top of page

Dog-ology: Shih Tzu


The Shih Tzu is a small, sturdy, toy breed dog with a long, silky double coat, a short muzzle, and large dark eyes. It weights from 10 to 16 pounds. The dog’s long hair, which grows to floor length is also found on the ears and tail of the pup. The tail typically rests curled along the dog’s back. The long and fast growing hair requires daily brushing and frequent grooming. Often the coat is kept short to simplify care. Shih Tzu’s coat can be of any color, though white is usually a contributing shade. The breed’s under-bite is one of its distinguishing features and is actually required in the breed standard.

Although all dogs differ by personality, Shih Tzu are typically thought of as loyal, affectionate, outgoing, and alert. Their attentive nature makes them worthy watch dogs, however; their affectionate and outgoing personalities make them easy to win over. They prefer to be close to their companions and will often offer strangers their affection. An added bonus of this friendly disposition is that the Shih Tzu tends to interact well with other dogs and with children and adults. It has an upbeat attitude and loves to play and romp.

The Shih Tzu is one of the most popular breeds in Manhattan, because they make amazing companions and are perfect for city living.


The breed as it is known today developed most distinctively in China during the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi. The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese word for "lion dog" because it was bred to resemble lions as they were depicted in ancient oriental art. The breed is believed to have been bred from a cross between the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso. The Shih Tzu was a favored house pet during the Ming Dynasty and was highly prized by the royal family. The dogs were so prized within the country that for years they refused to sell, trade, or give away any of the dogs.

The first dogs of the breed were imported into Europe (England and Norway) in 1930, after the British looted the Imperial Palace. The breed spread throughout Europe, and was brought to the United States after World War II, when returning members of the US military brought back dogs from Europe. In the United States, the breed became extremely popular in the 1960s, leading to AKC recognition in 1969. Its popularity has continued to grow, and it is one of the most popular toy breeds.

Fun Facts

  • The name Shih Tzu is both singular and plural.

  • Even though the Shih Tzu is most often associated with China, it probably originated in Tibet as early as the 17th century, where it enjoyed status as a holy dog because it is used to guard the Imperial Palace.

  • The full name of this dog breed is Tibetan Shih Tzu Kou which literally means Tibetan Lion Dog.

  • Shih Tzu is one of the 14 ancient breeds of dog according to DNA studies which indicate that it has a close genetic relationship to wolves.

  • Celebrities who owned/owns a Shih Tzu include Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and Brooke Shields.

  • The majority of people pronounce this breed as “Shit Zoo” however, according to the Shih Tzu Club of America the proper pronunciation is “Sheet Zoo.”

bottom of page