Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu looking forward

Quick Facts


9 to 16 pounds


8 to 11 inches

Average Lifespan:

10-16 years

Known For:

Their purpose on this world is to love and to be loved.


Ah, the Shih Tzu! This breed, with its sweet, loving demeanor and regal appearance, is a jewel among dog enthusiasts. Originating from Tibet, Shih Tzus have been companions to people for centuries, capturing hearts with their adorable faces and affectionate personalities.Β 


Known as the “Lion Dog”, they have a notable presence in history, being treasured by royalty, particularly in China. Their popularity among pet lovers is hardly surprising – with their compact size and charming disposition, they make wonderful companions in various living situations!

History and Origin

The Shih Tzu’s history is steeped in mystery and enchantment. This ancient breed traces its roots back to Tibet, where they were considered sacred, symbolizing good luck. They were bred by Tibetan monks and gifted to Chinese emperors as a token of goodwill, leading to their close association with Chinese royalty, especially during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.


Once in China, Shih Tzus were crossed with Pekingese and possibly Pugs, which contributed to their distinct appearance. They were highly treasured by the royals and lived a life of luxury in the imperial palaces, often depicted in Chinese art and tapestries. The breed was so cherished that for years, the Chinese refused to trade, sell, or give any Shih Tzus away, keeping the breed exclusive to the Chinese court.


It wasn’t until the 20th century that Shih Tzus began to appear in other parts of the world. After the fall of the Chinese Imperial Palace, the breed would have become extinct if not for the few specimens brought to England. From there, Shih Tzus spread to other parts of Europe and eventually to the United States in the late 1940s, where they quickly gained popularity.Β 


The American Kennel Club recognized the Shih Tzu as a breed in 1969, and since then, these little lion dogs have been a beloved part of many families worldwide.

Breed Characteristics


Barking Tendency

Dog Friendly

Health Issues

Shedding Level









Cat Friendly

Exercise Needs


Social Needs








App. Friendly

Child Friendly


Energy Level

Stranger Friendly

Watchdog Instincts







Appearance and Size

When it comes to charm, Shih Tzus are in a league of their own! With their sturdy build, they are small but not tiny, generally weighing between 9 to 16 pounds. They stand proudly, carrying a distinctly arrogant carriage with their head held high and tail curled over the back.


One of the Shih Tzu’s most notable features is their beautiful, flowing double coat, which comes in a variety of colors including black, white, blue, gold, and combinations thereof.Β 


This coat, while gorgeous, is low-shedding but requires regular grooming to keep it in top condition.

Their sweet, expressive eyes and pushed-in face give them a childlike innocence that can melt any heart. The Shih Tzu’s overall appearance is complemented by a distinct button nose and a slight underbite, which are breed characteristics.


Despite their small size, Shih Tzus are well-built and compact, with a solid structure and good bone density. They move with a distinct, flowing gait, reflecting their royal lineage and confident demeanor. While they may be small in stature, their bold and outgoing personality makes them seem larger than life!

Personality and Temperament

Shih Tzus are truly a bundle of joy and a treasure to have around! Known for their affectionate, friendly, and outgoing nature, they quickly endear themselves to everyone they meet. These little companions are particularly known for their love of comfort and enjoy snuggling up on the couch just as much as they enjoy playing with their toys.


Despite their royal lineage, Shih Tzus are far from aloof. They are renowned for their adaptability and are as happy in an apartment as they are in a sprawling mansion. Their sociable nature makes them excellent companions for families, singles, and seniors alike.Β 


They thrive on human interaction and are happiest when they are part of the family activities.

Shih Tzus are also known for their alert and confident demeanor. While they are not typically yappy, they will let you know if a stranger is at the door, making them excellent little watchdogs. However, they are more likely to befriend intruders rather than ward them off!

Health and Lifespan

Shih Tzus are generally a healthy breed with a reassuring lifespan of 10 to 16 years, but like all breeds, they can be prone to specific health issues. Regular veterinary check-ups and a healthy lifestyle are key to ensuring your Shih Tzu lives a long, happy life.


One common issue in Shih Tzus is respiratory problems due to their brachycephalic (short-nosed) nature. Keeping them cool in hot weather, avoiding over-exertion, and monitoring their breathing can help manage this. Dental health is also crucial, as their small mouths can lead to crowded teeth and related issues.


Eye problems, such as cataracts and retinal detachment, are also something to watch for due to their prominent eyes. Regular eye checks and cleaning can help prevent infections and ensure their eyes stay healthy.


Shih Tzus can also be prone to hip dysplasia, a hereditary condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit into the hip socket properly, which can lead to arthritis and pain. Feeding them a balanced diet and avoiding obesity can help manage this condition.

Finally, like all small breeds, Shih Tzus can be prone to patellar luxation, where the kneecap can slip out of place. Regular vet check-ups can monitor this condition and ensure your Shih Tzu remains active and comfortable.

Care and Maintenance

Shih Tzu grooming

Caring for a Shih Tzu is a rewarding experience, filled with lots of love and companionship. Their long, flowing coat, while beautiful, does require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling. Daily brushing and regular trips to the groomer will keep their coat in pristine condition.

Nutrition is also crucial for Shih Tzus.


Feeding them a balanced, high-quality diet will ensure they stay healthy and their coat remains shiny. Monitoring their weight is essential as they can be prone to obesity, which can lead to other health issues.


Exercise is important, but Shih Tzus don’t require extensive workouts. Regular walks and playtime will keep them happy and healthy. They also enjoy mental stimulation, so puzzle toys and games of fetch are excellent ways to keep them engaged.


Due to their social nature, Shih Tzus thrive on companionship. Spending time with them, including them in family activities, and showering them with love will make your Shih Tzu a happy and well-adjusted member of your family.

Training and Behavior

Training a Shih Tzu can be both an amusing and rewarding experience! They are known for their intelligence and eagerness to learn, but sometimes their independent and stubborn streak may shine through, making patience key in training. Positive reinforcement, consistency, and patience are essential when training Shih Tzus. They respond well to treats and praises, so be ready with rewards when they follow commands!


While Shih Tzus are generally well-mannered, early socialization is crucial. Introducing them to different environments, people, and other animals will help them grow into well-rounded adults. House training can sometimes be a challenge, but with a consistent routine and plenty of encouragement, they will catch on.


It’s also essential to curb any tendency towards possessiveness or nipping early on through gentle correction and positive reinforcement. Encouraging good behavior and setting boundaries will help shape your Shih Tzu into a polite and friendly companion.

Shih Tzu and Families

Shih Tzu with people

Shih Tzus are known for being particularly wonderful family pets. Their affectionate and adaptable nature makes them fit seamlessly into various family dynamics. They are patient and gentle, making them excellent companions for children, though interactions with very young kids should always be supervised to ensure gentle play.


These little dogs are sociable and enjoy being around other pets, including dogs and cats, especially if they are raised together. Their friendly disposition makes them excellent companions, bringing joy, laughter, and endless cuddles to any household.


Whether you live in a bustling city or the serene countryside, have a big family or live solo, a Shih Tzu can be a loving and delightful addition, bringing warmth and companionship to your home.

Adopting a Shih Tzu

If you’re considering adopting a Shih Tzu, congratulations on choosing a loving and charming companion! When looking for a Shih Tzu, consider checking shelters and rescue organizations, as many lovely Shih Tzus are looking for their forever homes. Websites like and can help connect you with adoptable Shih Tzus in your area.


Before bringing home your new furry friend, make sure your living situation is suitable for a small, companionable dog. Ensure you have the time, resources, and commitment to provide them with the love, care, and attention they need.


Research the breed, prepare your home, and get ready for a life filled with love and joy with your new Shih Tzu companion! Adopting a Shih Tzu is a rewarding experience, and with the right care and love, you’ll have a loyal friend for life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the temperament of a Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzus are known for their friendly, affectionate, and outgoing nature. They enjoy being around their family and are generally good with both children and other pets, making them excellent companions.

How much grooming does a Shih Tzu require?

Their long, luxurious coat requires daily brushing to prevent tangles and mats. Many owners opt for a shorter, more manageable “puppy cut” to reduce grooming time.

Are Shih Tzus good for apartment living?

Yes, Shih Tzus are well-suited for apartment living due to their small size and moderate exercise needs. They are relatively quiet and can be content with indoor activities.

What health issues can affect Shih Tzus?

Shih Tzus can be prone to breathing problems due to their short snout, eye issues such as keratitis, and hip dysplasia. Regular veterinary care is important to address any health concerns.

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