what were shih tzus bred for

2023 Insight: What Were Shih Tzus Bred For?

Ever pondered what were shih tzus bred for? Discover the ancient origins and unique purpose behind the charming shih tzu breed.

The Shih Tzu Breed

Shih Tzus are a small dog breed that originated in China. They are known for their long, flowing coat and friendly personality. But the history of the Shih Tzu breed is much more complex than their cute appearance might suggest. The exact origins of the Shih Tzu breed are not well-documented, but it is believed to have originated in ancient China, possibly as early as 800 BC. The breed was developed by Chinese royalty and nobles who were looking for a small dog with a gentle temperament that could serve as a loyal companion and watchdog. Over time, the breeding of Shih Tzus became more refined, with a focus on creating dogs that were both beautiful and obedient. The result was a dog breed that was highly prized by Chinese royalty and noble families.

Brief History of the Shih Tzu Breed

The first recorded mention of the Shih Tzu in historical texts dates back to 624 AD during China’s Tang Dynasty. However, it wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that we start to see written records specifically mentioning these dogs. During this time period, it became fashionable for Chinese emperors to keep small dogs as pets. The emperor would often have hundreds or even thousands of these dogs living in his palace at any one time. Because they were so highly valued by members of the royal court, there was intense competition among breeders to create ever-more-perfect specimens of this canine companion. As a result, over several centuries, certain traits became standard: A compact body; regal bearing; wooly coat; short snout; large dark eyes; ear tufts; tail curled over back.

Overview: The Purpose for Which Shih Tzus Were Bred

Shih Tzus were bred for a very specific purpose: to serve as companion animals for the Chinese royalty. Because they were small and easy to transport, they could be taken with their owners wherever they went, whether on long journeys or short trips around town. But Shih Tzus had more than just practical uses; they also held symbolic meaning and significance in Chinese culture. Many people believed that owning a Shih Tzu would bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. In fact, the dogs were often referred to as “lion dogs,” which was meant to symbolize their courage and loyalty. Today, Shih Tzus are still valued as companion animals, though they are no longer exclusively owned by royalty. But their role in Chinese history has ensured that they remain an important part of the country’s cultural heritage.

The Origin of Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus have a rich and fascinating history that dates back to ancient China. These small dogs are believed to have descended from a crossbreeding between two Tibetan breeds, the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese. However, much of what we know about the Shih Tzu’s origins comes from Chinese folklore rather than documented records.

Ancient Chinese History and Culture

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), Chinese emperors often kept small dogs in their palaces as lap warmers or companion animals. The breed became known as “lion dogs” due to their resemblance to mythical lions in Chinese culture. In fact, Shih Tzus were often depicted in art alongside royalty, serving as symbols of wealth, power, and nobility.

The Role of Royalty in Shaping the Breed

Royal breeding programs were responsible for developing many dog breeds, including the Shih Tzu. In ancient China, only members of the royal family were allowed to own or breed these highly prized dogs. As a result, each emperor had his own unique breeding program that aimed to produce dogs with desirable traits such as long hair and a compact size. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) was particularly influential in shaping the modern-day Shih Tzu breed. During this time period, palace eunuchs were responsible for breeding these delicate lapdogs and maintaining their bloodlines. The resulting offspring became highly sought after by Chinese royalty and nobility alike.

The Influence of Tibetan Dogs on the Breed

As previously mentioned, it is widely believed that Tibetan breeds such as Lhasa Apsos and Pekingese played a role in developing the Shih Tzu breed. These larger dogs were valued for their loyalty and protective instincts, and were often used as guard dogs in Tibet. By crossing these breeds with smaller lapdogs, Chinese breeders were able to create a unique hybrid that combined the best traits of both. Overall, the Shih Tzu’s history is one of luxury and privilege. These small dogs have been prized by Chinese royalty for centuries and continue to be highly valued today. Understanding their origins can give us valuable insight into their temperament, physical characteristics, and role in modern society.

The Purpose for which Shih Tzus were Bred

Companion animals for Chinese royalty

Shih Tzus have a rich history dating back to ancient China, where they were bred as companion animals for royalty. Emperors and their families valued the breed’s small size, affectionate nature, and adorable appearance. They would often carry them around in pouches or small bags, treating them like prized possessions. These dogs were exclusively bred for Chinese royalty back then, and commoners were not allowed to own them. The Shih Tzu’s status as a royal pet began to change when the Communists took over China in the mid-20th century. Many of the imperial dogs were killed or stolen during this time, and only a few survived by being smuggled out of China.

Symbolic meaning and significance

In addition to their role as loyal companions to emperors and their families, Shih Tzus also held symbolic meaning in Chinese culture. According to Feng shui principles, these dogs represented good luck, protection against evil spirits, and prosperity. Religious beliefs also played a significant role in shaping how people viewed these dogs. In Buddhism, Shih Tzus were highly regarded because they resembled the lion – an animal that symbolizes loyalty, courage, power, strength and wisdom – which is closely associated with Buddha himself. These cultural and religious beliefs continue today with many people still viewing Shih Tzu as symbols of good fortune. One can find them featured in artwork adorning walls or other decorative items within homes both in China and overseas.

Feng shui principles:

Feng shui is an ancient art form that originated from China thousands of years ago. It focuses on arranging one’s surroundings to promote positive energy flow known as chi. In feng shui, Shih Tzu dogs are believed to bring good luck and fortune to their owners. They are especially popular in homes and businesses where people seek positive energy.

Religious beliefs and practices:

Buddhism is widely practiced in China, and the Shih Tzu is highly revered by Buddhists. The breed’s lion-like appearance is said to represent Buddha’s courage, wisdom, and strength. Many temples feature sculptures or paintings of Shih Tzus guarding the entrance, representing their role as protectors against evil spirits. The history of the Shih Tzu breed is fascinating. These small dogs have been highly valued as loyal companions by Chinese royalty for thousands of years. Their symbolic significance in Chinese culture continues today with many people still seeing them as symbols of good luck and prosperity.

Physical Characteristics and Traits of Shih Tzus

Size, weight, and height

Shih Tzus are small dogs that typically weigh between 9 to 16 pounds. They stand about 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder. Interestingly, there is no distinction in height between males and females. While small in size, Shih Tzus are a sturdy breed with a muscular build that is well-proportioned. Their short legs provide them with stability and mobility.

Coat color, texture, and grooming needs

Shih Tzus have long, flowing coats that can range in color from white to black and everything in between. The texture of their fur is thick but not curly or wiry. The coat should be brushed daily to avoid matting and tangling as well as frequent bathing to keep it clean. One defining characteristic of the Shih Tzu breed is their “topknots,” which are styled tufts of hair on their head that are tied up with bows or bands. This hairstyle was originally intended to keep hair out of the dog’s eyes while hunting.

Temperament and personality traits

Shih Tzus have a unique personality compared to other dog breeds; they may be stubborn but also highly affectionate towards their owners. They do not require a lot of exercise since they are indoor dogs but still enjoy playing outside from time-to-time. This breed thrives on human contact and loves nothing more than spending time with their owners on the couch or going for walks together around the neighborhood. They tend to be friendly towards strangers if socialized properly at an early age. Their independent nature makes them great pets for individuals or families who do not have much experience raising dogs since they do not rely on constant attention from their owners like some other breeds do. However, they can also be a bit difficult to train at times because of their stubbornness. It is important to use positive reinforcement techniques when training a Shih Tzu and to be patient with them.

Modern-Day Uses for Shih Tzus

Pet Therapy Dogs: Bringing Joy to Those in Need

Shih Tzus have become increasingly popular in recent years as pet therapy dogs, thanks to their gentle nature and loving personality. These dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and joy to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other settings where emotional support is needed. One of the reasons why Shih Tzus make great therapy dogs is because of their calm and friendly disposition. They are very social animals and love being around people, making them the perfect companion for those who need a little extra love and attention. Additionally, their small size makes them easy to handle and transport. Another important aspect of pet therapy is that it helps reduce stress levels in humans. Spending time with a friendly animal like a Shih Tzu can help lower blood pressure, improve mood, and promote relaxation – all of which can have positive effects on overall health.

Show Dogs: Competing for Top Honors

Shih Tzus are also popular show dogs due to their unique appearance and regal history. They compete in various events around the world where they are judged based on breed standards such as coat texture, coloration, head shape, body proportions, movement style among others Show dogs typically undergo extensive training from a young age to ensure they are well-behaved during competitions. This includes grooming sessions that can take hours per day which results into perfectly manicured hair that has been styled with precision by professional dog groomers. In addition to physical attributes like coat quality and structure which influence show performance ranking; judges also evaluate traits such as temperament or behavior that indicate the dog’s overall fitness for breeding purposes. Shih Tzus can be used as both pet therapy dogs & showdogs depending on what activities their owners are interested in. Whether you want to bring joy to others or compete in dog shows, these charming little dogs are sure to win your heart with their lovable personalities and stunning good looks.


Summary of key points about what shih tzus were bred for

Shih Tzus were bred in ancient China as companion animals for royalty. They were highly valued for their beauty, loyalty, and loving nature. The breed’s physical characteristics and traits, such as their small size, long hair, and gentle temperament, made them perfect lap dogs and family pets. Shih Tzus were also symbolic in Chinese culture and religion, representing prosperity, good luck, and protection. Today’s Shih Tzus still possess many of the same traits that they were originally bred for. They are still highly valued as companions due to their affectionate personalities and loyalty to their families. Many people also appreciate them for their hypoallergenic coat and small size, making them ideal apartment dogs.

The importance of understanding a dog’s history to better understand their behavior today

Understanding a dog’s history is crucial to better understand its behavior today. Knowing why a breed was originally developed can help owners know what the dog needs in terms of exercise, socialization, training strategies that work (or don’t), etc. For example, knowing that Shih Tzus were bred as companion animals for royalty means that they crave human interaction and will be happiest when close by your side or cuddled up next you on the sofa. It also helps owners understand why Shih Tzus may exhibit separation anxiety when left alone for long periods. In addition to helping owners understand their pet’s behavior better; knowledge about a breed’s history can help us appreciate our pets even more by giving us insight into our bond with an animal that goes beyond mere companionship.


Shih Tzus are one of the most beloved breeds in the world because of their charming personality traits such as loyalty and playfulness along with their hypoallergenic coats, small size, and adaptability to apartment living. This breed’s history also makes it very interesting and unique, and by knowing about it, we can appreciate our dogs on a deeper level. By understanding Shih Tzus’ origins as well as the traits they were bred for initially; we can better understand their behavior in today’s world. The more we know about our dogs’ past, the better equipped we are to provide them with a happy and healthy future that fulfills their needs.

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