|The Controversy of Shih Tzu Imperials
Others are purposely bred small. Breeders who deliberately breed small Shih Tzu will choose two small
dogs that are less than the breed standard hoping to produce offspring that are small as well. Some
breeders who purport to breeding Imperials go so far to claim that there is an “imperial gene” responsible
for creating small Shih Tzu. There is no evidence to this claim.
and continue to take the smallest dog from the litter until they have a very tiny dog. Some of the breeders
who are actively trying to breed small dogs are also working to get their dogs listed as an official dog
breed, “Imperial.” or “Chinese Imperial.” In the United States, this is a hot topic nowadays. The debate
revolves around two camps, the regular AKC Breeders who breed to the AKC Standard, and those
breeders who have moved away from the standard as far as size is concerned.
I do not believe that the controversy is over size per say. Any breeder is likely to produce a small Shih Tzu
from time to time. Responsible breeders will not consider these small puppies special, exotic, or unusual
and ask a larger price. They are simply sold as “pet” quality Shih Tzu without breeding rights. These
puppies could never be promoted as “show” quality, because they would be disqualified in the show ring
since they do not meet the breed standard.
The controversy lies in the fact that some breeders deliberately breed small and then claim their dogs are
special in some way and thus should be worth more than those bred to the AKC standard should. By
calling their puppies “Imperials,” they are implying that their dogs are fundamentally different. The
American Shih Tzu Club considers these claims to be a Myth. So-called Imperial breeders tend to charge
more for their puppies because they insist that these tiny pups require additional nutritional supplements,
care, and affection. Due to their small size, they sometimes need to be hand-fed. In actuality, all toy
breeds require this care and most if not all breeders will supplement their puppies with additional nutrients,
bottle feeding and even tube feeding if necessary.
It is unclear whether these breeders of the so-called “imperials” are doing so in order to make more
money, or are doing so in respond to a society who is looking for smaller and smaller “purse” dogs. A
quick survey of Shih Tzu breeders reveals that oftentimes the demand dictates the supply. The law of
supply and demand is alive and well in the dog breeding industry whether or not breeders or the general
public are willing to acknowledge it. Breeders are simply supplying society’s demand for small dogs, using
the terminology that has become fashionable in recent years. The terms, Imperial, teacup, and tiny Shih
Tzu are those terms that the buying public has latched onto. As consumers want new and different
inanimate products, so too are they search for unusual pets, often time as status symbols. Is this right?
This is just the reality of the world we live in.
Sadly, there is another side to this breeding tendency. Normally these smaller Shih Tzu are healthy. Still,
there is no guarantee. If puppies are less than five pounds, they may have considerable health
problems. As with other small dog breeds, Hypoglycemia can be a problem in tiny breeds. Hypoglycemia
or low blood sugar is a possible problem with all toy breed puppies but becomes an even greater risk to
tiny Shih Tzu pups. If not caught early, it can be fatal. Other problems associated with the Shih Tzu breed
can worsen in the tiny versions of the breed.
Whether or not there is a right or wrong to this debate remains to be seen. In the meantime, there are tiny
Shih Tzu puppies that can be purchased as well as the normal size dogs of nine pounds or more. New
owners have the right and responsibility to research and make an informed decision as to the size of Shih
Tzu they prefer. New owners should not be caught up in the terminology and should do their homework
prior to purchasing a new puppy. As with any living creature, impulse buying should be avoided.