The Shih Tzu Dog Breed: Everything You Need to Know

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The Shih Tzu is a popular dog breed that is known for being friendly and playful. They are typically small in size and make great pets for families with children. The Shih Tzu dog’s face is also one of the most recognizable out of all the major dog breeds. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Shih Tzu breed! We will cover their history, temperament, health concerns, and more! So if you are considering adding a Shih Tzu to your family, be sure to read this post first!

The history of Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu was bred for Chinese Royalty – Image sourced https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/09/thomas-child-Qing-Dynasty-Peking-photographs/500987/

The first Shih Tzus originated in Tibet and China, and they were originally bred to be companions of Chinese emperors and Chinese royalty. They were given the name “Shih Tzu”, Shih Tzu means “lion dog” because they were thought to resemble lions.

The modern Shih Tzu people also may think the little dog remembers a teddy bear depending on how its owner has maintained its appearance.

They would quite often sit at the emperor’s feet to warm his feet or even sit inside the long coat arms to warm their emperor during the winter months. Recent studies have also placed the Shih Tzu as one of the 14th most ancient breeds in the World as dog bones were found in China as long back as 8,000 BC.

In the 17th century, Shih Tzus were brought to Europe by missionaries, and they quickly became popular pets among the upper class. In the United States, the Shih Tzu was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 and is a member of the Toy breeds.

Shih Tzu sitting with a tibetan monk

Today, the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world! They are known for being loving and affectionate dogs that make great companion pets.

If you are looking for a small dog breed that is easy to train and doesn’t require a lot of exercise, then the Shih Tzu might be the perfect breed for you! As they are of Tibetan and Chinese origin, you will notice that these dogs are very popular in many Asian countries, you will commonly hear them referred to as the little lion.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Shih Tzu is the 20th most popular dog breed in America! However, in countries like the Philippines, the Shih Tzu is the most popular dog breed among our Filipino friends!

The Lhasa Apso with the Dalai Lama was crossed with a pekingese to develop the Shih Tzu dog breed

Appearance (looks, weight, and age)

They are short-haired, sturdy dog breed with a long, flowing coat that can be either straight or wavy. The coat of a Shih Tzu is one of their most distinctive features and requires daily grooming to prevent mats and tangles. The coat comes in a variety of colors including black, white, brown, gray, and cream.

The shih tzu's appearance? looks, weight and age

One of the most unique things about the Shih Tzu is their “tulip” shaped head. They have large round eyes that are set far apart on their face, and they have a short muzzle with a black nose. Their ears are long and droopy, and they have a long, thick tail that is often curled over their back.

Shih Tzus are considered to be a “ toy breed” because of their small size, and they are one of the smallest dog breeds in the world.

Weight and age?

The Shih Tzu is a small dog weight and an adult dog is typically between nine and sixteen pounds. They typically stand between eight and eleven inches tall at the shoulder and can live anywhere from ten to eighteen years. However, there have been some instances of Shih Tzu’s living well into their 20’s!

Are there health concerns with owning a Shih Tzu?

Are there health issues with owning a shih tzu?

Common health issues?

Shih Tzu puppies are usually healthy, but like with most breeds they also have common health problems. Shih Tzus have sometimes been diagnosed with ear infections, hip dysplasia, pelvic adenocarcinomas, patellar luxation (slipped knees), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hernias, and portosystemic liver disease.

Make sure that by using a reputable breeder that you will hopefully avoid any inherited disease which can be quite costly! So make sure you find a responsible breeder!

Eye issues

The Shih Tzu’s eyes can also be prone to infections and issues if you don’t maintain a regular cleaning program their eyes can get a lot of gunk in them as opposed to other dogs. You will need to clean them daily, to make sure your little lion dog is comfortable.


The Shih Tzu’s teeth can be a problem area if not taken care of properly. They often suffer from gum disease and tartar buildup due to their small mouths. This can lead to tooth loss and other problems if not taken care of early on. It’s due to their baby teeth as these quite often do not fall out and the upper teeth bite inside of the mouth and can cause some issues in the Shih Tzu breed.

Shih Tzu's teeth can be a problem if not maintained

To avoid these problems, it is important to brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth regularly and take them in for annual dental checkups. You can also give them special chew toys and treats that are designed to help clean their teeth.

We give our two Shih Tzu’s a couple of these dental treats a week and they do help. However, you will need to intervene with some toothpaste occasionally. You can purchase flavored dog toothpaste, which definitely does make all the difference for this ancient breed.


Shih Tzu’s are prone to overheating in summer and can be prone to heat stroke, so make sure you don’t keep your, Shih Tzu, out for long in the hot sun.

Shih Tzu rescues, however, you will need to take them to a vet to be checked out as if they were breeding dogs they may have a lot of issues from being used in puppy mills. You can find reputable breeders from a simple google search online, however, make sure you call them to get a sense of the person you buy from.

Our experience

The overall Shih Tzu health from our personal experience is that it’s definitely been a healthier dog breed than what we have expected.

It’s important though, to keep up with a regular vaccination schedule, especially in the colder months and because Shih Tzus are very sociable, they will be interacting a lot with other dog breeds.

Also, maintaining a regular eye cleaning schedule is very important to make sure your Shih Tzu remains generally healthy.

What to feed your Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzu nutrition and food advice

When it comes to feeding your Shih Tzu, you want to make sure they are getting a high-quality diet that is tailored specifically for their needs. The best way to do this is to consult with your veterinarian and get their recommendations.

There are also a few things you want to look for when choosing a food for your Shih Tzu. First, you want to make sure the food is complete and balanced. This means it should contain all of the nutrients your dog needs in order to stay healthy.

You also want to look for a food that is low in carbohydrates and contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives. All of these things can be detrimental to your dog’s health and should be avoided if possible.


There are a few brands that make excellent food for Shih Tzus and other small breeds. Some of these include Royal Canin, Wellness, and Blue Buffalo.

Once you have chosen a food for your Shih Tzu, you will want to feed them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This will ensure they are getting the right amount of food and nutrients each day.

You should also supplement your dog’s diet with some healthy snacks throughout the day. This can help them get the calories and nutrients they need while also keeping their energy levels up. Some great snack options for Shih Tzus include carrots, apples, blueberries, and chicken.

A special secret recommendation!

Shih tzus love eating sardines

One food item that is not often recommended often but your Shih Tzus will love is sardines!

We feed our Shih Tzus in the morning a couple of sardines with some dry food and this has a massive impact on their coats and health.

We noticed with our Shih Tzus that in a couple of weeks their coats were thicker and glossier, definitely helping to give them that lion dog appearance!

The only downside, to feeding your Shih Tzu sardines, is that their breath will absolutely stink for a couple of hours later, however, it’s a great secret food recommendation that will put a smile on your Shih Tzu’s face.

Don’t feed them too much!

The Shih Tzu is definitely prone to overeating and they will want to eat whatever you’re eating, so make sure to not overfeed them or it will be hard to maintain your dog’s weight and can cause health conditions. If you do decide to feed them from your plate, make sure you wait until the end of the meal to teach them some patience!

What is the temperament of a Shih Tzu?

What is the temperament of a Shih Tzu?

The Shih Tzu is an intelligent, affectionate, and loyal breed. They are known for being great companion pets and they love to be around people. They do not like to be left alone for long periods of time and can become anxious if they are not given enough attention.

Shih Tzus are also very friendly dogs that get along well with children and other animals, you do not have to worry about Shih Tzu with other pets at all.

Are they easy to train?

They are a relatively easy breed to train as they are eager to please their owners. However, they can be stubborn at times and may need some patience when it comes to potty training. With proper socialization from a young age, Shih Tzus can be well-rounded dogs that make great family pets.

If you are looking for a small, affectionate dog breed that is easy to train, the Shih Tzu may be the perfect breed for you!

Are they loyal?

They are loyal companions that will want to be by your side at all times. Give them plenty of attention and love, and they will return it tenfold. With proper care and grooming, a Shih Tzu can be a great addition to any family! We would argue that you will not find a more affectionately loyal dog than the Shih Tzu!

What kind of personality does a Shih Tzu have and how much exercise do they need?

What kind of personality does a Shih Tzu have and how much exercise do they need?

The Shih Tzu’s personality is best described as playful and friendly. They make great companions and are typically good with children. However, they can also be stubborn and headstrong, so training and socialization are important. Like other small dogs, the Shih Tzu is definitely a lap dog that will want to just sit by your side all day or be wherever you are.

Shih Tzus do not require a lot of exercise, but they do need some daily activity to stay healthy and happy. A short walk or play session in the yard is typically enough to meet their needs.

They aren’t conducive to dog sports you may see on TV, however, you may want to take it to a local meet with obstacles for a bit of a laugh as we have found it out the hard way before!

Do Shih Tzus bark a lot and are they easy to train?

Shih Tzus are known for being vocal dogs, and they will bark to let you know when someone is at the door. However, with proper training, they can learn to control their barking.

Are they easy to train?

Shih Tzus are generally easy to train, but they can be stubborn at times. Like with all dogs, patience and consistency are important when training a Shih Tzu.

As pet owners, you will learn the best tactic to use to train your Shih Tzu, as your Shih Tzu may either respond best to a treat, toy, or just generally praise.

We have found that our Shih Tzu’s love duck tenders, these duck tender treats are the perfect enticement to have Shih Tzu’s doing a large range of tricks from their repertoire.

Are Shih Tzus good for apartments or small homes?

Are Shih Tzus good for apartments or small homes?


Yes, Shih Tzus are good for apartments or small homes! They do not require a lot of exercises, and they are generally easy to train. However, it is important to socialize and train them from a young age so that they can learn to control their barking.

With proper care, Shih Tzus can live a long and happy life in a small space! Our two Shih Tzu’s do fine in a two-bedroom apartment, the only real downside as pet parents is that your Shih Tzu will follow you everywhere around the apartment and want to know what you’re up to at all times. They truly are the ultimate companion dogs!

Small Homes

If you have a small home with a backyard, that’s probably the ideal scenario as it would eliminate the need for you to use any dog walkers as it will be able to get enough minimal exercise in a small backyard space.

It truly is a great house pet and you will find, unlike other breeds, it will adapt to whatever living situation you have. These small dogs will make full use of your space and especially your bed as well! You will be surprised how much room these dogs can take up in your bed.

How much do Shih Tzu owners need to groom their Shih Tzu?

How much do Shih Tzu owners need to groom their Shih Tzu?

How often should you groom your Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzu owners need to groom their dogs regularly to keep their coats healthy and free of mats. Grooming typically includes brushing, bathing, and trimming the nails. Many Shih Tzus also enjoy being clipped or shaved in the summer months to help them stay cool.

While grooming is important, it is also important not to overdo it. Bathing a Shih Tzu too often can strip their coat of natural oils and lead to skin problems. We do shower our Shih Tzu’s once a week, just using a simple white bucket in the shower with moderately warm water.

Don’t brush your Shih Tzu too much!

Brushing a Shih Tzu too much can also damage its coat. If you are unsure about how often to groom your Shih Tzu, talk to your veterinarian or a professional groomer for guidance.

However, based on our personal experience we find that a good brush once a week to remove some matting is more than enough.

You won’t have mounds of dog hair lying around the place either and we have found the Shih Tzu’s coat to be very manageable, especially when you have your Shih Tzu’s hair cut when the warmer months start approaching.

Shih Tzu grooming really depends on the owner, if you’re planning on competing with your Shih Tzu in dog shows, we know from talking to competitors that daily care of the coat is required.

However, if you’re Shih Tzu is just the average family dog, once every couple of months should be enough when it comes to engaging a local dog breeder.

How much does a Shih Tzu puppy cost and where can you find one for sale?

How much does a Shih Tzu puppy cost and where can you find one for sale?

How much does a Shih Tzu cost?

The average price for a Shih Tzu puppy is between $600-$1200. You can find Shih Tzu puppies for sale from many different places such as pet stores, responsible breeders, and even online. When looking for a Shih Tzu puppy, it’s important to do your research and make sure you are getting a healthy pup from a reputable source.

Puppy mills are unfortunately common, so be sure to visit the breeder or store in person and ask lots of questions before making a purchase. A little extra effort up front can save you a lot of heartaches (and money) down the road.

Where can you find a Shih Tzu on sale?

When it comes to finding the right place to buy your new furry friend, there are lots of options available. Talk to your local veterinarian or pet store employees for recommendations, or search online for reputable Shih Tzu breeders in your area.

Once you’ve found a few potential sources, it’s time to start shopping around! Compare prices, ask about health guarantees and return policies, and get to know the staff to see if they are knowledgeable and passionate about the animals they sell.

Purchasing a new puppy is a big decision, but with a little research and patience, you’re sure to find the perfect Shih Tzu pup to join your family. And who knows – maybe one day you’re Shih Tzu even be crowned Best in Show!

Do you have any tips on where to buy a Shih Tzu puppy? Share them in the comments below!

Are there any other similar breeds that are similar to the Shih Tzu?

Lhasa Apso as an alternative to a shih tzu

Lhasa Apso

Yes, there are a few other breeds that share some similarities with the Shih Tzu. The Lhasa Apso, for example, is another small breed of dog that originates from Tibet.

Like the Shih Tzu, the Lhasa Apso has a long coat that requires regular grooming. These two breeds also have similar personalities, being loyal and affectionate companions.

Tibetan terrior as an alternative to a Shih Tzu

Tibetan Terrier

Another breed that is similar to the Shih Tzu is the Tibetan Terrier. Again, this breed shares many physical similarities with the Shih Tzu, including a long coat and compact body type.

Tibetan Terriers are also known for being intelligent and good-natured dogs, making them ideal pets for families.

So if you’re looking for a small, long-haired dog with a loving personality, the Shih Tzu or one of its similar breeds might be the perfect fit for you!


The Shih Tzu dog breed should be high on anyone’s list of the best dog breed to add to their family or even a companion for yourself. They are affectionate, loyal, fun and will be your best friend, we guarantee you that! These dogs have big personalities for a smaller dog and you will quickly grow to love their quirks and friendly spirit, Our two Shih Tzu’s have been nothing but a positive in our lives and we would predict that if you decide on a Shih Tzu your next dog, you will not be disappointed.

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I am the owner of Shihtzuadvice.com and the proud parent of two black and one gold Shih Tzu's. I belive that the Shih Tzu is the best all-around dog for anyone and want to share with you as much valuable knowledge as possible about this great breed!

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