What is a Liver Shih Tzu and How to Tell if You Have One

By Everything Shih Tzu August 26, 2022

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Shih Tzu's are one of the most beautiful and intriguing dog breeds.

Although they come in many different colors and patterns, there is no denying that they all share that adorable flat round face!

However, not all Shih Tzu have the same color scheme, and some colors are more unusual than others.

The liver Shih Tzu is one such example. But what exactly makes this particular dog stand out?

My dog Max, a liver Shih Tzu resting in a bay window

For starters, contrary to what a lot of people may believe, a liver Shih Tzu is not a separate breed but rather just a color variant of the standard Shih Tzu.

A Liver Shih Tzu does not refer to the color of the coat, but instead the pigmentation of the dog's nose, eye rims, lips, and paw pads which can be anywhere from a light tan to a dark brown hue.

At the same time, their coat can come in several colors, patterns, and markings, or a simple solid color.

Let's take a closer look at the liver Shih Tzu and what makes them so unique.

More About The Liver Shih Tzu

When someone thinks about the word liver, the color brown may not come to mind, but essentially that is the most common coat color for this particular Shih Tzu.

Liver Shih Tzu can range from a light golden brown or tan to a deep chocolatey brown, or they may have multiple coat colors.

The unique quality of liver Shih Tzu's is that they can be considered liver and be of any color and even have other markings.

This is because the liver, or brown tone, refers more to the skin pigmentation rather than the hair itself.

It includes the pads of their paws, lips, eye rims, and especially the nose being brown instead of the black it usually is.

The easiest way to distinguish a live Shih Tzu from a non-liver one is mainly by its nose.

A non-liver Shih Tzu can have markings or colors in their hair that resemble ones on a liver, but if the nose is black, it is not a liver Shih Tzu. On the other hand, a liver-coated Shih Tzu will always have a brown nose

Want to know something even more interesting?

Brown Shih Tzu's that aren't considered liver technically aren't brown. Instead, they may very well be a brindle or red-toned mixed coat that, at first glance, seems like it's brown.

While some may not be familiar with liver coats, it is listed as an official color for the Shih Tzu by the American Kennel Club.

Are Liver Shih Tzu Rare?

While they are more common than, say, a blue-tone Shih Tzu or a solid-colored like a black Shih Tzu, they are certainly rarer than multi-colored ones.

It would be more rare to have a liver Shih Tzu with an entirely brown coat.

Since brown denotes a recessive trait passed down from the parents to their offspring, there is a more likely chance for a dog to come out without liver traits than to be born with them.

Eye Color in Liver Shih Tzu

The liver Shih Tzu has gorgeous eyes that can vary from dog to dog.

Similar to their coats, a liver Shih Tzu's eyes typically range from being a light brown to dark brown or can even take on an almost hazel appearance.

Are Chocolate and Liver Shih Tzu the Same?

Chocolate is mainly used when talking about Labrador retrievers, but many breeders use it when talking about Shih Tzu's.

Chocolate refers to the deep brown color that is exhibited in some Shih Tzu's.

Chocolate and liver are often used interchangeably when talking about this specific coat.

While these dark-colored furries are usually found among the liver Shih Tzu, not all Shih Tzu's that are a chocolate color are liver.

However, while these dark-colored furries are usually found among the liver Shih Tzu, not all Shih Tzu's that are a chocolate color are liver.

Even the most chocolatey brown pup can be considered a non-liver Shih Tzu if those telltale characteristics of a liver Shih Tzu aren't present.

So, while chocolate is not considered an official color for the Shih Tzu, this does not stop breeders from marketing and selling them.

Are Lavender and Liver Shih Tzu the Same?

Like chocolate, lavender is not a coat color officially recognized among Shih Tzu but is often used in the Shih Tzu community.

Unfortunately, despite its name, lavender-colored Shih Tzu's are not, purple-although that would be pretty cool. Instead, it is a variation of liver with a silvery tone.

The presence of lavender in a Shih Tzu is caused by a diluted gene variation similar to liver and blue Shih Tzu's.

This gene, known as MLPHl, affects the melanin in the skin and creates this hue.

Lavender and liver are not always one and the same, although the majority of lavender Shih Tzu's fall under the liver category.

Blue Shih Tzu's can also be lavender, the difference?

In liver Shih Tzu, the black pigmentation is diluted, and in blue Shih Tzu's, the blue pigmentation is diluted.

What is a Liver White Shih Tzu?

Now that you know what a liver Shih Tzu is, did you know that it can also include the color white?

A liver and white Shih Tzu refers to a Shih Tzu that has a liver skin pigmentation (a brown nose and paw pads) but has white and sometimes even a mixture of brown or other colored furs.

It is considered a double color combination listed under the American Kennel Club's official colors for Shih Tzu.

With this combination, the dominant color can be either white or brown, or predominantly one color with white markings across its coat.

Liver Shih Tzu Genetics

The genetics that make up the liver color in Shih Tzu are as interesting as they sound.

The gene responsible for liver Shih Tzu's is called B locus.

For a liver puppy to be produced, both parents have to be carriers of the recessive gene represented by the lowercase b (liver gene); this means that even if they themselves are not liver, as long as they both pass down the trait, there is always a chance for the offspring to come out with the famous brown pigmentation liver exhibits.

The genotype for the liver Shih Tzu is characterized as bb, with both genes being recessive.

This specific gene affects the black pigmentation in a dog's coat, also known as eumelanin.

Any black pigment is then diluted down in the Shih Tzu's makeup, thus causing the usually black body parts, like the nose, to be brown.

What makes this even more interesting is that when a dog is considered liver, there will never be a strand of black fur to appear on its body!

In Closing

The extraordinary makeup of the liver Shih Tzu and its characteristics is just another reason why Shih Tzus are one of the coolest breeds in the dog world.

Its distinctive qualities make it a must-have companion for those seeking a unique small dog.

From a solid brown coat to a multi-colored one, the shades of color it can come in are astounding.

However, when coming across this liver dog, remember that what makes it stand out in the crowd is its brown nose and other brown body parts, and it having a brown coat does not automatically make it of the liver variation.

Because of its recessive genes, it is more rare to find than many others in the same breed, but don't be too shocked if you see more than one every once in a while.

Now that you're practically an expert in knowing what a liver Shih Tzu is and how to tell if you have one, start observing the Shih Tzu's you come into contact with.

Study their features and see if you can distinguish what type of Shih Tzu they are; you never know, you might come across that unmistakable adorable brown nose we all love so much.

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