With its small size, great temperament and obvious approval of wearing cute hair bows, the Shih Tzu is a popular breed of dog. According to American Kennel Club (AKC) statistics, they are one of the most popular breeds in the United States. The Shih Tzu is a toy breed and suitable as a companion pet or show dog.
The Shih Tzu breed is thought to have originated in China. Shih Tzu is Chinese for "lion dog." The Shih Tzu may be the result of breeding the Lhasa Apso to the Pekingese. The breed arrived in England in 1930, but was not recognized by the Kennel Club until 1946 and the American Kennel Club in 1969.
The Shih Tzu is a small breed dog with a long, dense coat. They average almost a foot in height and range in average weight between 9 to 15 pounds. Their outer coat is sometimes wavy but not curly, and they usually have a thick undercoat. They have a wide, round skull with wide-set eyes. The eyes are big and usually brown. They have large drooping ears with wispy fur. They are longer than they are tall, and their tail has long hair and curls over their back. Shih Tzu's come in every color and combination of colors.
The Shih Tzu is sensitive to heat and does better with indoor living. They need daily exercise and careful feeding, or they can easily become overweight. Their long coat is best kept healthy with daily brushing. Some owners trim the fur to make grooming easier. Their eyes need to be cleaned on a regular basis, and they sometimes require eye drops.
Despite the long, thick coat, the Shih Tzu does not shed much, making it a good choice for people with allergies. The breed is playful and clever and with the proper amount of training, can be very obedient. They are usually friendly when meeting new people or other pets. They have a life expectancy of 15 years or better, which is at the high end of life expectancy averages for dogs.
Shih Tzu's are prone to ear, eye and respiratory problems, and many of them snore. They often make a wheezing sound, especially following exercise. With their long body and short legs, they are prone to spinal problems. They tend to lose their teeth easily, so the teeth must be cleaned on a regular basis.