Shih Tzu - General Features, Temperament, Health

FCI # 208, Origin: Tibet (Great Britain) , Group 9.5 Companion and Toy dogs

Height: 10-11 in, Weight: 9-16 pounds

Grooming: High, Shedding: Medium, Coat: long, soft and silky.

Color: Any color.

Ease of training: High, Energy level: High, Span of life: 15-19 years.

Breed: History of the Shih Tzu came to us from the documentary sources, paintings and art objects dating 624 BC. In the time of the dynasty Tang Kiu Tai the governor of Vigur gave to the Chinese court as a gift a couple of dogs, which, according to the rumors, he had received from the Fu Lin (presumably the name of the Byzantine Empire). The mentions of these dogs are also found in 990-994 years when the people of Ho Chu sent them as a tribute.

Another version of the the Shih Tzu emegrence in China is documented in the middle of XVII century, when the dogs were brought to China from Tibet. Dogs were bred in Beijing, where all foreigners were forbidden to enter. A large number of drawings, depicting Shih Tzu were preserved in the "Imperial Book of Dogs."

The smallest of the depicted dog was looking like a lion, the very name Shih Tzu actually means "lion" (in Buddhism there is a connection between the lion and Buddah). Dogs for the imperial court were chosen very carefully. And from this exactly dogs finally came the modern Shih Tzu. They are often called the "chrysanthemum dog" because the hair on the face of Shih Tzu is growing in all directions.

Shih Tzu are intelligent and extremely obedient little dogs. It is known that the imperial eunuchs were breeding those dog, competing with each other to bring the dog that would please the emperor.

Dogs that won the ruler's compliments were awarded the honor to be depicted in paintings or tapestries, and the eunuchs, who bred that dogs received presents from the emperor.

We also know that the Shih Tzu dogs were very much loved at the court of the Ming dynasty and that the breed was prized by the imperial family. During the Revolution most of the dogs were destroyed, and only very few escaped the knives of the rebels.

In 1934 there was organized the Beijing Shih Tzu Club, and in 1938 was developed a standard for the breed with the help of Madame de Bruel, emigrant from Russia. Breeding of Shih Tzu in England began after Miss Madeleine Hutchins and General Douglas Braunriggs brought in 1930 from China two couples of those dogs.

Initially the breed was named Apso, however, after the English Kennel Club in 1938 admitted that Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu are two different breeds, there was organized the English Shih Tzu Club.

From England, these dogs went to Scandinavia, other European countries and Austria. During the Second World War, Americans that stationed in England, met with the breed and on returning home they brought a few dogs, thus introducing the breed in the United States. Since then, the United States imported a lot of dogs.

Shih-Tzu were registered in the Stud Book of the American Kennel Club in March 1969 and in September 1 of the same year the breed was first introduced at the show in a class of miniature dogs.

General Features: "The lion's head, torso of a bear, camel foot, tail, that reminds a brush that sweeps the dust and the ear as a palm leaf, teeth like a grains of rice, the tongue, like a pearl petal and the movements, like in a goldfish" - that is a description of the Shih Tzu standard that exists at the Peking Kennel Club.

The Shih Tzu is a small, lively, energetic, elegant dog. Hallmarks of the breed are: rounded head with a short snout and a thick, long, straight hair that covers the entire body and the dog's head. Long hair on the head of a Shih Tzu falls over his eyes. The muzzle has a big beard and mustache. The hair on the nose is growing upward and outward, creating the impression of chrysanthemums. Well groomed Shih Tzu has a very beautiful coat, which in combination with various colors, grace and elegance give the dogs of this breed a unique and incomparable looks.

Males are more strongly built, with the longer "decorative" hair. Bitches have a somewhat lighter constitution. Shih Tzu is energetic, courageous, with an independent character, but obedient, affectionate and gentle. Coat of a Shih Tzu consists of a soft, thin, dense undercoat and a thick, long, straight, harsh outercoat. Fringe is usually knotted with the ribbon to prevent eye diseases.  All colors by the standard are acceptable. Desirable are: white markings on the forehead (blaze) and at the end of the tail.

Ears of a Shih Tzu are large, pendant, set high and tight to the head, with abundant decorative hair, that is mixing with the hair on the neck. Eyes of a Shih Tzu are large, rounded, thoughtful, dark, set straight and wide apart, never protruding or in the opposite - set too deep. Tail is set high, curled over the back of a Shih Tzu, tightly adheres to the back, covered with long, straight very decorative hair. Movements of the Shih Tzu are light, free, graceful, smooth, swift, with a proud bearing.

Temperament: Shih Tzu often captivates people with her unusual appearance: head decorated with a top-knot and a long beard and mustache make Shih Tzu to look like a funny little Chinese mandarin. Movements of this dog look like an old ship under full sail coming out of the harbor, but the main charm of the Shih Tzu is her faithful and in the same time independent nature and a bright personality of each individual representative of this lovely breed. People say, that the Shih Tzu by their mind are closer to humans than to dogs. Nothing is so valuable for the Shih Tzu like love and attention of "their" people. They do not like being alone, therefore they get along pretty well with the other pets. Shih Tzu would sit for hours remaining silent, with his eyes intently gazing only at your face, waiting for you to pay attention to him or to call him, so he will have a chance to fulfill your desires.

But don't let this dog to fool you! Shih Tzu at the same time differs with somewhat arrogant, insolent and even bold demeanor. From time to time this little dog may even contradict to her master. Sometimes if the owner is trying to tell Shih Tzu that she have done something wrong, she has such an independent funny expression on her muzzle, as if she understood absolutely nothing from what he told her. In such situations it is difficult to resist the charms of this little pooch. This is an alert, energetic dog with a typical arrogant posture and free movements. Shih Tzu is a very strudy dog and loves to travel, but also she can be quite happy even if she only has a small walks with her beloved owner and an opportunity to play in the garden.

"Courage and independence does not appear in the pugnacity, but they are the qualities of the Shih Tzu that make this dog to insist on her rights to get a fair - from her point of view - result. My 11-month old puppy, who "accidentally", inadvertently, became the father of a litter, firmly reclaimed his rights for the fatherhood. Every night, he was beside the door of a puppy house, keeping a watchful eye to ensure that no one crossed a boundary of his own room, with a menacing bark rushing to the "intruder." Waking up at night, all the time I met his glance in the brilliant light of a lamp. If the mother was absent somewhere during the day, he immediately entered the house and stayed beside his puppies (autumn was cold, and heating for a long time was not working), warmed them, as did their mother, "- said Madame Lu Tse Yuen Lee, cynologist, an expert on this breed.

Most of the Shih Tzu "speak" and they are willing to greet their owners and family members with short, soft guttural sound. Those people who are not familiar with the breed are often confused with this welcome sound of a growl. The muzzle of a Shih Tzu with the hair growing in all directions like the petals of chrysanthemums, remains defiant expression, combined with a surprisingly gentle deep dark eyes.

Shih Tzu is a long-haired breed, so daily grooming is a must, otherwise the coat will become dull and will require further trimming. And it will take some time for the hair of a Shih Tzu to grow back until it will be possible to take her to the dog show. In addition, the trimmed Shih Tzu will require the same care, only it will take a little less time. Unfortunately the mats will appear exactly in the same manner on a short hair as well (especially behind the ears) if the dog will not be frequently combed. The claws of a Shih Tzu must be carefully cut off every 10 days. Muzzle must be washed daily, beard and mustache carefully combed as well as the hair around the eyes of a Shih Tzu, for them not to tear and not to get inflamed (it is not necessary to tie the top knot if the Shi Tzu is trimmed). Also you will need to cut off the hair between the pads of the feet and remove it from the ears.

Shih Tzu loves attention and care. If grooming is started early and is always made carefully, there comes a time when the dog would wait for it with impatience. Combing the hair, if it is done for 10-15 minutes a day, will keep the coat of a Shih Tzu in an excellent condition. With the proper care and a lot of love from your side your dog will live her long life happily. It is also because the Tibetan breeds generally are long-living, it is often possible to see the Shih Tzu who feels good in his 19 years.

Health problems: Although this breed is pretty healthy still some Shih Tzu may be prone to the spinal problems because of their short legs and their long back. Their eyes and ears also need a special attention. Some Shih Tzu may have heart issues due to the somewhat shortened muzzles.

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