Shih Tzu dogs were originally bred as companion animals for Chinese royalty. The word itself means "lion," alluding to the lion-shaped face of this energetic, outgoing dog. The Shih Tzu breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969.
Standing 8 to 11 inches tall and weighing under 20 pounds, the Shih Tzu is considered a toy breed.
A Shih Tzu has an average life span of 12 to 14 years, although this figure varies based on the individual health and characteristics of the dog.
Shih Tzu dogs have a number of genetic problems, including but not limited to hypothyroidism, respiratory problems, intervertebral disk disease, renal cortical hypoplasia and Von Willebrand disease. These can significantly decrease the expected life span of a dog.
While there is no definitive way to determine how long your dog will live, a proper diet, an exercise routine and veterinary medical care contribute to canine longevity.
In June 2009, a Shih Tzu from Florida by the name of Smokey was declared the oldest living dog, at the age of 23.