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Shih Tzu Facts: 10 Fun Things You’ll Be Surprised to Learn

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

shih tzu on wooden bench

The Shih Tzu is one of the most beloved and popular dog breeds in the world. They are known for their friendly, outgoing personalities and beautiful, luxurious coats. But there is so much more to these tiny dogs than meets the eye! From their origins to their popularity with celebrities and royalty, this 1,000-year-old dog breed has so much interesting history that is often overlooked.

Here, we take a look at 10 fascinating facts about Shih Tzus that you may not know. Let’s dive in!

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The 10 Surprising Shih Tzu Facts

1. Shih Tzus Are Among the Most Popular Dog Breeds in the U.S.

Shih Tzus are adorable, smart, and affectionate dogs that are beloved by millions. They originated in Tibet and were bred as companion dogs for royalty and the wealthy. Over the centuries, their popularity spread around the world, and they are now one of the most popular breeds in the United States, ranking in the top 20 every year.

Shih Tzu standing on grass
Image Credit: carlosleucipo, Pixabay

2. Shih Tzus Are Often Referred to as “Little Lions”

The name “Shih Tzu” is derived from the Chinese words for “lion” (shīzi) and “dog” (gǒu).1 In the Buddhist religion, lions symbolize royalty, strength, and bravery and are sacred animals. This would explain why some legends say that Buddha rode the earth on a lion,2 carrying with him a small Shih Tzu! Furthermore, the resemblance of the breed to a small lion is also reflected in their temperament: Like lions, Shih Tzus are known for their loyalty and devotion to their family.

3. Shih Tzus Are Perfect for Couch Potatoes

While Shih Tzus do need daily exercise, they don’t require as much as most other breeds. In fact, short walks of less than 30 minutes a day will be just fine for these tiny dogs to stretch their paws and stay in shape.

shih tzu
Image Credit Nikolay Tchaouchev, Unsplash

4. Shih Tzus Love Kids

Unlike most small dog breeds that have a reputation for having little patience with toddlers, Shih Tzus are known to be especially affectionate with them. However, children of all ages especially the youngest should learn to respect the limits of this delicate dog and avoid being too abrupt, to avoid the risk of hurting them.

5. Shih Tzus Are Prone to Heat Stroke

Shih Tzus are quite hardy, but they are still prone to certain health issues. One is heat stroke, mainly due to their short, squashed muzzle (also called brachycephalic syndrome). This genetic anomaly puts them at a higher risk of overheating, hence the increased importance of keeping them cool during the hot months.

Shih Tzu Showing Teeth
Image Credit: Marissa B., Shutterstock

6. Shih Tzus Puppies Need to Eat More Frequently

Shih Tzu puppies are more at risk of suffering from hypoglycemia.3 Therefore, they should be fed more frequently than adults, about three to four times a day. Their diet should also be high in protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates to help regulate their blood sugar levels. However, since each dog’s needs differ based on many factors, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations before making any dietary changes.

7. Shih Tzus Were Bred to Be Alert Dogs

Shih Tzus are believed to have been originally bred to be alert dogs and warn monarchs and other spiritual leaders of approaching visitors. However, their endearing and sympathetic personalities made them more suited to be companion dogs.

Shih Tzu running
Image Credit: Radosław Zmudziński, Pixabay

8. Shih Tzus Can Live Long Lives

Shih Tzus have a life expectancy of between 10 and 18 years. But some manage to exceed this mark. Indeed, the oldest living Shih Tzu recorded so far was named Smokey, who lived to the ripe old age of 23 before passing away in 2009. Smokey’s owners were able to prove that their dog was the oldest because the VCA St. Petersburg Animal Hospital had records showing his date of birth as January 18, 1986.

9. Shih Tzus Have Famous Owners

Shih Tzus have been favored by many famous people throughout history. For example, Queen Elizabeth II, who was best known for her love of Corgis, also owned a Shih Tzu called Choo-choo during her reign. Other famous Shih Tzu owners include Bill Gates, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, and the Dalai Lama himself!

Shih Tzu sitting on the patio
Image Credit: Frauke Riether, Pixabay

10. Shih Tzus Can Be Real Heroes

Not all heroes wear capes! Despite his small size, a Shih Tzu named Babu saved his owner’s life during a devastating tsunami. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck the Taro-Kawamukai district in Japan. Babu, then 12, dragged his 83-year-old owner outside by whimpering and pacing. Once at the top of a hill, a huge wall of muddy water destroyed the neighborhood in which they lived. Babu’s instincts saved them from certain death and proved to the world that courage comes in small packages!

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Shih Tzus may not weigh more than a sack of potatoes, but they make up for it in personality! Indeed, these tiny yet majestic dogs are known for their friendly, cheerful, and outgoing temperament. They have a reputation for being affectionate, gentle, and smart, with plenty of love for their human family. Whether you have a Shih Tzu or know someone who does, you’re bound to fall in love with this beautiful, unique breed! We hope that this article has helped you learn more about these fun-loving mini pups!

Featured Image Credit: No-longer-here, Pixabay

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