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Imperial Shih Tzu- 15 Things to Know

Meet the Imperial Shih Tzu, the cutest little pup you’ve ever seen. Literally. Barely reaching nine inches and weighing less than nine pounds, the Imperial Shih Tzu can fit right into the palms of your hands or fit snugly in a large teacup. This is probably why this pup is also known as the teacup Shih Tzu.

teacup shih tzu in a tea cup

15 Things to Know about the Imperial Shih Tzu

1. The Origin Story of the Imperial Shih Tzu

The oldest recordings of the Shih Tzu breed can be traced back and seen in tapestries dating back over 2000 years in Ancient China. Because of this, Shih Tzu’s are considered one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.

Their name, traditionally Shih Tzu Kou, translates to lion dog and they were revered in imperial courts and believed to be sacred. This may explain how the Shih Tzu made its way onto the laps of royalty. However, the Imperial Shih Tzu is a teacup breed derived directly from the standard Shih Tzu. Their history is therefore interwoven.

2. What is an Imperial Shih Tzu?

An Imperial Shih Tzu is a Shih Tzu that is purposefully bred to be smaller than the breed standard. Hence the pups have multiple alias’ such as the miniature Shih Tzu, munchkin Shih Tzu, toy Shih Tzu, Chinese Imperial Shih Tzu, and of course more commonly, the teacup Shih Tzu.

long haired white imperial shih tzu

3. The Temperament of the Teacup Shih Tzu

The Imperial Shih Tzu has spikes of energy. But, because they are so tiny, they tend to wear themselves out quickly. They may be hyper-energetic for a bit and go napping for hours. Overall, these little pups are generally docile.

The Imperial Shih Tzu has no real need for space and is well suited to tiny homes and apartments. They are brave, perhaps even bold-natured, and their diminutive size doesn’t hold back their enthusiasm to be confrontational. However, this could be room for concern if you have other, larger dogs within your home.

Bigger dogs with hunter instincts may be inclined to react aggressively to teacup dogs or hurt them accidentally due to their size difference.

4. Do They Make Good Family Pets?

Imperial Shih Tzus are known for being affectionate, outgoing, playful, and loyal. They are well-suited for individuals, couples, as well as both small and big families alike. Because of their lovable nature and easy adaptability, the teacup Shih Tzu can get along well with children and other dogs.

They may also be affectionate to strangers, which might be a negative if you were looking for a guard dog. But with that in mind, these little guys are extremely alert and active and will let you know right away if you have a guest through a series of barks.

long haired shih tzu imperial

5. Do Imperial Shih Tzus Bark a Lot?

Due to the Imperial Shih Tzus’ curiosity, they can bark a lot at strangers or anything that sparks their interest. They may also bark as a warning, as a way to get your attention, or as a distress signal. While it may be hard to stop Shih Tzus from being barkers, you can train them to stop at your command.

6. Training the Imperial Shih Tzu

The teacup Shih Tzu is intelligent and loves to learn new tricks. Although the teacup Shih Tzu is an obedient, willing little dog, they can become stubborn if not exposed to early puppy training.

You’ll find your tiny dog responds well to positive reinforcement techniques, and employing these will have them quickly house trained. Keep any strict discipline away for this pup. They do not respond positively to being reprimanded. Be firm. Whatever you do, don’t give in to your dog’s attempts to charm their way out of a task. If you do, you will struggle to get them to stop the behavior again.

imperial shih tzu black and white

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7. The Teacup Shih Tzu’s Appearance

Cute as a button and almost as small, the Imperial Shih Tzu has most of the standard Shih Tzu characteristics, only scaled down to an adorable teacup size. The teacup Shih Tzu however tends to be recognized by their puffy yet silky soft mane and stubby faces.

Thanks to their larger kin, the Imperial Shih Tzu has inherited a famously fine coat. Their coat is silky to the touch and grows fast. These pups come in an array of colors such as gold, brown, white, black, black and white, and brindle. The most common is a combination of grey or black patches on a primarily white coat.

Despite its size, the teacup Shih Tzu is a sturdy dog with a broad chest and short but well-muscled legs. The square muzzle has a black button nose that matches its round, button eyes – assuming you can find them under all that hair.

8. Grooming the Imperial Shih Tzu

This pup is ‘high maintenance’ when it comes to grooming. Just like their distant cousin, the Shih Tzu, the teacup Shih Tzu requires daily grooming and regular trimming. It is recommended that you bathe your Imperial Shih Tzu every three to four weeks with a Shih-Tzu-specific shampoo.

Selecting the right grooming supplies can be as challenging as sticking to a strict grooming routine. Slicker brushes are generally too big and too aggressive to use on this pups soft hair and fragile body. Smaller de-matting tools, like those designed for cats, work well for the teacup Shih Tzu.

Many Shih Tzu owners use grooming clippers to trim their dogs in the summer to minimize the potential for overheating.  Like any other breed of dog, your teacup pup will need its eyes checked and cleaned regularly. Make sure that your pups’ nails are trimmed every week. Nails must be kept trimmed with a good-quality clipper or grinder. Frequent ear cleanings are a must, as ear infections are common in this breed.

face close up of imperial shih tzu

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9. Do Imperial Shih Tzus Smell Bad?

Unfortunately, these adorable four-legged babies can have a smelly reputation. However, this is by no means a normal thing for them to be. The main factors that contribute to the bad smell of your Imperial Shih Tzu are:

  • Water and food caught in their facial hair, causing smelly bacterial infections;
  • Long hairs dangling in the eyes leading to a build-up of bacteria;
  • Backed up anal glands
  • Skin infections or irritations.

So, by examining your tiny dog regularly and thoroughly as well as sticking to a strict grooming schedule, you can help address these problems effectively.

10. Are Imperial Shih Tzus Hypoallergenic?

These little friends shed very minimally and are often considered a hypoallergenic dog breed. They are well-suited to dog owners with allergies because of their hair-like fur, as opposed to the typical dog fur that tends to provoke allergic reactions.

However, the allergic reactions from pets are usually triggered by dander that dogs tend to carry in their fur. So, it is important that your pup is washed as often as possible for those allergy-sensitive owners.

brown faced white body shih tzu imperial

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11. Possible Health Issues of the Teacup Shih Tzu

While an Imperial Shih Tzu can be a perfectly healthy dog, if incorrect breeding methods are practiced, they may be prone to several health problems.

They are also at-risk for ailments often seen in their cousin, the standard Shih Tzu and other small dog breeds. Here are some conditions that can affect them:

Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar is a common condition in toy breeds and can be fatal if not detected early. When dogs have a hypoglycemic attack, make sure to give them a glucose source right away.

Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome: A health issue often seen in dogs with short noses, including Imperial Shih Tzus. This causes breathing problems.

Eye Problems: Eye irritation is common in Shih Tzus, especially if the fur near their eyes scratches the corneas. Older dogs may also develop cataracts, which can lead to vision loss if not treated.

Diabetes: With their small body comes smaller organs. This makes blood sugar hard to regulate. Particularly given that their diet involves them ingesting such small amounts of carbohydrates at a time. A drop in blood sugar levels could result in a potentially fatal coma. This is a rather unique form of diabetes and it is crucial that you as an owner keep that in mind.

12. Diet Requirements

Always consider your teacup Shih Tzu’s size and age and most importantly seek guidance from a vet. This will help you decide what your pet needs at different stages of its development.

Inside the Teacup Shih Tzu’s body is a collection of tiny organs and fragile bones, all of which present certain challenges when it comes to keeping these dogs healthy. Their small stomachs may not be able to digest solid foods properly because of their size.

They do best with a diet plan that breaks their meals up over the day. This helps their tiny tummies digest enough food to keep them happy and healthy. It also prevents them from becoming hypoglycemic.

brown and white teacup shih tzu

13. Exercise

The lapdog, like the Imperial Shih Tzu, is a characteristically low-energy dog. This makes them ideal for a laid-back family. However, they do still need some kind of activity and stimulation. Just fifteen to twenty minutes of walking in the garden or to the end of the street and back are more than sufficient.

Should your Imperial Shih Tzu require a little more exercise, play is a perfect way to bond while keeping them active. They should not be forced to do any strenuous activity. Even if your Imperial Shih Tzu is keen, too much exercise can cause respiratory distress.

14. Life Expectancy of a Teacup Shih Tzu

With the right nutrition and care, the Imperial Shih Tzu usually lives 10-16 years on average.

brown and white shih tzu imperial

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15. Cost of an Imperial Shih Tzu

The Imperial Shih Tzu can cost anywhere between $2,000 to $3,000 in the U.S. When looking for a breeder, make certain that they are reputable, ethical teacup breeders. Or rather seek out groups who specialize in rescuing Shih Tzus and adopt one from a shelter.

Final Thoughts of the Teacup Shih Tzu

Imperial Shih Tzus can be a risky investment as they are just as expensive and fragile as fine China. But, the teacup Shih Tzu can be an entertaining companion that adapts easily to indoor life. While it might be smaller than a lion, the teacup Shih Tzu has just as much heart.

black and white imperial shih tzu

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