The Shih Tzu’s ancestors can be traced back to Tibet's temples, where the Tibetan Lion Dogs were highly regarded as sacred animals. They lived a life of luxury in the royal palace. During the Manchu Dynasty, Chinese emperors were given Shih Tzus as a token of good fortune. It was custom for distinguished Chinese visitors to be presented with a pair. Only the most distinguished individuals could own them. In fact, any person who harmed or stole a Shih Tzu could be put to death!
Empress Dowager Cixi was an avid breeder of Shih Tzu. It is thought that some of her dogs were sold to wealthy countrymen and foreign dignitaries. The death of the empress ended an era for Shih Tzus in China. The Shih Tzu nearly became extinct in China after the communist takeover in the 1940s. Luckily, fourteen dogs survived (seven females and seven males). All Shih Tzus today can be traced back to the original fourteen.
Shih Tzus are affectionate, friendly, and loveable. They are true companions, and they absolutely love their owners. Barking at strangers comes with this breed, too, but they usually warm up to people quickly. They’re better lapdogs than they are security dogs. Even though their ancestors grew up in palaces, today’s Shih Tzus are comfortable in small apartments, spacious homes, and, yes, even palaces.
We all know the iconic high ponytail on Shih Tzus but is it a fashion statement or something practical for the breed? The answer? It keeps the hair out of their eyes. Shih Tzus have long, flowing coats that have to be brushed frequently. They can also have their hair trimmed shorter in what is called a “puppy cut,” which requires less maintenance than the iconic flowy coats.
Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous
Military personnel introduced Shih Tzus to the US. Soldiers stationed in European countries were introduced to breeds not found in the US, and some were scooped up and brought back home. They made their appearance in the late 1940s and 1950s. Today, Shih Tzus are one of the most popular breeds in the US. Some famous Shih Tzus owners include Mariah Carey, Bill Gates, Beyonce, Nicole Richie, and even Queen Elizabeth II.