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Shih Tzu: Man's Best Friend

Dec 12, 2007
The Shih Tzu is a regal breed with ancient origins in Chinese royalty, owing its modern lineage to Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi of Tibet. The breed overcame adversity in Tibet the early twentieth century but resurfaced in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and North America. Most Shih Tzus weigh from nine to sixteen pounds and have flat faces and bulging eyes. Diligent grooming is required to maintain the dog's long, silky coat. Solid and multi-color coats are acceptable according to the standards of the breed. Shih Tzus have been bred for human companionship, and their friendly personalities make them perfect pets. The Shih Tzu breed is extremely popular and is likely to become even more of a favorite in the future. Between 1969 and 2006, the breed went from being unrecognized to being the ninth most popular breed in the United States.

The diminutive Shih Tzu, a blend of the Chinese Lhasa Apso and Pekinese dog breeds, has a history rich with royalty, tragedy, and loyalty. Varied forms of the breed have existed for centuries, but the Shih Tzu dog we know today owes its existence to Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi of Tibet.

The Empress, who ascended to power in 1861, pampered her Shih Tzus pets and bred them to be perfect companions, alert and eager to please. Unfortunately, the breed fell out of favor when the Empress died in 1908, and many dogs were killed by the new regime.

Information about the Shih Tzu breed is scarce until the late 1920s and early 1930s, when Shih Tzus were imported to England and Scandinavia, with later generations reaching the United States and Canada. During World War II, Shih Tzus were popular with American soldiers, many of whom refused to leave their pets in Europe and instead brought them back to the States.

Perhaps because of careful breeding to make them suitable as royal pampered pets, the Shih Tzu has a happy disposition and a strong desire to be the center of attention. The Shih Tzu is a lap dog who is content to spend hour after hour relaxing in the company of humans. Because of their small size--nine to sixteen pounds--and easygoing personality, these sturdy dogs are especially popular with apartment dwellers.

The dogs were bred to have a lion-like appearance, with their flattened facial muscles, bowed legs, bulging eyes, and intimidating facial expressions earning them the nickname of "lion dogs." Their wrinkled faces were also said to resemble chrysanthemum flowers, giving rise to the breed's second nickname of "chrysanthemum dog."

The Shih Tzu coat ranges in colors from solid black or gold to several multi-color combinations. The breed's elegant appearance comes from its long, slightly wavy coat, which requires daily attention.
The Shih Tzu breed has been recognized by the British Kennel Club since 1935 and by the American Kennel Club since 1969, and is a popular favorite at dog shows with its long, flowing coat. Shih Tzus show in the Toy Group, competing against dogs like the Maltese, the Pomeranian, and the Shih Tzu's cousin, the Pekinese.

The breed is a good family dog, but its strong desire for attention from its master makes it a better choice for families with older children than families with infants. Some Shih Tzus have been known to develop problems with jealousy when living in a home with young children. However, most Shih Tzus are affectionate, friendly and outgoing, and are only to happy to play the role of valued family pet.

The Shih Tzu breed survived a dangerous period in the twentieth century to become the one of the twenty-first century's most popular dog. The Shih Tzu is the ninth most popular registered breed in the American Kennel Club's 2006 most popular breed list, and this little dog's popularity continues to grow.
About the Author
A dog show judge whose favorite category is the toy group, Rebecca Simpson is in high demand as a lecturer and small breed consultant. The Shih Tzu is as well known for its delightful personality as it is for its long, flowing coat. Breeders, libraries, and the Internet are all resources for more Shih Tzu information.
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