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Shih Tzu Dog Breed Information, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

You’re a loyal and devoted pup parent and are looking for reliable Shih Tzu dog information.

Look no further, you’ve come to the right place.

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Information, Pictures, Characteristics

We’ve made this article with you in mind.

After scouring the internet for the most interesting and accurate information, we are ready to break down the nuances that make this breed special.

 

We all love our dogs, and the best way to show them that affection is for us to learn all we can about their beautiful breed.

 

Shih Tzu Dog Spotlight

  • These companion dogs are friendly and loving
  • Can be challenging for us to train (especially house breaking)
  • Keep an eye on teeth and gums (Shih Tzus have many dental problems)
  • Significant grooming requirements for healthy fur
  • Better with older children than younger kids and babies
  • Particularly prone to coprophagia (eating own feces)
  • Vulnerable to some health issues including heat stroke

Breed Information

Not a lot of breeds focus strictly on companionship.

The Shih Tzu is one of these breeds.

 

They are small canines with a reasonable height and weight range for their small statures.

When the Shih Tzu first became popular, it was as a canine companion.

 

In later years, us devoted pet parents have upped their skills with sports and agility competitiveness.

 

Name

  • Shih Tzu Dog

Other Names

  • Chrysanthemum Dog
  • Tibetan Lion Dog
  • Chinese Lion Dog
  • Little Lion
  • Lion Dog

History & Area of Origin

Though many facts remain mysteries, we know that these pups trace back to the area of the world now called Tibet.

Much of what we know is the result of genetic testing as opposed to history-traced fact.

 

At one point, these alert canines kept watch for the Monks, while providing affection and company.

There is a great deal of lore related to these interesting pups, from being reincarnated gods of the home, or the result of an esoteric elemental blending.

 

Size

It is no secret that these pups are small.

While there is no such thing as a ‘teacup’ Shih Tzu, the colloquialization is sensible, since these dogs can be very petite.

 

A great feature of these pups’ size is the fact that they fit into most all living situations.

Whether you reside in an apartment or on an acreage, there will be room for your Shih Tzu.

 

Height

Male: 9–10.5 inches (22.9-26.7 cm)

Shih Tzu dogs are unique when it comes to their height and weight presentation.

With most pups, the male will have a more imposing stature.

 

These canine companions have similar height for both genders.

 

Female: 9-10.5 inches (22.9-26.7 cm)

The female pups of this breed are just as tall as their male counterparts.

Since they are of small stature, it is easy for us to lose sight of some of the sizing nuances.

 

Usually, females will have a tinier bone structure than males.

An interesting part of this breed is that the dogs are of the same side, regardless of sex.

 

Puppies: 3–4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm)

Young dogs of the Shih Tzu breed are born incredibly small.

Depending on the size of the litter, your pup will be somewhere from three to four inches.

 

Generally speaking, shorter pups will have health problems later in life (relative to the low birth weight/size).                    

 

Weight

Male: 9-16 pounds (4.1-7.3 kg)

The comparable weight of male and female shih tzus make us love them all the more.

In many breeds, the male form leans towards muscle (thus making them heavier dogs).

 

These pups are fairly consistent across genders.

 

Female: 9-16 pounds (4.1-7.3 kg)

While many female dogs have significant adipose tissue, which surrounds their reproductive organs, women of this breed weigh in the same as their male counterparts.

Since weight (and its distribution via tissue) is a major component of temperament, this is another great feature that makes these dogs loveable.

 

Puppies: 4–8 pounds (1.8-3.6 kg)

The health of the pregnancy, and the size of the litter itself, significantly impacts the birth weight of shih tzu puppies. 

They are generally born in the four-pound range, accruing weight on a daily basis as they age.

 

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Purity: Purebred or Mixed Breed?

The question of purebred versus mixed breed has many components.

One is the genetic diversity of the dog’s line. Mixed breed dogs tend to have more outside genes in the pool.

 

This can prevent a number of health-related issues for the pup.

That said, it also leaves a number of health questions, since mixed breed dogs do not generally have tracked lineage for temperament or health.

 

Purebred dogs have easier to track behaviors and health monitoring.

Of course, we must consider the quality and reputation of the breeder.

 

Naturally, there will be a higher cost associated with the purebred decision.

Depending on the circumstances (and the pup as an individual) both are viable options. 

 

Temperament and Behavioral Nuances

When it comes to our beloved shih tzus and the attitudes which they espouse, the cause for our affection becomes abundantly clear.

These pups are kind and friendly, with a prideful demeanor.

 

Especially once we train the pup, they are very friendly with strangers and other animals.

Overall, these are highly social pups with a haughty demeanor which compliments their stolid attitudes.

 

Alertness 

Maybe it is the truth of the shih tzu’s origin story as a watchdog for Tibetan monks, or perhaps it is their great attitudes, but what we know is that these pups are enormously alert.

While remaining non-aggressive, they are aware of all surroundings.

 

With that in mind, they are one of the few breeds that tows the line between barking for fun and for communication.

Overall, they are highly alert and make great watch dogs.

 

Friendliness

The short answer is yes, these dogs are very friendly

Whether this shows up in cuddling or high energy depends on your pup themselves.

 

That said, their joyful energy couples with a desire to please their human families (a trait of dogs bred for companionship).

Overall, these smiling dogs are incredibly friendly in most all situations.

 

Gentle

Gentleness and gentle intentions are two different beasts.

While the shih tzu is an entirely non-aggressive pup, they are playful and energetic

 

For this reason, it is best that we supervise their interactions with children.

Provided the pup is around older children (past the toddler stage), there should be no concerns, and their desired gentleness presents.

 

Outgoing

One of the reasons we love these dogs for family settings is the fact that they are so high energy (and eager to share that vivacity).

Outgoing personalities match a good temperament, making these dogs friendly in just about every situation.

 

Their forward personality is one of the major draws for households with children- like ours.

These pups fit well into the culture of family homes

 

Personality

Jovial, lighthearted, and energetic are the three top traits of these adorable, pocket-sized pups.

They are friendly and always looking to please.

 

Though they are alert of their surroundings, Shih Tzus are great at keeping barks to a minimum.

Personality-wise, they need to gain the approval of their human caretakers.

 

Provided we show them sufficient love and affection, these happy dogs will continue to embrace the best parts of their entirely non-aggressive personalities.

 

Coat Types

The Shih Tzu has two separate and differentiated coat types with some strange caveats to their coats.

For one, this breed has hair, not fur.

 

This makes them great for allergic pet-parents and families.

Hair grows long, easily exceeding three inches and is typically thinner than fur.

 

Shedding occurs over three cycles, where it is either shedding, renewing, or fortifying.

The overcoat and undercoat work together to keep the pup warm and protected.

 

Coat Colors

The colors of shih tzus usually fall within eight categories including: liver, white, black, blue, brindle, gold, silver, or red.

If your pup has solid coloring, it will likely fall into one of these categories.

 

In terms of mixed coat color, the contrast will almost always be against white fur, where it pairs with one of the above noted coat colors.

Regardless of the patterning, these Chrysanthemum dogs are consistently adorable.

 

Eyes

Partly due to the nature of Shih Tzu fur, and partly due to their ophthalmologic setup, these pups are vulnerable to tear staining and eye infections. 

When we properly groom our dogs, this is generally not a large concern.

 

Wipe their eyes daily and trim hair routinely to avoid significant issues.

Always follow veterinarian advice, especially when it comes to this sensitive organ.

 

Nose

Depending on the climate that you live in, there can be some issues with the Shih Tzu nose.

The short snout offers limited space for the nasal mucus to cool/heat air before it gets to the lungs.

 

Problems arise in hot areas, when the pup does not have the proper time to cool down.

Prevent these issues with sufficient water and access to shade.

 

Remember that, on hot days, these pups are better off indoors.

 

Tail

Based on the standards as set forth by the American Kennel Club, the Shih Tzu tail should be set high and curve significantly.

If your pup’s tail doesn’t meet these standards, fret not, there are plenty of Shih Tzus who do not have these high-standard tails.

 

They are not traditionally docked and are generally quite short.

These valuable appendages provide sensory awareness and balance; two ingredients critical to canine health.

 

Litter Size: 1 – 5 Puppies

The ideal count of a Shih Tzu litter is three.

If the mother has a smaller litter, especially if you are breeding intentionally, it will put overall strain on her system.

 

A litter that is too large will cause reduced birth weight and size of the pups.

Three is an ideal number to reduce the chance of runts and prevent health problems for both the puppies and the mother (during and after gestation).

 

Life Span: 10-16 Years

The ages referenced here is accurate provided we take proper care of the dog.

It also does not factor in unusual genetic conditions or health issues.

 

If we give our shih tzu’s a healthy diet and proper exercise, there is no reason they cannot achieve the higher end of this life span.

Naturally, as any dog ages, there will be health concerns regarding general metabolic slowdown, joint health, etc.

 

Shih Tzu Care Specifics

When we meet the exact demands of our beloved dog’s breed, their overall health and quality of life improves drastically.

Companion dogs have exacting needs, particularly in terms of care and overall affection.

 

Ensure that you have a dedicated part of your schedule for cuddles (or the playful equivalent).

Care is more than physical; it encompasses the psychological and emotional.

 

Account for these needs to ensure your pup is happy.

 

Grooming Requirement

The demands for a properly groomed Shih Tzu is high; since, when properly maintained, these are some of the most aesthetic pups out there.

Brush your dog daily, make sure you trim the nails, and keep up on dentistry.

 

If in doubt, there are a plethora of very qualified professional groomers who can meet the specific needs of this beautiful breed.

 

Exercise Requirement

  • A little exercise goes a long way with these pups
  • Shih Tzus are energetic dogs, ensure that they don’t overdo it
  • Whenever possible, incorporate play into exercise
  • Limit outdoor time for these dogs due to elemental sensitivities
  • When your dog exercises, monitor their breathing and overall attitude
  • Hydration is key to proper exercise (bring water with you)
  • The energy level of these dogs mandates less intensive exercise

 

Health Requirement

  • These dogs are generally healthy, but subject to some common issues
  • Problems include luxating patella (slippage of knee joints)
  • Dental problems arise from the small mouth and jaw size
  • Kidney issues are common (make sure your breeder checks for this)
  • Skin issues can arise (keep an eye on food allergens)
  • Proper diet and exercise routines mitigate many health concerns
  • Prevent dental issues with regular brushing and a food that helps with plaque
  • Limit time outdoors (especially in the heat) to prevent breathing problems
  • Shih Tzus are prone to overheating so ensure they are groomed and can access shade

 

Training Requirement

  • Training (even when challenging) is straightforward
  • Take the time to make a plan and stick to it
  • Clear communication is key when setting rules
  • Consistency is imperative for the dogs proper understanding
  • Positive reinforcement boasts great results
  • Find a treat the pup likes and use it for that purpose exclusively
  • Keep things simple and elaborate over time
  • Setting clear goals improves success and mood
  • Though these dogs are so friendly, they benefit from a firm hand during training

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Info

Physical Characteristics Of Shih Tzu

From a small stature to beautiful energy, the physical properties of these dogs is one of their key draws.

Cute doesn’t begin to cover the pluming tail and long hair that patterns these friendly pups. Short legs and a small frame match a short snout.

 

Floppy ears droop down beside beady eyes. Whether it is carriage or facial features, these dogs are clear companions.

 

Adaptability

The ability to adapt is critical to dogs who live in urban environments.

Often, when dogs are alert and communicative, there will be the drawback of them not being able to adjust to new parameters.

 

Shih Tzus, however, are remarkably willing and able to adapt to new situations.

Especially when praised and shown love, these dogs are able to mold to new circumstances with ease.

 

Another Dog Friendly

These dogs are special because of their willingness to get along with other dogs (and all other pets for that matter).

Shih Tzus are friendly and since they do not bark all the time, they are not overwhelming to other pups.

Whether it is at a dog park or in the home, these pups get on well with others.

 

Shedding Level

Though these dogs are light shedders, beware of the common fallacy that these pups do not shed at all.

Follicular turnover keeps the dog from overheating and improves general health.

 

Shedding reduces when we groom our dogs regularly.

While it may seem time consuming to brush daily, it saves you time in the long run.

 

Affection Level

It is no secret that Shih Tzus are incredibly affectionate (especially with their pup-parents).

This level of affection makes them great for homes that have children- like ours.

 

These friendly dogs bond well with people, and the moderate level of energy keeps them out of trouble.

An entire lack of aggression facilitates affection.

 

Exercise Needs

Moderate exercise is best for these pups.

Since they are primarily suited to indoor conditions, keep these pups healthy by making using small spaces for fun purposes.

 

Exercise doesn’t need to be exacting; just enough for the dog to stay engaged and to get proper blood flow to the muscles.

Whether it is a short walk, or play in the living room, these dogs are best with slow and steady physical exertion.

 

Social Needs

Interpersonal (or inter-canine) needs of the companion dog are fairly straightforward.

These dogs need love and affection.

 

You will find the ideal way to display this love to your dog (without compromising rules and boundaries).

Whether it is through treats, petting, grooming, or just spending time, the attention you give to your pup is key to meeting social needs.

 

Apartment Friendly

Since Shih Tzus prefer indoor environments and require very little space, they are ideal apartment pets.

Urban settings suit these pups in every regard, this is especially true considering their limited barking and moderate energy level).

 

Provided they receive sufficient attention and time, this breed has no issues with living in an apartment.

 

Grooming

This demand is one of the most exacting features of these dogs.

Whether it is nail trimming (necessary for proper walking comfort), tooth brushing (critical for dental health), or brushing (for optimal coat shininess), these pups have demanding needs from their pup parents.

 

Make a schedule and stick to it. In this way, you can ensure that your pup gets all the care and attention they need.

 

Stranger Friendly

There are exceptions to every rule (and the Shih Tzu is no different).

While most of them are stranger friendly, there are a few that will resist new people.

 

Proper training mitigates this behavior.

Overall, however, this breed is fantastic with new people since they are looking to make friends everywhere they go.

 

Barking Tendencies

The limited barking proclivity of this breed is a major component to their success in apartment settings.

Of course, the pup will bark from time to time.

 

That said, it is easy to get them to stop once started.

Additionally, these dogs tend to yap as a communication method as opposed to for attention-seeking reasons.

 

Common Health Issues of this Breed

Every creature has their own health issues.

They are written into our genes and aggravated by circumstances ranging from diet to exposure to pollution.

 

Shih Tzus tend towards dental issues resulting from small mouths.

Problems include poorly aligned teeth which can lead to pain and abscesses.

 

Like many other pups of their size, kneecaps pose an issue.

Especially as they age, these joints slip out of place.

 

Supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin to mitigate this risk.

Internally speaking, these pups are healthy except for the tendency for kidney troubles.

 

Even when breeders test for this issue, the test may prove incorrect or inconclusive.

Regular veterinary visits keep you ahead of the curve when it comes to all health issues.

 

Territorial 

Territorialism is common with small dogs, and Shih Tzus are not exempt.

Since they have a small stature, it leads to natural defensiveness of the area your pup has come to know as their own. 

 

These dogs, in general, are very kind, so clear communication and proper training reduce territorialism.

Give your pup a space to be just theirs.

 

This way, we can control the behavior and keep it in check.

 

Cat Friendly

Experts are still out on the matter of Shih Tzus and cats.

Ultimately, it is a matter of the pup as an individual (as well as the cat in question).

 

Assuming we properly train our dog, there should be no problems.

That said, there are a great many Shih Tzus who are not feline friendly.

 

Ask your breeder if this is of particular concern to your family.

 

Intelligence

This dog breed is fantastically intelligent.

They love to engage, learn, and grow. Perhaps this is a result of years as companions.

 

Regardless of the cause, Shih Tzus are great at learning.

The mark of intelligence in canines is the ability to gain information and apply same.

 

These pups have this skill in spades.

To properly engage your pup, keep things creative.

 

Find engaging games and use play as a method of teaching.

 

Trainability

The short and simple answer is that these dogs are not easy to train.

High intelligence meets moderate energy levels and causes these pups to be challenging to train.

 

Once we housebreak them, things get a lot easier.

So long as you are firm and consistent (while balancing these traits with affection) the process should be fairly speedy.

 

Expect delays when training these pups, but don’t let discouragement get to you. Once the training is complete, the bond is very strong.  

 

Child Friendly

The success with children depends on two primary factors.

Firstly, the age and maturity of the pup is an important consideration.

 

Is the dog mature?

If so, there is less concern.

 

If they are young, then caution is diligent.

The second consideration is the age of the child.

 

Younger children cannot understand how to properly handle small dogs.

Be prudent when young children are around young dogs and you can likely prevent all issues.

 

Playfulness

Compared to some other small breed dogs, the energy level of Shih Tzus is moderate.

That said, they have generally high levels of playfulness.

 

Since they do not need much physical exertion, they meet most movement needs through play itself.

Overall, these are highly engaging pups that are most always eager to game and play.

 

Watchdog Ability

A long time ago (but still within evolutionary reach) these dogs kept watch for Tibetan monks.

Their strong aptitude coupled with situational awareness gives them all the skills needed to succeed in this role.

 

Another benefit is that they are not particularly loud dogs.

Watchdogs are best when they bark only at the proper cue.

 

These dogs meet this demand terrifically.

 

Other Pets

Families adore these pups (mine certainly does).

One of the key causes for this adoration is how great Shih Tzus are with other pets.

 

Naturally, the dog needs proper training.

When we care for our pups, they return the favor through proper behavior with our other furry friends.

 

This breed is particularly great with other canines- regardless of the breed.

 

Nutritional Guidelines

Kibble is the best go-to food for these pups.

Find a diet that is high in meat-based protein.

 

Food that avoids bulking agents and by-products is a good choice as a dietary staple.

Since these pups are so small, it is important to make every calorie count.

 

Look out for food high in vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, and fibre.

A properly balanced diet is critical to health. When in doubt, find a food designed for small breed dogs.

 

Puppy

Young dogs focus on growing.

They have significant appetites and require frequent feedings.

 

Try for at least three times a day.

Ensure that your pup finishes their entire serving before adding new food.

 

This will keep food from going bad and provide you with a good idea of how many calories your Shih Tzu pup is taking into their system.

 

Adult

Metabolisms vary from pup to pup and are susceptible to a number of circumstances including climate.

Because of this, guidelines fall within a range of ¾ cups to 1 ¼ cups of food per day for every ten pounds of dog.

 

Break feeding into two separate meals for improved digestion.

Due to their small mouths, find a kernel that is petite enough to avoid gastric distress.

 

Famous Shih Tzu Dog All Over the World

 

#1 Katherine Heigl’s Cute Shih Tzu

The ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ actress came to be well known across the world after having a key role in this serial drama.

Outside of producing great television, another reason we adore this actress is her adorable pet Shih Tzu.

 

Heigl is the parent of two kids and credits her parenting skills to what she learned as a pup-parent. 

 

#2 Bill Gates the Tech Billionaire

One of the most humanizing ways to look at a celebrity is seeing their bond with their puppies.

Gates is no exception to this rule.

 

After making billions in the technology industry, this genius may seem unrelatable.

That all changes when we see his smile light up in the presence of his Shih Tzu named Ballmer.

 

#3 Princess Margaret’s Pup

With the beautiful personalities of these pups, it is no surprise that they would fit well into the lives of royalty.

A great example of this cohesiveness is the adorable Shih Tzu named Choo Choo.

 

Princess Margaret is in a number of photographs on many different occasions walking this friendly furball. 

 

#4 Queen B’s Shih Tzu

Albeit a different kind of royalty, this American singing sensation has become, in effect, pop culture royalty.

While we may seem far outside of this singer/director/actress’s sphere, her pup named Munchie lets us know that we all have things in common.

 

Photographed together numerous times, this adorable dog makes Beyoncé even better (were that possible).

 

#5 Jon Stewart’s Dog

It’s no secret that Jon Stewart is a huge fan of animals.

He supports a number of animal welfare charities and causes.

 

Perhaps one of the causes for this is his adorable Shih Tzu pup.

Seen on multiple occasions together, Jon Stewart and his smiling canine companion make a great pair.

 

#6 Dalai Lama’s Shih Tzu Passion

Since these dogs originate out of Tibet, it makes sense that the greatest icon of the area is a passionate fan of the breed.

He has been the pet-parent of over five dogs of this breed.

 

That said, he is public about the fact that his favorite is the Shih Tzu named Senge, a friendly and furry dog.

 

#7 Mariah Carey’s Duo

This well-known singer with incredible range of voice is also a vocal fan of this dog breed.

The love of dogs only adds to this American pop culture icon’s popularity.

 

She is the proud owner of a pair of these pups. On more than one occasion she has been spotted walking these smiling dogs in and around Hollywood.

 

#8 Colin Farrell’s Pet Pup

A true meet cute, this popular Hollywood actor (featured on everything from drama to action) met his current Shih Tzu on a movie set.

During the filming of the blockbuster hit ‘Seven Psychopaths’, Farrell met the pup named Bony.

 

The two have been inseparable since that time.

They are often out on the town together on many occasions.

 

Bringing Home Your Shih Tzu

The key to having a good experience when bringing home a pet is clearly defining your pup rearing goals.

First decide if you are going to adopt, or source your to-be pet from a professional breeder.

 

Make a list of questions including lineage, temperament, and potential health concerns. Ensure that these are satisfactorily answered.

There are plenty of these pups looking for a great home. 

 

So long as you know what to expect, the experience will go off without a hitch.

 

How Much Does a Shih Tzu Cost?

  • Prices range depending on the source of the dog
  • In USD the cost of a pup varies from $400 to $2500
  • Lower ends of the price range originate from pet stores or adoption centres
  • When adopting, expect a price of $400 to $500
  • If seeking out a breeder, prices range from $900 to $2500
  • These cost values are only to obtain the dog, not associated costs like food, kennels, etc.

Breed Group

Toy Group

Toy breed dogs cover a variety of breeds.

Generally speaking, it refers to the size of the canine itself.

 

Since these companion canines are petite in stature, they fit the definition of a toy dog perfectly.

Determination of breed group is by the American Kennel Club.

 

Under this scope, the pup is clearly defined as a toy breed dog.

 

National Breed Clubs

 

Rescue Groups

FAQs

Are Shih Tzus Hypoallergenic?

Since these dogs have hair instead of fur, they are favorable for those with allergies.

They are technically a hypoallergenic breed.

 

Consider this dog if anyone in your household meets canine allergies or sensitivities.

 

Are Shih Tzus Good for First-time Owners?

The temperaments of these fun-loving dogs makes them fantastic as a first pup.

Of course, there is a learning curve to canine care. 

 

That said, these pups are friendly and easy going (while being fairly low maintenance).

Once training is complete, these dogs are great for first-time pup parents.

 

Do Shih Tzus Bark A Lot?

Generally speaking, no, these dogs don’t bark an enormous amount.

They bark for communication as opposed to attention.

 

It makes them ideal watch dogs and low-stress pets for families and apartment-dwellers.

 

Can Shih Tzus Live Alone for A Long Time in A Day?

Companion dogs do better with company.

They can withstand isolation for short periods of time; however, given their propensity for interaction, they are always better when kept close to their pup parents.

 

The Ever-Adorable Shih Tzu

Now that we have gone over all the reasons to love these furry friends, was there anything that surprised you?

For me, it is learning the nuances of these pups around children.

 

I love their friendliness and eagerness to be a part of the family.

As a devoted pet-parent, you probably know some of these facts.

 

We’d love to learn from your experience.

Give us a shout in the comments to let us know your Shih Tzu stories.

 

Tell us what you’ll keep in mind when adopting one of these adorable furballs.

If this article made you smile, share it on so it can find other passionate Shih Tzu parents and pals.

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