Shih Tzu Breed Traits & Facts

Last Updated on September 20, 2023

The affectionate, outgoing Shih Tzu (pronounced Sheed-zoo) is a member of the Toy group. The same group also includes Yorkies , and other small dogs. This playful little dog currently ranks at number 20 in the AKC’s top breeds chart. Chinese emperors praised the Shih Tzu for being a lapdog . This pup is a spoilt brat! The “Lion Dog”, a small toy breed, is very popular.

If you want a dog to dig, hunt, and guard your home, the Shih Tzu is not the best choice for you, as he will do none of these things! These gentle, trusting dogs make great companion lapdogs. Your Shih Tzu will alert you if someone approaches the door.

Did you know that the Lion Dog also has a nickname? Well, he’s also known as the “Chrysanthemum dog,” thanks to the way the breed’s hair grows upward from the nose and around the face in different directions. Would a Shih Tzu be a good choice for you? Let’s learn more about this cute little puppy!

Shih Tzu


It is possible that the Shih Tzu was bred by Tibetan holy men to make a miniature version of a lion. This creature is closely linked with Buddhist mythology. The Shih Tzu was a watchdog and companion for monks in lamaseries.

There are many myths surrounding the Shih Tzu. It’s sometimes said that these cheeky little dogs are incarnations of mischievous gods. Another legend states that the Shih Tzu carried souls of monks who have not yet reached nirvana.

When imperial rule ended in China, the Shih Tzu all but disappeared during the Communist Revolution. A further contributing factor to the breed’s demise was the death in 1908 of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, who was responsible for a world-recognized breeding program of Pekingese, Pugs, and Shih Tzus.

Fortunately, some Shih Tzus survived. This was mainly due to General Douglas and Lady Brownrigg, who brought some dogs to the U.K. from England. The breed is thought to have been descended from only fourteen . dogs. The breed first appeared in the U.S. during the 1940s and 1950s when some Shih Tzus were taken to the United States by American soldiers returning from Europe.

In 1969, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club and has grown in popularity as a family pet ever since. Today, Shih Tzus can often be seen in the Toy group classes of the show ring. The Shih Tzu is also a beloved family pet and companion. Shih Tzus are easygoing, friendly, and affectionate, making them ideal for first-time dog owners. Because of their laid-back temperament, they are often mixed with other dog breeds, like the chihuahua & Shih Tzu mix or the Shih Tzu Yorkie mix.

Although the Shih Tzu would rather spend his days sleeping in your lap, there are a few who take part in agility classes with some success, and they also do well in obedience competitions. The Shih Tzu is a great therapy dog because of his friendly, laid back nature. They are also often compared to other dogs like the Lhasa Apso.

Size & Appearance

The Shih Tzu is a breed that is considered to be a toy. You can expect your puppy to grow into an adult that stands between 8 and 11 inches at the shoulder, weighing from 9 to 16 pounds. Female Shih Tzus tend to be larger than their counterparts. This tiny toy breed is almost pocket-friendly!

The Shih Tzu’s head is shaped like a domed dome. Its expression is warm, wide-eyed, and sweet. The eyes of the Shih Tzu are large and round, but not too prominent. They are placed apart from one another. Their ears are big and slightly lower than the crown of their heads. The muzzle of the Shih Tzu is square, long, straight, unwrinkled and no lower than its bottom eye rim. The Shih Tzu is slightly shorter than its height. Its tail is high and plumed.

Coat & Colors

The coat is silky, long and flowing to the floor if allowed to grow. Shih Tzus have a double coat, so they do shed moderately all year round. If the hair is long, shed hairs can get caught in the coat and end up on your furniture or the ground.

The Shih Tzu is available in a stunning array of colors including

  • Black
  • White
  • Silver (looks white but has a deep silver sheen)
  • Red (looks dark orange)
  • Gold (tan-yellow, ranging from light tan to deep golden)
  • Brindle (a combination of one color streaked with another shade such as gold-black brindle)
  • Blue (charcoal gray)

You can also combine any of the colors with a white color.

Exercise Requirements & Living Conditions

The Shih Tzu is cheeky and mischievous. He has more energy than he will let you believe. Overall, Shih Tzus are pretty lazy and don’t need as much exercise as other breeds. Daily walks are good, and they aren’t pullers, so getting a comfy Shih Tzu-sized harness is all you’ll need.

These little dogs will love to go for a walk, play in the yard, and take a trip to the dog park. The Shih Tzu, on the other hand will be content to just sit back and watch T.V. It is not recommended that Shih Tzus live outside. The Shih Tzu is too fond of his human family , and too sensitive to heat, to be able live outside, even in a cozy house. A modern Shih Tzu does not need to live in a palace. However, he still needs a loving home.


The Shih Tzu is an intelligent, highly-trained breed. That said, these dogs do have a stubborn streak, and you may need some patience to housetrain your Shih Tzu fully. Mini-agility events can be taught to Shih Tzus, and they can also learn tricks and follow orders.

You might find your Shih Tzu puppy a bit too independent, taking your shoes off and chewing your things. Shih Tzus can be bossy and nippy , protecting his toys and food. So, early socialization and training are essential for this sometimes opinionated breed. These pups can be active as puppies, so make sure to give them plenty of Shih Tzu-sized toys to play with.


The Shih Tzu has a life expectancy of between 10 and 18 years. The breed has a few health issues that you should be aware. These include:

Dental problems: The tiny teeth of the Shih Tzu can be misaligned or overcrowded. The Shih Tzu can be susceptible to periodontal disease .. Your dog’s teeth can be kept healthy by giving him kibble instead of wet food. You should also brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth every day with a special toothbrush and toothpaste you can buy from your vet.

Luxating Patellas: Luxating patella is a genetic condition where the dog’s kneecaps can pop out of position. This condition is often seen in dogs that are unable to walk or have difficulty walking.

If it’s left untreated, a luxating patella can predispose the affected knee joints to osteoarthritis. This condition can be treated with surgery. You should ask your puppy’s breeder for proof that the vet has checked the parents and grandparents for luxating Patellas.

Proptosis: The Shih Tzu has eyes that protrude. That can leave them vulnerable to scratches and other injuries, leading to a condition called proptosis. Proptosis is a condition where blood flow to the eyes is cut off. This can lead to vision loss and possibly even blindness.

Cataracts: Shih Tzus are prone to cataracts. Cataracts in dogs can be the same as in humans. A cataract is an imperfection in the lens of the eye. The lens of the eyes focuses light, just like a camera lens. A clear lens is essential for vision. However, a cataract can cloud the vision.

Cataracts can be as small as a dot or large enough to completely cover the entire lens. A cataract will not cause visual problems in your dog’s early stages. There may be some blurring or fogginess. Once the cataract has developed, however, your dog’s vision will be significantly reduced , and it will look more like reading through thick sheets of wax paper.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition that ultimately causes blindness. PRA can be inherited.

Corneal Ulcers: Other eye problems that can afflict Shih Tzus include dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), and ingrown eyelashes, both of which can cause corneal ulcers and other painful complications.

Brachycephalic Syndrome: Shih Tzus are flat-faced like the boxer, and both are brachycephalic dogs. This means their breathing can be affected by very hot , weather and, in certain cases, can lead to serious respiratory problems.

Renal Dysplasia: Renal dysplasia is another inherited condition where the dog’s kidneys are not properly developed. This condition can cause a puppy to not thrive, drink too much, or otherwise do poorly. Always ask your breeder to provide documentation that proves normal kidney function in both parents of your puppy.

Obesity: A common problem that affects many lapdog breeds is obesity. You have to ensure that your Shih Tzu gets enough exercise , and eats the right amount of food for his size and age so that he doesn’t become obese.

When buying a Shih Tzu puppy from a breeder, always ask to see written proof that both the puppy’s parents have undergone Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) patella evaluations.

Also, you want to see eye clearance certifications from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Don’t walk away if the breeder hasn’t done a health screening on the parents of the puppy.


The quantity of food that you should feed your Shih Tzu will depend on his activity level, age, build, and individual metabolism. You should feed your Shih Tzu half to one cup each day of high quality dry kibble.

*Kibble is important because it helps remove plaque from dogs’ teeth, which can lead to gingivitis or periodontal disease. Be sure to choose a kibble that’s formulated especially for toy breeds so that the biscuits are small enough for your dog to eat comfortably.

Shih Tzu puppies need to be fed 1 ounce of kibble for every pound of their body weight. This is more than what you would feed an adult Shih Tzu. Puppies typically need more nutrition than adult dogs because their growth and development need fueling, as does your puppy’s playtime.

Shih Tzus can become obese, so be sure to keep an eye on how often and how much you give your dog .. For the first six months, a Shih Tzu should receive four meals daily. Two meals per day is best for Shih Tzus after that.


The long flowing coat is gorgeous, but it requires a lot of care to keep it in good condition. It can quickly become mats if it isn’t brushed daily. This could lead to skin problems. A wire pin brush is necessary to keep your coat clean. You will also need a high-quality stainless steel comb that has coarse and fine teeth. Many owners take their Shih Tzus to professional groomers for trimming.

Shih Tzu puppies reach one year old when they have to change their coats. Brush your dog at least three times per day . After your puppy has had his hair changed, you will need to brush or comb him once a week.

Your dog’s mustache and topknot will need to be combed daily. To avoid irritation of the dog’s eyes, tie his topknot . For this, you should always use a latex topknotband. A regular rubber band can cause hair damage. The shorter “puppy cut”, if the hair is too long, is an alternative.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

You will find information about local Shih Tzu breeders at local breed clubs . A good breeder may also be recommended by your vet.

Another great resource for Shih Tzu breeders is the American Shih Tzu Club. You should ensure that the breeder you choose is pledged. This code prohibits the sale or brokering of puppies and also forbids commercial enterprises like pet shops. Also, you might want to check out the “Puppies” section of the AKC Schih Tzu breed profile ..

When you buy a puppy from a good breeder, you should be given a written contract, promising that the breeder will take the dog back at any point during the pup’s lifetime if you’re unable to keep your pet for any reason. Also, you should see certificates and documents that prove that both parents of the puppy have been tested for genetic problems.

Don’t fall for the fad of Imperial Shih Tzus or teacups. These are simply smaller dogs . These tiny pups can often be plagued by health issues and have a short life expectancy.

Prices for Shih Tzu puppies vary depending on where they live, their sex and whether their parents are show ring titles. For a good quality Shih Tzu puppy whose parents hold all the desirable health certifications, you should expect to pay anything from $1,800 to $3,600.

Be wary of purchasing a Shih Tzu puppy for a low price. The chances are that pups like this come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are commercial businesses whose sole aim is to produce lots of puppies as quickly and cheaply as possible. Puppy mills often use uncertified breeding stock.

The dogs are kept in poor conditions never seeing the daylight . The puppies can be sold with fatal genetic diseases or health issues. Many pet shops source their stock from puppy mills.

Rescues & Shelters

If you like the idea of offering a forever home to a dog from a shelter, you might want to check out this link to the U.S. Shih Tzu Rescue website. Although the Shih Tzu generally has a good temperament, you must remember that dogs from shelters and rescue centers often come from unknown backgrounds, and their character cannot, therefore, be guaranteed.

It’s worth asking your rescue if they would allow you to take the dog on a trial basis for a month. If the dog is temperamentally unsuitable for you, the shelter will accept him back.

As Family Pets

Now that you have learned everything you need to know about the Shih Tzu, it is time to decide if they are a good choice for you. These are the top facts about the Shih Tzu to help you make the right choice.

  • Shih Tzus are tiny dogs, making them ideal if you live in an apartment.
  • The Shih Tzu has a gorgeous long mane of silky hair that requires daily combing.
  • If you don’t plan on showing, you could opt to have his coat clipped by a professional dog groomer.
  • That will make the coat more manageable and helps to prevent mats from forming.
  • Although the Shih Tzu does shed, the shed hair tends to be trapped in his coat.
  • For that reason, the Shih Tzu is an excellent choice for a home with pet hair allergy sufferers.
  • Well-socialized Shih Tzus generally get along very well with kids and other family pets.
  • The Shih Tzu loves to be the center of attention in his human family!
  • Because of his heat sensitivity issues, the Shih Tzu should not be kept outside in a kennel.
  • Although the Shih Tzu is tiny, he still needs plenty of exercise and fun and games.
  • Shih Tzus are prone to a wide array of inherited health problems.
  • Check that your puppy’s parents have been health-screened before parting with your cash.
  • Shih Tzus are very affectionate little dogs and will happily settle in your lap for hours at a time.
  • That makes the breed a very good choice for seniors and people who are housebound.

A Shih Tzu is a great companion for seniors or families with children, as long as their lifestyle is sedentary. You must be interested in grooming your Shih Tzu or willing to take him to the groomer to get his hair cut. Find the perfect name for your new Shih Tzu.

Final Thoughts

If you live in a small area with no garden and enjoy a peaceful lifestyle, the Shih Tzu is the perfect companion for you. The Shih Tzu is a great companion for anyone who likes to play, walk, or just follow you around when you’re at work.

He’ll then be happy to cuddle up on your lap while you watch T.V. A Shih Tzu is a great companion for seniors and children. You’ll be able to trust your Shih Tzu with your home, and he will show you so much love and affection.

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