Shih Tzu

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
fast facts

About Shih Tzu

9-16 lb
12-16 years
Best Suited For
Families with children, singles, seniors, apartments, houses with/without yards
Playful, lively, cuddly, affectionate
Comparable Breeds
Lhasa Apso, Pekingese
10-11 inches
Shih Tzu Basics

Some dogs are so adorable that you can’t control yourself around them. Other dogs have a name so hilarious that you feel the need to own one simply to have an excuse to say it as often as possible. The Shih Tzu is the rare pupper that combines both popular qualities. Most folks find themselves helpless in the presence of a Shih Tzu. To gaze upon this dog’s glory is to fall in love. Simple as that.

This is one of those dog breeds that are truly unmistakable – you will recognize them from a mile! With its long, luxurious hair, poised self-assurance, and cute underbite, the Shih Tzu is the right mix of grace and sweetness. You know when a Shih Tzu walks into the room. These little pups strut their stuff with an arrogant carriage. Shih Tzus hold their heads up and curve their tails over their back, commanding attention wherever they go. They are irresistible. Resembling a little lion, the Shih Tzu is a compact pooch that will melt your heart with their big, round eyes. They have a dark, friendly gaze that just glistens. You feel it in your knees upon eye contact and never want to let them go.

This little mop of hair does well in a variety of living situations. Homes and apartments, families and singles, they pups can thrive just about anywhere. The Shih Tzu is an ideal go-to family pet, but because of its small size and its need for companionship, he’ll ultimately have to be an inside dog. That’s just how they operate. Is the Shih Tzu the right dog to bring into your home? There’s only one way to find out. Keep your eyeball glued to this page and scroll away. We will reveal all!

With its long, luxurious hair, poised self-assurance and cute underbite, the Shih Tzu is the right mix of grace and sweetness.


The Shih Tzu has been proven to be one of the oldest dog breeds, a cutie pie for dog lovers across history. Recent scientific studies were conducted on DNA that was obtained from skeletal remains of dogs excavated from 10,000 year old archeological sites. They were Shih Tzus. That’s how long these pups have been perfect pets. As further proof, painted representation of the Shih Tzu can be found dating back to the 1500s. These dogs have been ideal human companions for as long as dogs have been domesticated.

Revered in Tibet, the Shih Tzu made its way onto the laps of royalty in Imperial China. It was no surprise that China didn’t want to share this adorable dog with the rest of the world. In fact, the Shih Tzu wasn’t sold or traded with the west. It wasn’t until the 20th century that this breed made its way to England, when one was given as a gift to Queen Elizabeth. In the 1960s, the Shih Tzu came to America and began its destiny as a cherished family pet in the USA. Clearly, these doggos are here to stay.

Their iconic looks were a sure example of nobility and wealth in ancient Chinese society. Their long coats were arranged in attractive forms and grooming them was all the craze. Upon their introduction into the Western society, the Shih Tzus became the foremost dog grooming breed and a sensation across dog beauty events and competitions.


Owned by Chinese royals as prized house pets for over a thousand years because of its association with Buddha, the Shih Tzu is thought to have been bred by crossing the Lhasa Apso or Tibetan mountain dog and Pekingese. Taking the guardian and companion traits from the Lhasa Apso, and the loveable personality from the Pekingese, the Shih Tzu emerged as a distinct and balanced breed.The Ming Dynasty kept Shih Tzus as its favored canine companion before the breed was discovered by the rest of the world and introduced to England. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the AKC in 1969. It’s hard to find a culture that doesn’t respect these adorable balls of fluff.

Needless to say, one of the foremost aspects of their pedigree and their looks is their coat. An ideal Shih Tzu will have long, flowing hair that is silky and smooth to the touch. Such a coat can be easily formed into intricate arrangements, which is a show stealer at any gathering. Furthermore, features that define them even more are a small, stubby snout, a fluffy tail curled over the back, and a very prominent underbite. Virtually every Shih Tzu pupper boasts these features, but the coat will require attention to truly shine and come to the forefront.

Food / Diet

For any dog, it’s crucial to get their diet just right. Meeting your pet’s nutritional needs should be one of your primary objectives as a pet owner. That’s because a well-balanced diet will promote good health and improve your dog’s quality of life. The Shih Tzu does best on a diet based on high-quality dry dog food. Feeding kibble the most convenient way to get all the essential vitamins and minerals into your pet’s bowl, and most vets will recommend this route. Just make sure to pick a kibble from a premium brand that will suit your pet’s size (small), age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level (low to moderate).

Since the Shih Tzu is primarily an indoor dog and prefers to spend its time on your lap, you should take care not to overfeed this breed. They are at risk for quick weight gain and can become obese if you indulge their voracious appetite (Seriously, they will eat just about anything that you put in front of them. It’s your job to moderate because Shih Tzu’s will never even consider it). Naturally, their small frame doesn’t handle that extra fluff very well, and it can put a lot of stress on their bodies. From joint issues to diabetes, obesity can lead to a host of health issues for your Shih Tzu pet.

Be sure to follow the feeding guide recommendations on the kibble bag and don’t free feed these dogs. It’s best to divide the recommended serving size into two separate meals. It will keep your pooch full throughout the day but won’t mean you’re overfeeding.

In some cases, a raw diet or nutrition based on home-cooked meals are a better option for a dog. However, you should consult with a professional before making a switch. Canine nutrition is not a thing to play with- make sure to act only if you get a nutritional plan vetted by a veterinarian. It is so important to consult with your vet before making any change to your dog’s diet. While blogs and dog food packages offer useful feeding guidelines, all dogs are different and these guidelines are not gospel. Only your vet will have the expertise and familiarity necessary to identify the specific dietary needs of your personal pup. So always check with your vet first.

Of course, with their long and flowing coat being their pride and joy, it too will require a balanced diet to keep its lustre. Without sufficient nutrients and vitamins, the keratin in their hair won’t get the “fuel” it needs. Without that, there won’t be that iconic sheen, the flow, and a silky smooth feel to their fur, and Shih Tzu won’t be able to reach their potential. If you are a proud show dog owner, pay attention to the diet to ensure good looks.

The Shih Tzu is a great go-to family pet, but because of its small size and its need for companionship, he’ll need to be an inside dog.


As soon as the Shih Tzu has been weaned and settled in its new home, obedience training should begin. It’s important to note that this breed has a short attention span, you’ll get the best results if you train in small increments of time. They won’t be able to focus on training for long and certainly won’t retain any training once their little minds have wandered elsewhere. Shih Tzus are smart and curious, so make these lessons fun. Patience is key. If you take your time and regularly schedule short training sessions, your dog will learn quickly. It never hurts to use incentives either, such as a positive kudos and treats for a job well done. Positive reinforcement training methods are very efficient and will get you the best results while deepening the bond that you have with your pet. On the other hand, being harsh or relying on aversive training techniques will only be counterproductive and damage the relationship you’re building with your Shih Tzu. That’s closer to abuse than training and should be avoided at all costs.

Start with the basics such as teaching your puppy to walk on a leash or where to go potty. Early socialization is very important as well. It will ensure your Shih Tzu puppy grows up to be a friendly and sweet little pet. Once you move on from the housebreaking and obedience training, you can see if your pooch has a talent for agility or learning fun tricks. With the right training approach and a lot of patience, it’s amazing what a Shih Tzu can learn to do.


Both male and female Shih Tzus can weight anywhere from nine to 16 pounds. Because it is smaller dog, make sure your dog doesn’t become overweight. Still, due to their small size, these doggos are nimble and full of energy. If given plenty of chance for exercise, the risk of those extra pounds coming on will be minimal.

Temperament / Behavior

One of the most famous lap dogs around, the Shih Tzu is a forever faithful companion. On top of that, this dog is delightful, gentle, and sweet natured. The Shih Tzu is a fun-loving and spirited pup with a cheery disposition. This is an unbelievably loving and lovable pup that’s nearly impossible to resist.

The Shih Tzu needs to be involved with its family. Put your pooch on guard duty, as it is attuned to changes in the environment, such as strangers or visitors coming close to your home. Although this dog is friendly, don’t be surprised if it is a little shy around visitors at first. But don’t worry. Soon everyone that comes into your home will be charmed by this small, yet mighty dog. These little pups are huge crowdpleasers.

All in all, a Shih Tzu is the ideal pupper to bring some brightness and joy into the home. They have very balanced personality traits, and can be a loving and cuddly lap dog as well as a goofy and energetic playmate. Either way, fun won’t be too far off when a Shih Tzu is around.

Common Health Problems

Since Shih Tzus have short snouts, the breed is prone to snoring and wheezing as well as other respiratory health issues. With its short legs and long backside, spinal disc conditions can also occur. Still, such health problems are more common and probable to appear with seniority. Eye problems are not uncommon, as its long hair gets in its eyes and causes eye infections from constant irritation. This can be prevented by keeping your Shih Tzu’s hair neatly trimmed. Actually, hair care will be one of the major responsibilities for every Shih Tzu owner. Failing to do so results in matted and tangled hair and plenty of other side issues. Don’t neglect your doggo and do regular trimmings in a grooming salon.

Another good habit to get into is brushing your Shih Tzu’s teeth, as it will help with gum problems like periodontal disease. Other problems that can arise hip dysplasia and allergies to certain dyes in dog food, and because of it short snouts and long hair, this breed is prone to heat exhaustion. Make sure to schedule regular check ups with your vet (especially as your Shih Tzu inches into their elder years) so that any potential health issues can be identified and treated as early as possible.

Life Expectancy

Shih Tzus have a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. When cared properly they easily reach the high end of that lifespan, which makes them great as companion pets.

Exercise Requirements

No matter how much you wish it was possible, your Shih Tzu can’t spend all its time on your lap. So make sure you get outside with your dog as often as possible. Roughly 30 to 60 minutes of daily walks will keep your Shih Tzu happy and healthy. It’s a great way to make sure they don’t put on any extra weight. You can also let your pet play in a securely fenced yard if you have one. Just make sure to supervise their activities because your curious little Shih Tzu can get up to no good without the watchful eyes of their human.

As a playful dog, the Shih Tzu will enjoy puzzle toys or having fun and challenging activities to share with his owner. Shih Tzus love games where it can strategize and stalk its “enemy” whether it is a rope tug, a Frisbee or a large knotted up sock. In fact, as long as you’re playing with them, it’s guaranteed that these loving dogs will be thrilled about the game!

One of the most famous lap dogs around, the Shih Tzu is a forever faithful companion.


The American Kennel Club says this about the breed: “A compact and solid dog, the Shih Tzu’s long, flowing double coat is its most distinctive feature. The word Shih Tzu means “lion” and although this dog is sweet and playful, he is not afraid to stand up for himself!”


The Shih Tzu’s beautiful long coat comes in several different colors. Some coats are tri-colored with white, black, and shades of tan. While others may be black and white, tan and white, or brown and black.

If you’ve got allergies, we’ve got good news for you! Even though the Shih Tzu has long hair, it sheds little dander. That means less sneezes for you. So feel free to snuggle without fear! In many ways, the coat of the Shih Tzu is ideal if given just a little bit of dedicated attention. It won’t just look splendid but will also make things easier for all those suffering from dog allergies.


It’s hard to imagine anything cuter than a litter of tiny and fluffy Shih Tzu puppies! On average, Shih Tzu litters can have anywhere from 3 to 6 puppies. Those numbers are pretty incredible for dogs of this size, who generally have small litters. As for the price of Shih Tzu puppies, it will all depend on the power of their pedigree. A Shih Tzu puppy that’s meant to be a pet can cost anywhere from $500 to $1500, but show-quality dogs cost much more. Sources indicate that the price of show-quality Shih Tzu puppies ranges between $2,000 to a whopping $10,000. These dogs are coveted and that type of popularity comes with a big price tag.

Once you get your Shih Tzu puppy home, it will need to be trained as soon as possible. Timely training and socializations make for a happy and well-behaved dog. Just make sure not to over exercise your pup, especially in warmer climates. These little furballs can get overheated quickly, so be careful on hot days and consider bringing water with you on long walks.

Photo credit: Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

More by Amy Tokic