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Description of the Breed

Purebred dogs are measured against a breed standard of perfection, a written description of what the ideal specimen should look like. Each dog-registering organization has its own set of standards, one for each other breeds it recognizes; however, these standards may vary, in the way they are worded, from registry to registry and from country to country.

The Shih Tzu is a very active dog with a distinctly arrogant carriage. Neither a terrier nor a toy dog, the Shih Tzu walks with his broad, round head well up and heavily plumed tail caried gaily over the back. He is a proud dog, befitting of his noble ancestry. the muzzle should be square and short although not wrinkled like the Pekingnese; flat and hairy. The eyes are dark, round, and large but not prominent. The coat is luxurious, long, and dense but not curly. It is customary to tie the hair on top of the head up. His undercoat is full and woolly. The ears are large with long feathers and carried drooping, often blending in with the hair of the neck. His gait is slightly rolling, smooth, and flowing with strong rear action.
One of the strongest characteristics of the Shih Tzu is personality. The Shih Tzu is a friendly, nonaggressive dog that is a good companion for both children and other breeds of dogs. Individuals of the breed are known for their fun-loving play, romping around an apartment or in the country-side - their coat flowing in all directions as they jump back and forth to attack an errant hand or foot. Given a sock or other convenient "enemy" your pet Shih Tzu will stalk his prey and quickly run with the prize to another area, often to lie on his back with a sock between his front legs, snatching playfully at the prey with his small jaws. If not careful one could find his pet's treasures (sometimes surprises) hidden under a chair when guests arrive.
The Shih Tzu is a people-oriented dog. They cherish nothing more than the love and affection of people. They will sit patiently, remaining still with their eyes gazing intently on your face waiting for you to acknowledge them or call them over to be petted. The Shih Tzu, however, is not a one-person dog. Members of this breed are happy to entertain any stranger, once accepted by the family, and bestow their affection on the nearest person. That is one of the reasons that they are becoming so popular a breed. They make friends wherever they go, as if taking on the role of ambassador for the rest of the breed.
Besides, their playfulness and love of affection, the Shih Tzu has a "lap dog" personality. It is not high strung nor demanding of attention. The pet Shih Tzu is content during the day to lie in a corner with his legs stretched out behind him, snoring softly while dreaming of some past adventure. However, if he had a choice he would prefer to be curled up on a lap dozing off to the gentle massage of an owner's hand. At night you pet would be more than content to share a small area of your bed curled against your body for comfort.
The size of the Shih Tzu normally is between 9 to 16 pounds. The appropriate weight is a matter of personal preference, with the breed standard purposely allowing a wide range. They are a sturdy dog with a build that surprises some people who pick them up.

The Shih Tzu size makes it an ideal breed for both city and country living. In the city these little dogs become easily accustomed to the noises and apartment style living. They never feel more proud than when strutting on their lead through crowds of people who turn and admire this diminutive imperial aristocrat. They are also at home romping in the country, although due to the breed's companionable personality most people prefer to keep them as house dogs and companions.
The coat is one of the characteristics that exemplifies that truly regal nature of the Shih Tzu. As with the size, the coat also comes in a wide range of colors. Any hue from total black, to black and white, gray and white, gold and white, or pure gold, is acceptable. A white blaze on the forehead and a white tip to the tail are considered highly prized. The coat is not dead straight as in a Yorkshire Terrier; a slight wave is normal with a curl not appropriate. The coat has an under layer and when the dog is full grown this undercoat helps give and overall graceful appearance to the coat as it falls naturally to the ground.
The beautiful coats; however, do require care and attention. Daily grooming is necessary, otherwise, the coat can become matted and tangled which will require cutting the coat. As a puppy, little work is needed except to get the dog used to lying still on a tabble or your lap for a couple of minutes to get brushed. As your dogs grows older, however, more deliberate care is needed up to 20 minutes a day. The page on grooming gives more specific instruction on how to accomplish this. The important thing to remember is that the responsibility of coat care is an essential ingredient to owning a long haired dog, especially the Shih Tzu. This responsibility can be lessened by keeping the dogs coat trimmed to a very short length; however, in doing this one of the elegant aspects of the breed is lost.
The Shih Tzu, therefore, is a unique creature in its own right. Not only has it centuries of heritage behind it but it has been a mystery shrouded in an era and culture little known to Western man. Even though exposure to this breed is relatively recent, the Shih Tzu has become one of the most popular breeds. It is no wonder, with its personality and character, that the little imperial temple dog has won many hearts.