Shih Tzu

Table of Contents

The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed, believed to have originated in Tibet and later refined in China, where they were kept as royal pets in the imperial palace. Known for their long, flowing coat and distinctive pushed-in face, Shih Tzus are small dogs, typically weighing between 9 to 16 pounds. Their luxurious coat comes in many colors and requires daily grooming to prevent tangles.

Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and outgoing personality. They are particularly good with children and other animals, making them ideal family pets. Despite their small size, they have a sturdy build and a warm, friendly demeanor. They enjoy being close to their owners and are known for their affectionate nature.

They require moderate exercise and enjoy short daily walks and playtime. Shih Tzus are adaptable to living in both apartments and houses with yards. They are relatively long-lived dogs, with a life expectancy of around 10 to 16 years. Healthwise, they can be prone to certain issues like brachycephalic syndrome due to their short muzzles, as well as hip dysplasia and eye diseases.

Shih Tzus make loyal companions and fit well into various lifestyles, as long as they can enjoy plenty of companionship and care from their owners.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:

12 to 16 years



Maintenance Level:


Shed Level

Very Low

Best For

Shih Tzus are great for families or individuals seeking a small, affectionate dog that’s good with kids and other pets. They’re well-suited to apartment living and require regular grooming.

Shih Tzu Traits

Breed Characteristics

Shih Tzus are characterized by their affectionate and friendly nature, small size with a sturdy build, and a luxurious, flowing coat that comes in a variety of colors. They are known for their distinctive face with a short muzzle and large dark eyes, giving them a warm and appealing expression. Shih Tzus are adaptable, good with children and other animals, and have moderate exercise needs, making them a popular choice for many households. Despite their regal origins, they are not demanding and often have a laid-back attitude, content with being pampered and participating in family life.


Exercise Needs
Health Issues
Barking Tendencies
Grooming Needs
Shedding Level
Training Needs
Good With Kids
Good With Cats
Good As A Service Dog
Good For Apartments & Small Homes
Biting Tendencies
Energy Level
Good With Other Dogs
Sensitive to Cold Weather
Sensitive to Warm Weather
Good For First Time Pet Parents

Breed Appearance

Shih Tzus boast a distinct appearance with a lush, long double coat that can come in a variety of colors and patterns. They have a proud bearing and a unique, adorable face with a short, square muzzle and large, dark, round eyes. Small in stature, they typically stand about 9 to 10.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 9 to 16 pounds. Their tails curl over their back, adding to their regal yet playful look. Despite their small size, they have a solid and sturdy body.

1. Ears
Drooping and covered with hair, the small ears of a Shih Tzu enhance its endearing expression.
2. Eyes
Their eyes are dark and round, set widely, giving them a warm and friendly look.
3. Nose
Typically black, the short nose sits prominently on their distinct, flat face.
4. Height
Shih Tzus stand 9 to 10.5 inches tall, showcasing a compact and sturdy body.
5. Coat Length
The breed features a long, flowing double coat that can reach the floor.
6. Coat Color
Their coat comes in a range of colors, often with striking and beautiful patterns.
7. Tail
The tail curls gracefully over the back, covered in a plume of fur.
8. Weight
Weighing between 9 to 16 pounds, they have a surprisingly solid build for their size.

Shih Tzu Temperament

Shih Tzus are known for their affectionate, outgoing, and friendly temperament, often enjoying the company of their human companions and displaying a sweet-natured disposition. They can be lively and playful, but also enjoy lounging and relaxation, making them versatile companions for both active and quiet households. Their alert and confident nature can sometimes lead to a bit of stubbornness, but with loving guidance, they are generally eager to please.

  1. Affectionate and Loyal: Shih Tzus are renowned for their loving nature, often forming strong attachments to their owners and seeking out affection.

  2. Playful and Friendly: This breed enjoys playtime and is generally friendly toward people and other animals, making them great family pets.

  3. Alert and Confident: Despite their small size, Shih Tzus are confident and alert, sometimes even serving as miniature watchdogs with their spirited barks.

  4. Adaptable: Shih Tzus are quite adaptable and can thrive in various living situations, adjusting well to both active and laid-back lifestyles.

  5. Independent: They can exhibit an independent streak, which may require patience during training sessions.

  6. Quiet Companions: While they can be playful, Shih Tzus are not overly noisy, often content with simply being in their favorite person’s presence.

  7. Sensitive: They are sensitive to their environment and to the emotions of their owners, often reacting to changes in tone and mood within the household.

How to Care for a Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu may come in a petite package, but their care requirements are substantial. These little charmers need diligent grooming akin to daily hair brushing sessions, routine exercise to keep their tail wagging, and a diet that’s as balanced as their personality. While they don’t demand a palace, they do need a loving home, big or small, where their human companions can bestow ample affection and engagement to keep their royal lineage content.

Grooming a Shih Tzu is an essential part of their care, involving daily brushing to keep their luxurious coat free of mats and tangles. Regular baths, every three to four weeks, help maintain skin and coat health, while cleaning around the eyes prevents tear stains.

Ears should be checked and cleaned to avoid infections, and nails trimmed to ensure comfortable walking. Don’t overlook dental hygiene; brushing their teeth can ward off common dental problems.

While grooming your Shih Tzu may be time-consuming, it’s a wonderful way to bond and keep them looking and feeling their best.

  • Daily Coat Care: Brush your Shih Tzu’s coat every day to prevent mats and tangles, paying special attention to the delicate hair around their face and ears.
  • Bathing Rituals: A monthly bath with a gentle dog shampoo will keep their coat clean and looking its best. Remember to comb their hair during drying to prevent knots.
  • Eye and Ear Maintenance: Clean around their eyes to prevent staining, and check their ears regularly for wax buildup or signs of infection.
  • Nail Trimming: Trim their nails every few weeks to maintain paw health and prevent discomfort while walking.
  • Dental Hygiene: Brush their teeth several times a week to prevent dental issues, which are common in small breeds like the Shih Tzu.
  • Professional Grooming: Consider scheduling professional grooming sessions for a full haircut and style, especially to maintain the hair length and shape around their face.
  • Health Check: During grooming, always check for any signs of skin irritation or parasites, and consult your vet if you find anything concerning.

Proper grooming is essential for a Shih Tzu’s health and happiness, and with regular care, your Shih Tzu will not only look royal but feel regally comfortable.

Training a Shih Tzu requires gentle patience, using rewards for positive behavior, and keeping sessions brief and engaging. Early socialization and consistent commands help shape their friendly temperament, while addressing barking and housebreaking early ensures well-rounded development.

  • Start Early: Begin training your Shih Tzu at a young age to establish good habits and behavior. Puppy classes are a great starting point.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Shih Tzus respond well to positive reinforcement. Use treats, praise, and affection as rewards for good behavior.
  • Consistency is Crucial: Maintain consistent commands and rules to avoid confusing your Shih Tzu. Consistency helps reinforce learning and obedience.
  • Short and Engaging Sessions: Training sessions should be short to keep their attention and prevent them from becoming bored.
  • Socialization: Expose your Shih Tzu to different people, pets, and environments early to foster a well-adjusted temperament.
  • House Training: Use a consistent routine for bathroom breaks and praise them for doing their business outside.
  • Address Barking: Teach your Shih Tzu the “quiet” command to manage their tendency to bark.
  • Leash Training: Leash training is important for safety and control during walks, especially in public areas.
  • Avoid Negative Reinforcement: Shih Tzus can be sensitive, so avoid negative reinforcement, which can lead to fear and stubbornness.
  • Patience and Persistence: Stay patient and persistent as Shih Tzus can be independent, but with time they will learn what you expect from them.

With understanding, consistency, and positive reinforcement, training your Shih Tzu can be a rewarding experience that strengthens your bond.

Ensure your Shih Tzu’s diet is nutrient-rich and portion-controlled to suit their size, with meals tailored to their age and health. Keep treats minimal and always provide fresh water to support their dietary needs and maintain optimal health.

  • Balanced Nutrition: Offer your Shih Tzu a diet that provides a balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, tailored to their specific life stage and activity level.
  • Quality Dog Food:  Select a premium dog food brand that caters to small breeds like Shih Tzus, ensuring all their nutritional needs are met.
  • Feeding Schedule: Establish a consistent feeding schedule, typically two small meals per day, to support their metabolism and digestive health.
  • Portion Control: Be vigilant about portion sizes to prevent overeating and maintain a healthy weight, as Shih Tzus can easily become overweight.
  • Hydration: Provide constant access to fresh water, ensuring your Shih Tzu stays well-hydrated throughout the day.
  • Treats and Snacks: Use treats judiciously during training and as occasional snacks, keeping in mind that treats should not exceed 10% of their total calorie intake.
  • Special Dietary Needs: Monitor for any signs of food allergies or sensitivities and be prepared to adjust their diet accordingly, with veterinary guidance.
  • Regular Weight Checks: Keep regular tabs on your Shih Tzu’s weight with vet visits, and adjust their diet as recommended to avoid obesity-related health problems.

By carefully managing your Shih Tzu’s diet and nutrition, you can help ensure they lead a long, happy, and healthy life.

Shih Tzus need daily, gentle exercise like short walks and playtime, with careful monitoring to prevent overheating. Keeping their small stature and brachycephalic nature in mind, exercise should be age-appropriate and consistent to support their overall well-being.

  • Daily Exercise Requirements: Shih Tzus need daily exercise but in moderation due to their small size. Short walks and play sessions are ideal for keeping them active.
  • Indoor Play: Indoor games can be a great way to keep them moving. Shih Tzus often enjoy playing fetch or chasing toys in a safe indoor space.
  • Outdoor Activities: Leisurely strolls in the park or a secure backyard where they can roam freely are beneficial for their physical and mental health.
  • Avoiding Overheating: Be cautious in hot weather; Shih Tzus can overheat easily due to their flat faces. Exercise them during cooler parts of the day.
  • Consistency: Establish a consistent exercise routine to help manage their energy levels and maintain their health.
  • Age-Appropriate Exercise: Adjust the type and amount of exercise to the age of your Shih Tzu. Puppies and senior dogs have different levels of stamina and health considerations.

By incorporating regular, appropriately-paced exercise into your Shih Tzu’s routine, you can help maintain their health and enhance their quality of life.

Shih Tzus are best suited to indoor living with their families, needing constant companionship and a comfortable, temperature-controlled environment. They adapt well to smaller spaces like apartments, provided they get daily affection and some safe outdoor play to satisfy their curiosity and exercise needs.

  • Companion-Focused Setting: Shih Tzus thrive in environments where they can be close companions to their owners, as they are bred for companionship and can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone too often.
  • Comfortable Living Conditions: These dogs need a comfortable living area with moderate temperatures, as they are prone to heat due to their flat faces. Homes with air conditioning or fans are ideal to keep them cool during hot weather.
  • Safe Outdoor Access: While they do well in apartments, access to a secure, enclosed outdoor area allows them to enjoy the outdoors safely, catering to their curiosity and playfulness.
  • Quiet and Peaceful: A calm and peaceful home environment is best for Shih Tzus, as they can become stressed by loud noises or chaotic situations.
  • Soft Resting Areas: Provide plenty of soft bedding options where they can rest comfortably, as they love lounging and relaxing with their family.

Creating an ideal environment for a Shih Tzu means ensuring they have a loving home with the right balance of interaction, comfort, and play that caters to their specific needs.

Shih Tzu Health

Shih Tzus are generally robust for a small breed but do have specific health concerns. They can suffer from brachycephalic syndrome, which affects their breathing, and are prone to eye issues due to their large, prominent eyes. Joint problems like hip dysplasia, as well as ear infections and dental issues, are also common.

Regular vet check-ups, a proper diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent or mitigate many health problems. Attention to grooming, particularly around their facial folds, is crucial to prevent skin infections. With good care, Shih Tzus can enjoy a lifespan of 10 to 16 years.

  1. Breathing Issues: Due to their short snout, Shih Tzus are susceptible to brachycephalic syndrome, which can lead to difficulties in breathing and require careful monitoring during exercise and hot weather.

  2. Eye Conditions: Their large, protruding eyes make them prone to issues like keratitis, proptosis, and progressive retinal atrophy, necessitating regular veterinary eye checks.

  3. Joint Health: Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation are common joint issues in Shih Tzus, so maintaining a healthy weight and providing joint-supporting supplements can be beneficial.

  4. Dental Health: Shih Tzus often experience dental issues due to their small jaws. Regular dental cleanings and at-home tooth brushing are important.

  5. Ear Care: Their floppy ears can trap moisture and lead to infections, thus requiring regular cleaning and vet checks to maintain ear health.

  6. Skin Problems: The folds in their skin can harbor bacteria and yeast, making good grooming practices essential to prevent infections.

  7. General Care: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding obesity are crucial for their overall health, along with routine vet visits for vaccinations and check-ups.

By addressing these health areas with vigilance and care, Shih Tzu owners can help their pets lead a healthy and happy life.

Shih Tzu Breed Comparison and Consideration

In comparing Shih Tzus with other breeds, consider their friendly and laid-back nature, ideal for families or individuals seeking a calm companion. They require more grooming than short-haired breeds but are generally more relaxed than high-energy dogs like Jack Russells. Shih Tzus are similar in size to breeds like Maltese but offer a wider variety of coat colors and a slightly more independent temperament.

They fit well in various living situations, including apartments, provided their moderate exercise needs are met. Consider these factors to ensure a Shih Tzu aligns with your lifestyle and environment.

Shih Tzu vs. Other Breeds:

Shih Tzu vs. Lhasa Apso:

  • Appearance: Shih Tzus have a shorter, more rounded face than the Lhasa Apso, with slightly longer coats.
  • Temperament: Shih Tzus are generally friendlier and more outgoing, while Lhasa Apsos can be more independent and reserved.
  • Maintenance: Both breeds require extensive grooming due to their long coats.

Shih Tzu vs. Maltese:

  • Appearance: Maltese dogs have a pure white coat, whereas Shih Tzus have a variety of colors and markings.
  • Temperament: Maltese can be more lively and playful, while Shih Tzus are often more laid-back.
  • Size: Both are small breeds suitable for apartment living.

Considerations Before Choosing a Shih Tzu:

  • Living Environment: They are adaptable to both apartments and houses.
  • Grooming: Regular grooming and daily brushing are necessary.
  • Health Concerns: Keep an eye out for breed-specific issues, such as respiratory and eye problems.
  • Temperament: Ideal for those seeking a friendly, affectionate lap dog.
  • Exercise Needs: Require moderate exercise, perfect for less active owners.
  • Training: Respond well to positive reinforcement and consistent training.

When considering a Shih Tzu, it’s important to evaluate how their calm and affectionate nature fits with your lifestyle and preferences, especially if you’re looking for a low-energy companion.


They can be prone to breathing difficulties, eye issues, hip dysplasia, and ear infections.

Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and outgoing nature, often described as affectionate and loving with their families.

Shih Tzus are known for their attachment to their owners and can experience separation anxiety, so they’re not ideal for people who are away from home frequently.

Shih Tzus are often recommended for first-time dog owners because of their manageable size and adaptable nature, provided new owners are committed to their grooming and care.

Despite their long hair, Shih Tzus are low shedders, making them a suitable choice for those with allergies, though they do require daily grooming.

Top Takeaways

Shih Tzus, with their friendly demeanor and affectionate nature, make for perfect companions that fit well in a variety of home environments, including apartments. They boast a long lifespan and require daily grooming, a commitment offset by their minimal shedding. While they can be strong-willed during training, consistency and positive reinforcement yield good results. Potential owners should be mindful of their specific health needs, particularly due to their brachycephalic features, ensuring these charming dogs remain healthy and happy throughout their lives.

Top Shih Tzu Names

These are the top Shih Tzu names as chosen by Pawstray pet parents!

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