Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu: Breed Information, Characteristics, and Facts

The first expression that comes out when people spot a Shih Tzu dog for the first time is “aww wow!” That mini lion look is nothing short of adorable. Those large dark eyes are impossible to ignore. That adorable face covered in fur is comical and perfectly adorable at the same time. Those tiny legs hidden behind thick hair are delightfully adorable. And oh! That mischievous and affectionate temperament cannot be left out. Little wonder the Shih Tzu Dog is a head-turner wherever it goes – a mini-celebrity. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the Shih Tzu dog breed if you are planning on getting one or just being curious.

Shih tzu dog

History of the Shih Tzu

First of all, we have to get the proper pronunciation out of the way. Shih Tzu is pronounced “sheet-zu” among english speakers, and “sher-zer” in China. But, before we proceed, let us travel back to learn about the history of the Shih Tzu breed. And, just in case you were wondering, this dog breed has no biological relation whatsoever with a lion. Although not too much is known about the origin of this breed of dog, the Shih Tzu can be traced back to Tibet all the way back to around the seventh century. This makes it one of the most ancient breeds of dogs. It is believed to have been bred by Tibetan lamas to resemble a miniature lion. This is because of the role of mythical lions in Buddhism. It is believed to have been the smallest of the Lhasa Apsos at that time and was mainly given to the Buddist monks as companions and watchdogs. The Shih Tzus were surrounded by so many myths concerning their purpose. Some even believed that the tiny creatures held the spirits of the lamas who passed away before they could reach nirvana.

The lamas later presented these dogs as presents to the Chinese Emperor as well as other Chinese rulers as the breed of dog we now know today. The breed was officially given the name Shih Tzu in the Chinese Imperial court to mean a lion dog or a little lion. However, because of the comical way in which the dog’s facial fur covers its face in all directions, it was also given the name chrysanthemum, just like the chrysanthemum flower. The Shih Tzu breed found its way to England from China. Later on, some of them were shipped to the United States of America. The communist revolt in China led to discontinuation in breeding this dog, and the original breeding process is still shrouded in mystery. However, it is believed by many that the ancestral parents are the Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dogs. Later on, the Drop-Eared Hunting Dog evolved from the Gobi Desert Dog. Specific breeding processes led to the Shih Tzu after several years later.

Quick Facts About The Shih Tzu

Here are some quick facts you need to know about the Shih Tzu.

  • As mentioned earlier, the correct pronunciation in English is “sheet-zu.”
  • Weight: The average weight of the Shih Tzu Dog ranges from nine pounds to sixteen pounds. This is the same for both male and female dogs.
  • Height: You know by now that the Shih Tzu is a small dog breed. It stands at a height of ten inches. This is the same for both male and female dogs. It is classified as a toy dog breed.
  • Presently, this dog is bred purposely as a lap dog and a companion.
  • Coat: It has a long hair coat that requires serious maintenance. The coat can appear in many different colors and color patterns.
  • Features: It has a squashed face with naturally floppy ears and a round head. It has large dark eyes with short legs. Aside from its underbelly, the whole of its body is covered in long fur. This includes its face.
  • Life Expectancy: A healthy Shih Tzu has an average life expectancy of eleven years to fourteen years.
  • Growth: Shih Tzu puppies grow quickly. They reach adult size in about ten months.
  • It requires a lot of playtime and exercise. It is affectionate, mischievous, perky, lively, and friendly.
  • Types: There are different types of Shih Tzu dogs. These are the American Shih Tzu, the European Shih Tzu, the Imperial Shih Tzu, and the Teacup Shih Tzu dog.

Shih Tzu puppy

Things You Should Know About The Shih Tzu

This segment is for you if you are planning on getting yourself a Shih Tzu dog. We will tell give you all the important information you need concerning feeding, grooming, health, temperament, and training of this dog breed.


Do not be fooled by its small size. The Shih Tzu dog can be very difficult to housebreak. It has quite a personality that is bigger than its body. It also tends to have a mind of its own and can, therefore, pose a challenge to any novice when it comes to training it. It is best to start crate training this dog while it is a puppy. It is also easier this way. When crate-training the Shih Tzu puppy, start with a small dog crate. It should only be big enough for the puppy to turn around and snuggle in. Place the crate at the pup’s favorite location in the house. To encourage the little guy to use it, lure it with some treats. Toss a few dog treats in the crate as often as you can. Once the puppy gets used to being comfortable in it, you can begin shutting the door for a few minutes while you are still there. Then feed it through the door. Try this as often as you can until your puppy starts going into the crate on its own.


Just like any other dog, the Shih Tzu requires a balanced diet that is rich in protein. Protein in food for Shih Tzus is essential in ensuring that they get the proper fuel for their lean muscles. Protein also helps to support a healthy heart and brain. But because the Shih Tzu is a very active dog, it should have a healthy amount of carbohydrates in its diet to give it a healthy reserve of readily-available energy to burn. An adult Shih Tzu should have a recommended daily amount of one or two cups of high-quality dry dog food or a can of wet dog food a day. It is best to rotate between wet and dry dog food as the wet food will give the dog’s body enough moisture. Be careful not to feed your dog with too many carbohydrates as this can make even the super active Shih Tzu overweight. In addition to a healthy meal, you should always make sure that your dog has enough clean drinking water. Change the water every day and clean the bowl on each occasion. The Shih Tzu is not a picky eater. Thus it will finish off basically anything you serve it with. Thus, if you are planning to feed it with raw food, always make sure that the protein content is at least sixty percent. Carbohydrates should not go beyond fifteen percent. Allow the Shih Tzu puppy to get enough milk from its mother. If you are planning to purchase a puppy, it is best to feed it with already-made high-quality puppy food only.

You may also like our review of Dog Food for Picky Dogs.


Taking care of the coat of the Shih Tzu is not for the faint-hearted. These little guys require a lot of work to keep their fur coat in top-notch condition. In order to prevent tangling, the long silky fur needs to be brushed daily. Always use a soft brush with strong bristles and start brushing your dog while it is still a puppy, so you both get used to the hard work quite early. Because of the presence of so much fur, be sure to brush down to the skin of the dog. This will also help to remove anything trapped in the fur. To make things easy, you can train your puppy to lie on its side when it is brushing time. Brush gently in the direction of the flow of the fur. As the puppy reaches adulthood, the coat will gradually change from a fluffy one to a silky one. One the first couple of months, expect a lot of mating as you brush. But do not be alarmed as it is only temporary. After two or three months, the full silkiness of the dog’s coat will emerge, and brushing it will be less difficult. You should bathe your dog at least two times a week. Always use a dog shampoo. Trim its nails once every month and inspect the insides of its ears for wax build-up. If grooming this breed of dog is too much work for you, you can also hire the services of professional dog groomers.

Check out some of our dog grooming guides, such as the best dry dog shampoo, best dog shampoo for puppies, best dog shedding brush and best dog grooming clippers.


Generally, the Shih Tzu is a healthy breed of dog. But like any other breed of dog, these little guys are prone to certain health issues.

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia causes a deformation of the socket of the hip. This can lead to an awkward posture, lameness, and severe pain.
  • Juvenile renal dysplasia: Your Shih Tzu puppy is more prone to this disease as it affects mainly young dogs. Juvenile renal dysplasia is a disorder that will cause the dog to thirst often and excessively. It will also cause it to drink a lot of water as a result. This will lead to urinating frequently. Other symptoms of juvenile renal dysplasia include frequent vomiting, lack of energy, and loss of weight.
  • Infections of the bladder: There is a myriad of factors that can lead to bladder infections and kidney stones. Some of the factors include the consumption of too much low-quality protein and bacterial infections. Symptoms include frequent urination, loss of appetite, urine mixed with blood, and pain during urinating.
  • Eye and ear infections: Because of the large eyes that Shih Tzus have, eye infections are quite frequent. These can be caused by bacteria and germs. They include progressive retinal atrophy, distichiasis, proptosis, and keratitis. Ear infections can also be frequent because of the floppy nature of the Ears of Shih Tzus. Their ear canals are usually warm and moist. This is an ideal breeding place for a variety of germs and bacteria. Be sure to always inspect your dog’s ears and clean them regularly.
  • Always make it a habit to visit the veterinarian as often as possible to conduct general health examinations. Be sure to give your dog a lot of exercise and a balanced diet to keep it healthy. Try as much as possible to keep your dog indoors.


The Shih Tzu personality is an outgoing one. Aside from its adorable looks, one of the main things that people love about this breed of dog is its personality. It is perky, friendly, and lively. A lot of people have described the Shih Tzu temperament as one befitting of a perfect companion. And, from its history, this breed of dog was intended to be a companion and a watchdog. Albeit, the latter is not quite a part of them. Also, do not get a Shih Tzu and expect it to go hunting with you, retrieve game, or play the role of a guard dog. This breed of dog prefers to be cuddled, played with, and does not mind being a lap dog or a couch potato. The Shih Tzu loves affection and does not want to be alone for too long. Thus, if you are planning on getting one, be sure that you can afford to spend a lot of time with it. It is smart, alert, and very sociable. It can easily adapt to any size of family and can be a very good companion to kids. Just make sure to train your kids on how to treat it.

Check our our article on: 35 Adorable and Irresistible Shih Tzu Mixes

To Summarize

In conclusion, the Shih Tzu dog breed is as adorable as it looks. It has the perfect personality to be an ideal canine companion. It is smart, energetic, friendly, and affectionate. However, it is also the kind of dog that requires a lot of time and attention not only in giving it enough playtime but also in grooming it. If you are planning on getting one, make sure you can check all the boxes pertaining to its proper care. If you are certain that this breed of dog is for you, then what else are you waiting for?


  1. Shih Tzu Dog Breed Field Guide, PetMD
  2. Shih Tz, VCA Hospitals

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