Shih Tzu, meaning "lion" in Chinese, is a breed of long-haired dog once taken in and loved by Chinese royal families centuries ago. Shih Tzu puppies were imported to England in the 1930s and discovered by American soldiers during World War II. Two such breeds, the American and European Shih Tzus, have been recognized by national kennel clubs, while other impostors have often been passed off as purebreds.
American Shih Tzu
This type of Shih Tzu is a purebred and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969. According to the Official Shih Tzu Guide, the American Shih Tzu's physical attributes include high, forward-facing legs and frontal shoulders, a small chest, short neck, square-shaped head and small, wide-set eyes.
European Shih Tzu
The European Shih Tzu, like the American Shih Tzu, is also a purebred and was recognized by the United Kingdom Kennel Club in 1946. This breed of Shih Tzu differs from the American Shih Tzu slightly in physical features in the following ways: a wider stance with front legs bent back a bit, a broader chest with a round head and longer neck and large eyes.
Imperial Shih Tzu
The Imperial is not a purebred nor recognized by a national kennel, but it is often passed off as purebred by sellers. Sellers created the term "Imperial" Shih Tzu as a complimentary term for an otherwise impure, smaller version of the breed. A buyer can tell an Imperial from a purebred by measuring the height and weight. According to national kennel clubs, the acceptable height and weight of a purebred Shih Tzu is between 10 to 11 inches high and 7 pounds (no less than 4) in weight. Because breeders will tend to pick the runts of the litter in making Imperial Shih Tzus, the offspring may turn out to have genetic defects.
Teacup Shih Tzu
Breeders and sellers coined the term "teacup" for this kind of Shih Tzu to let customers know of its miniature size. There is little difference between the Imperial and Teacup breeds beyond the name. Sellers may try to persuade customers into believing that Teacups are born small and stay small without telling them that they are genetically manipulated to be this way, according to the Official Shih Tzu Guide. Like the Imperial, irresponsible breeders may take into consideration the Teacup's small size over the health concerns that can arise when breeding two small, runt-of-the-litter dogs together. Therefore, genetically manipulated dogs such as the Teacup may end up with health problems.