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The Imperial Myth

An article written by the American Shih Tzu Club.




The words "imperial" and "tiny teacup" are sometimes used interchangeably to describe undersized Shih Tzu. In fact, the terms "imperial" or "tiny teacup" should be regarded as what they really are.... A MYTH often used by unethical breeders to create a market for dogs that do not conform to the breed standard. These tiny dogs are NOT what the Shih Tzu has been since it was developed as a distinctive breed in China ’s imperial palace, nor what it ought to be.

Maybe you read an ad in your local newspaper, searched the Internet, or know of someone who acquired a Shih Tzu using the words "imperial" or "tiny teacup" to describe how unusual and special (and even more expensive?) their dog might be. The official breed standard approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Shih Tzu Club (ASTC) calls for a weight range of 9 to 16 pounds.

A breed standard is a written description of the ideal dog of a particular breed by which it is bred and judged at dog shows. Breed standards are used by all canine organizations. The first written standard for Shih Tzu was that of the Peking Kennel Club, in 1938, which stated that the ideal weight for Shih Tzu was 10 to 15 pounds. Today, Shih Tzu breed standards approved by purebred dog registries around the world are very similar to the 1938 Peking Kennel Club standard. They recognize that one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Shih Tzu is that it is not a fragile dog. It is very solid and sturdy despite its relatively compact size.

Why would anyone want to steer away from the weight called for in the AKC-approved breed standard or to call the breed by anything but its AKC-recognized name? Could it be a fad they have created in order to obtain a higher price for a dog that does not meet the breed standard? These particular breeders have deliberately downsized an already designated Toy breed. By doing this, they risk the overall health and wonderful distinguishing breed characteristics that responsible breeders have worked long and hard to preserve. The same is true of "breeders" who deliberately cross-breed two different AKC-recognized breeds to create what they call "designer dogs."

Many of the less than reputable breeders of undersized Shih Tzu claim that their Shih Tzu possess the "imperial" gene. There is no proof that such a gene exists. Size reduction occurs by breeding the smallest dog in a litter to another small dog of another litter, and so on and so forth. This not only creates abnormally small Shih Tzu, but also puppies that may have health problems. This is not indicative of an "imperial gene," but rather of poor breeding practices.

A responsible breeder does not advertise an occasional "runt" as an "imperial" or "tiny teacup" Shih Tzu. Rather, it is sold as a pet, solely as a companion dog that is not to be used for breeding. Responsible breeders strive to breed healthy dogs that conform to the breed standard. The ideal Shih Tzu is a sturdy, active, healthy dog with good substance for its size. Those desiring a very tiny pet should choose another breed rather than destroying the very characteristics that make the Shih Tzu such an ideal companion.

There is no such thing as an AKC-recognized Imperial or Tiny Teacup Shih Tzu. Any domestic registry other than the American Kennel Club is not recognized by the American Shih Tzu Club. Breeders using alternative registries may have lost their AKC registration and breeding privileges for various reasons.





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Frequently asked questions about Shih Tzu


What do I feed my new puppy?

I wean my puppies starting at about 4 weeks of age. This is when they start getting their teeth and the moms are ready to let them eat some on their own. I soften the dry kibble with warm water the first few weeks. As an infant puppy they seem to like soft food better. Spoiling a baby puppy should be the least of your worries. Getting your puppy to eat is more important than what they eat at this stage in their life. Switching over later on is not a problem.

Let your puppy eat as much dry food as he/she wants as often as he/she wants. Always leave dry food down for your puppy. A young puppy will not eat on demand. They eat when they want to so there has to be something down whenever they decide to eat. Start with 2 heaped tablespoons. You can adjust the amount when you see how much your puppy eats at a meal. At 12-16 weeks of age, you can pick up the water bowl at night to aid in potty training but have dry kibble accessible always until you see a pattern of your puppy's eating habits. Then you can feed your puppy when you know they usually want to eat. A particularly small puppy make need a supplement of canned food until 3 or 4 months of age. At that time you should be able to switch to puppy dry kibble until 8 months of age. Then you can switch to adult.

Do males or females make better pets?

Everybody has a different opinion on this question! Some feel that males are much more loving and get more attached to you than the females do. The main factor in people choosing a female over a male is that they worry about a male dog lifting their leg on things as they get older. Indeed, it is true that if a male is left unaltered and around other dogs that they do tend to want to mark their territory. This is a natural instinct and is not the dog's fault! If a male is neutered early enough, this generally does not happen. In fact, if they are neutered by 6 months of age, most never even lift their leg and squat like a female to pee. They don't have the slightest idea what marking territory is about. Most people who have a problem with males lifting their leg after they have been neutered, have usually waited until they are adults or are already marking their territory before altering them.

What about vaccinating and worming?

Our puppies are wormed on a regular basis starting shortly after birth. All puppies are born with worms no matter how worm-free their mother may appear to be under the microscope. Canines have the residual of worm infestation embedded in the lining of their stomach. This has been passed down for umpteen years and apparently can't be gotten rid of. Therefore they pass this along to all offspring who shortly find themselves with a worm in their tummy. Every puppy MUST be wormed. Continue deworming your puppy on a monthly basis until 4 months of age. Have a fecal exam done regularly until 1 year of age, then annually when time for vaccinations. Check with your vet, their schedule may vary.

I start my puppies with a vaccination and pet examination at 6 weeks of age. They are then given boosters at 9, 12, and 16 weeks. Revaccinate annually. Always keep your puppy away from strange dogs, their urine and feces, until your puppy has completed their series of vaccinations. When going to the vet, never let your puppy down on the floor. Do not let anyone in the office pet your puppy until all vaccines have been given. That is how parvo and other diseases can be transmitted. Bring your own towel or blanket to place on the examining table. If you would like to give your puppy other vaccinations such as Lyme if they will be exposed to ticks, Giardia if they are exposed to bad water or Bordetellosis if they are kept in a kennel care while you work or walked by a dog walking service.


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