Shih Tzu Overview

Dog Breed:
Shih Tzu
Breed Group:
Toy group
Loving, affectionate, charming, sweet, spirited
9-10.5 inches
9-16 pounds
Life Span:
10-18 years
Coat Colors:
Black, white, blue, brindle, gold, liver, red, and silver. Any of these colours can be combined with white. Markings can be black, tan, or white. A black mask is also often seen in the breed.
Area of Origin:
China Best
Best For:
First time dog owners
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Shih Tzus
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Shih Tzus
Mixed Breeds:
ShiChi, Shiranian, Shinese, Bully-Tzu, Pug-Zu, Schweenie & Shih-Poo

Shih Tzu Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Shih Tzu

  • Excellent for first time dog owners

  • Loving and affectionate to family, friends, other pets, and strangers

  • Well-suited to any type of living situation, including apartments


The Shih Tzu is a delightful little breed that enjoys pride of place as a cherished family companion. A dog breed known for its immense charms, the Shih Tzu is a lover of all people but reserves its greatest affections for children

The Shih Tzu originated as a pampered house pet for royalty in China. Today’s Shih Tzus continue to enjoy the life of luxury; whether it is in a palace, a home, or an apartment. The Shih Tzu’s most preferred activity is nestling in the lap of its beloved owner. 

A breed believed to trace its roots to the Ming Dynasty, the Shih Tzu is easily identified by its lustrous floor-length locks and sophisticated topknot. Though the breed communicates its own brand of arrogance, the Shih Tzu is anything but conceited. The breed is known for its loving, affectionate nature and is a spirited and loyal family pet

The Shih Tzu is a breed that commands attention. Their primary purpose was always simply to be an excellent companion, a role it continues to fulfil well. The breed has never met a stranger and loves family, friends, other dogs, and newcomers with equal fervor. 

The breed is easily adaptable to any living situation, including apartment life. The Shih Tzu has low activity requirements but should still be walked daily to maintain a good body condition. 

The Shih Tzu is an excellent breed for first time dog owners

Shih Tzu Breed History

  • One of the world’s oldest dog breeds

  • Developed during the Ming Dynasty

  • Name translates to “lion dog,” a reference to the dog’s appearance

The Shih Tzu traces its heritage to the Ming Dynasty in China. It is believed that the breed was developed by servants of the Chinese emperor who devoted themselves to the creation of the ideal companion dog using Tibetan dogs as the foundation of their breeding program. Experts assert that the modern-day Shih Tzu was achieved through the thoughtful crossbreeding of Lhaso Apsos and Pekingese

A dog with ancient origins, many experts assert that the Shih Tzu bears the distinction of being one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Early reports maintain that Kubla Khan was an aficionado of the breed, housing many Shih Tzus alongside his lions. However, the dogs were not used as game. Their calm demeanour helped the lions to remain in a relaxed state. 

The name Shih Tzu translates to “lion dog.” The primary purpose of the Shih Tzu was always to be a cherished lap dog to charm and delight the emperor and his family members. The Shih Tzu quickly became a common gift bestowed by the emperor upon his most valued friends. 

In the 1930’s, the breed finally moved from the palace to mainstream homes. The Shih Tzu was further developed in England before being included in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1969. 

Today, the Shih Tzu enjoys worldwide popularity and retains its function as a beloved family pet. 

Shih Tzu Size & Weight

  • Mature Shih Tzus stand between 9” and 10.5” at the shoulder

  • Mature Shih Tzus weight between 9 and 16 pounds

  • High grooming requirements


The average adult Shih Tzu stands between 9” to 10.5” at the shoulder. Its weight ranges from 9-16 pounds. 

The main consideration families must bear in mind when considering a Shih Tzu is the breed’s high grooming requirements. Daily brushing is a must to keep this breed’s coat in good condition. Alternatively, families can keep the dog’s coat clipped down to reduce the amount of daily upkeep required. 

Shih Tzu Personality & Temperament

  • Lively and spirited

  • A lover of all people and animals

  • Intelligent but can be stubborn


The Shih Tzu’s jovial personality makes it the ideal family companion. A happy little breed, the Shih Tzu is very social and enjoys the company of all people and animals, eagerly making friends wherever it goes. 

The Shih Tzu relishes its role as a beloved family companion which was its primary purpose. The breed has low activity requirements, meaning a simple walk once a day is ample to meet this breed’s exercise needs. 

A breed that thrives when the center of attention, the Shih Tzu does not enjoy time spent alone. They are deeply affectionate and reserve their greatest fondness for children. Though the Shih Tzu is very patient, loving, and kind with kids, all interactions should be carefully supervised to observe the utmost safety precautions. 

The Shih Tzu will alert bark when it detects unusual sounds but is not a particularly vocal breed. The breed is naturally curious and spirited. They make poor watchdogs as every person they meet is an instant friend. 

Shih Tzus are well-renowned for enjoying the company of other pets. They are gentle of nature, making them easily accepted into a multi-pet household. To ensure harmony in the home, it is recommended that all introductions occur in a neutral setting. 

A breed that is quite intelligent, the Shih Tzu can easily learn new skills. However, they can be stubborn at times. 

The Shih Tzu will thrive in any living condition, including apartments. Regular exercise should still be provided on a daily basis. 

The Shih Tzu’s coat allows the breed to enjoy time outdoors in chilly temperatures. However, the Shih Tzu is not a fan of heat. This breed should be housed indoors with its family. 


Shih Tzu Health & Grooming

  • Very high grooming requirements

  • Face must be cleaned daily

  • Not known for drooling


The Shih Tzu typically enjoys good health. However, as with all dog breeds, the Shih Tzu can be prone to certain health conditions. Conscientious breeders will screen their breeding dogs for all potential ailments common to the Shih Tzu to help try to prevent the spread of inherited disease in future offspring. The most common health problems which can plague the Shih Tzu are allergies, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, juvenile renal dysplasia, bladder stones and infections, eye problems, ear infections, retained baby teeth, umbilical hernias, and portosystemic liver shunts. 

The Shih Tzu’s coat requires a lot of grooming to keep in excellent condition. Daily brushing is an absolute must to maintain this breed’s silky locks. It is recommended that the Shih Tzu be brushed daily with a good quality pin brush. 

The Shih Tzu’s topknot and mustache also require daily care via combing. To keep this breed’s eyes in tip top condition, they should be cleaned each day using a soft, wet cloth. 

Because of the length of the top knot and surrounding facial hair, the Shih Tzu’s eyes can easily become irritated. Experts advise keeping this area neatly trimmed to prevent problems. 

For families that prefer to not have to commit to a rigorous grooming regimen, the Shih Tzu can be clipped into a lower maintenance coat. This breed sheds moderately year-round. 

The Shih Tzu should be bathed on an as-needed basis. Their ears should be inspected at least once weekly to ensure they remain clean. Regular dental care and nail trims are also critical to keep the Shih Tzu healthy. 

Since hair will grow in the Shih Tzu’s ears, many experts recommend removing this to prevent ear problems from occurring. The Shih Tzu’s face becomes soiled from eating and drinking and also must be cleaned each day. 

The Shih Tzu will easily gain weight if their food intake is not monitored

The breed is not known for excessive drooling. 

Shih Tzu Training

  • Responds best to positive reinforcement

  • Can be manipulative

  • Is not prone to wandering


Though Shih Tzus are quite intelligent, they can also be very obstinate. This means training the breed requires creativity, finesse, and very yummy treats. The average Shih Tzu can learn the basic obedience commands in approximately a month with consistent practice. 

The Shih Tzu can be manipulative and will work its magic to try to distract its owner from the task at hand. Firm boundaries will help the training sessions to proceed more smoothly. Positive reinforcement methods are best for this sensitive, soft-natured breed. Aversive training techniques should never be used with the Shih Tzu. 

The Shih Tzu is a very mouthy breed and must be taught to use its teeth appropriately. This is best accomplished through redirecting the dog’s teeth and attention to a ball, toy, or bone when it attempts to connect with skin. 

The breed can be somewhat prey driven but is not particularly prone to wandering. 

The Shih Tzu will alert bark but is not predisposed to being very vocal.  

Shih Tzu Exercise Requirements

  • Responds best to positive reinforcement

  • Can be manipulative

  • Is not prone to wandering


The Shih Tzu generally has quite low activity requirements. A simple walk per day of approximately 20 minutes is sufficient to keep this breed healthy and happy. The Shih Tzu is an amiable exercise companion, viewing activity as an opportunity to be social. 

The Shih Tzu prefers the sedentary lifestyle; however, too much of that way of life can easily lead to an overweight dog. Daily walks or sufficient activity through play time are a must for this breed. 

Shih Tzus do not do well in hot climates. Exercise should be limited to the most moderate temperatures of the day. Heat exhaustion is common in the breed during bouts of extremely hot and humid weather. 

Shih Tzus enjoy jumping; however, this activity can lead to injury and should be discouraged. This dog breed does have lots of energy; however, it is does not require a large amount of activity to remain physically and mentally satisfied. 

The Shih Tzu is a very playful dog that thrives when spending time with its family. 

Shih Tzu Diet & Feeding

  • Puppies should eat puppy food

  • Adults should eat adult food

  • Adjust meal sizes to reflect activity level


To ensure the Shih Tzu receives a diet that is appropriate for its development and health, it Is wise to discuss this matter with a veterinarian. In general, Shih Tzus thrive on a high-quality diet that is properly balanced to support their age, health, and activity level. 

Puppies should be fed puppy food to help support their developing bodies. Adult dogs should receive a diet that takes their needs into careful consideration. 

To determine the correct amount of food to feed a Shih Tzu, the bag of food will offer serving size suggestions. These can be a starting point and should be adjusted to reflect the dog’s activity level. The dog’s weight and appetite will serve as helpful guidelines. 

Careful attention must be paid to the Shih Tzu’s body condition as this breed gains weight very easily

You may also be interested in:

Shih Tzu Rescue Groups


For more information about Shih Tzus available for adoption near you, we recommend the following comprehensive resource:


American Shih Tzu Club