In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed. Remember, as I always say, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will exactly fit the breed characteristics while others may be nothing like it.

If you love small dogs, the Shih Tzu may be the dog for you. There’s not much that can be faulted with the Shih Tzu personality. They are charming little dogs. Because of their size and popularity, unfortunately they are an exploited breed by puppy millers – low cost to maintain and easy to sell. As a result, you may find quite a few Shih Tzu rescue groups to help the many Shih Tzus who are rescued from bad breeding situations. So a word of caution – if you are considering buying a Shih Tzu puppy, do your research carefully. Most Shih Tzus in pet stores, on Internet puppy sites, and at private farms (which more than likely are fronts for puppy mills) will be from puppy mills.

The name Shih Tzu means “lion dog” and their history is an ancient one. Originating in Tibet somewhere around 1000 BC, these dogs were owned by the holy men, the lamas. Eventually, they were brought to China in the 17th century. They achieved notoriety in the late 19th century by the Empress Cixi who bred Shihs Tzus, Pekingese, and Pugs in China. After her death in 1908, the Shih Tzu found its way to Europe where the breed was developed into the dog we know today. It was finally admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1969 despite that Europe recognized it as a breed as early as 1935.

Shih Tzus are friendly and loving little dogs. They love to be with people and easily take to strangers. They are great with children, given the proper socialization and that the children are careful with the dog.  Shih Tzus crave affection and like to have company. They get along well with other dogs, so having two or more Shih Tzus (or any other kind of dog!) is preferable.

Shih Tzus do not require a great deal of exercise, so they make great dogs for apartments or for someone who is not too active. They do like to play, however. But snuggling in your lap is what they want. Shih Tzus can be very sensitive dogs, responding to their owners’ personalities. They love quiet homes and will be calm, loving dogs with this exposure. But owners who are loud and boisterous may find that their Shih Tzu becomes high strung.

If you are considering a Shih Tzu, be prepared to spend time and money on grooming. They require frequent brushing and, because their hair grows, they need to go to the groomers regularly for haircuts. I’ve seen more than my share of Shih Tzus come into shelters who were not properly cared for with horribly matted hair.

Shih Tzus can live a long time so be prepared for a lifetime of love!