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Imperial / Teacup

Imperial and Teacup Shih Tzu

The Truth About Miniature, Tea Cup & Imperial Shih Tzu Dogs

The AKC recognizes only 1 Shih Tzu breed dog. The dog weighs between 9 and 16 pounds (4.08 to 7.25 kilograms).

What are Imperial Shih Tzu dogs?  

Many times, when a breeder breeds for dogs on the lower end of the weight scale (closer to the 9 pound weight), they will use the term of Imperial, Teacup and so forth.

Let's discuss the terms of Imperial, Toy and Miniature. 


So many people love tiny dogs. There is a great market all over the world of people wanting a very small dog.
Imperial Shih Tzu
There is no such official breed as the "Imperial" Shih Tzu... .many Shih Tzu are dubbed "Imperial" if bred at the smaller end of the weight scale
To appease the public, who keeps hearing the terms of Teacup and so on, some Shih Tzu breeders will have a breeding program in which they will breed dogs to produce puppies that fall on the lower end of the weight scale. This is acceptable.

There are some breeders who breed a tad under the AKC standard, but within a weight range that will still produce healthy dogs, generally between 7 and 8 pounds (3.17 and 3.62 kg). In this case, these Tzu are dubbed "Imperials". While these dogs will not fit AKC conformation, when bred ethically, they will be as healthy as a standard size.

Even a wonderful breeder who breeds to stay within the AKC standards, will always have a few puppies every so often who are smaller than expected. Even with careful breeding, Mother Nature has the final say. In these cases, a breeder may refer to those smaller than planned dogs as "Imperials".

However, when a Shih Tzu is purposefully bred to be under 5 pounds (2.26 kg), this is extremely dangerous. Shih Tzu are not meant to be that tiny! The pups will most likely have many health issues.

Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between a breeder who uses the word "Imperial" to simply mean "small" and others who use the word to mean the dog is much, much smaller than nature intended... this type of dog would most likely have many health issues.
What is the Imperial?

When bred and dubbed correctly, the term Imperial, Teacup, Toy and Miniature are not nouns. These words = Small. Do keep in mind that a Tzu under 9 pounds in size will not fit AKC breed standards. The dog may be AKC registerable, however.

It is easy to fall prey to marketing schemes, especially when you see it all over the place. The web is filled with sites that talk about the Imperial Shih Tzu...It is quite amazing since the dog simply does not exist. It is ONLY a marketing term. There is no separate variety that is referred to as the Imperial...There are no dogs with royal bloodlines. Unfortunately, people see the term used SO much, that many think that it must be a real term, that those dogs must exist...It is not true. Either the term is being used indiscriminately...Or they pups are being bred to be smaller than nature intended, which is very dangerous for both dam and for all puppies.
What About Dogs that are Much Under the Accepted Weight

Purposely breeding for puppies that fall under 5 lbs. (2.26 kg) is dangerous . While Mother Nature has the final say and all ethical, loving breeders will sometimes have pups that are smaller than their will not want to obtain a Shih Tzu puppy that is 2 or 3 pounds (.9 or 1.6 kg) fully grown. These very tiny dogs are so fragile and usually have a lifetime of health issues. The life span of these dogs is usually much shorter, as well. Liver shunts can be one of the problems of these dogs that are undersized.

Are These Dogs Healthy? Is it Okay to Purchase One?

If a Shih Tzu is unnaturally tiny due from unethical breeding, the dog can have many health issues. If two un-naturally tiny dogs are bred together, this causes the problems. This will cause calcium deficiency. Vital internal organs will be affected. This can cause everything down the road from liver failure to heart disease.  Very tiny Shih Tzu dogs will often have health issues such as breathing problems and eating problems. Any dog that is unnaturally tiny will have issues with their organs that are unnaturally small. Great care must be taken. 
What Do I Do if I Already Purchased a Shih Tzu Puppy that is Far Under the Breed Standard Size?
Getting to your dog's veterinarian must be the first priority. Careful testing should be done to check for any health issues or pending health issues. A dog that is much smaller than nature intended will need special care. Most importantly, careful monitoring of food intake. Usually food must be introduced slower than usual for a "Miniature Shih Tzu". If solid food is not tolerated at all, your dog's veterinarian may prescribe a formula for you to give to your puppy.
These "too tiny" dogs are usually very sensitive to temperature. These dogs often have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes and care must be taken to protect the dog when outside in the cold, just as putting dog clothes on the Shih Tzu. They may also overheat more easily.

Bones are usually fragile. Care must be taken so that the puppy or dog does not fall. Using ramps to help the dog get off and on furniture is helpful. Socialization with larger dogs is dangerous, as they may be injured very easily in what should be normal dog play.

Keeping regular checkups with the veterinarian is most important. Catching health issues in the beginning stages will be the best strategy for battling any health issues.

If you already have an Imperial Shih Tzu you will want to learn about the AllShihTzu eBook that you can download in seconds. 
Looking for an ethical, devoted, honest and reputable Shih Tzu breeder? With hundreds of breeders across the USA, we have interviewed and screened all of them for you.  See our Personally Recommended Shih Tzu Breeders.
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