The Shih Tzu is a toy breed first known to be bred in China. Resembling some terrier breeds such as the Yorkshire in appearance, the Shih Tzu carries itself in a low profile and typically feature long, flowing coats. Because of their delicate, pretty appearance and pleasant temperament, they became widely popular as house pets and show dogs in the middle and late 20th century in the west.
Origin and brief history
The Shih Tzu (西 施 犬 ) roughly translates to “lion dog” and derives its name from the traditional guardian lion statues which are an iconic symbol of Imperial China. Significant debate exists regarding the specific origins of the breed, with possible candidates for ancestry being the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese. The breed was introduced to Europe in 1930 and was imported in large numbers to Europe and North America following World War II.
Like many other dogs of its size, the Shih Tzu can be a loyal, devoted companion, but unlike some, they are tend not to make themselves exclusive to a single person, and are usually extroverted and friendly to strangers. They enjoy giving and receiving affection, and get along well with children and other dogs, though it should be noted that they do not enjoy being antagonized and may become standoffish if subjected to provocation.
Shih Tzu have long coats, and as such, owners should make a point to tend to it on a regular basis with a comb and bristle brush, with gentle strokes in the direction of the fur, starting with the head and working towards the rump. It is common to clip the coat to make the grooming process more convenient, though note that show dogs are usually required to sport theirs full-length. It is a good idea to trim above the eyes, as excess can cause irritation and damage. Trimming around the mouth and anus is also advised, as this will prevent buildups of waste matter and food. Bathe with a soft, conditioning shampoo.
A toy dog, the Shih Tzu tends to be very small and light in build, with average weight ranging between 10 and 16 pounds for a mature adult and rarely standing taller than ten inches at the shoulder. Shih Tzu coats tend to be long and silky to the touch. A Shih Tzu will sport an underbite as a distinct feature if it is a product of deliberate breeding, or is of such heritage. The tail is curled much like that of a pug or a Pomeranian, and like the latter, is long and feathery in appearance. Shih Tzu are ideal pets for people who suffer from allergies, as the breed is much less prone to shedding hair and dander than most. Their lifespan may exceed 20 years.
As with other toy breeds, the Shih Tzu’s small stature makes it susceptible to several potentially serious health issues such as hyperthiroidism and Intervertebral Disk Disease. The shape of the head also leaves it especially prone to breathing problems, especially in advanced age. For households with larger dogs or small children, care must be taken to ensure that the Shih Tzu does not come to injury by way of roughhousing. Some owners might consider professional grooming.
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