The Shih Tzu or Shih Tsu (獅子狗 pinyin: Shīzi Gǒu, Wade-Giles: Shih-tzu Kou) is a breed of dog originating in Tibet. The spelling "Shih Tzu", most commonly used for the breed, is according to the Wade-Giles system of romanization. The actual pronunciation of this name is approximately like the "sher" of "sherbet" followed immediately by the "dds" of "adds". The meaning of the breed name was originally "lion dog" because this variety of dog was bred to resemble a miniature lion. It is now often called by a homonymic name, "xi shi quan" (西施犬), based on the name of Xi Shi, regarded as the most beautiful woman of ancient China.
Shih Tzus come in variety of colors including black, white, gray, tan, and gold spotted to a mix of several-colored hairs. A model Shih Tzu should have a short snout, large eyes, a slight underbite, and a tail that waves above its torso. The Shih Tzu's hair can be styled in a short, summertime hair cut or a well-groomed long hair style like that used for conformation shows. Because this breed's hair continues to grow rather than shedding regularly, it is one of several breeds suggested as a hypoallergenic pet.
James E. Mumford described the breed in an American Shih Tzu magazine, giving a picture of the versatile character of the Shih Tzu: "Nobody knows how the Ancient Eunuchs managed to mix together…And now here comes the recipe: A dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man (Chinese), a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, a dash of teddy bear and the rest dogs of Tibetan and Chinese origin."
The Shih Tzu is usually calm and gentle. They can, however, be playful and feisty at times. The breed typically makes a good children's pet. Shih Tzus are actually a bit light-headed at times and do not take severe punishment well. Of course, as with every animal, there are exceptions; you can find the occasional "guard dog" Shih Tzu or "Lacy Lucy" in a litter.
The Shih Tzu was bred to sit around the palace of the Emperor of China and bark when people or animals approached. It is believed that this ornamental breed was created by breeding the Bei-jing gou (Pekingese) with a Tibetan dog breed, the Lhasa Apso. Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest breeds of dog.
The Shih Tzu is easy to care for, but the area around the eyes should be cleaned gently each day. Most Shih Tzus enjoy exercising outdoors and, when exercised regularly, have plenty of stamina. Most enjoy a long walk, although they are also quite happy to run around the house. A dog whose coat is allowed to grow out needs daily brushing to avoid tangles; a short haircut avoids this extra level of care. However, these dogs do not tolerate cold temperatures well, so longer hair during the colder seasons is more appropriate. Shih tzus are considered to be brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs. As such, they are very sensitive to high temperatures. This is why airlines that ship dogs will not accept them for shipment when temperatures at any point on the planned itinerary exceeds 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24°C).