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Chocolate (Brown) Shih Tzu: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)


Mar 9, 2023
Chocolate Shih Tzu


Chocolate Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are adorable little dogs with huge personalities. Lovingly referred to as “Little Lions,” this dog breed has been around for so long that it’s safe to consider them ancient! These dogs weigh no more than about 16 pounds and aren’t taller than about 11 inches when fully grown adults.

Breed Overview


Black, blue, red, brindle, liver, gold, silver, brown

Suitable for:

Active families, families with kids, and those looking for a low-shedding dog


Loyal, loving, social, intelligent, easy to train, and friendly

The typical Shih Tzu gets along great with kids, can adapt to apartment and house environments, and takes well to obedience training, though they can be a bit stubborn. These dogs can have coats in all kinds of colors, but here, we focus on the chocolate, or brown, Shih Tzu.

Chocolate Shih Tzu Characteristics



High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.



Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.



Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.



Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.



Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


The Earliest Records of the Chocolate Shih Tzu in History

It’s important to establish that there is no difference between the Chocolate Shih Tzu and any other Shih Tzu aside from coat color. That said, the Shih Tzu has a rich history in that they were referenced in documentation that dates back to 824 A.D. It is believed that these dogs first came from Tibet, where they were prized companions for Tibetan monks.

However, most of the details that we know about them come from China. Drawings from the Tang Dynasty period were found in the Forbidden City, where Shih Tzus were taken care of by Emperor Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Legend has it that before Emperor Puyi, Empress Wu was responsible for breeding the Shih Tzu to look like a fierce little lion by way of breeding small dogs like the Maltese, which came to China on the Silk Road with the help of Phoenicians.

At the time, only Chinese nobility was allowed to own the prized Shih Tzu. Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi oversaw the Shih Tzu breeding program in China and established strict breeding and care rules. While other small breeds, like Pugs, were bred and cared for in the Forbidden City, only the Shih Tzu was allowed in certain sacred areas of the compound.

Eventually, these dogs made their way into the hands of commoners and out of China to places like England and Scandinavia in the 1930s and then to places like the United States. So, this is a relatively new breed to the Western world!

Brown Shih Tzu
Image Credit: David Soanes Photography, Shutterstock

How the Chocolate Shih Tzu Gained Popularity

Shih Tzus because popular in China because they were so beloved by royalty. Whatever the royals had, the commoners wanted too. Obtaining a Shih Tzu as a commoner would provide them with “clout” and a leg up in terms of class.

Shih Tzus have always been popular, and Chocolate Shih Tzus followed suit as the coat color gained notoriety, though most other colored dogs of this breed are just as sought after. Not one specific coat color stands out from the others.

Formal Recognition of the Chocolate Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is formally recognized by various organizations throughout the world. The Federation Cynologique Internationale first recognized the breed in 1957, and the British Kennel Club also recognized this breed. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1969. Other small clubs and organizations that are managed at the local and/or grassroots level also recognize and work with Shih Tzus.

puppy Shih Tzu brown
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

divider-dog pawTop 6 Unique Facts About the Chocolate Shih Tzu

Everything that you need to know about the Chocolate Shih Tzu, you can learn from the breed overall. Here are six interesting facts about the Shih Tzu that you may have never heard.

1. Their Name Means “Little Lion”

The reason that these dogs are sometimes referred to as “little lions” is not just because of their appearance. The phrase “Shih Tzu” translates to the phrase “Little Lion” in Mandarin. It is thought that the breed was named to represent the Tibetan Buddhist god of learning. According to legend, this god traveled with a small dog that could willingly transform into a real lion.

2. They Are Sometimes Called Chrysanthemum-Faced Dogs

The hair on a Shih Tzu’s face grows in all directions, giving them a look that reminds many owners of a chrysanthemum. This is especially the case when the dog’s facial hair gets trimmed, and the short hair starts to grow back sporadically.

Brown Shih Tzu
Image Credit: Ricardo Alves 1975, Shutterstock

3. They Almost Became Extinct

This breed almost became extinct while China experienced its Communist Revolution. It’s believed that the revolution wasn’t the cause of this problem, but rather that Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, who was overseeing the breeding program of these dogs at the time, passed away. There was nobody there to maintain the breeding program, so it fell apart. However, a group of people later restarted it and brought the Shih Tzu back into popularity.

4. Military Personnel Introduced the Breed to the United States

After being imported to England and Europe, American soldiers stationed in Europe took an interest in the Shih Tzu and decided to bring a few back to the United States during the mid-1900s. From there, breeding programs were created, and the breed became a household name throughout the country.

5. These Dogs Are Loved By Celebrities

Many celebrities have decided to adopt Shih Tzus as pets, including Colin Farrell, Beyoncé, and Bill Gates, perhaps since the breed is so small, sweet, and easygoing. They are easy to travel with and can get along in many types of social situations. They are also amazing companions that can help keep celebrities grounded while away from home.

6. They’re Surprisingly Athletic

These might be cute and cuddly dogs, but under that adorable exterior is a body that’s sleek, strong, and athletic. These dogs can run with the best of them and tend to do well on the agility course. They can keep up on moderate hikes, and they are not afraid to show off their skills at the park, on the beach, and in the yard.

divider-dog pawDoes the Chocolate Shih Tzu Make a Good Pet?

The bright personality and laidback attitude of the Shih Tzu are partly responsible for making this dog breed an excellent choice for families of all shapes and sizes. These dogs are gentle and patient with young kids and can play for hours with older children. They are extremely loyal to their human companions, and they tend to adapt well to various social situations.

These dogs should be socialized with other dogs while puppies to ensure that they do not become aggressive in social environments. Chocolate Shih Tzus have dark coats, which makes it easy to spot when they’re dirty and need a bath, so they don’t end up getting dirt and dander all over the house.


The Shih Tzu is a fun-loving dog that enjoys spending time with human companions. These dogs have a long, rich history that has been pieced together through depictions and writings from China. Today, this dog breed enjoys popularity all around the world and enjoys life in a variety of different household types.

Featured Image Credit: franzlei92_Shutterstock

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