Shih Tzu: Care & Characteristics of the Dog Breed

Shih Tzu standing indoors in profile

The Shih Tzu is a little dog that is strong and has a thick, long double coat. This breed is favored by fans of toy dogs because of its alert, self-assured, lively, and brave temperament. Shih Tzus are an old breed that have a long history of serving as lords' lap dogs.

Shih Tzus may be amazing companions if taught and cared for correctly. This breed is perfect for flats and other tiny living places because to its little stature. The Shih Tzu is a due of its head shape and short, "smooshed" face, so be prepared for some snoring and snorting. Overall, the majority of Shih Tzu owners will agree that this breed is a really lovely canine.

Breed Overview


HEIGHT: 8 to 11 inches

WEIGHT: 9 to 16 pounds

COAT: Long double coat

COAT COLOR: Found in nearly any color, most commonly in black, white, blue, gold, liver, or combinations

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 16 years

TEMPERAMENT: Friendly, intelligent, playful, alert, loyal, lively



Characteristics of the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are well-known for their endearing and cuddly personalities. They appreciate attention and will demand a lot of it, and they adore nothing more than spending time with (and sitting on) their people. They are friendly toward strangers and adapt well to both big and small families and houses.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Shih Tzu

Since the breed resembles a lion, the name Shih Tzu is derived from the for "lion." It is possible to find evidence of the Shih Tzu's origins in older breeds, notably in Tibet. According to DNA testing, the Shih Tzu and Lhasa apso are more closely related to wolves than most other dog breeds.

There are conflicting timelines over the last 1,100 years about the precise beginnings of the Shih Tzu as a pet in Chinese imperial households. As a result of its use as a royal house pet by Ming Dynasty royalty from the 14th to the 17th century, the breed came to be renowned as a noble dog in China. In the late 1800s, they were also a favorite of the Empress T'zu Hsi.

The Shih Tzu has never been bred for any other known uses; it has only ever been kept as a home pet and lap dog. This sets the breed apart from the Lhasa apso, which was used to guard temples. Perhaps for this reason, among the toy dog breeds, the Shih Tzu continues to be one of the most adored and well-known.

The dog has never been exchanged outside of the nobility by Chinese kings in the past. The first Shih Tzus were introduced into Europe not until 1930. They then came in the country following World War II, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized them in 1969.

Shih Tzu Care

Shih Tzu dogs are quite simple to teach and take care of because of their small stature and high level of intelligence. A happy and healthy dog may be yours for years to come if you remember just a few crucial maintenance requirements.


The Shih Tzu requires regular exercise because of its average energy level. Your Shih Tzu might benefit from regular and entertaining pursuits like to keep both their minds and bodies active. When given adequate time for vigorous play, they adjust to apartment life extremely well. However, because to their flat features and predisposition for heat exhaustion, Shih Tzus will not do well in very hot situations or weather.


Shih Tzus are often regarded as hypoallergenic dog breeds because of their continual coat growth and low level of shedding. However, keep in mind that the allergens still exist in dander and saliva, so there will still be some in the area surrounding the dog. The loose hairs are more likely to be trapped in the coat than in the air. Before getting a Shih Tzu, it's a good idea if you're sensitive to determine whether this breed makes you allergic to anything.

The hair of dogs is frequently kept short by owners, giving them a curled or fluffy appearance. Some people like to maintain their coats long and plush. The Shih Tzu absolutely need frequent maintenance due to its coat type. They should be clipped every few weeks, and they should be combed once or twice a week (up to once a day if the coat is maintained long). Some Shih Tzus may wear a topknot or a bow because, if their facial hair isn't kept in check, it might bother their eyes.

The dog's nails should be trimmed about once a month, and you'll need to help your dog with oral hygiene by brushing its teeth regularly.


Maintaining your Shih Tzu's happiness and socializing requires proper and socialization. Simply though the Shih Tzu is a little dog, you shouldn't neglect these routines. Although the breed is rather intelligent, it also has a little bit of a stubborn side.

You must be persistent in teaching your dog from an early age since Shih Tzus can be challenging to housebreak. They can also be taught to use a litter box inside, but you will need to keep your dog's area clean because they have a tendency to consume their own (and other dogs') waste.

This breed gets along well with other friendly dogs and cats in a multi-pet home, especially if they are reared together. As long as the youngster is old enough to handle a dog gently and properly, Shih Tzus get along fine with kids. The Shih Tzu is a little dog that can be easily hurt by hard play.

Common Health Problems

Breeders that practice responsible breeding work to uphold the highest breed standards as set out by organizations like the AKC. These breeding guidelines reduce the likelihood of inheriting health issues in dogs. Shih Tzus, however, are susceptible to some inherited health issues. You should be aware of the following circumstances:

Diet and Nutrition

Shih Tzus are little dogs that only require up to 1 cup of dry dog food each day. The precise amount is determined on the dog's age, degree of activity, size, and health conditions. It's crucial to keep an eye on your dog's weight and take action if you notice it's getting too heavy. Consult your veterinarian about the best nutritional approach to receive advice.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Shih Tzu

When planning to adopt or purchase a dog, there are several economic considerations to keep in mind, including the price of the puppy, supplies, and veterinary expenses. Shih Tzu dogs typically cost between $850 and $1600. Finding a trustworthy breeder or adoption agency is crucial, and you may do it by contacting the following Shih Tzu associations:

  • Shih Tzu Rescue
  • American Shih Tzu Club

You can also get in touch with a local animal shelter to find out if there are any Shih Tzu rescues in your area.

Shih Tzu Overview

  • Loyal and affectionate

  • Great with kids

  • Loves to sit on your lap

  • High-maintenance coat

  • Difficult to housebreak

  • Issues with breathing

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think the Shih Tzu is the right dog breed for you, be sure to do plenty of research before adopting one. Talk to other Shih Tzu owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you're interested in similar breeds, explore these to compare the pros and cons:

Explore the variety of  out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.

  • How do you groom a Shih Tzu?

    Shih Tzus require frequent brushing due to their long, fluffy coats, as well as bathing and grooming every few weeks. You can always hire someone to do it for you, but once you get the hang of it, it's simple.

  • How many puppies can a Shih Tzu have?

    Shih Tzu litters are usually about three to four puppies, unless it's the mother's first litter. If that's the case, it's one or two.

  • How do you train a Shih Tzu?

    Training Shih Tzus is notoriously difficult. Even if you can complete the task yourself, you might wish to seek assistance through online training, suggested reading, or even by engaging a trainer in person.