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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Shih Tzu Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Shih Tzu standing on an ice floe

While their name might translate to “little lion,” there isn’t a whole lot that is ferocious about these small dogs. Shih Tzus are a loving breed with the sole purpose of being a wonderful companion. Over the years, they have become loved by many people.

Breed Overview


9 – 10.5 inches


9 – 16 pounds


10 – 18 years


Brown, chocolate, liver, red, gold, yellow, black, white blue

Suitable for:

Dedicated families or singles willing to maintain their grooming demands


Friendly, outgoing, playful, happy, picky

Despite their small size, they can keep up with the best of them and have started to stand out in dog sports, including agility, rally, and obedience. Those looking for a small breed who can become their best buddy should consider purchasing or adopting one of these beautiful, outgoing pups.

Shih Tzu Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog paw

Shih Tzu Puppies

shih tzu with tongue out
Image Credit: Michael Mong, Shutterstock

While they may not have some of the highest ratings compared to other dog breeds, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not everybody wants a high-energy dog that requires an hour of exercise. The great thing about this breed is that they love to snuggle and are great for low-energy families.

Shih Tzus also aren’t the most intelligent but are still smart enough to listen to commands and obey your training. Even with some health problems, these dogs live relatively long lives alongside you and the rest of the family. Of course, all dogs must be socialized from a young age, but most Shih Tzus are overall friendly and welcoming to humans and other pets.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Shih Tzu

All dogs today were bred for some sort of purpose, whether that be catching rodents, guarding land, or herding sheep. Shih Tzus are one of the rare breeds that were created solely for companionship. A Shih Tzu wants to be with you at all times. Affection is their most common characteristic. They may not be complete couch potatoes, but don’t expect them to go for long runs or hunt with you either.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Shih Tzus make the perfect family dog because of how social and loving they are. You don’t have to have acres of land for them, either. This breed fits nicely into many lifestyles ranging from the big city to a rural residence. Their small body size also makes it easy to travel with them so that they don’t have to get left behind. Many people even take them right onto an airplane in a carrier. If they are at your side, these dogs are happy to do whatever you and your family have planned.

shih tzu with puppy cat
Image By: AlexFilim, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Shih Tzu dogs can get a little protective of their families when strangers and other dogs come around. However, the more they interact with new places, animals, and people, the friendlier they become. This is crucial with all dog breeds, but you won’t have to be as patient with a Shih Tzu.


Things to Know When Owning a Shih Tzu:

While Shih Tzus are amazing to have around, they have their own set of demands that might not work for everybody. Always consider all factors that go into owning a dog before bringing one home. The more you understand about the breed, the easier it is to decide whether they’re going to be a good fit in your life. Even though most dogs have different personalities, there are patterns across the breeds that you should definitely pay attention to.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

shih tzu dog eating outdoors
Image By: thanakarn Singto, Shutterstock

One of the top questions among dog owners is how much to feed their dogs. Different breeds require different amounts of food to sustain their energy. Shih Tzus are a toy breed and won’t require nearly as much as a larger dog. In general, your Shih Tzu should eat between ¾ cup to 1¼ cups of dog food for every ten pounds of weight. This number could rise or lower based on many different factors. Always follow the serving guide listed directly on your food brand’s packaging.

Exercise 🐕

Shih Tzus don’t require nearly as much activity throughout the day compared to other dogs. Two or three short, 15-minute walks during the should is plenty. You could also take one long 30- or 40-minute walk. However, not all Shi Tzus prefer to be active for long periods and they might resist.

Training 🎾

Shih Tzu barking at something
Image By: Alexas Fotos, Pexels

Shih Tzus are moderately intelligent but aren’t afraid to push back during training. They are a bit picky overall, and patience is required when training them. Still, their whole life is based on pleasing you. They’ll quickly catch on to your demands with lots of positive praise and reinforcement.

Grooming ✂️

One thing that scares away a lot of people from this breed is the grooming requirements. A Shih Tzu’s long, flowing locks are beautiful, but also a handful. Some people choose to clip the coat length off and instead keep it short for easier maintenance.

You should brush your Shih Tzu with a fine comb at least three times per week. During the yearly shedding season, you may have to increase this to a daily routine. They can be bathed as often as you like but remember to brush out their tangles before the fur dries. Try to comb their mustache and top of their heads daily and keep the area trimmed and clean.

Aside from the extra attention to their coat, the rest of the grooming process is basic. For example, brush their teeth occasionally, clean their inner eyes regularly, and trim the nails as you would with any other dog.

Health and Conditions 🏥

While they don’t have a ton of serious, life-threatening conditions, Shih Tzus do have quite a few health problems that could arise in their lifetime. Stay on top of these problems with regular trips to the vet, especially if you notice any sudden changes in their behavior.

Minor Conditions


3 Little-Known Facts About the Shih Tzu

1. Shih Tzus were the dogs of a Chinese emperor.

Owning a Shih Tzu means you bring home a little bit of Chinese history with you. There were imperial breeders inside the Chinese Emperor’s palace centuries ago. Rather than being bred as working dogs, they were bred to sit around the palace and act as companions and lap dogs.

2. They were almost extinct.

These toy dog breeds were almost wiped out during the Chinese communist revolution. After a leader of a well-known breeding program died, these dogs stopped being bred. There were only 14 dogs left. Today, all Shih Tzus can be traced back to those 14 dogs.

3. Shih Tzus can’t tolerate hot weather.

As you learn more about their thick coat, you start to realize that Shih Tzu dogs do not do well in hot climates. Their flat faces make it more difficult to breathe, and their double coat makes it nearly impossible to cool off.


Final Thoughts

Those of us who are looking for a new dog are most likely just wanting a companion to be by our side. Shih Tzus are some of the best companions you can have. After all, that is exactly what they were bred for. Their small size, flat faces, and flowing fur makes them look absolutely adorable, while their happy, affectionate temperament makes them the perfect friend. If you’ve been going back and forth on whether a Shih Tzu is right for you, think about how they are going to fit into your lifestyle instead of their personalities because there are few people who don’t enjoy a Shih Tzu after spending some time around them.

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Featured Image Credit: Tatiana Gasich, Shutterstock

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