4 Fun Facts About the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

Like the Poodle, the Shih Tzu has a reputation for being little more than a prissy show dog. And while the Shih Tzu does indeed have a rather fabulous, silky coat that is beloved by kennel clubs the world over, this delightful breed is actually a very sweet, loyal and affectionate dog with a rather fascinating history. Here’s a peek into this dog’s amazing background with a few facts:

#1. The Shih Tzu Has More Than One Name

Shih Tzu actually means “Lion Dog” which refers to its original purpose of being bred to resemble and emulate the strength, courage and proud-bearing of lions, which were highly revered in Buddhism. Because of its physical resemblance to the lion (despite their small size!), the Shih Tzu was chosen to be a palace and temple pet that accompanied royalty wherever they went.

The Shih Tzu was later nicknamed “Chrysanthemum Dog” in 1930’s England by Lady Brownrigg, a British noblewoman and dog breeder, who was the first to import the breed into the UK.

#2. They Live a Long Time

Most Shih Tzus have an average lifespan of 11 to 16 years! So if you’re interested in getting a Shih Tzu, be aware that you’ll have a spirited and regal pet for many years!

#3. It Was Considered a Holy Animal

Historians speculate that the Shih Tzu we know and love today was first developed in the 17th century in Tibet and considered a sacred dog that Tibetan monks would offer as gifts to Chinese royalty. For example, when the Dalai Lama presented the Chinese Empress Tzu Hsi with a particularly beautiful pair of Shih Tzu in the mid-18th century, the Empress was so taken with her gift that she, too, considered them sacred and continued to breed them, thereby setting the foundation for the modern breed.

#4. The Shih Tzu Almost Went Extinct in the 20th Century

The Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949 almost caused the extinction of the Shih Tzu. Empress Tzu Hsi’s breeding kennels were destroyed during the revolution. Fortunately, a small number of dogs made it out of China and all the way over the Britain (thanks, Lady Brownrigg!), where the breed was saved. In fact, according to the AKC, all Shih Tzus can be traced to 14 dogs, which were saved and bred in England.


So there you have it—the Shih Tzu is so much more than a pretty face. This highly revered show dog actually makes a great choice for families, and you can bet that this fun-loving lap dog will love you forever. Just don’t forget to brush its coat!