Shih Tzu Information Guide:
Getting To Know About The Breed


Gold and White Shih Tzu laying in the grass

Looking for information about the Shih Tzu breed?   You've come to the right place.

Below is some information about the Shih Tzu dog breed.  This information then links to pages with even more details, should you want to know more.

But first, the basics.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies the Shih Tzu a toy breed, as their purpose is that of a companion dog only.

When fully grown, they stand at a mere 9 to 11 inches high, and weigh between 9 to 16 pounds.

They may be compact and look pretty and dainty, but don't let their looks and size fool you.  The Shih Tzu breed is a very sturdy dog with a huge personality.

The most recognizable features of the Shih Tzu breed is their long flowing hair, broad round head and large expressive eyes.

You can't help but say "awww" as they captivate you with one of their sweet and innocent poses.  With just a slight tilt of their little heads and a glimpse of their smiling eyes, and you're hooked.

Having three Shih Tzu, my personal opinion is that they are the best choice of all the small dog breeds.

Yet, they may not be for everyone as they can be pretty high maintenance dog when it comes to grooming.  

Whenever choosing a dog to live with, it's important to know what you're getting into.

So, if you may have the urge to rush out and bring one or even two, of these little bundles of adorableness home with you on a whim...wait.

You first need to know if they will be a good fit with your lifestyle, and whether they will get long with others living in your household or other pets.

You'll also want to consider whether you have the time, resources and commitment to raise one of these little cuties.

Shih Tzu Health Information

One of the most important aspects to know about the Shih Tzu breed are its health problems and life span.

Woman holding a Shih Tzu against her shoulder.

Generally the Shih Tzu breed is a healthy one.  Yet, they still have their share of health concerns which may be inherited.

Some of these health concerns include:

  • Brachycephalic Syndrome

Dogs with short noses are more prone to developing brachycephalic syndrome, which is a problem with the airflow in the upper respiratory tract.

  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

Also referred to a slipped or ruptured or herniated disc.

This is a condition where the discs in the spinal column can bulge or burst.  It then presses on the nerves causing pain, loss of coordination or in worst cases, paralysis.

This can happen with any forceful impact while jumping or falling from high beds, couches or even stairs.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

Commonly known as "dry eye".  It's a tear gland disease which doesn't release enough of the needed moisture to keep the dogs eyes lubricated.

A vet may prescribe topical medication like eye drops or other lubricant to help relieve the dryness.

  • Distichiasis

Distichiasis is a rare disorder of abnormal growth of hairs on the eyelids.

These eyelashes scratch the eye surface and causes the Shih Tzu paw at their eyes quite often.

If left untreated, the cornea can become ulcerated which is very painful to the dog.

Diagram of the eye showing how the abnormal eyelash rubs against the eye.

Some other health issues may also include:

Read our article on "How To Clean A Shih Tzus Eyes" to keep them big, beautiful orbs healthy for years to come.

Personality Traits of a Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzus personality is that of a devoted, calm, playful, affectionate breed.  The are also a pretty independent little dog.

Many small dogs are known for their constant barking but the Shih Tzu generally do not bark as much as those others small breed.  However, they do bark to alert you to situations that may need your attention, which make them a great watch dogs.

Tan and White Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu make excellent companions and are happiest when they can hang out and cuddle up with you.

They may seem like they want a lot of attention sometimes, but they keep themselves occupied just fine with a favorite toy, or another dog.

Speaking of other dogs, Shih Tzu get along well with most other dog breeds.  Large or small dogs alike, it doesn't matter, the Shih Tzu are not likely to be aggressive toward them.

They generally greet another dog as if they are already friends, and seem to thrive in a multi-dog household.

Happy tan and white Shih Tzu dog playing

House Training a Shih Tzu

Of course anyone bringing a puppy home will have to either hire a trainer or potty train the dog themselves.

If getting a dog from a shelter, a dog will likely already know the basics of housetraining. 

You will of course, have to show them where they are to do their business once the dog is in your home.

I've heard several times that Shih Tzu can be hard to train.  That they can be stubborn and that it won't be easy.   To that I say hogwash!  

Yes it's true they can be stubborn, but the Shih Tzu breed is no harder or easier, to potty train than any other breed.

I've had a variety of dog breeds in my lifetime, and they were all pretty much the same.

With patience and a daily routine, potty training a Shih Tzu can be a breeze.

Two Shih Tzu puppies having fun

Feeding a Shih Tzu

One thing you should know about the Shih Tzu dog breed is that they don’t eat very much.  

They got little belly's and may not have a big appetite.

It's not unusual for them to only eat once or twice a day.  And on occasion, when they need to settle their tummy's, won't eat at all.

So don't get into panic mode if you notice that he is not eating as much as normal, or as much as other dogs do on any given day.

If they are refusing to eat for just a day, there may be no need to rush off to the emergency room.  Unless of course, if you suspect he may be sick or is throwing up.  

They may not want to eat on occasion, but should always have access to clean water so they can stay hydrated.

Wet or dry food will be fine for them. 

But keep in mind Shih Tzu have little teeth and may not be able to chew large kibble.  Look for kibble specifically for small breeds.

Shih Tzu can eat most foods, but the better quality their food, the better their coats look and feel. 

Check out our top picks for the best dog food choices.

If you have the time and know how, try making them a nutritious homecooked meal.  This is an excellent way to make sure they are getting quality ingredients and a healthy diet.

Something I’ve heard is that you should never feed a dog pork.  I am told that they can't digest it well which can result in diarrhea and vomiting.

Use your own judgement on determining if that is the case with your own dog. 

My dogs do not seem to like the pork dog food, but that may be a coincidence.   

If you are still uncertain on which dog food to feed to your Shih Tzu, consult your veterinarian for recommendations.

You may have noticed Shih Tzu have flat faces.  Because of their flat faces they have a difficult time eating from regular food bowls.

Choose bowls that are shallow or a bowl that tilts so you can adjust the angle of the bowl to their eating position. 

This type of bowl makes it easier for these flat faced fur-babies to get all their food without making a mess. 

They may not want to eat sometimes, but they should always have a bowl of water available to them to stay hydrated.

Shih Tzu on bench

Shih Tzu Grooming

This dog breed are naturally adorable so they really do not need much grooming just to look good.

But when it comes to grooming, the Shih Tzu can be a rather high maintenance little dog.

Well groomed Shih Tzu dog

Although many consider the Shih Tzu to be a non-shedding dog breed, that isn't quite accurate. 

The truth is Shih Tzu have hair much like humans.  And like humans they will shed some of that hair every day.

This hair gets caught in their coats and if not brushed out, that long flowing coat will get tangled and matted.

Grooming a Shih Tzu with a long coat occurs more often than with a short haired dog, and can get quite expensive if you pay someone else to groom them.  

Or time consuming if you do it yourself.

If you want to keep you Shih Tzu in show room condition, plan on spending hours maintaining them.

Shih Tzu show dogs are usually bathed weekly.  It can take hours each day brushing their long flowing locks to keep it in perfect condition.

If you plan on having a Shih Tzu as a companion only, bathing them every 3 to 4 weeks are generally fine.

Unless they get very dirty, but then you may only need to rinse them off, dry and brush them.  A full bath may not be necessary

Take a few minutes each day to brush their long hair and wiping their faces, and eye area.  

If you get into a daily habit of doing these few things, you will find that that maintaining them isn't all that bad.

And, as an added benefit you can stretch out the time they need to go the groomers to about every four to six weeks.  

Even if you keep your Shih Tzu’s hair short, they still will need brushing and baths, although not nearly as often.

And while on the subject of grooming, don't forget about the Shih Tzus eyes and ears.

These areas are often overlooked, until an infection sets in.   

A Shih Tzu ears flaps hang over the opening.  Dirt and moisture get trapped and can cause bacteria to grow if not kept clean.

And their big eyes tend to attract dirt, and becomes overgrown with mucous.  If not regularly cleaned, bacteria can set it and lead to an infection.

Check out our article on "How To Clean a Shih Tzus Eyes" to keep those big beautiful peepers clean and healthy.

Shih Tzu Colors

Shih Tzu come in a variety of colors.  They may have a solid color, or a combination. 

Here's just some of the Shih Tzu coat colors you may come across.


  • Black
  • Gold
  • Red
  • Silver
  • Brindle
  • Liver
  • Blue
  • White


  • Black & White
  • Gold & White
  • Red & White
  • Silver & White
  • Brindle & White
  • Liver & White

Liver and Blue colors does not refer to the coat color, but rather the color of their nose, eye rims, lips and paw pads.  

The rarest color of Shih Tzu are blue, solid black and solid white.

You may have also seen colors listed like Lavender, Chocolate and Isabella.  These colors are not standard, and are basically a variation of a "Liver" colored Shih Tzu.

Shih Tzu History and Facts

Statue of lion dog

The history of the Shih Tzu breed is a long one, whose ancestors were developed in Asia as far back as the year 1000.

It is thought that this breed originated in Tibet, and brought to China in the 16th century as gifts to royalty.

Over time, they became the noble dog of China and were only found in royal households.

Shih Tzu were a favorite of the Empress Dowager Cixi, and were bred until her death in the early 1900's.

After her death, breeding had all but stopped and a few Shih Tzu were either sold or given as gifts to foreigners. 

As it would turn out, these few Shih Tzu would be the means of the breeds survival.

When communist came to power, they destroyed Shih Tzu and other palace dogs, as they were said to be a drain on resources.

If it weren't for those few that survived, the Shih Tzu would not be a part of our world today!

An interesting fact about the Shih Tzu name is that in Chinese it means "lion".

Lions held a significant importance in the Buddhist religion.  

But since lions are not indigenous to the Far East, dogs were bred to resemble lions and were said to bring good luck.

In a way Shih Tzu dogs do resemble lions, but one that is far less menacing.  And I certainly feel lucky having them in my life.

Today, statues that resemble these little lion dogs are standing guard at the entrances of Chinese palaces and government building.

Final Thoughts

These days, Shih Tzu are bred mostly for companionship much like they were in China centuries ago.  Although a small percentage are bred for competition.

Before purchasing, or adopting a Shih Tzu dog you need to know what you are stepping into. 

Learning about the Shih Tzus health, grooming and dietary needs will help you better understand what it means to care for this charming little dog.

And learning about their history may help in understanding their confident personality better.

There is a wealth of Shih Tzu information you will find on this website.

Information that will help ensure that you are able to provide your new companion with the highest quality care and love possible.

I hope this general information about Shih Tzu has answered some of your questions, but if not, you can always contact me.  

Whether it has to do with things your Shih Tzu can do like swimming or other exercises, or why they do things like eating grass, what they dream of when they're sleeping, how to talk to them or questions about the color of their eyes, or behavior issues like why they lick their paws.

I've learned a lot about the Shih Tzu breed over years, but there is always something new to learn.

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