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Origin of the Shih Tzu Dog

Where did the Shih Tzu come from and who were this dog's ancestors? The Shih Tzu breed originated in Tibet. This dog was deemed to be of royalty and lived in incredible temples.

Occasionally, the ancestor of the dog we know of today, would be given to an emperor of China. As time went by, China became known as the creators of this breed, more so than the original Tibet.

The Shih Tzu is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.

Scientists have found fossils from more than 10,000 years ago, showing that the dogs of that day were closely related to the breed that is now recognized..
Tibet China
Shih tzu showing her belly
CoCo, 4 months old
Photo courtesy of owner: Anita W. 
Tibetan dogs, such as the Shih Tzu, very first ancestors are the Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog, dating back to over 10,000 years ago. This dog was quite wild and most were untamed.

Eventually, a new breed evolved from the Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog, which was called the Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog.

From the Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog then evolved into the Kitchen Midden Dog.

Ultimately the Kitchen Midden Dog, through distinct breeding programs was used to develop the Tibetan Spaniel, the Pekingese, the Japanese Chin, the Papillon, the Pug and the Shih Tzu. 

This breed moved from Tibet into China most likely around the time of the Qing Dynasty between 1644 and 1662. the Shih Tzu was referred to as the Lion Dog. The Lion symbol played a large role in Buddhism.

Because the actual lion was not indigenous to China, the Chinese bred their dogs to look as much like a lion as possible.
It was the Chinese empress Cixi who bred dogs very carefully to arrive with the breed that we know of today. However, after the Communist Revolution, her large breeding facilities were destroyed, along with most of the dogs. 

Only a few Shih Tzu dogs were saved and imported into England. It was there that they were bred with the Pekingese. The breed was perfected from 1930 to 1950.

History of Shih Tzu DogOnly then, did the Shih Tzu breed move into the United States. In the year 1955, the American Kennel club accepted the dog, but only as a Miscellaneous class. This was because there were so few Shih Tzu dogs.

Unless a breed becomes popular, the AKC can decide to disallow it from the Miscellaneous class; therefore a group of people decided to form the Shih Tzu Club of America in 1957.
1 year old Shih Tzu dog showing teeth
Emma, 1 year old
Photo courtesy of owner:
 Leevon Pilster, 
Camanche Village, CA 
5 year old male Shih Tzu
Domino, 5 years old 
Photo courtesy of owner: Adriana Verissimo
Other clubs started to follow suit, in Texas and Florida. Still, by 1961 there were only 100 dogs registered in the USA. Attempting to keep the breed recognized, in 1963 the Texas Shih Tzu Society merged with the Shih Tzu Club of America.

This move proved successful. One year later, the number of registered dogs tripled to over 300. By 1965 there were almost 700!

In 1969, the AKC recognized the Shih Tzu as an official breed in the Toy dog class, a huge victory for Shih Tzu owners!
Once this dog was recognized as being its own breed, fully recognized and official, there were over 3,000 dogs registered.

Currently the Shih Tzu is among the top 20 most popular toy breed dogs in the world. Known for their elegance, amazing personality and unique beauty, we can thank early Tibet for the long but rewarding journey that this breed survived.
Oh, the silly behaviors that our Tzu can have ! To learn about 24 behavioral issues with very detailed, easy-to-understand training, 34 health issues, 7 Training issues and Much More... Check out the AllShihTzu Book. Now in both print and eBook.
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