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A Shih Tzu (UK: /ˌʃˈts/, US: /ˈʃˌts/;[1] Chinese: 西施犬; pinyin: xīshī quǎn), also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog, is a toy dog breed, weighing from 4 to 7.25 kilograms (9–16 lbs) when fully grown.[2] The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in the Tibetan Plateau, and then been developed in China.

Shih Tzu
Shihtzu (cropped).jpg
A Shih Tzu in full show coat
Other namesChinese Lion Dog
Chrysanthemum Dog
Weight Male 4–7.25 kilograms (8.8–16.0 lb)
Female 4–7.25 kilograms (8.8–16.0 lb)
Height Male 20–28 centimetres (7.9–11.0 in)
Female 20–28 centimetres (7.9–11.0 in)
Coat See Coats section below
Color All are permissible
Often multiple color coats
Dark/Light Brown
Litter size 1–8
Life span 10–15 years, average is 12 years old
Classification / standards
FCI Group 9, Section 5 Tibetan breeds #208 standard
AKC Toys standard
ANKC Group 7 – Non-Sporting [permanent dead link] standard
CKC Group 6 – Non-Sporting standard
KC (UK) Utility standard
NZKC Non-sporting standard
UKC Companion Dog standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
Shih Tzu
Literal meaningXi Shi dog
Alternative name
Traditional Chinese獅子
Simplified Chinese狮子
Literal meaninglion



A Tricolor (black, white) Shih Tzu in show coat.

The Shih Tzu is a sturdy little dog with a short muzzle and large dark eyes. They have a soft and long double coat. Although sometimes long, a Shih Tzu will not always have extremely lengthy hair. Some of them have more short, curly hair. This is purely a choice made by the owners. A Shih Tzu should stand no more than 26.7 cm (10½ in.) at the withers and with an ideal weight of 4.5 to 7.3 kg (10 to 16 lbs). Drop ears are covered with long fur, and the heavily furred tail is carried curled over the back. The coat may be of any color, though white and with blazes of grey are frequently seen. The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than tall, and bigger dogs ideally should carry themselves "with distinctly arrogant carriage". A very noticeable feature is the underbite, which is required in the breed standard.[3] The traditional long silky coat, which reaches the floor, requires daily brushing to avoid tangles. Because of their long coat and fast-growing hair, regular grooming is necessary, which may be expensive and should be taken into account when considering adopting one of this breed. Often, the coat is clipped short to simplify care, but the coat still requires daily brushing. For conformation showing, the coat must be left in its natural state, though trimming for neatness around the feet and anus is allowed. The shorter cut is typically called a "puppy cut"[4] or a "teddy bear cut" when the puppy cut is accompanied by a fuller, rounder face, resembling a stuffed animal.


Although an individual Shih Tzu's temperament varies from dog to dog, the breed has a personality and temperament that is loyal, affectionate, outgoing, cute and alert. They tend to be possessive around other dogs. Training and proper socializing must start at a young age for the Shih Tzu to obey basic commands, for the Shih Tzu is prone to stubbornness when it comes to training. While the Shih Tzu is an excellent watchdog because of its alert and active nature, it was not specifically bred for this purpose. Unlike the Lhasa Apso, which was bred to be a sentinel dog that enjoys high perches and is wary of strangers, the Shih Tzu prefers to be close to its companions and will often offer strangers its affection. Because of its friendly nature, the Shih Tzu tends to interact well with other dogs and with children and adults.[5] Though they can be a little temperamental with hyper or larger breeds. Composer James Mumford described the Shih Tzu as "... a dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, (and) a dash of teddy bear".[6]

Coat colors and qualityEdit

Two red and white haired Shih Tzu littermates.
A female Shih Tzu at around 18 months of age.
A Tricolor Shih Tzu with a black nose and grey ear tips.
A mostly white Shih Tzu with a black head and ears

The Shih Tzu comes in a range of colours that include various shades of gold, white, brown, and black. Other colours include black mask gold, black and white, solid black, solid liver, liver and white, brindle, white, red and white, and grey and white.[7] Thus, when two Shih Tzu mate, there is a possibility that their offspring's coat will be similar to the sire's color, dam's color, tricolor, or a mix of both parents' color in one classification. An interesting point (and often a point of confusion) is that while the coat color of those with black pigmented skin (nose, lips, pads, also referred to as "leather") is determined by the color of the coat itself; the coat color on dogs with either liver or blue pigment is categorized by the color of the pigment. Thus, a parti colored (white and another shade) Shih Tzu with blue pigment is a "blue and white" regardless of the tint of the hair which might very well appear similar to a gold and white or other colors. The same principle applies to solid blue, silver, and silver and white. Sometimes you might see dark brown pigments near the shoulders and between the armpits. The coat color changes as the dog gets older.

The typical fine, straight, and silky Shih Tzu coat has also been listed by many popular dog information websites as being hypoallergenic. In comparison with many other breeds, Shih Tzu do not shed to the same degree, only losing small amounts when bathed or brushed. It is the dog's dander and saliva that trigger most allergic reactions. Allergists do recognize that, at times, a particular allergy patient will be able to tolerate a particular dog; but they agree that "the luck of the few with their pets cannot be stretched to fit all allergic people and entire breeds of dogs". The Shih Tzu coat is said to fall out only when brushed or broken, or just said to shed.[8] The coat may also be wavy or coarse.[9]


The name comes from the Chinese language word for "lion" because this kind of dog was bred to resemble "the lion, as depicted in traditional oriental art".[10] (The Pekingese breed is also called "lion dog" in Chinese.) "Shih Tzu" is the Wade-Giles romanization of the Chinese characters 獅子, meaning lion; this romanization scheme was in use when the breed was first introduced in America. In contemporary China, Pinyin is the predominant system of romanization, which renders it as shīzi. The Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is approximately SHIRR-dzə. Though the Wade-Giles system is often regarded as less intuitive, "Shih Tzu" is a useful linguistic example of both of two cases where the Wade-Giles scheme reflects the use of a syllabic fricative after a corresponding consonant cluster (retroflexes and sibilants) in modern Mandarin. This is a unique phonological feature that does not appear in any other known modern language in their standardized form. Indeed, though the exact classification is still debated (and dialectal variants exist), linguists generally agree that these sounds cannot be represented by conventional symbols in the IPA; hence an unorthodox approximation "SHIRR" was used earlier in this paragraph. However, the use of a syllabic fricative is often observed in informal English with the paralinguistic expression "Shh!", which may serve as a guide to the pronunciation of "Shih".

In the modern Chinese language, the Shih Tzu is generally known as the "Xi Shi dog"; Xi Shi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China. The alternative name was adopted to avoid the confusion that stems from referring to the breed as a lion.[11][better source needed] Shih Tzu were nicknamed the Chrysanthemum Dog in England in the 1930s.[12] The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog; but whether the breed should be referred to as "Tibetan" or "Chinese" is a source of both historical and political contention, as the subsequent section notes. A book on the breed states that "dog historians tend to have very strong opinions" on the subject.[13]


DNA analysis placed the ancestors of today's Shih Tzu breed in the group of "ancient" breeds indicating "close genetic relationship to wolves".[14] Another branch coming down from the "Kitchen Midden Dog" gave rise to the Papillon and Long-haired Chihuahua and yet another "Kitchen Midden Dog" branch to the Pug and Shih Tzu.

It is also said that the breed originated in China, hence the name "Lion Dog", in 800 B.C.

There are various theories of the origins of today's breed. Theories relate that it stemmed from a cross between the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso,[15] a Tibetan dog given by the Dalai Lama to Chinese emperors near the end of the 17th century.[16] Dogs during ancient times were selectively bred and seen in Chinese paintings. The dogs were favorites of the Chinese royals and so prized that, for years, the Chinese refused to sell, trade, or give any away. The first dogs of the breed were imported into Europe (England and Norway) in 1930 and were classified by the Kennel Club as "Apsos".[15] The first European standard for the breed was written in England in 1935 by the Shih Tzu Club,[17] and the dogs were categorised again as Shih Tzu. The breed spread throughout Europe and was brought to the United States after World War II, when returning members of the U.S. military brought back dogs from Europe, in the mid-1950s. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 in the Toy Group.[15]

The breed is now recognized by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world.[3] It is also recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale for international competition in Companion and Toy Dog Group, Section 5, Tibetan breeds.[3] In the United States, the Shih Tzu ranked the 15th most popular breed in 2013, falling slightly in popularity since 2012 when it was placed in 11th position.[18]

In 1934 the Shih Tzu Club of England was founded[19] and the breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club (UK) on 7 May 1940[20] When it became eligible for Challenge Certificates, none were awarded until 1949.


Shih Tzu puppy

A number of health issues, some of them hereditary, have been found in individual Shih Tzu, and are listed below.

A cream coloured Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu puppy


Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland malfunctions and stops producing a hormone responsible for proper metabolism. This malfunction is commonly attributed to immune system problems. It usually affects middle-aged dogs and is seen in all breeds. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss, and lethargy. This disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests. It can be effectively treated with drug therapy.

Intervertebral disk diseaseEdit

Intervertebral disk disease in the dog is a common chondrodystrophic disorder manifested by acute back pain, loss of coordination, paresis, and loss of the ability to feel deep pain sensations. IVDD commonly occurs in certain toy breeds, such as Dachshund, Pekingese, French Bulldog, Beagle, Basset Hound, American Cocker spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, and Welsh Corgi.

Breathing problemsEdit

Shih Tzu have a number of respiratory problems related to the shape of their face and head. Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome is a common problem and mostly affects dogs with short noses (brachycephalic breeds). An obstruction in the upper airways causes the dog to have labored breathing. Not every brachycephalic dog will develop respiratory problems, but most will to some degree. Severe problems may require surgery.

Eye issuesEdit

It is very common for Shih Tzus to develop eye problems at any age, and even more so once they are older. Most veterinarians will recommend eye drops to assist with any eye irritations. Some dogs have allergies which causes excess discharge around the eye. Older Shih Tzu are known to develop cataracts which can be corrected with surgery. If not treated, the dog may become blind in the eye that has the cataract. The distinctive large eyes can easily be scratched which may cause an ulcer. The dog will normally have the injured eye closed or half closed and may have excessive tears.[21]

Other health issuesEdit

Some health issues in the breed are portosystemic shunt of the liver and hip dysplasia in standard sizes. There have been cases of Shih Tzu being epileptic, which in turn may lead to shortening of the lifespan of the Shih Tzu if untreated. Many Shih Tzu dogs are also prone to ear infections.[22]

The Shih Tzu may be more prone than other breeds to get a blood disease called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which causes their immune system to attack itself and kill off their blood cells. This can be found through blood tests but among the signs are yellowing of the skin/gums, tiredness, loss of appetite, and loss of balance that occurs over two days.[23]

Life spanEdit

The UK Kennel Club survey puts the median lifespan of a Shih Tzu at 13 years and 2 months, with most living 10 to 16 years.[24] The oldest living Shih Tzu was Smokey from Florida. Smokey lived to be 23 years old.


Kennel club differencesEdit

There is a difference between the Shih Tzu of the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club (UK) :

The AKC (American Kennel Club) Shih-TzuEdit

  • Their front legs (forequarters) are straight. Their hindquarters are muscular. Neither should be too short nor too long.
  • The standard head is big and round and is set high with face looking forward or up.
  • The neck and body are the most important and should not be exaggerated.[25]
  • The eyes are large and face the front.
  • The shoulders of the American type of Shih-Tzu are frontal.[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Upton, Clive; Kretzschmar, Jr., William A. (2017). The Routledge Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 1231. ISBN 978-1-138-12566-7.
  2. ^ "Shih Tzu Age | Weight Chart | Growth Chart | Shih Tzu Information Center". Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  3. ^ a b c "Federation Cynologique Internationale Breed Standard" (PDF). Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  4. ^ "United Kennel Club: Shih Tzu". United Kennel Club. 2007-05-01. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  5. ^ Forever, Shih Tzus. "Shih Tzus - 13 Reasons To Love Them Even More". 5amily. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  6. ^ "Shih Tzus - Temperament & Personality". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Shih Tzu Colors | American Shih Tzu Club". Archived from the original on 2011-08-10. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  8. ^ "Top 10 Dog Breeds that Don't Shed". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Shih Tzu". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  10. ^ Shih Tzu, by Jaime J. Sucher, p. 5, Barron's Educational Series, 2000, ISBN 0-7641-1043-8
  11. ^ Steve Allison. "Shih Tzu". Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  12. ^ Shih Tzu For Dummies, by Eve Adamson, p. 257, For Dummies, Publisher, 2007, ISBN 0-470-08945-8 quote: "Lady Brownrigg, who brought the first Shih Tzu into England, coined the phrase Chrysanthemum Dog."
  13. ^ Shih Tzu For Dummies, by Eve Adamson, p. 27, For Dummies, Publisher, 2007, ISBN 0-470-08945-8 quote: "...dogs related to the modern-day Shih Tzu probably came from Tibet, but how long they were there and how much influence they had on the present day Shih Tzu may never be known." The author then says, "Dog historians tend to have very strong opinions." It is often mistakenly said that the Shih Tzu is Chinese royalty.
  14. ^ Derr, MARK (May 21, 2004). "Collie or Pug? Study Finds the Genetic Code". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  15. ^ a b c Clark, Anne Rogers; Andrew H. Brace (1995). The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. Howell Book House. pp. 416–417. ISBN 0-87605-624-9.
  16. ^ Deep, John. "Shih Tzu". 2puppies. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  17. ^ The Shih Tzu, by Audrey Dadds, p. 29, Howell Book House, 1975, ISBN 0-87605-309-6
  18. ^ American Kennel Club 2013 Dog Registration Statistics Historical Comparisons & Notable Trends, The American Kennel Club, Retrieved 30 April 2014
  19. ^ "The Kennel Club". Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  20. ^ "History of - manchuweb". Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  21. ^ "AllShihTzu | Shih Tzu Eye Care". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  22. ^ "All About Shih Tzu". Shih Tzu Fanciers of Southern CA. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  23. ^ New Boston Creative Group. "Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia, Canine". Clinton Parkway Animal Hospital, Veterinary Health Services. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  24. ^ "2004 Purebred Dog Health Survey" (PDF). KC/BSAVA. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  25. ^ "The Shi Tzu Dog Breed Guide". Teacupdogdaily. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  26. ^ "Shih Tzu Dog Breed Information". Retrieved 11 December 2017.

External linksEdit