Fun Facts About Shih Tzu

History of the Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu has a long and interesting history.

They originated in Tibet and they are a cross between a Pekingese and a Lhasa Apso.

These dogs were introduced to China when the Dalai Lama started giving them to the Chinese emperors around the end of the 17th century. The Chinese emperors cherished the Shih Tzus so much they forbid anyone from selling, trading, or even giving them away to anyone.

In the 1930’s they made their way to England and Norway. They finally made their way to the United States of America at the end of World War II. Returning military personnel brought the Shih Tzu with them.

Meaning of their name

The name Shih Tzu has some interesting meanings. The Shih part means “lion” in Chinese. Tzu stands for “son” or “child”. When they are put together, it means lion child or lion son.

They were bred to resemble a lion as they appear in most traditional Asian artwork. Once they went to England, Lady Brownrigg decided to nickname the Shih Tzu “chrysanthemum dog”. This is because the hair on their face resembles the petals of the chrysanthemum.

Spots are the stuff of legends

The white spot on their forehead is affectionately known as the “Star of Buddha”. Legend has it Buddha was traveling with a dog one day.

Robbers attacked Buddha to steal from him when his dog turned into a fierce lion and chased off the thieves. After the robbers left, the lion became a dog again. Buddha was so grateful he kissed the dog on the forehead.

They say the kiss is what left the white mark on the dog’s forehead. Some of the other legends say the markings on the back of the Shih Tzu are from the saddle Buddha used to ride the dog-turned-lion to the next town. After they got to town, the lion turned back into a dog.

Companion dogs

The Shih Tzu is a great companion dog. They love to cuddle up with their owner and like to follow them around like a shadow.

They do love to run and play at times. But they would rather just lay around and cuddle. This makes them perfect for apartment living, especially for senior citizens. They are good for either an apartment or a farm. They are very adaptable dogs.


They cannot tolerate heat very well. Their flat-shaped nose is the reason for this problem. When they inhale hot air, it cannot cool off fast enough to help the dog. The hot air can lead to thermal shock. The coat of fur is a double coat, so they retain heat to easily.

Since they retain body heat so much, they are great for keeping a person warm. The monks and Chinese emperors were known to keep the dogs in their beds to keep the bed warm. They also kept them in the sleeves of their robes to help keep themselves warm.


Shih Tzu’s classification is part of the toy breed. They will measure anywhere from 8 inches to 11 inches tall at the shoulders. They usually weigh between 9 pounds to 16 pounds. Unlike popular opinion, Shih Tzu’s do not come in a teacup or imperial size.

They only come in the toy size. This makes them perfect for apartment living.

Related to the wolf

It may not seem possible, but Shih Tzu is closely related to the wolf family. DNA testing has found out they are one of the closest related dog breeds to the ‘Canis lupus familiaris’. The Asian breeds seem to be the main types, such as the Akita and the Pekingese.

Almost went extinct

During the Communist Revolution in China, a lot of the Chinese dog breeds almost became extinct. Luckily a few breeders were able to save a few of the Shih Tzus. There were seven females and seven males than were protected. Those fourteen dogs saved the breed from becoming extinct.

Famous description

A well-known composer came up with a good way to describe the breed. He said they put him in mind of a mix of lion, rabbit, domestic cat, a court jester, ballerina, an older man, a beggar, monkey, baby seal, and teddy bear all rolled into one dog.

If you think the Shih Tzu sounds like quite an appropriate description for the dog.

Favored by the rich and famous

Many famous people have Shih Tzus as pets. They include entertainers, business moguls, and world leaders. Some of these people are Nicole Richie, Queen Elizabeth II, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Betty White, and Sharon Osbourne.


The Shih Tzu is usually a pretty healthy dog. They normally have a life span of 12 years to 14 years.

They can develop some health issues which can make their life less fulfilling. These health issues are hip dysplasia and eye disease. The eye issues can cause cataracts, which will take surgery to correct.

Due to their flat face, it makes it a little harder for them to breathe properly. It also means they are more likely to snore.

They can develop juvenile renal dysplasia, which is when the kidneys fail to develop as they should. This can be a very serious health issue for the dog. If you suspect there may be something wrong with your pup or mature dog, go to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Therapy dogs

Shih Tzus can be used for many different types of therapy. They make exceptional emotional support dogs due to the fact they like to cuddle.

This breed is also good for other types of therapy work. They are gentle, friendly, and take to people they do not know. So they would do well with senior citizens who are living in assisted care facilities. A lot of senior citizens suffer from loneliness and depression.

A therapy dog can give them love and comfort for a while. Shih Tzus are known as gentle, affectionate dogs who love to cuddle.

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