The American Kennel Club (akc) Shih Tzu breed standard calls for the dog to have a short snout, large eyes, and a palm-like tail that waves above its torso. The ideal Shih Tzu height at 9 to 10 1/2 inches. The dog should stand no less than 8 inches and not more than 11 inches tall. The Shih Tzu should never be so high stationed as to appear leggy, nor so low stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty. Regardless of size or gender, the Shih Tzu should always be solid and compact and carry good weight and substance for its size range.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Shih Tzu Club (ASTC) define the Shih Tzu as an adult dog that weighs between 9 to 16 pounds as the official breed standard. (This may vary for the runt of the litter, who can weigh in at 8 pounds). Descriptions such as "imperial", "teacup", "tiny teacup" are used, but dogs that fit such descriptions are often an undersized or underdeveloped Shih Tzu. Both the AKC and ASTC consider these variances to not be in conformity with the official breed standard. These tiny variances are also not what was defined as a standard by the professional circuit. Many people prefer to have these canines buzzed to a short cut, as their hair starts to mat and become dry as it grows. To have it long, the owner must give the dog's hair intensive care. A medium length coat is therefore most used.
The Shih Tzu can require more care than some other breeds if the hair is kept at show length; they need daily brushing to avoid tangles. A short haircut, also known as a pet trim or puppy cut, can make this a task taking place every month or so rather than of daily. They also need regular haircuts. A Shih Tzu has two coats of fur, with the bottom coat shedding into the top coat rather than off of the dog entirely; as a result, this breed sheds very little in the conventional sense. With regular brushing and bathing, shedding can be reduced to almost nothing. As they shed so lightly, Shih-Tzu are considered to be one of the breeds more suitable for people with allergies.
Since the breed is adapted to a cool climate, letting the coat grow out somewhat for the colder seasons is appropriate, but there is still a substantial difference from a floor-length show coat and a warmer, medium-length winter coat.
Because Shih Tzu noses are small and flat, eating contributes to an unclean face. Once the dog has finished eating, owners often wipe the dog's face with a damp paper towel to remove food remnants. This is another area where the haircut matters; a proper show cut will get more messy (often even requiring the hair to be rubber-banded together for eating efficiently) than other ways of cutting the facial hair.
When they are drinking, it is sometimes necessary to supervise Shih Tzu; water can enter their face-level noses more easily and inhibit breathing. This is why many Shih Tzu are trained to drink from the sort of licker bottles used by hamsters and gerbils. The area around the eyes should be checked each day for mucus buildup and cleaned when needed. Providing the Shih Tzu with bottled water (or water that does not contain chlorine) helps to keep eye mucus to a minimum. Additionally, their claws need to be clipped approximately every month.
Professor Ludvic von Schulmuth studied canine origins by studying the skeletal remains of dogs found in human settlements as long as ten thousand years ago. The Professor created a genealogical tree of Tibetan dogs that shows the "Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog", a scavenger, evolved into the "Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog". From this dog evolved the Tibetan Spaniel, Pekingese, and Japanese Chin. Another branch coming down from the "Kitchen Midden Dog" gave rise to the Papillon and Long-haired Chihuahua and yet another "Kitchen Midden Dog" branch to the Pug and Shih Tzu.
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."