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Lion-like dogs like the Shih Tzu existed in China for centuries. In fact, the Chinese characters for "Shih Tzu" mean "lion". Although their early history is obscure, Shih Tzu are probably descended from lion-like dogs sent from Tibet to the Chinese imperial court in Beijing. The lion was closely associated with Buddhism, and as the lion was not indigenous to China, mythical creatures known as Foo or Lion Dogs and the small living creatures that resembled them came to symbolize the Buddhist guardian lion. The Shih Tzu was developed as a distinctive breed by the Dowager Empress Cixi (1835-1908), who reduced size and prized distinctive markings and colors that matched the gowns of the ladies of the court. As all Shih Tzu in China were probably killed as symbols of royalty when the communists seized power, all Shih Tzu today are descended from 14 Shih Tzu that were taken to England and Scandinavia before this time, plus one Pekingese later crossed with the breed in England. Today the Shih Tzu's sole purpose is to be a companion, as it was in the Chinese royal court long ago.

***Note that Shih Tzu is pronounced "sheed-zoo", and is both singular and plural in form.


The Shih Tzu is lively, intelligent, and alert. They are very social and do very well with children and other dogs.

The AKC breed standard that describes the ideal Shih Tzu calls for a small but sturdy and heavily-coated dog.

As a "big dog in a small package" both structurally and temperamentally, the ideal Shih Tzu stands 8 to 11 inches at the withers and weighs 9 to 16 pounds at maturity and is deceptively heavy for its size because of its heavy bones.

There is no such thing as an AKC recognized "imperial" or "tea cup" Shih Tzu. 


The Shih Tzu is generally a long-lived and healthy breed.

Tight (Pinched) Nostrils are very VERY common in the Shih Tzu breed and will generally open with time. The bubbly discharge from a Shih Tzu puppy’s nose is NOT serious if the discharge is clear and watery and the dog is otherwise thriving. This problem will generally come on when the puppy is teething and sometimes not go away until the adult teeth have fully come in (even up to a year old). Some puppies can hardly breathe out of their noses at all during this time and it will often cause them to snort and mouth breath. They will usually outgrow this after the adult teeth come in. As long as they are active, eating and drinking normally it should be of little concern. Some dogs will have tighter nostrils than others and some will snore and snort more than others during their entire life.

Reverse Sneezing describes a condition in which the dog seems to be unable to get its breath and begins to honk or snort. It is most often caused by a slightly elongated soft palate that “sticks” until the dog takes a deep breath through its mouth. The most effective way to stop this is to put a finger over the dog’s nostrils, thereby forcing it to breathe through its mouth. Sometimes just a hug and some reassurance will do the trick! Unlike more serious problems found in brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs, reverse sneezing in a Shih Tzu is quite common and considered normal. It is not life-threatening.

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