"Imperial" Shih Tzu


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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: This web site is a good place to begin or continue your research on our breed or to find out how to locate a responsible breeder through the club's breeder referral service. As you search the web, however, be wary of well-designed web sites with appealing photos that may lead you to the very breeders you should avoid. Puppy-selling web sites are often nothing more than glorified marketing sources commercial breeders use to reach the uninitiated. It is sometimes difficult even for those aware of the dangers of pet shops and puppy mills to discriminate between the various web sites and determine which are maintained by ethical breeders, so be sure to do your homework.