5 Things to Know About Shih Tzus

Meet the Shih Tzu, one small and adorable dog full of affection and fun. Read our breed profile to see if this is the perfect dog for you.

shih tzu breed profile
Shih Tzus are outgoing and friendly dogs. Photo: Yarnawee Nipatarangkoon

1. Key Characteristics of Shih Tzus

  • AKC Group: Toy
  • Height: 9–10.5 inches
  • Weight: 9–16 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10–16 years

The Shih Tzu is a small, compact dog who is slightly longer than tall and features a tail that curls over the back.

These are longhaired dogs with a moderate undercoat. Most Shih Tzus have multiple coat colors.

2. Where Shih Tzus Come From

Shih Tzus originated in Tibet, with evidence of the dogs having been traced to the year 624. They were rumored to be sacred pets kept in temples. They are the oldest and smallest of Tibetan holy dogs, and their name means “lion” or “little lion.”

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A favorite among royals in China, Shih Tzus were possibly bred from a cross between a Lhasa Apso or Tibetan mountain dog and a Pekingese

Shih Tzus were bred in England, and the Shih Tzu Club was formed in 1933. American soldiers returning home from World War II placements brought the dogs to the United States, where they quickly became popular.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1969.

shih tzu breed profile
Shih Tzus love companionship but don’t enjoy a lot of alone time. Photo: Kaz

3. How Friendly Are Shih Tzus?

Shih Tzus are affectionate, intelligent, and outgoing and are trusting with everyone.

They are lively and alert, and they thrive on human companionship, so don’t leave them alone for a long time. They can also be stubborn and make training a chore, so be sure to use consistent and thorough training with your Shih Tzu.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

LOW: Shih Tzus are small dogs with minimal exercise needs. A daily walk to expel energy should suffice, and indoor play can also keep them active.

As with any small dog, never leave your Shih Tzu alone with large dogs. Some large dogs have strong predatory instincts and can injure or kill small animals.

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Grooming Needs

HIGH: Shih Tzus need regular, daily brushing if their coats are long. You can gather the hair around their face in a bow or knot to stay out of their eyes.

Bathe your dog every few weeks or more often if needed. The longer hair on a Shih Tzu takes more time to dry, and groomers recommend getting these dogs used to a hair dryer when they are young to desensitize them.

Check and clean your Shih Tzu’s eyes and ears regularly. The eyes in particular can tear and stain the facial fur. Ask your veterinarian to recommend some eye drops, if needed. The dog’s large eyes are also prone to infection, so stay vigilant.

Also, trim their nails regularly.

Health Problems

MEDIUM: Shih Tzus have few inherited illnesses. Here are some that the breed is more susceptible to experiencing:

Learn a little more about these affectionate dogs in this video:

5. How to Adopt a Shih Tzu

If you’re thinking of getting a Shih Tzu, please turn first to adoption resources. Even purebred animals sometimes land in shelters.

Try Petful’s free adoptable pets search. You can also check with rescue groups and breeders, but just make sure the breeder is reputable.

Additional Resources

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