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American Kennel Club's 17th Most Popular Breed

shih-zhuThe shih tzu is a highly valued breed known for being a palace pet for the Chinese. Shih tzus have been seen on paintings and artwork from around AD624, dating back to the Tang Dynasty. These little "lion dogs" were originally bred in the Forbidden City of Peking and were brought from Tibet to the Chinese court in the 17th century.

This breed is definitely lively and sturdy with a long double coat. Their distinctive arrogant gait and curved tail make it easy to understand why this breed is so popular. The name "shih tzu" means lion, and Buddhists often believe they have a direct association with each other. They were first classified as apsos but then were recognized as their own breed in 1935 by the England Kennel Club. It wasn't until 1969 that the shih tzu became recognized by the American Kennel Club.

These canines have mild energy and are somewhat active, but are extremely affectionate and outgoing. Shih tzus do well in apartments because they aren't as active as other breeds. This toy breed has a lifespan of 12-14 years and range anywhere from 9-16 pounds. At the point of the shoulder they stand 8-11" tall.

Shih tzus are generally a long-living, healthy, and durable breed. The heavy fur coats and brachycephalic faces (flat and wide skulls) make it difficult for them to tolerate heat and swimming. It is important to monitor their breathing to ensure that they are getting adequate oxygen. It is imperative to carry fresh water and even ice packs in some situations where the heat can be dangerous for them.

This breed can develop a syndrome referred to as "Small Dog Syndrome" where the dog begins to believe that they are in charge of the human. It is important to train the dog to know who is in charge to prevent long-term behavioral issues. The shih tzu can also develop separation anxiety.

A common health problem seen for this breed is juvenile renal dysplasia. This means that the kidneys do not develop normally and can create long-standing problems with the renal system. Good breeders will do genetic testing to ensure that these problems aren't genetically passed down.

Other common health problems include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Eye disease
  • Ear infections
  • Disk disease

When looking into adopting a shih tzu, it is important to remember their special needs. This breed requires weekly grooming, behavioral training, moderate exercise, and lots of affection and attention.

Learn more about this dog breed and others at the American Kennel Club's website.