If you're looking for a small dog that doesn't yap much, the Shih Tzu could fill the bill. This ancient breed from China were once the pets of emperors and empresses, but today they're perfectly happy in an apartment or suburban home, as long as you're there.
By the age of one year, the Shih Tzu attains his full growth. According to the American Kennel Club, the height at the withers ideally ranges between 9 to 10.5 inches, but over 8 inches and less than 11 inches is acceptable. Grown dogs weigh between 9 to 16 pounds, with males larger than females.
Shih Tzus are famous for their luxurious coats. On the flip side, don't get a Shih Tzu if you don't like grooming or bathing your dog or taking him for grooming. It's part of the deal with this breed. He requires regular, possibly daily brushing to keep his coat free from mats, and frequent bathing. Perhaps the most difficult stage occurs when the puppy coat changes into an adult coat, at about 10 months to a year. At this stage, you must brush his coat thoroughly every day, as it mats easily during the transition.
While an overall healthy breed, Shih Tzus are subject to some hereditary ailments. As with many small dogs, dental problems may arise, as it's hard for the mature canine's 42 teeth to fit properly in such a little mouth. Luxating patellas—unstable kneecaps—often occur and may require surgery in serious cases. Shih Tzus are prone to entropion, an eye condition in which eyelids roll inward, possibly causing corneal ulcers and blindness. Among the most serious diseases affecting the breed is renal dysplasia, in which the kidneys don't develop properly. Healthy Shih Tzus can live 15 years or more. He can serve as your best friend for a long time.
The Shih Tzu was not bred to hunt, guard, herd or kill rodents. This aristocratic little dog descends from a long line of companion canines. That means his primary interest in life, other than eating, is being with you. Shih Tzus generally possess good temperaments, getting along well with other members of the family and other pets. Because they are small, they do best with older children, as younger kids may play too rough with them. Unlike some other small breeds, Shih Tzus aren't usually high-strung or nervous.
The AKC states that the earliest evidence of the Shih Tzu is from 624 CE. Shih Tzu means "lion" in Chinese, and the breed is still known as the lion dog. They were favorite pets of the Ming Dynasty, but after China's communist revolution breeding virtually ceased. Your Shih Tzu descends from one of 14 dogs imported to England, where a breeding program began in the 1930s. The Shih Tzu came to the United States after World War II, brought home by returning soldiers.
- shih tzu dans la neige image by Jeff LEONARD from Fotolia.com