Shih Tzu Breed Information Guide


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If you're looking for information about the Shih Tzu breed, you've found it, Hooray!

If you're not too familiar with this breed, by the time you get to the end of this page, you'll be an expert on all things Shih Tzu dogs, well maybe not quite an expert, but certainly a lot more informed about this charming little fluff ball.

Happy Shih Tzu dogHappy Shih Tzu Dogs

And if this isn't enough, the  information you find here then links to pages with even more details! So you never know, you just may become an expert after all.

But for now let's just get you started with the some basic information about this smiling, happy dog.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies the Shih Tzu a toy breed, as their only job is to be a companion dog.  And in case you were wondering, Shih Tzu are very good at their job.

FYI: The American Kennel Club is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States.

When a Shih Tzu is 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 delicate, but don't let their looks and size fool you.  The Shih Tzu standard breed is a very sturdy dog with a huge personality.

The Imperial Shih Tzu, also known as a Tea cup and not recognized as an actual breed by the AKC, is much smaller and more fragile than your standard Shih Tzu breed.

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

You can't help but say "awww" as they captivate you with their sweet and innocent appearance.

With just a slight tilt of their little heads and the glimpse of their smiling eyes, and you're hooked.

Having three Shih Tzu of my own it'll come as no surprise that 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 a pretty high maintenance dog when it comes to grooming. They have a lot of hair and unfortunately, it tends to tangle and mat when it isn't brushed daily.

Gold and White Shih Tzu laying in the grassLong haired Shih Tzu dog

Whenever choosing a dog to live with, whatever the breed, it's important to know what you'll be getting yourself into to avoid any mistakes or regrets.

So, if you may have the urge to rush out and bring one, two, or even three, or more of these little bundles of adorableness home with you on a whim, don't...and please think about it long and hard before taking on the role of a pet parent to multiple pets.

Too many dogs end up being surrendered to a shelter because someone wasn't prepared to raise a dog.  They don't have the time, or the resources, they got them as a gift, or they simply lose interest in the novelty of having an adorable little puppy.

If you're ready to be a pet parent, and know that you can give a dog the time and attention it needs, please consider adopting a dog.

When getting a pet, 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 even your other pets.

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

What's In This Article

To jump to a specific section click the links above to go directly to that area.  Or keep scrolling down the page for answers to all your Shih Tzu questions.

Shih Tzu Health Information

One of the most important aspects to know about the Shih Tzu breed are its health problems and what a typical life span of a Shih Tzu will be so you can plan for the future.

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 could 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:

This may seem like a lot of health issues, but it is only an example of common health issues that may arise and doesn't necessarily mean your Shih Tzu will develop all of them.

With proper care, your Shih Tzu can live a long and healthy life.

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

Temperament of a shih tzu

Since their sole purpose is to be a companion dog, you probably won't be surprised to learn that the Shih Tzu's personality is that of a devoted, calm, playful, and affectionate breed.

But they are also a pretty independent little dog, although giving the choice they would adapt to nearly any environment just as long as they can be near you.

Shih Tzu are not a yappy breed, which means they won't be driving you crazy with their non-stop barking.

However, they do bark to alert you to situations that may need your attention, which could make them a great watch dog.

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 make great emotional support dogs, and in some certain areas can be a service dog.

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 really 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, that dog will likely already know the basics of housetraining.

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

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

Ok, yes it's true they can be stubborn, but the Shih Tzu breed is no harder nor any easier to potty train than any other breed.

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

With patience and a daily routine and some really good treats, potty training a Shih Tzu can be a breeze.

Two Shih Tzu puppies having fun

What to feed a shih tzu

One thing you should know about the Shih Tzu dog breed is that they don’t eat very much. They have little belly's, are not as active a some other dogs and they just don't have a big appetite.

So 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 go into a panic mode if you notice that he is not eating as much as they normally do, 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 you suspect he may be sick or is throwing up.

On those occasions when they are turning their nose up to their food, you must still make sure they always have access to clean water so they can stay hydrated.

As far as deciding between a wet or dry food, either will be fine for them.

But do keep in mind Shih Tzu have little teeth and may not be able to chew large kibble. Try getting a kibble specifically for small breeds, as this will make it easier for them to chew.

Shih Tzu can eat most foods, but it's worth mentioning that the better quality their food, the better their coats look and feel.

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, I bet your veterinarian will be able to give your some great recommendations.

You've probably noticed that the Shih Tzu have flat faces, it's rather hard not to notice.

Their noses are nearly level with their head which makes eating out of a regular deep dog food bowl a little more challenging for them, and they end up leaving food in the bowl.  

When picking out dog supplies consider getting a shallow bowl which should make it much easier for them to get all their yummy food.

Shih Tzu on bench

Grooming your shih tzu

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 if you're doing it yourself, very time consuming.

So, if you want to keep you Shih Tzu in show room condition, be prepared to spend a lot of time just maintaining their hair.

It can take hours each day brushing their long flowing locks to keep it in perfect condition.

Shih Tzu show dogs are usually bathed weekly.

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 hair, wiping their faces, and cleaning the 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 inside and can cause bacteria to grow if not kept clean.

Their big eyes tend to attract dirt, and become overgrown with mucous. If not regularly cleaned, bacteria can set it and lead to an eye infection.

Shih Tzu Coat Colors

The Shih Tzu come in a variety of coat colors.  They may have a solid color, or as more likely often two or sometimes three or more colors which is commonly called a "brindle" Shih Tzu. 

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

"A dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old Chinese man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, and a dash of teddy bear." ~ James E. Mumford

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

Several people think the Shih Tzu is a mix between the Llasa Apso and the Pekinese breed, but it hasn't been confirmed one way or the other.

Some may even think Shih Tzu are related to the pug, but they are not.

What is generally thought is 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 buying, or adopting a Shih Tzu dog you need to know what you are getting 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 lap dog.

And discovering 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 about, Havashu and other Shih Tzu mix breed info, 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.

Here's some additional Shih Tzu information for you:

  • 25 Best Girl Names for Shih Tzu - Are you having a hard time deciding what to call your new Shih Tzu, maybe some of these names will help inspire you.
  • Do Shih Tzu Get Cold in Winter - You might think since your Shih Tzu comes complete with a long, silky coat, they are well protected against the cold weather that winter brings, but does it?
  • Do Shih Tzu need a lot of exercise? Dogs benefit from exercise and short daily walks is the best exercise to keep them active and healthy, but be careful not to over exercise a Shih Tzu.
  • What a Senior Shih Tzu Needs - Whether you adopt an older dog or you’ve had your faithful friend by your side for many years, a senior dog needs some special love and car
  • Why Shih Tzu Dogs Sleep So Muchwhy do dogs need so much more sleep than humans? And when should you worry that your dog's sleeping a little too much?

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