Shih tzus might be tiny in size, but they're big on personality. Wanting nothing more than to be your best friend, this pint-sized pooch is an affectionate, lively and sweet-tempered companion.
Most fanciers agree the shih tzu hails from ancient China, where for more than 1,000 years royalty regarded these lap dogs as cherished household pets.
In the 1940s, the shih tzu (whose name means "lion" in Mandarin Chinese), began appearing in the United States when World War II veterans brought them home from overseas.
Today the shih tzu consistently ranks as one of the top ten most popular dogs in the country, according to American Kennel Club registration statistics. Buts the shih tzu right for you? Read on to learn more about the toy breed's loveable -- and sometimes not-so-loveable -- characteristics.
Life's a game. And the shih tzu loves playing it with you!
Whether the day's activity is splashing in the pool on a hot summer afternoon or playing an indoor game of hide-and-go-seek, the shih tzu is up for doing just anything.
Don't let their diminutive size and good looks fool you into thinking they're only lap warmers and show dogs. These little lions like to go for walks and if they don't get them, they're likely to spend time chasing their tails around the house They also successfully compete in the challenging sport of agility, where dogs navigate a timed obstacle course with their owners' help.
No matter what game you chose to play, as long as you enjoy it your shih tzu probably will, too.
When it comes to learning basic commands -- such as sit, stay and down -- the shih tzu isn't quick to catch on. Breed enthusiasts blame it on the dog's independent streak. But in author Stanley Coren's book "The Intelligence of Dogs," more than 200 professional obedience judges ranked breeds based on their trainability as an indicator of IQ, and the shih tzu didn't fare so well.
According to the judges, the shih tzu and several other breeds required 80 to 100 repetitions of a command before finally obeying just 25 percent of the time. The border collie, on the other hand, mastered new commands lightening fast -- in less than five repetitions - and obeyed them at least 95 percent of the time.
Therefore, when training your shih tzu, consistency and patience are key. And be prepared for it to take longer than expected.
The shih tzu wasn't bred as a watchdog so he's not suspicious or yappy, although he may bark to let you know the mailman is at the front door. Apart from that, you won't hear too much noise from him.
All dogs are individuals, of course, and some shih tzus might be slightly noisier than others. But lots of barking? Well, that's a different story, and it usually stems from dogs not being properly socialized.
Shih tzus purchased from backyard breeders and pet shops probably won't posses a quiet demeanor because they were carelessly bred for profit. Good breeding is as much a science as an art. Responsible shih tzu breeders work hard -- some dedicating their whole lives to produce puppies that not only look but act like they're supposed to.
When friends and family arrive at your doorstep, the shih tzu thinks they're visiting him -- not you. Being outgoing and friendly is all in his genes, of course, and he sees no harm in spreading the love around. Give him a treat, rub his belly or throw him a squeaky toy and you'll have yourself a new best friend.
The shih tzu's adaptability makes him an ideal dog to adopt because he won't wallow away the days, missing a former owner. As long as you show him love, he'll give it right back. Plus, most second-hand cuties will be housebroken.
The shih tzu was originally bred to be a companion, and that is where he excels. When you come home from work, he'll wag his tail wildly and follow you around the house with devotion. And when you settle down to watch television, he'll happily curl up on your lap.
He may give off a natural arrogance, with his tiny head held high and curved tail delicately draped over his back, but who can blame him? If your ancestors lived inside the imperial palace, lounging on embroidered silk pillows all day, you'd think you're pretty special too.
But don't worry. It's just an act. The shih tzu really thinks you're the king or queen in his world.