Shih Tzu

Breed At A Glance


Spunky, hardy and courageous

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
Up to 11 inches

Average Weight
9-16 lbs

Coat Color
Varies widely

Coat Length/Texture
Long with a woolly undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all

Also known as Chinese Lion Dog, Chrysanthemum Dog

General Temperament

Above all else, the Shih-Tzu is a loving family companion. They have a strong need for human companionship, and their spunky dispositions make them entertaining members of the family. Energetic and courageous, Shih-Tzu love to bark loudly to announce the arrival of visitors, although they are otherwise quiet and docile inside the house. They make friends easily and are very devoted to their owners, and can suffer separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods.

Shih-Tzu love to play and can get along with well-behaved children, but may become snippy if roughhoused or teased. They usually get along well with other house pets. The Shih-Tzu is a great breed for apartment life as they are fairly active indoors; however, like all dogs, they do require a daily walk to keep in good health, especially if they do not have a fenced yard in which to roam.

Shih-Tzu have a regal heritage and expect to be treated as such. Although they are intelligent and generally eager to please, they also have a stubborn streak, which can make training tough. Crate training is usually best for housebreaking this breed. When it comes to obedience training, patience and consistency works best with the sometimes obstinate Shih-Tzu.

Breed History

Documentation and artistic representations of Shih-Tzu-like dogs are found dating back to A.D. 624, although the breed’s introduction into China most likely occurred many hundreds of years later. It is well documented that they were favorite house pets of the Ming Dynasty (from 1368 to 1644), and then in the mid-17th century, dogs were brought to the Chinese court from Tibet. These specimens proliferated in the Forbidden City of Peking for hundreds of years, evolving into the modern version of the Shih-Tzu. The breed was so revered that long after trading with the West was established, the Chinese refused to sell specimens of the breed to outsiders, or even give them as gifts. After the communist revolution in China, breeding of any pure breed virtually ceased and the Shih-Tzu was nearly extinct. Several individuals were exported to England in 1930, saving the breed from extinction.

American Soldiers stationed in Europe and Australia brought the breed back with them to the U.S., and the Shih-Tzu was accepted in the American Kennel Club in 1969.

Body Structure and Composition

Despite it’s dainty appearance, the Shih-Tzu is a sturdy and compact little dog. Their definitive long and profuse double-coat covers the entire body equally, including the face and muzzle. The head is rounded and the short muzzle ends abruptly at it’s black nose, giving the dog it’s characteristic brachycephalic (snub-nosed) look. The pendulous ears seemingly blend into the rest of the face and body. The Shih-Tzu is slightly longer than it is tall, and the plumed tail is carried in a curl over the back. The feet are firm and well-padded.

Medical Information

Shih-Tzu are sensitive to high temperatures due to their profuse coats and snub-noses, which make it difficult to cool themselves off. Therefore, they should be kept inside during the summer months, due to their propensity towards heat stroke.

Some Shih-Tzu lines are prone to ear, eye and respiratory problems, so finding a reputable and responsible breeder is essential. Dental care beginning at an early age is important, as the breed as a whole tends to lose teeth early. Shih-Tzu are also prone to some bone-related problems, such as Patellar Luxation (also know as “slipped stifle,” a condition where the kneelike joint above the hock tends to slide out of position, sometimes requiring surgery), as well as spinal disc disease resulting from having long backs with short legs.

Shih-Tzu require extensive grooming, including a daily brushing to prevent the hair from matting. Special attention should be paid to the ears and eyes to prevent infection. The good news is that this breed sheds little to no hair or skin dander, so they are great pets for allergy sufferers.

Anecdotal Information

According to the American Kennel Club, all living Shih-Tzu can be traced back to the same fourteen individuals – seven males and seven females.

As a result of it’s compact size, portability, and regal appearance, the Shih-Tzu has won recent favor with many young celebrities.

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