- Activity Level: low
- Grooming Level: high
- Trainability: moderate
- Adaptability: high
- Kid/Pet Friendly: often
- Average Size: Small
- Average Lifespan: 10-18 years
- Prey Drive: low
- Watchdog: chill
- Registered?: aca, akc
Shih Tzu Breed Profile
Did You Know?
The Shih Tzu originated in China centuries ago. Their name means “lion”, so they are sometimes referred to as the “lion dog”. They were developed by Imperial breeders in the palace who crossed the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese to create it. These dogs lived the life of luxury as royal lap dogs behind the palace walls.
Because they were bred specifically for the royalty of Imperial China, they remained relatively unknown around the world until the 1930s. The AKC recognized the Shih Tzu as part of the Toy Group in 1969. They continue to be a popular toy dog in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
A Shih Tzu is an intelligent, loving, affectionate, and social dog with a cheerful disposition and sometimes a mischievous streak. They are the quintessential companion and lap dog. Although they can have an independent streak, they absolutely love being around people.
Shih Tzu are alert and lively, but tend to be relatively quiet and will seldom bark unless they have been trained into it purposefully or as an accidental bad habit. They tend to get along well with children and other pets. In fact, they tend to be very affectionate toward children. Due to their small size, a Shih Tzu can be easily injured by accidental falls or rough play, so playtime with young children should be closely supervised.
This dog breed is highly adaptable. They are perfect for apartment living and will also enjoy larger homes as long as they get to be inside with people. They do well in most climates and, as with many dog breeds, is sensitive to extreme heat and cold. Due to their small size, they may need some layers when winter sets in to help keep them warm on walks.
If it’s kept long, they have a heavy coat. That, paired with their short snout, means they can overheat easily, so you will want to keep a close eye on them when you are outside during the summer months. A Shih Tzu is a true companion that is happiest living life as a lap dog, which means they don’t do well with a lot of alone time.
A Shih Tzu is a relatively healthy dog breed. As with all dogs, there are some health conditions to be aware of. These include patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, and a few eye issues. Some things to look out for in the eyes are dryness and inflammation, retinal detachment, progressive retinal atrophy, and cataracts. Good breeding practices can cut down on the chance of passing on these health conditions. Asking the breeder about the genetic history of the parents and to see any health clearances can help allay potential health concerns.
The Shih Tzu is an intelligent dog breed. They are eager to please, but also have a stubborn streak. They can be a good fit for first-time dog owners, but training classes are recommended. Because they are social and crave human affection, they do not respond well to harsh tones or corrections. Instead, they respond best to positive training that is also consistent.
Consistency is essential in the training process, which includes some resistance on your part. Shih Tzu are known for charming their owners and getting them to give in even when they are misbehaving. It’s important to resist your dog’s innate charm during training and ignore them until they settle down. Once they do, then reward and praise them. Giving in during undesired behavior results in inconsistent training and can end up reinforcing that behavior.
Shih Tzu have long-haired coats that can be clipped shorter. The coat comes in a variety of colors including black, beige, red, and white and tends to be high maintenance, especially if kept to a longer cut. A Shih Tzu’s coat is prone to tangles and mats, so they need to be brushed every day. If the fur around the eyes is not kept trimmed short, it’s common to use a hair bow or something similar to keep the hair out of the dog’s eyes. A bath every 3-4 weeks and professional grooming every two months are recommended. You will also need to use a damp cloth to gently clean the corners of your dog’s eyes to promote healthy eyes and prevent tear stains on their face.
In addition to coat care, there are other grooming tasks that must be done for every dog breed. Nails should be trimmed monthly or more often as needed to keep them from getting too long. Long nails can make movement uncomfortable for your dog and they can get caught on things. Shih Tzu also have long, floppy ears. These can trap dirt, debris, and moisture, which can lead to an ear infection. By checking your dog’s ears regularly and carefully cleaning them as needed, you can help prevent ear infections.
It’s also important to take care of your dog’s dental health. Dental disease is the most common health issues in dogs, and it is also the most preventable. Proper dental care for dogs starts with brushing their teeth or using an enzyme toothpaste every day. From there, you can further supplement your efforts by feeding your dog a special dental care diet or periodically giving them dental chews.
It’s recommended to get your Shih Tzu used to having their mouth, ears, and paws handled as a puppy and rewarding them for grooming sessions. This will keep the experience a positive one for your dog and will help make grooming a much easier process for both of you throughout their life. It can even become a bonding time for you and your dog.
A Shih Tzu is a low energy dog breed. They may have bursts of energy and play hard, but they require minimal exercise to stay healthy. They are a true house companion and were bred for that purpose, so they are just happy to sit and cuddle with you. A few short daily walks and some playtime inside will be plenty for this small dog.
A fully-grown Shih Tzu usually stands 9 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 9 and 16 pounds.
A Shih Tzu generally lives 10-18 years.
Queen Elizabeth II and Miley Cyrus have both owned a Shih Tzu.