
whether you choose to cut it or not. Shih Tzu's
who are shown professionally will have full long coats
and a top knot to hold the hair out of their
eyes. Many pet owners choose to keep their Shih
Tzu's trimmed in what is often referred
to as a Puppy Cut. A trimmed Shih Tzu
is more than adorable and the advantage to a trimmed
dog is obvious ... unless you like to spend hours
taking care of all that hair. Since the
Shih Tzu does not shed its coat, they make perfect
furniture ornaments. It does not get
much better than that!
Male or Female? A large
percentage of prospective puppy buyers are looking for
a female. This
desire for a female probably stems from previous
experiences with other breeds. Unlike many larger
breeds, the Shih Tzu does not have sex-linked
temperament differences. Males are every bit as
affectionate as females (some say more), and an
aggressive Shih Tzu of either sex is unusual and
for the perfect pup remember you cannot ask too many
questions. It is often hard to tell a pup's
personality during a short visit. A very playful
and out going pup may appear reserved if he is
exhausted from some previous excitement.
Observations from the owner of the litter can clue you
into each pup's personality. Even though color
and size cannot be guaranteed, the owner, will be able
to make an educated guess based on bloodlines and
Shih Tzu is a companion that will be thoroughly
enjoyed by everyone in the family.
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