Developed in China, the Shih Tzu (pronounced "sheed-zoo" or "sheet-su") is believed to be one of the oldest breeds with similar-looking dogs being depicted in Oriental paintings from 600 A.D. Little is known about the breed's exact origin but their early ancestors, consisting of crosses between two Tibetan breeds: the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso, were prized companions of Chinese emperors and their families. Due to their affectionate and loving nature, it became a custom that all distinguished Chinese guests were presented with a pair of Shih Tzus. This toy-sized breed's name means "lion dog" and they have even received the nickname "Chrysanthemum Dog" because the hair on their face grows in all directions like the petals of a flower. They almost faced extinction during the Chinese Revolution in the late 1940s but thanks to the efforts of dedicated lovers of the little lion dog, their numbers began to increase; all modern Shih Tzus descended from only 14 dogs! Today, the Shih Tzu is a cherished family companion and lap dog that has gained popularity in the United States, United Kingdom, and around the world.
Known for their child-friendly temperament, the Shih Tzu is also widely recognized for their long, flowing double-coat that can reach the ground when grown out and comes in a variety of beautiful colors. Regardless of their aristocratic appearance, they are both sturdy and compact for their size. The large dark-colored eyes of the Shih Tzu gives them a warm and inviting expression. They have large, heavy-coated ears on a round, domed-shaped head. A characteristic unique to the breed would be their "flat-faced" appearance because of their short, square-shaped muzzle and broad nose. The tail of the Shih Tzu is heavily plumed and carried in a curve over the lower back.
Like many breeds in the toy group, the Shih Tzu was primarily bred to be a lovable companion. These small dogs are known for their outgoing personality, affectionate nature, and overwhelming friendliness towards everyone around them. Not demanding and up for anything, Shih Tzus will be your little shadow following you from room to room wondering what their favorite human is doing. Some dogs could be a little stubborn but this eager to learn breed is definitely trainable if given lots of patience and consistency. Toy breeds can be prone to developing Small Dog Syndrome where they become more dependent on the owner, form excessive barking habits, and may develop jealous behavior if not curbed from an early age. Shih Tzus can make a wonderful playmate for children and tend to get along well with other dogs and cats if they have been properly socialized. Considered a low-active breed, these small dogs only require occasional exercise in the forms of rough indoor play or daily walks around the neighborhood and are perfectly content with cuddling up next to their families on the couch. Renowned for their gentle and patient temperament, the Shih Tzu is one of the first choices for families looking for a sweet and calm lap dog.