The Shih Tzu is a breed of dog originating from the Tibetan plateau and developed in China, the name Shih Tzu translates to English as the Lion dog.

There are a number of theories about today’s modern breed, most seem to point to it stemming from a cross between the Pekingnese and the Lhasa Apso, a Tibetan dog given to Chinese emperors in the 17th century by the Dalai Lama. The Shih Tzu was a favourite of Chinese royalty, so much so that for years they refused to sell trade or give any away.

It wasn’t until 1930 that the first Shih Tzu was imported into Europe, when they were classified by the Kennel club as Apsos, the first European standard for the breed was written in 1935 and the dogs were categorised again as the Shih Tzu. The breed quickly spread throughout Europe, and were introduced to America after World War II, when returning members of the U. S military brought back dogs from Europe and Asia.

The breed is now recognised by all the major Kennel clubs in the English-speaking world, it is also recognised by the Federation Cynologique Internationale for international competition in the companion and toy groups.

Although an individual Shih Tzu’s temperament can vary from dog to dog, in general the breed is outgoing, loyal, affectionate and alert. Training and socializing should start at a young age for the Shih Tzu to obey basic commands, because the breed can be stubborn when it comes to training. With its friendly nature the Shih Tzu usually reacts well with other dogs as well as children and adults, they are generally well-behaved and a good family dog.

The Shih Tzu comes in a range of colours, these include various shades of gold, white, brown grey, brindle, red and black. The coat itself is fine, smooth and silky, it is also listed as being hyper allergenic, Shih Tzu coats don’t shed much, losing only small amounts when bathed or brushed.

A number of health issues, some of them hereditary can affect the Shih Tzu, these include, Hypothyroidism which occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce the hormone necessary for proper metabolism. This usually affects middle-aged dogs, symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss and lethargy. The disease can be diagnosed by blood tests and is treatable with drug therapy.

Intervertebral disk disease is a common problem which causes acute back pain, loss of co-ordination, and paresis, it can occur in a lot of toy dog breeds including Pekingnese, French Bulldogs, Dachshunds and the Shih Tzu.

Shih Tzu’s can have respiratory problems related to the shape of their head and face, Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome is a common problem which mainly affects dogs with short noses. An obstruction in the upper airways can cause the dog to have laboured breathing, severe cases can require surgery.

Eye problems in Shih Tzu’s can develop at any age, and even more so as they get older. Cateracts are a common cause and if not treated they can lead to blindness.

A fully grown Shih Tzu should between 20 and 28 cm tall and weigh 4 to 7 kg, if properly looked after the Shih Tzu should have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

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michael simpson

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