Originating in China, this breed's name translates to "lion," which is apt for a critter created to provide companionship and act as a watchdog for royals during the Ming dynasty. Today, this silky-haired canine continues to rule as one of the most popular breeds in the U.S., and while he's more dog than lion these days, he still retains those qualities that made him so prized thousands of years ago [source: AKC].
According to the American Shih Tzu Club, members of this breed love being social and enjoy traveling, too. He has a sweet disposition, but might bark or growl if he feels threatened. Weighing around 8 to 16 pounds (4 to 7 kilograms), the shih tzu is most recognizable for its long locks, but don't let the high-maintenance hairdo scare you. With small children and hectic schedules, many shih tzu owners keep their dogs' coats in a simple, close-cropped puppy cut, which makes upkeep easier. This breed requires little exercise and will make a friendly companion canine for most families.