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The name "Shih Tzu" means little lion, but there is nothing fierce about this dog breed. This dog is a lover, not a hunter.
The origins of the Shih Tzu are ancient, and steeped in mystery and controversy. A recent study found that the Shih Tzu is one of the 14 oldest breeds of dog, and dog bones found in China have proven that dogs existed there as early as 8,000 BC.
Some believe the breed was developed by Tibetan monks and given as a gift to Chinese royalty. There is also speculation that the Shih Tzu was developed in China by crossing other breeds with the Lhasa Apso or Pekingese. Regardless of where the breed was developed - Tibet or China - it is clear that the Shih Tzu was a beloved companion from the earliest times. Paintings, art, and writings from the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907 AD) portray small dogs similar to the Shih Tzu. References to the dogs reappear from 990 to 994 AD in documents, some paintings, and carvings.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese royal families kept Shih Tzu-type dogs, and the "little lion dogs" or "chrysanthemum-faced" dogs were mentioned in several documents from that period. They were reportedly small, intelligent, docile dogs that closely resembled lions.
All dog breeds have a purpose. Historically, the purpose of the Shih Tzu was to be a companion - and that's exactly what they want to be. They just want to be with you. So don't expect them to hunt, guard or retrieve; that's not their style.
Affection is their dominant trait, and your lap is their favorite destination. They are happiest when they are with their family, giving and receiving attention.