The Shih Tzu (or “Lion Dog” in Chinese) is one of the most popular breeds in the United States, and an esteemed breed for its association with Buddhism. Their most distinctive feature is their long, luxurious double coat. They were bred with the sole purpose of companion and house pet.
Shih Tzus have a proud, almost arrogant, carriage with head held high and tail curved over the back. They stand 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulders and generally weigh between 9 to 16 pounds. They have a warm, wide-eyed expression that peeks through their long, silky outer coats. Their coats can be solid, two-colored, or even tri-colored, and commonly contain white, blue, black, brindle, gold, or red.
As ideal companions, Shih Tzu are generally outgoing and affectionate pets. Younger, rough children may incite the Shih Tzu, but otherwise it is a loving, caring dog. They are bold but sweet, and love to roam and romp. They can make excellent watchdogs; they are alert and bark at strangers. They are otherwise not noisy, and tend to be quiet indoors.
The Shih Tzu most likely originated from Tibet in the early 17th century and were treated as holy dogs. Shih Tzu were favorites of the royal family during the Ming Dynasty; the British discovered the breed during an invasion of the Imperial Palace. The breed expanded to Europe in the early 1900s, surviving a major setback due to the Communist Revolution in China. The breed thrived elsewhere and today is one of the most popular breeds.
The Shih Tzu needs daily exercise in the form of vigorous indoor games, short frolics outside, or walks outside on the leash. It fares poorly in hot, humid weather and should not be left to live outside. Its silky coat needs to be brushed or combed every other day; puppies should be taught to accept grooming at an early age. It is recommended that they receive basic obedience training to become a pleasant member of the family.
Shih Tzus do not have any major health concerns, but can develop entropion, PRA, KCS, and are prone to otitis externa. Eye tests are suggested to keep the Shih Tzu healthy. The average lifespan of the Shih Tzu is between 11 to 14 years.
Entropion: the lower eyelid rolls inward, causing pain and possible infections and permanent damage.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy: a degeneration of the canine retina which can lead to blindness.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS): inadequate tear production that can lead to more serious eye infections.
Otitis Externa: inflammation of the outer ear canal due to a number of causes.
The Complete Dog Book. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Print.
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