shih tzus dog breed information

Shih Tzus: The Famous “Little Lion” of the Canine World

The Shih Tzu dog breed is one of the most adorable and popular breeds in the United States. They make great companion dogs because of their personality and charm. Being one of the most loyal and extremely charming dog breeds out there, Shih Tzu owners sure are lucky to have Shih Tzus as their little ball of sunshine.

What is a Shih Tzu?

a shih tzu
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A Shih Tzu is also known as a chrysanthemum-faced dog. This little lion dog was labeled as such because of how their hair grows in all directions, similar to that of a chrysanthemum plant. They are sweet, lovable, and beautiful in nature, with their own shortcomings. Still, the Shih Tzu can be a joyful, sociable, and fun dog breed to be around and is the perfect breed as a house pet for kids and adults alike.

Where Did Shih Tzus Originate From?

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Shih Tzus dates back to the Ming Dynasty in the 14th to 17th century. They are ancient breeds originally bred in Chinese royalty as lap dogs for Chinese emperors. Having a sweet personality and teddy bear appearance, the Shih Tzu, back then, was greatly spoiled by the emperors. Even today, they are one of the most coddled dog breeds.

Born of Tibetan and Chinese origin, they are a crossbreed of Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. The name Shih Tzu means “lion” in Chinese. This was most likely taken after the Tibetan Buddhist god of healing, who journeyed with a small dog that could change its appearance to a life-sized lion.

The Shih Tzu dog breed, being a noble house pet, wasn’t known to the world until the 1930s. In 1928, the first Shih Tzus, female and male pair, were brought from Peking to England and were owned by Lady Brownrigg. By 1993, another Shih Tzu was brought from China to Ireland by Mrs. Hutchins.

The three dogs owned by Lady Brownrigg and Mrs. Hutchins became the foundation of Lady Brownrigg’s Kennel. Shortly after, the Shih Tzu dog breed was first introduced in the United States by Maureen Murdock and Philip Price. This led to the creation of three Shih Tzu Clubs: the American Shih Tzu Association, the Texas Shih Tzu Society, and the Shih Tzu Club of America.

Eventually, in 1963, the Texas Shih Tzu Society and the Shih Tzu Club of America merged into one now known as the American Shih Tzu Club. American Kennel Club first recognized the Shih Tzu in 1969 under Toy Group and is now one of the most popular toy breeds in the United States, United Kingdom, and East Asia.

What Was the Shih Tzu Bred for?

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The Shih Tzus, born in royal Tibetan breeds, were only ever bred to serve as a house pet or lap dog for emperors. Oh, to be a precious little dog living the royal life! Shih Tzus really are the spoilest among other dogs.

What Does a Shih Tzu Look Like?

shih tzu with a beautiful and luscious coat
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Shih Tzus have distinct features that many Shih Tzu owners have come to love.


A Shih Tzu is a sturdy dog sporting a beautiful and luscious coat. Their coat comes in different colors, mixes, and patterns. The common colors found in a Shih Tzu are Black, White, Gold, Liver, Red, and Silver. Some common color mixes are White and Black, White and Red, White and Grey, Red and Black, Black and Gold, Black and Brindle, Black and Silver, etc. Another great thing about a Shih Tzu coat is that they’re hypoallergenic, ideal for pet parents with dog hair or pet dander allergies.


One of the striking features of Shih Tzus is their big wonderful eyes. Their usual eye color is black, but they can also have light brown or golden-colored eyes. Although rare, Shih Tzus can also have blue eyes, and that chance increases if your Shih Tzu has a blue coat.

Face and snout

Shih Tzus are also categorized under brachycephalic breeds. This means that the Shih Tzu dog breed has flatter faces and shorter noses, which can put your fur baby at risk of certain health issues.


Shih Tzus tend to have long droopy ears. The problem is that their thick fur can also grow into the ear canal, putting them at big risk for ear infections.

How Big Does a Full Grown Shih Tzu Get?

full-grown shih tzu
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The average size and weight of both female and male Shih Tzu don’t differ much. Both can grow between 9 to 16 pounds (4kg – 7kg) and grow as tall as 8 to 11 inches (20cm – 28cm). However, other factors such as the breeding type can contribute to your dog’s weight and size.

Different Types of Shih Tzus

a different type of shih tzu
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Finding the right little lion dog for you is important. You’re going to want to spend your days with a furball that matches your personality so you can get along and have a companion to stay by your side. The great news is that Shih Tzus have different varieties you can choose from, each with their own characteristics and traits!

American Shih Tzu

american shih tzu
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American Kennel Club recognized the American Shih Tzu as a purebred in 1969. This type of Shih Tzu boasts physical features, including a square-shaped head, a short neck, a small chest, small wide eyes, high and forward-facing legs, and frontal shoulders. It’s one of the only two recognized purebred Shih Tzus.

European Shih Tzu

european shih tzu
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Another purebred is the European Shih Tzu, which the United Kingdom Kennel Club recognized back in 1946. The European and American Shih Tzu can’t be more different when it comes to their physical attributes. A European Shih Tzu has a round head, long neck, large eyes, broad chest, wide stance, and the front legs bent back a little.

Imperial Shih Tzu

imperial shih tzu
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While commonly mistaken as purebred, the Imperial Shih Tzu is not an official purebred in terms of the National Kennel Club. By the definition of their name “imperial,” this Shih Tzu type refers to the smaller and impure version of the standard Shih Tzu. Imperial Shih Tzus are bred by crossing two runt purebreds. Unfortunately for these little fur babies, they are more prone to genetic defects. You can usually distinguish Imperial Shih Tzus from the standard Shih Tzu because they are naturally smaller.

Black Shih Tzu

black shih tzu
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A Black Shih Tzu is the rarest type to get, especially one in solid black color. With a solid black coat, you can often see a touch of secondary color like white in their coats. And with Black Shih Tzus, their coats are not the only black in color, but their eye rims, nose, lips, and paw pads are black.

You should remember, though, that their black coat can still fade to silver. Other than that, sun exposure can also affect your dog’s color. So if you’re looking forward to getting a Black Shih Tzu limiting their exposure to the sun is your best bet to keeping their coat pure black.

Brown Shih Tzu

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A chocolate-colored coat is the most common description for a Brown Shih Tzu. Most solid brown Shih Tzus are also liver-colored, which is something that’s defined by the dog’s skin pigmentation and not their coat color. Although do note that as your dog ages, their coat can still change to a dark brown color. While Shih Tzu puppies born with solid brown coats can mature with a lighter shade of fur.

Brindle Shih Tzu

brindle shih tzu
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Beautiful is just one of the things that can describe a Brindle Shih Tzu. Their coat comes with one base color in a gorgeous mix of stripe or streak patterns. The name Brindle relates more to the pattern than the color in relevance. Brindle Shih Tzus are mostly recognized in different colors such as gray, white, gold, brown, cream, black, and other shades.

Teacup Shih Tzu

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Teacup Shih Tzus earned their name for being the smallest out of the group. They’re also referred to as “teacups.” Their most unique attribute is that they can fit in teacups or on the palm of your hand. Like the Imperial Shih Tzu, Teacups are products of crossbreeding two runts of the litter, making them prone to developing health conditions. A reputable breeder would provide you with every information you need to take care of a Teacup Shih Tzu.

Blue-Eyed Shih Tzu

blue-eyed shih tzu
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Also, one of the rarest types of Shih Tzus is the Blue-Eyed Shih Tzu. Blue eyes in a Shih Tzu are mainly because of lack of the color gene black. It’s important to remember that your dog’s eyes are mostly a result of genes and not at all related to their coat color. Most of the time, Blue-Eyed Shih Tzus features dark brown or gray noses, lips, eye rims, and paw pads.

How to Take Care of a Shih Tzu?

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Caring for any dog breed can test your patience once in a while. Still, it’s also fulfilling knowing that your pupper is living happily and healthily. Shih Tzus can be high maintenance, but with the proper exercise routine, grooming tool, and balanced diet, your Shih Tzu is in good hands.


Shih Tzus don’t require much exercise as other breeds. Regular walks, indoor/outdoor games, or dog sports that don’t require intense physical effort are enough to keep your Shih Tzu entertained and preoccupied. Remember that Shih Tzus have a very low tolerance to heat. Taking them out for a walk or a fun activity while the sun is up and high might not be a good idea as they are susceptible to heatstroke.


Shih Tzus are widely popular because of their beautiful long coat. Maintaining them requires daily brushing and baths every three to four weeks to keep their hair from tangling or matting. It’s highly recommended to get them to a professional groomer to keep their hair trimmed and avoid irritating the eyes. You can also do the grooming yourself. Just make sure you know what you’re doing and your dog is comfortable with you.

When it comes to dental hygiene, brushing their teeth daily is a must, especially for Shih Tzu puppies. Also, trim your dog’s nails at least once a month, but if they’re more active outdoors, trim their nails at least every two weeks. Shih Tzus are prone to ear infections due to their floppy ears. Checking and cleaning their ears weekly is important to prevent wax buildup and ear infections. If you notice a bad odor coming out of your dog’s ears, that’s probably a sign to make a vet visit.


Shih Tzus would thrive well on a high-quality diet that’s suitable for your dog’s age. This small breed is prone to thyroid issues that also make them susceptible to obesity. Give them a diet that includes the proper amount of calories and nutrition they need to keep them at a healthy weight.

Related Review: 10 Best Dog Food for Shih Tzus in 2022

1. How much to feed

Small dogs like the Shih Tzu only require 1 to 1.5 cups of food per day. Meanwhile, the recommended calorie intake for an adult Shih Tzu is 35 calories per body weight and 30 calories per body weight for older Shih Tzus. However, their food proportion could still depend on a few factors such as age, weight, size, activity level, and health condition.

2. How often to feed

Puppies having more energy requires at least 4 to 6 meals a day to replace the energy they have spent all day. While for Shih Tzus in the adult stage, it’s recommended to feed them three meals a day. Senior Shih Tzus, however, having a lower metabolic rate, should be fed at least twice a day.

3. Common food allergies

Like other breeds, Shih Tzus are also susceptible to developing food allergies. The top five causes of an allergic reaction are triggered by specific food ingredients, flea bites, dermatitis, environmental allergens, and genetics.

The most common food allergens you need to watch out for usually comes from animal protein such as chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, and eggs. Low-quality ingredients in dog foods such as animal by-products or fillers like corn, wheat, or soy can also cause allergies. Another thing you need to watch out for is chemical or artificial additives.

If your dog suffers from certain food allergies, putting them on a limited ingredient diet is a good option, as these dog foods limit your dog’s exposure to potential food sensitivities.

You might also be interested in:What Is The Top Dog Food For Skin Allergies?

Some common signs and symptoms of allergies in dogs that all pet owners should look out for are:

  • Irritated skin like itching, rash, or skin sores
  • Skin inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Dry and dull coat
  • Glassy eyes
  • Teary eyes
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Chronic ear infection
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Biting or scratching of their own skin

Are Shih Tzus Easy to Train?

potty training a shih tzu puppy
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Shih Tzus can be easy to train as long as you are patient and consistent in training them. With the right training methods such as positive reinforcement training or puppy training, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu puppy grows up into a refined and genteel fur baby. It’s recommended that you train them at 12 weeks old because this is the stage where they can adapt and learn faster.

Are they easy to potty train?

Yes, Shih Tzus are easy to potty train, especially when you start them at an early age ideally around three to six months old. However, being high-spirited pups you might have to put up with some stubbornness. This is why patience and determination are the keys to training Shih Tzu puppies.

How long does it take to train a shih tzu?

Shih Tzus are highly intelligent breeds, and training them will be a breeze as long as you have the proper training routine and, of course, never forget the training treats! Good behavior rewarded through positive reinforcement is one of the proven effective ways of disciplining a dog. Training your lion pooch (preferably during their puppy stage) can take as long as 3 to 6 months, depending on how consistent you are.

Shih Tzu Temperament

friendly shih tzu
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Shih Tzus are naturally friendly dogs, making them wonderful family pets. They are affectionate, confident, trusting, and playful fur babies that love to crawl on your lap and get your attention. This breed loves to have their affections reciprocated. So, surrounding them with people as caring and loving as them is something that Shih Tzus greatly appreciates.

Does this breed do well with children?

A Shih Tzu blends well with people because of their sociable and cheerful personalities. They do just as great with kids or children. Shih Tzus serve as a constant companion and are an adorable playmate for children. Children as affectionate and friendly as Shih Tzus would have someone to give as much attention and care. Socializing your Shih Tzu with children is a beautiful way to create a bond with other people.

Does it do well with other pets?

Yes, Shih Tzus are also great with other pets. It’s also good to take precautions and slowly introduce your Shih Tzu to other dogs. Early socialization and interaction with other dogs or pets help establish a relationship. This would hardly be a problem with the Shih Tzu’s natural charm and friendly personality.

Are Shih Tzus Aggressive?

Aggressive behavior in Shih Tzus is not an issue mainly because this breed is born with an easygoing and sunny disposition. They’re primarily bred as companions and lap dogs, and being aggressive is not just part of their nature. If your Shih Tzu exhibits signs of aggressiveness, lack of training, pain, or discomfort is some of the underlying causes for this behavior.

What Environment is Ideal for Shih Tzus?

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If you’re looking to adopt a Shih Tzu, it’s good to know how well they’ll adapt to your living conditions.

The Shih Tzu is an indoor dog that will thrive better in the city. Smaller dogs like them are specifically made for apartment living. Considering they’re a brachycephalic breed, they wouldn’t do well in places with extremely hot weather conditions. They have low heat tolerance and are prone to heatstroke and breathing problems. If you’re living in an apartment, make sure that your Shih Tzu is well-ventilated and hydrated at all times.

What is the Average Life Span of a Shih Tzu

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Shih Tzus can live long between 10 to 16 years, but their average life span is 13 years. Some factors can affect your Shih Tzu’s life expectancy, but on average, you can expect them to live a good and happy life with you for 13 years.

Shih Tzu Common Health Issues

shih tzu with an eye problem is a common health issues
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Shih Tzus are generally healthy dog breeds but depending on which type of Shih Tzu you have, there may be certain health conditions that you need to watch out for. Here are some common health problems that Shih Tzus may experience.

Patellar luxation

Patellar Luxation, also known as Luxating Patella, is an inherited disease described as the displacement or dislocation of the kneecap. This condition can affect one of the rear legs or both legs. If left undiagnosed and treated, this could progress to arthritis. The signs of luxating patella are very noticeable, including lameness, skipping or hopping, obvious lump on the affected leg, or your dog showing signs they’re in pain while walking.

Otitis externa

Because of their floppy ears, Shih Tzus are widely susceptible to developing ear infections mainly caused by ear mites. Hairs on the ear canal invite yeasts or bacteria to infect the ears. Regular grooming of the hair or weekly cleaning of the ears is a good way to prevent otitis externa. Obvious signs of otitis externa are bad odor coming out of the ear, ear scratching, head shaking, and rubbing their ears with their paws.

Eye problems

The Shih Tzu having large eyes makes them susceptible to several eye problems, namely Cataracts, Corneal Ulcers, Proptosis, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and Dry Eye.

  • Cataracts – Cataracts are thick, cloudy spots that prevent light from entering the retina, causing vision impairment.
  • Corneal Ulcers Corneal Ulcers result from an infection caused by an injury or trauma. This eye problem causes the eye’s cornea to have a cloud-like appearance. Meanwhile, the white part of the eye, called the sclera, develops redness because of irritation.
  • Proptosis – This is an eye condition that is a product of blunt trauma causing the dislodgement of the eyeball from the eye socket. It’s painful and provides great discomfort to your dog because of the protrusion of the eyes and added pressure on the eyelids.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – PRA is a degenerative disease in dogs defined by the degeneration of the visual cells, eventually leading to blindness. At first, your dog can experience night blindness before eventually progressing to complete blindness.
  • Dry Eye – Dry Eye, also known as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is categorized as the dryness of the eyes because of the lack of tear production. This eye issue predisposes your dog to other eye problems such as infections, corneal ulcers, and vision loss. It’s better to always have an eye drop ready to prevent your dog from getting dry eyes.

Canine hip dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is another degenerative condition that affects many of the dog population. According to recent data, hip dysplasia in Shih Tzus is becoming less of an issue, but it’s still something that Shih Tzu owners should be aware of. This joint problem occurs when the dog’s ball joints are displaced from the socket.

You can spot it easily as your dog would show signs of walking irregularly, limping while walking or running, difficulty climbing up the stairs, and whining or whimpering when the affected hip is touched.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome is a condition that only affects dogs with flatter faces and shorter bones on the nose and face. This syndrome causes airways abnormalities, including stenotic nares, extended nasopharyngeal turbinates, an elongated soft palate, laryngeal collapse, a hypoplastic trachea, and everted laryngeal saccules. Your Shih Tzu can experience one or more than one of these abnormalities.

Skin allergies

Shih Tzus susceptible to skin allergies needs a close eye on them to ensure that they don’t progress to a severe skin problem. Skin problems can be avoided by grooming them properly and watching out for any sign of skin allergy. Airborne particles such as dust mites, pollen, and dust are triggers of an allergy.

Other allergens include house cleaning products or even your dog’s shampoo and conditioner. Another common culprit is flea bites. The saliva of the fleas coming in contact with your dog’s skin triggers an allergic reaction which then triggers the irritation and itching of the skin. Use flea shampoos or flea collars to prevent these pesky little pests from irritating your dog.

How Much Does a Shih Tzu Cost?

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A Shih Tzu can cost as much as $500 up to $6000. Buying a Shih Tzu from reputable breeders will likely cost you more. It’s good to buy from breeders certified by either the American Kennel Club or the Continental Kennel Club. Sill, the cost of a Shih Tzu will heavily rely on the breeder’s reputation, the puppy’s pedigree, breed popularity, and vaccinations.

Other Similar Dog Breeds

If you’re looking for another pet that almost has the same personality, traits, and looks as the Shih Tzus, here is a list of more dog breeds that possess some similarities with the Shih Tzu breed.

Other BreedsSimilaritiesDifferences
1. Lhaso Apsoancient Tibetan heritage, long silky coat, intelligent, affectionatelonger nose, more energetic, not as comfortable with strangers
2. Pekingeseborn of Chinese origin, short snout, high maintenance coat, great family petnot hypoallergenic coat, sheds more
3. Malteselong silky coat, happy, playful, friendly, affectionate, intelligent, easy to trainonly comes in white coat color, needs some supervision with other dogs and children
4. Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonkasweet in nature, warm temperament, good with other dogs and children, friendlychallenging to train, more independent, rare breed

Tips on Finding the Right Breeder

shih tzu and the right breeder
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Breeding dogs is a delicate process that requires great responsibility, dedication, and care on the breeder’s part. Responsible breeders will take the time to screen and evaluate every potential dog owner interested in buying a puppy.

On the other hand, as the dog parent, you should also be cautious when transacting with breeders. Buy from ethical and reputable breeders that will provide you with a healthy and well-behaved furry friend to take home.

Signs to look for in a responsible breeder

If you’re going to be a first-time fur parent, here are signs to look for to find the right breeder.

  1. The breeder is part of a parent club
  2. Long breeding experience
  3. Shows genuine concern for animals
  4. Provides necessary documents such as Hip Certification, Genetic Testing, Registration, and Bloodline
  5. Open to answering questions
  6. Implements health screening to ensure puppy’s health is in good condition
  7. Schedules a visit or video call to see the puppy
  8. They make sure that the puppy will live in a good home with good fur parents

What to avoid when looking for a breeder

Part of a dog owner’s responsibility is to be thorough in everything that involves our fur baby. In finding the right breeder, it’s also necessary to know the things to avoid when looking for one.

  1. They sell two to three litters of puppies at the same time
  2. Making false undocumented claims about the dog’s character
  3. Defensive when asked about their breeding practices
  4. Doesn’t allow visits
  5. If visits are allowed, the place where the puppies are bred doesn’t satisfy comfortable living conditions
  6. No pedigree information and registration documents available
  7. No medical history provided


Shih Tzus would make an excellent addition to your family! Their sweet and gentle nature makes them fantastic furry companions, and you can guarantee that you’ll have a loyal friend by your side.

It doesn’t take much effort to take care of them, and as long as you show them constant affection, they will love you just as much. Their sweet and warm personality will charm its way through your heart. Just make sure that if you want to take care of one of these little furballs of sunshine, you’re ready to spoil the heck out of them.

Hopefully, this article has shed light on some questions you have about Shih Tzus and given you additional information on what you need to know about the fun-loving dog breed.

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