The compact-sized Shih Tzu was the 10th most popular dog breed in the U.S. in 2008, according to AKC’s Dog Registration Statistics. Best recognized by the breed’s abundant, flowing and elegant coat comprised of long hair lined with a wool-like undercoat, the Shih Tzu can be of many colors, all of which are accepted by the AKC. However, your dog trainer will tell you that show judges prefer white on the forehead and tip of the tail.
The Shih Tzu’s sturdy, upright body posture with his head held high, eyes wide-set and perky tail curled over to his back gives off an air of conceit and pride that is fitting for a breed whose name translates to “lion” in Chinese Mandarin. Weighing in between nine and 16 pounds and standing only eight to 11 inches tall at the shoulder, this little dog has wiggled his way into the hearts of Americans and other dog lovers all over the world.
The Shih Tzu is of Chinese heritage and believed to be a descendent of the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan mountain dog and Pekingese. During the 16th century Ming Dynasty, the Shih Tzu was a popular and well-respected pet in the Imperial Chinese court. The breed was so highly revered that the Chinese refused to sell or share them even after they had begun trading with the Western world.
It was not until World War II when English soldiers discovered this fluffy companion, and not until 1930 when the first pair was imported to England. The feisty little dog, which belongs to the toy group, was first officially recognized by Britain in 1949 and has been an AKC-recognized breed in the U.S. since 1969.
Their huge personality, gentle nature and overabundance of character are endearing qualities that have contributed to their popularity. Their particular sensitivity to heat due to their thick coats and their ability to cope within a small housing situation with or without an outdoor area makes them good choices for those living in apartments.
Dog Training Tips
Shih Tzus certainly live up to the “small dog, big attitude” quality that is common to dogs of small stature. It’s important to set clear boundaries and limitations regarding leadership and house rules in order to establish yourself as the pack leader of your household.
In regards to the Shih Tzu’s personality, you’ll find their apt intelligence, eagerness to please, playfulness, liveliness, energetic nature, alertness, courageousness and friendly attitude to be helpful characteristics. However, depending on their level of dog training, the Shih Tzu can easily become aggressive and start biting, growling, snapping and barking at anybody they lack respect for or in attempt to gain what they want.
Separation anxiety is also a common trait of this cute canine, as with many dogs in the toy group. They can also be difficult during housebreaking and are sometimes poor choices for children due to the level of leadership they require. All of these undesirable traits can be prevented with consistent and focused dog training. An exercise routine, including daily walks, to burn their mental and physical energy off is highly recommended.
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Owning a Shih Tzu
If you’re looking for a cute, cuddly companion with the bravery and personality of a much larger dog, the Shih Tzu is for you. Always consult your dog trainer prior to adopting or purchasing a dog of any breed to ensure you know what’s in store.