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Other Names: Lion Dog
Dog Group Kennel Club: Toy (AKC) Utility KC (GB)
The Shih Tzu is a small, compact, sturdy dog with luxurious coat, upright head, jaunty step, and plumed, curved tail flowing over the back.
They have an abundant double coat of long hair lined with a woolly undercoat. Colours include: white and silver, white and black, white and brown.
Weight: 9 – 16 lbs
Average Life Span: 13 – 14 yrs
Although the Shih Tzu has the appearance of being proud and arrogant they are very affectionate, playful and intelligent dogs. Shih Tzu are a good choice for a family with well-behaved children as they love to play, as long as they are handled with care. They get on well with other animals as long as they have been socialised from an early age. A very alert watch dog, the Shih Tzu likes to bark, but is usually quiet inside the house. Shih Tzus crave human attention and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing. If you work all day, this is not the breed for you.
They have an independent mind of their own and can be stubborn and manipulative, and tend to resist being told what to do. Therefore basic obedience is highly recommended to help develop a content and pleasant member of the family. They can be difficult to housebreak.
These little dogs require a good daily grooming using a bristle brush to keep their elegant appearance. A topknot is usually tied with a bow so that the dog can see properly. The top knot must never be pulled too tightly as it will cause the hair follicle to die. Some owners prefer to have them trimmed to make the coat easier and less time consuming to care for. The area around the eyes must be kept dry and clean to avoid problems with staining.
They do require exercise but are quite happy to stay at home and play. They are perfectly content with short walks.
Shih Tzu Health Issues
Hip dysplasia: a malformation of the hip joint resulting in a poor fit between the head of the femur bone and the hip socket. This condition can be alleviated by surgery, at some cost to dog and owner. Because dysplastic dogs often produce dysplastic puppies, buyers should ask if both the sire and the dam of the puppy in which they are interested have been rated clear of hip dysplasia. Do not take yes for an answer without seeing a certificate, and ask for a copy to take to your veterinarian.
Renal Dysplasia: A kidney disease known as Renal Dysplasia is common in the Shih-Tzu. This disorder inherited and every effort should be made by Shih-Tzu breeders to avoid breeding any stock whose former puppies have been affected. Currently the disease is irreversible and death is inevitable. There are 3 stages of development. Unfortunately there are no clinical symptoms of early renal disease which may progress over a period of months or years to the second stage, when symptoms first become obvious. The affected dog will develop an excessive thirst and will pass greatly increased amounts of urine. Some dogs will be listless, poor eaters, and may suffer a weight loss. In the final stage, the symptoms of stage two are more pronounced and may be accompanied by severe depression, diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration – all evidences of kidney dysfunction which will sooner or later result in coma and death.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary disease of the eye that has been identified in this breed. PRA is a blanket term for many types of retinal diseases, all of which result in blindness. All shetland sheepdogs, regardless of age or breeding status, should be examined yearly by a member of the Veterinary Opthalmologists.
Distichiasis: Eyelashes that are abnormally located in the eyelid margin which may cause irritation.
Dry Eye: Caused by abnormal tear production due to a deficiency in production of the watery secretions from the lacrimal glands. Normal tears are essential for the health of the cornea. Deficient tear production causes chronic irritation of the cornea and conjunctiva resulting in corneal ulcers and eventually corneal scarring and can also result in blindness. A dog displays irritation and discomfort by rubbing their eyes, squinting and being sensitive to light. The eye may appear reddened and inflamed and there may also be a thick mucous type discharge in and around the eye. If left untreated, over the long term, the normally transparent cornea becomes thickened and scarred. Blood vessels and pigmented cells move into the cornea and blindness may result. Tear stimulants and artificial tear replacements are used to treat KCS. This is not a cure but away to manage a frustrating, painful, and potentially blinding condition.
Shih Tzu History
Although the Shih Tzu is generally thought to be a Chinese breed, it was developed from Tibetan “lion dogs” which had been bred in Tibet for some 2000 years. The “lion dogs” were an exclusive group of dogs bred by Buddhist monks that included the Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Spaniel. The Shih Tzu, whose name means lion, is reputed to have been the oldest and smallest variety of the Tibetan holy dogs. At one time there was considerable contact between the rulers of ‘Tibet and China, and the “lion dogs” were presented to Chinese Emperors as gifts of high esteem. The Chinese called these dogs Tibetan Shih Tzu Kou, or Tibetan Lion Dog. The dogs were bred specifically to please the emperors in each palace, and type varied.
In 1908, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, sent some small dogs of Shih Tzu type to Tzu Hsi, Dowager Empress of the Manchu Dynasty. The Empress was a renowned breeder of Pekingese and added the Shih Tzu to her interests. She breed these dogs giving rise to dogs with different lengths of coats.
After the death of the Empress Tzu Hsi there was much competition among the various palaces to produce dogs of the finest coats and colours, so breeding practices were tightly guarded secrets and records were not kept. During the rise of the Communist government in China, many of the royal dogs were slaughtered. The Breed found their way to England by lady brownrigg when she vivsited Peking in 1930. from this point breeding began in Britain, and in 1935 the breed was officially named the Shih Tzu, but not elevated to championship status in Britain until 1949.