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                                          SHIH TZU


Characteristics and Temperament

Although he is generally outgoing and friendly, the Shih Tzu definitely has an attitude that cries to be spoiled. If you need help in realizing this fact, the dog will steer you in the right direction with his self-assurance that he should be treated like a king. Indeed, his strong sense of self makes him a poor choice in a household with babies or small children. He is often jealous of babies and toddlers and may snap if bothered by rambunctious children. However, he is a fine companion for older children, particularly those who enjoy combing his hair.

Shih Tzu are active and alert, qualities that make them good watchdogs. However, poorly bred dogs of the breed can be excitable, noisy, and snappy.

Shih Tzu are intelligent, and can be trained for obedience competition and for good manners around the home.  Touched with a dose of pride and arrogance, the Shih Tzu is not easy to train. After all, in ancient China, nothing more was required of the Shih Tzu other than looking beautifully ornamental while accompanying emperors and empresses in processions throughout the Chinese streets. Such regal bearings have seemed to stay with the Shih Tzu from one generation to the next because this imperial attitude can still be found in the modern-day Shih Tzu.

They can be stubborn, so persistence and consistency are definite plusses in training methods. Punishment makes this dog shut down, so training should also be low-key and motivational. Shih Tzu don't like rules. They have relatively short attention spans and selectively short memories. They can become easily distracted and forget where they are and what rule applies to the situation at hand. These are traits that make Shih Tzu the happy-go-lucky little clowns that attract us in the first place, so you must be very patient with training expectations. Some of the more difficult areas of training merit discussion.


Activity Level:

  • Indoors: moderate
  • Outdoors: moderate

 Behavioral Vigor:

  • moderate
  • (This dimension relates to the force of behaviors regardless of how often they are produced.)


  • moderate
  • (This dimension relates to the "stick-to-it-iveness" of a breed.)


  • low
  • Shuh Tzu are low in territoriality and generally only consider the owner's home and property as their own.


  • Strange dogs: assertive
  • Familiar people: assertive
  • (Shih Tzu approach life with an air of loftiness and dominace.  They are rarely aggressive to unfamiliar people and dogs but do hold their ground.)

Emotional Stability/Vacillation:

  • fair
  • (This dimension is defined by how frequently an animal changes from one emotional state to another.)

Learning Rate:

  • moderate
  • (The ease with which a breed is able to form associations between two or more events determines its trainability. Whereas Shih tzu are smart they are also stubborn.)


  • Obedience: good
  • Problem solving: good
  • Obedience training is achieved with a little effort.  
Watch/Guard Dog:
  • alert
  • Shih Tzu are good watch dogs, making sure to alert you when a visitor arrives, but will take their cue from you and welcome the guest when all seems well with their owner.


  • very sociable
  • (The number of people a breed can tolerate in one location. A very sociable dog can tolerate, even enjoy crowds. A very solitary dog would get irritable, fearful, or aggressive in a crowd.)

Social Dimension

  • Owner/family: open-family
  • (Open-family dogs can discriminate between family members and non family members. However, they readily accept new members into the family after one or two playful experiences with them.)
  • With strangers: very friendly
  • (Very friendly breeds are described with the following terms: "likes everybody," "very friendly," and "likes people." These breeds may be very playful and jump on people who enter and continuously nuzzle, smell, and rub up against visitors. They are basically indiscriminate in their friendliness. They can be a pleasure to people who love dogs but an annoyance to people who do not.)
  • With children: good
  • (Shih tzu are tolerant with older children but can be testy with younger children if not properly socialized with them.)


A Brief History of the Shih Tzu
By Victor Joris

Dogs of various sizes, shapes, and colors have been bred in China for centuries. Records substantiate the existence of short, square, "under the table" dogs from at least 1000 B.C. By piecing together historical facts and documented records, it is possible to some extent to follow the development in China of the breeding of dogs likely to be the ancestors of the present-day Shih Tzu.

The ancestry of the Shih Tzu is rather obscure, but it is probable that the breed is primarily of Tibetan origin. The history of the Tibetan “Lion Dogs” is interwoven with the tenets of Buddhism, which originated in India. The lion was closely associated with Buddhism, but the lion was not indigenous to China, so the Chinese and the Tibetan lamas bred their toy dogs to resemble lions. The Shih Tzu (whose name means “lion”) is reputed to have been the oldest and smallest variety of the Tibetan “holy dogs” and bears some similarity to other Tibetan breeds. For much of the long and illustrious history of China, the breeding of the small “Lion Dog” was a favorite pastime of succeeding imperial rulers.

Prior to A.D. 624, documents show that small dogs were exported from Malta, Turkey, Greece, and Persia as gifts to the ruling Chinese emperors. It is likely that the first small Tibetan Lion Dogs from which the Shih Tzu is probably descended came to China during the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty (1644-62) as tributes from the Grand Lamas to the Chinese Imperial Court, and that the Chinese interbred these Tibetan dogs with the early western imports and with the Pug and the Pekingese.

The existence of the Shih Tzu as we know it today is owed to the Dowager Empress Cixi (T’zu Hsi), whose kennel of Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu was world renowned. Although she carefully supervised the kennel during her lifetime and attempted to keep the three imperial breeds separate, the actual breeding was carried out by palace eunuchs who secretly crossed the breeds to reduce size and produce unusual and desirable markings. After her death in 1908, the kennels were dispersed and palace breeding became haphazard. Some breeding was still practiced by private individuals and specimens were exhibited, but the dogs were almost impossible to acquire. So far as is known, the breed became extinct in China after the Communist revolution.

Seven dogs and seven bitches comprise the gene pool of all existing Shih Tzu. These fourteen include the Pekingese dog used in an admitted cross in England in 1952--a cross which caused considerable trouble, as it was done by a newcomer to the breed and reported after the fact. The other foundation dogs included three Shih Tzu imported from China that became the foundation of the Taishan kennel of Lady Brownrigg in England and eight additional imports to England between 1933 and 1959. Three other Shih Tzu were imported into Norway from China in 1932 by Mrs. Henrick Kauffman, including a bitch that was the only Shih Tzu bred in the Imperial Palace to reach the Western world.

Returning military personnel brought some of the first Shih Tzu into the United States during the late 1940s and 1950s and began breeding programs. The unique beauty and outstanding temperament of this “new” breed quickly found favor with the fancy. From the first day of formal AKC recognition (Sept. 1, 1969), the Shih Tzu catapulted from a relatively unknown breed to one of the most glamorous and popular of all canine companions.

This month’s column was contributed by Shih Tzu breeder-judge Victor Joris, author of The Complete Shih Tzu (Howell Book House). We hope you have enjoyed it.

Originally published in the Shih Tzu breed column in the American Kennel Club Gazette . Written by Shih Tzu breeder-judge Victor Joris, author of 'The Complete Shih Tzu' (Howell Book House).


The Early Days Of The ASTC
By Mrs. Andy Warner

The American Kennel Club accepted the Shih Tzu into the Miscellaneous Class in 1955. At that time, there were very few Shih Tzu in this country.

Maureen Murdock and Philip Price, her nephew, were the first to import and breed Shih Tzu in this country. In 1954 Mr. Price brought back to the United States Golden S. Wen of Chasmu and imported Ho Lai Sheum of Yram in 1955; both were from England.

As with all unrecognized breeds, complete records of imports and births must be kept by individuals or groups until such time as a club is formed and a registrar is selected. This is extremely important if a breed hopes to be recognized by the American Kennel Club. If the interest in a breed does not increase and spread across the country, the Miscellaneous status may be withdrawn by AKC. The same thing may happen if incorrect, up-to-date records are not kept on all imports and births.

In 1957 the Shih Tzu Club of America was formed in the eastern part of the United States. By 1960 there were three Shih Tzu clubs: the Texas Shih Tzu Society, the American Shih Tzu Association in Florida, and the Shih Tzu Club of America.

Many of the early Shih Tzu supporters and enthusiasts were military people who bought their Shih Tzu in England and Scandinavia and returned to the United States with them when they were stationed stateside again. Because they were so spread out across the country, the three clubs were formed independently of each other. By 1961 there were over 100 Shih Tzu registered in the United States, both imports and offspring born here.

The first champion bitch to be imported into the United States was French Ch. Jungfaltets Jung-Wu, a 9-pound gold and white, in 1960. Ingrid Colwell bought her in Sweden and showed her to her championship in France while her Air Force husband was stationed there. Ingrid arrived in the United States with five Shih Tzu, including two with the Pukedal prefix (her mother’s kennel name in Sweden). From 1960 to 1968, when Ingrid sadly died in a fire, she imported several Shih Tzu from both Scandinavia and England.

Yvette Duval, a close friend of Ingrid’s, imported the first male champion, French Ch. Pukedals Ding Dang. Yvette bought this black and white male from Ingrid’s mother and finished his championship in France before she and her Air Force husband, Lucian, were reassigned to the United States. They also brought two Shih Tzu bitches into the country with them at the same time.

In 1963 the Shih Tzu Club of America and the Texas Shih Tzu Society merged to form the American Shih Tzu Club. Since the AKC had accepted the Shih Tzu into the Miscellaneous class in 1955 it was important to have only one club, with one registry. Lucian Duval was selected as registrar, and he combined the work of the two clubs into one. Our hope was that if we did a good job of keeping our records and spread the word of how great the Shih Tzu was by showing and exposure, we might hope to someday be recognized by the AKC and be able to earn American championships.

With much pleasure, and always a great deal of fun, many early Shih Tzu lovers showed their best all over the country. We were stopped by all kinds of curious people and answered questions at shows all day long. Many of us sold dogs to new people to the breed, thus spreading the joy of owning a Shih Tzu and helping to educate about this relatively new breed to the United States. In 1962, when there was still a Muscellaneous class held at Westminster, there were 12 Shih Tzu entered. By the end of 1962 there were more than 300 Shih Tzu registered with the American Shih Tzu Club.

We had three registrars during the history of the American Shih Tzu Club. Gene Dudgeon (publisher of the Shih Tzu News) followed Lucian Duval. Mary Wood then served as registrar until AKC recognition.

By July 1965 there were 656 Shih Tzu registered by the ASTC, and registrations had spread rather nicely across the United States. Some groups were starting to form local Shih Tzu clubs. a fun match had been held in June of 1964 at Ingrid Colwell’s home in Middletown, PA, and others were being planned.

In 1967 it felt as though we were finally getting closer to our goal of recognition. In the spring of that year the AKC asked several representatives of the ASTC to meet with them in New York to discuss revising the breed standard. We had originally adopted the English Kennel Club standard when we formed the ASTC, and we were asked to clarify points that seemed unclear. A committee was formed to do this, and we returned to the AKC with revisions. Nothing major was changed, but we felt that if AKC was interested it was a very encouraging sign. Shortly before recognition another committee came up with a few changes approved by the AKC.

The ASTC was incorporated in 1968--another step forward in our efforts for recognition. The following year the AKC accepted the Shih Tzu as its 116th recognized breed. It was an exciting day for all of us. The carefully kept records of the ASTC registry were turned over to the AKC, and in September 1969 Shih Tzu were shown for the first time in the United States for championship points. At recognition, the registry had increased to almost 3,000.

Originally published in the Shih Tzu breed column in the American Kennel Club Gazette.



General Appearance:
The Shih Tzu is an abundantly coated dog with a distinctly Oriental appearance. It is a solid, sound little dog that is rather heavy for its size.

Shih Tzu are distinctly arrogant with a character all their own. They are exceptionally good-natured, affectionate and intelligent. They are full of life and have an air of importance that cannot be denied.

The Shih Tzu is not a Toy dog. This is a smaller type of dog with good bone and substance. Height at withers approximately 9 to 10 ½ inches (23-27 cm). Breed type and balance always to be main consideration.

Coat and Colour:
A luxurious long, flowing coat with an undercoat. May be slightly wavy but never curly. The coat may be parted from the root of the tail to the back of the skull. The hair on the head may be tied up to form a topknot. A bow or ribbon to be optional. Coat may be trimmed so as not to interfere with the movement of the dog. All colours are acceptable providing they have black noses, lips and eye rims. The exceptions are the livers and blues, which have pigmentation that compliments that particular colour.

Skull round, broad and wide between the eyes with a definite stop. The muzzle is short, square and about one-fifth of the total length of the skull. The muzzle is approximately 1 inch (2 ½ cm) from the stop to the tip of the nose. The upward sweep of the front part of the muzzle should place the nose level with the bottom of the eye. The placement of the muzzle is directly responsible for the nose placement. The nose leather should be broad and the nostrils well open. Eyes should be large, dark and round, except in livers and blues where the light colour is permissible. The eyes should be well set in the skull and
the expression should be warm and irresistible. Ear leathers drooping, set just below the crown of the head and so heavily coated that they appear to blend with hair of the neck. Mouth is slightly undershot or level, the bottom jaw is wide and strong. Teeth should not be visible when the mouth is closed.

The neck must be in balance with the body length and must also complement the high tail set and carriage.

Shoulders well developed, muscular and well set to allow freedom of movement. The upper arm well laid back thus allowing for the desired width and dept forming a good fore chest. The legs straight, well boned, set well under the body and fitting closely to the chest. Feet moderate size and well padded.

This is not a square dog. The length of the back from the withers to the tail set to be slightly longer than the height from the withers to the ground. Taking into consideration the fore chest as well as the area behind the tail, the Shih Tzu should appear rectangular in outline. The body should be deep, sturdy and well coupled with a good spring of rib. There should be little or no tuck up of the underline. A good fore chest is essential to both the movement and balance of the Shih Tzu. The topline should be level both standing and moving.

Strong, muscled, well angulated and in balance with forequarters. Hocks short, sturdy and turning neither in nor out. Feet moderate size and well padded.

Well feathered, set high and carried gaily over the back in a loose curve with the tip just touching the back.

Should be smooth and flowing with the head and tail held high. Extension both front and rear. Front legs should move out of the coat in a straight line, feet turning neither in nor out. Rear legs show strong rear action displaying full pads on the move. The Shih Tzu has a distinct swagger when on the move that is enhanced by his air of importance.


Temperament -
Any deviation from the above-mentioned temperament to be considered very undesirable.

Size -
lack of proper bone and substance.

Coat and Colour -
Excessive trimming, sparse or wooly coats, missing pigmentation.

Head -
Narrow head, lack of stop, pink on nose or eye rims, small or light-coloured eyes, eye white showing, missing canines or incisors, lack of strength of under jaw, pinched nostrils, wry mouths, tongue showing when the mouth is closed, wrinkles like a Peke.

Neck -
Too short in that it does not complement the carriage and outline of the Shih Tzu.

Forequarters -
Excessive legginess and crooked legs.

Body -
Lack of fore chest, narrow, weedy bodies with no bone and substance, high in rear standing or moving. Shih Tzu not adhering to the correct rectangular outline.

Hindquarters -
Slipping stifles and luxating hocks, cow hocks.

Tail -
Tails flat on back, pig tails, tails not carried gaily or happily, tails carried sickle like without tip touching back.

Gait -
Lack of reach and drive, bouncing gait, inability to move with tail or head held high.

Scissors or overshot bites, one or two blue eyes.



Basically healthy, the Shih Tzu is subject to a kidney disease called renal dysplasia and to slipped stifles or kneecaps. His slightly protruding eyes are prone to injury, and his short muzzle often produces slight wheezing problems.

Otherwise, his greatest problems are connected to his profuse coat, or rather to neglect of that coat. A well-groomed Shih Tzu has few if any skin problems; a poorly-groomed Shih Tzu can develop tangles, painful mats, hot spots, skin infections, even maggot infestations. If you do not have time to groom a Shih Tzu at least every other day, select another breed.