Other names: Chrysanthemum dog
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The Shih Tzu is a small tibetan dog. Used exclusively as a pet, he isn’t the ideal companion for active people. Very pleasant to live with despite sometimes proving stubborn, he’s sociable and friendly with everyone. Lively, intelligent, playful and relatively docile if he’s been trained well, this little dog will bring joy to all members of his social group, both young and old.
Key facts about the Shih Tzu
Life expectancy :
Origins and history
His origins go way back: he originates from a cross between the dogs that lived in the imperial Chinese palace, about which we know very little, and the Lhasa Apso. He’s originally from Tibet, and his development took place exclusively in China. In Tibetan, his name means "Tibetan lion" and not "lion dog", as many people think. He was initially bred to resemble a little lion, a sacred animal in the Buddhist religion and emblematic of Tibet. The Shih Tzu wasn’t recognised in the UK until the 40s.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 5 : Tibetan breeds
Physical characteristics of the Shih Tzu
Female : Between 8 and 10 in
Male : Between 9 and 11 in
Female : Between 9 and 18 lb
Male : Between 9 and 18 lb
All colours are accepted for this dog’s coat, but there is a preference for multi-coloured subjects that have a white mark on their forehead and end of the tail.
Type of coat
The Shih Tzu’s hair is long.
His outer coat is long, dense, thick and straight. His undercoat is light and not woolly.
His eyes are dark.
The Shih Tzu is a small dog with a very proud demeanour, and a long and compact body. His head is big, round, with a gap between his eyes, while his coat is dishevelled and falls onto his eyes, complete with a beard and moustache. The hair around the nose grows upwards, forming a curious shape of a chrysanthemum. His muzzle is square, short and smooth. His teeth protrude outwards. His eyes are big, dark, round and bulging, while his ears are big, floppy, and covered in fur so that they normally aren’t visible. His limbs are short, strong and muscular, while his build is robust. His tail, heavily fringed and curling up to his back, is worn high and proud.
Good to know
The Shih Tzu is considered a hypoallergenic dog. This makes him perfectly suited to people allergic to the hair and saliva of dogs.
While often looking for attention, this little affectionate dog isn’t overly clingy. He will happily keep himself to himself and keep his distance. That said, he makes an excellent daily companion and is very pleasant to live with.
This little dog is particularly active. He loves playing, and this trait plays a key role in his training. Both gentle and jovial, he will make the perfect playmate for children.
If his needs are properly met, this little Tibetan dog can be very calm. This quality can make him an ideal pet for the elderly or a life in a flat.
While he is more active than most other dogs in his category, he can still happily spend many hours sleeping in his basket.
In spite of his appearance, the Shih Tzu is an intelligent little dog that can understand very well what is expected of him. He can observe and reproach his master for an incoherent or unfair attitude.
However, despite his liveliness, he’s only used as a pet and isn’t very versatile, and can sometimes be quite stubborn.
The Shih Tzu doesn’t have a very defined predatory instinct, but he can be curious and playful around things he considers as prey.
This instinct is often subconsciously reinforced by owners that play fetch with their dog. This game actually elicits a predatory instinct.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Very sociable, the chrysanthemum dog loves receiving strokes and attention from anyone, regardless if he knows the person or not.
As long as he’s not handled roughly, mistreated or pressurised, the Shih Tzu can be a friendly, happy dog that gets on with everyone.
However, he is also known to flat out ignore strangers at times, being neither scared of or aggressive towards them.
Independence is very relative for a dog living in a flat, however, the Shih Tzu will need a quiet corner that he can retreat to for peace and quiet should the need arise. He needs these tranquil moments to relax and re-energise.
Behaviour of the Shih Tzu
While not overly independent, the Shih Tzu equally isn’t a loner. He prefers to be in the presence of his masters, which, once again, makes this dog perfectly compatible with retired people.
Easy to train / obedience
Thanks to his intelligence and liveliness, training this little dog can be quite a pleasant experience. However, you should take into account his propensity to stubbornness. If he feels mishandled or pressurised, he can quickly shun his master and refuse to cooperate.
A firm yet fair hand will be necessary to train the Shih Tzu. The basics of training should be established from a very early age, in order to avoid the learning of bad habits.
Under no circumstances should you ever neglect the training of this dog just because he is small and calm. Fun and educational games will reinforce obedience and also the master-dog relationship.
As his owner, you need to be patient, coherent and diligent in order to obtain the results you want from this dog.
While sociable and welcoming for the most part, this dog nonetheless makes a good alarm dog who will indeed bark to warn his masters of a perceived danger.
Training can help to subdue or reinforce this trait, depending on the needs and wishes of his master.