Shih Tzu Dog Breeds – Temperament and Interesting History of Shizi

White Shih-Tzu Inside the basket

If you are looking for a dog pet with a long silky coat, then the Shih Tzu is the dog that you will love to have. This dog breed is one of the beloved pet companions that some dog lovers choose. If you’re thinking of getting one of these dogs, you will need some useful info about them.

Shi Tzu Origin

White Shih-Tzu Inside the basket

One thing is sure is that the dog breed’s origins are ancient about 8000 BC. But what is not certain as to the actual source of where, when and what about the dog. If anything controversy, speculation, and mystery cover the exact origins of this breed.
One speculation is that monks from Tibet gave the breed as gifts to the nobles and royalty of Ancient China. Another speculation is that the ancient Chinese breeders used the Pekingese or Lhasa Apso dog breeds for crossbreeding to produce the Shih Tzu dog. It is also debatable as to whether the dog breed is originally from China or Tibet.
The various dynastic rulers from China’s ancient history greatly value the dog as a pet companion similar to today’s dog lovers. Many arts, paintings, and writings from the Tang Dynasty that ruled China from 618 to 907 A.D. show small dogs.

During the 13th in the court of Emperor Kubla Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan) the famous explorer Marco Polo notes that the Emperor has several small “lion” dogs. These little “lion” dogs were used to keep the Emperor’s trained hunting lions calm.

From 1368 to 1644 the royal families of the Ming Dynasty have many Shih Tzu-types dogs as pets. They call these dogs “chrysanthemum-faced” or “little lion dogs” and they were also docile and intelligent.

In 1861 the dog breed’s popularity surged in the Imperial Court when T’zu Hsi a royal concubine became China’s Empress. The Empress loved the dog breed and had breeding programs about the dog breed. Due to her love dogs, the Empress T’zu Hsi’s first edicts were to criminalize the mistreatment of the palace dogs punishable by death. The Shih Tzus in her court were from a pair of magnificent Shih Tzus given as gifts from the Dalai Lama who once visited the Empress.

It was only in 1928 that Shih Tzus came to Europe from China. Lady Brownrigg who was the wife of an army officer serving in China brought the first pair of Shih Tzus (male and female) to England. A woman named Mrs. Hutchins brought a Shih Tzu to her native home of Ireland which was bred to Lady Brownrigg’s dogs. These three Shih Tzus became the foundation for Lady Brownrigg’s kennel.

The first Shih Tzus in the United States were brought over after World War II by members of the U.S. Army when the returned home. By 1960 the United States has 3 kennel clubs for Shih Tzus: the Texas Shih Tzu Society, the Shih Tzu Club of America and the American Shih Tzu Association in Florida. The first two organizations would later merge to create the American Shih Tzu Club. Finally, the American Kennel Club or AKC in 1969 recognizes the dog breed as a member of the Toy Dog Group.

Cute Shih Tzu Dog

Other Names of Shih Tzu

The dog’s name is Chinese for “Lion” due to its resemblance to the depiction of lions in the traditional Oriental art. The breed’s other names are Shizi, Shitzu, Xi Shi, and Tibetan Lion Dog. The name “Shih Tzu” is a Wade-Giles Romanization of the dog’s original name in Chinese.

You might encounter terms like “Imperial Shih Tzu” and “Teacup Shih Tzu” that is related to this breed. These terms refer to little dogs that do not conform to the usual breed standard. In fact, the name “Imperial Shih Tzu” and “Teacup Shih Tzu” are interchangeable terms since they refer to the same dog of a small size.

The truth is when breeders say that their dogs or Shih Tzu puppies are “Imperial Shih Tzu” or “Teacup Shih Tzu” they are only giving the idea that these kinds of breeds are a different kind of types from the original.

At best the breeders are artificially creating a fad that attars most dog lovers. At worst they are selling a dog breed that has been undersized to the point of risking that breed’s health. There are however legitimate Imperial Shih Tzus that is faithful to the American Kennel Club or AKC’s standards.

“Imperial Shih Tzu” or “Teacup Shih Tzu” dogs or puppies are dogs bred to be tiny. Sometimes the result of such methods of breeding is a dog that is unhealthy with a short lifespan that is not right for its kind. To sure if you’re getting the real deal dog, check its breeding background first. So bear in mind not to get carried away with the “Imperial Shih Tzu” and “Teacup Shih Tzu” terms. Instead, get an “Imperial Shih Tzu” that is breeding standard compliant to kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club or AKC. It will save you lots of potential troubles in the long run.

Shih Tzu Temparament & Pictures

Shih Tzu Breeds Temperament

Since it is a companion pet dog, the Shih Tzu is not suitable to be a retriever, hunter, or guard dog. While each dog of this breed may have a different temperament, they all are alert, affectionate outgoing and loyal to their owners. It is best that you train and socialize the dog while it still at a young age. Shih Tzus can be stubborn so training and socializing them is not easy when they grown-up.

The friendly nature of Shih Tzus allows these dogs to be affectionate to its family, be friendly with strangers and interact well with other pets as well as kids. Despite being a lapdog, this breed is physically active. Shih Tzus just need some minimal exercises like walking and playing. Additionally, the dog can be an ideal pet for someone who lives in an apartment or a house with a minor backyard. Remember to leash your pet when going out for a walk to guide it.

Shih Tzu Lifespan

A Shih Tzu can live to at least 13 years while most other dogs of this breed live up to 10 to 16 years. In some cases, the dog can live up to 10 to 20 years with the proper care.


  • Male Shih Tzu weighs about 4.99 to 8.618 kilograms (11.00 to 19.00 lb) and 23 to 28 centimeters (9.1 to 11.0 inches) tall at the withers.
  • Female Shih Tzu weighs 4.53 to 8.16 kilograms (10.0 to 18.0 lb) and 20 to 25 centimeters (7.9 to 9.8 inches) tall at the withers.

As you can see from the figures above the weight and height the male Shih Tzus are heavier as well as bigger than female Shih Tzus. You may hear the terms “Teacup”, “Tiny Toy” or “Miniature” concerning this dog breed. It means that the mentioned dog breed has less weight and height than the ones on the list above. These “Teacups”, “Tiny Toys” or “Miniatures” are not acceptable breeds by a kennel club standard especially the AKC.

Characteristics of Shih Tzu Breeds

The Shih Tzu is a dog with a sturdy body, short muzzle, large dark eyes and a soft, long double coat. The dog has drop ears covered in fur that is long with a curly fur tail. The soft, long double coat of Shih Tzus are the most remarkable physical trait of this dog. The coat often has a long silky style that reaches the floor, and it requires daily brushing to keep it neat and tangle-free. Some owners of Shih Tzus clip the dogs’ coat to simplify the caring and grooming of the coat. A Shih Tzu with a short coat looks like an adorable stuffed animal while the long-hair Shih Tzu looks regal. You can regularly see long-hair Shih-Tzus in dog show competitions.


The soft, long double coat of Shih Tzus comes in a variety of colors. These colors are either in the solid, dual or tri-color categories.
Solid colors:

  • Silver – A gray/white mix with a deep shine.
  • Black – A very color in a Shih Tzu dog. There are full black color Shih Tzus, but most dogs are a mix of the other two colors.
  • Red – It an orange color that is dark and deep.
  • White – The most common color found in this dog. However, most white Shih Tzus have a secondary coat color making a full white coat color a rarity.
  • Gold – Yellow-tan is coloring similar to Labrador Retrievers.
  • Liver – This particular color is based on the dog’s skin pigmentation so it could be of any color. However, liver Shih Tzus have nose, paws and eye rims that have brown color pigmentation
  • Brindle – The dog’s coat has a streaking pattern of any color.

Dual colors:

  • White and Black
  • White and Blue
  • White and Brindle
  • White and Gold
  • White and Liver
  • White and Red
  • White and Silver

You can see that white is the color trait in this dog breed due to white being a standard color in Shih Tzus.


  • Silver, Gold, and White
  • Black, Silver, and White
  • Black, Gold, and White
  • Black, Silver, and Gold

Currently, these are only coat colors of Shih Tzus, but perhaps in the future, we will see more color variations.

Health Issues of Shih-Tzu

  1. Teeth Problems – Most problems like this is due to poor dental hygiene. Regular tooth-brushing and dental check-ups can mitigate or stop this issue. Also, the baby teeth of the dog remain even after its permanent emerges. You will need a veterinarian to extract the baby teeth before they become a problem.  The dog can also have misaligned or missing teeth due to the undershot jaw.
  2. Umbilical hernias – A common occurrence in Shih Tzu breeds though for some dogs their hernia closes. Sometimes there is a delay in the closing of the dog’s abdominal midline which in turn causes umbilical hernias. Surgery is the best thing to do when this hernia appears.
  3. Portosystemic liver shunt – When the dog’s blood vessels allow blood to bypass the liver, then your pet may have a Portosystemic liver shunt. Since the liver cannot cleanse the dog’s blood, then all sort of infection and sickness will affect the dog. The best treatment for this problem is surgery.
  4. Snuffles – Shih Tzu puppies may snort, sniffle, snore loudly, or wheeze during their first four months. The gums of the puppy swell since its gums are directly under its pushed-in nose where there is no room.
  5. Reverse sneezing – If your dog is overly excited, tends to gulp its food too fast, or breathes in allergens then your pet gets reverse sneezing. This sneezing can cause the dog to be alarmed so be ready to relax your pet’s demeanor and soothe it down. For some, the quickest way to stop the reverse sneezing is to pinch the nostrils closed to make the dog breathe through its mouth.

Teacup Shih Tzu Dog

Litter size

Most Shih Tzus can have1 to 5 puppies per litter. At most, some dogs can have eight puppies per litter. Do note that a Shih Tzu who manages to give birth to too many puppies needs its health monitored. Pregnancy and birthing can often be hard on some Shih Tzus even with the best care they have during labor.

Shih-Tzu Price

The price of this dog breed depends on where you want to get a Shih-Tzu.
Rescue shelters have dogs that you can adopt. The fees for adoption can range from $200 to $400. Please note that while the price is reasonably low, the dog may have serious issues that you will need to correct. However, if you feel that you need to help the poor dog recover from its trauma by adopting it then go ahead. It will take some time to help your chosen dog to recover from its mental hurts. But with patience and love, the dog you adopted will give you gratitude, affection, and love.

Pet stores have Shih Tzus for sale at a price of $700 or so. Just be aware that the quality of pet store dogs or puppies is different from one another. There can be a Shih Tzu that is a high-quality breed, or it could have come from puppy mills and backyard breeders who produce inferior quality puppies. If you want to be sure that you’re getting a good quality puppy you can check its breeding background.

Finally, if you want a Shih Tzu puppy or dog that is of the highest quality for real, then going to a professional breeder of Shih Tzus is one of your choices. If you want to get a Teacup Shih Tzu, it will cost as high as $2500. Note that this is the selling price for puppies, so if you want a slightly reasonable priced dog, you can choose to get a Shih Tzu that is full-grown. An adult dog will cost $500.

That’s all the info on Shih Tzu dogs. If you feel like getting one of these, then go right ahead and buy or adopt one. From royalty pets to everyday household companions this dog breed has indeed come a long way in the hearts of humans. With an adorable pet like this dog breed, it deserves all the love and cares you can give it.

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4 thoughts on “Shih Tzu Dog Breeds – Temperament and Interesting History of Shizi”

  1. Don’t ever take in a roommate that owns one. That dog will hate you and bite you. I despise this breed. Nothing but snotty little spoiled devils.

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