Shih Tzu Dogs
History, Characteristics, Personality and More

Shih Tzu dogs are called in such a way for a very good reason: the word Shih Tzu in Chinese means "lion". These dogs certainly seem to share the character of lions as they have no fear to stand up for themselves and are blessed with a dignified attitude.

If you are attracted by this breed's looks, consider that while these dogs are very sweet, they can also display a stubborn streak.

Whether you are thinking about buying a puppy and want to know if this is the right breed for you or just want to learn more about this breed, you will find the answers to your questions right here!

Breed History

While the exact date of the breed's origin is unknown, there are several theories about the history of Shih Tzu dogs.

Based on evidince from documents, paintings and other forms of art, dogs resembling the modern Shih Tzu existed as far back as 624 AD. According to another theory, the breed was developed in the 17th century from Lhasa Apso, Tibetan mountain dogs that were brought to China and crossed with the Pekingese.

Regardless of hypothetical theories, one thing is for certain: this is an old breed and was very much cherished as an ornamental lap dog by the royal members of the Ming Dynasty.

The first Shih-Tzu dogs were believed to have been imported to England in 1930. The breed almost became extinct after the Communist Revolution in China but was saved through the breeding program in England. As a matter of fact, every Shih Tzu today can be traced to 7 bitches and 7 dogs that were part of that program!

The breed was then finally introduced to the United States after World War II when soldiers took them along on their trip back from Europe. This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 and categorized under the toy group.

Among famous past and present owners of the Shih Tzu breed are Frank Sinatra, Queen Elizabeth of England, Bill Gates and Elizabeth Taylor.

Shiz Tzu

Physical Characteristics of Shih Tzu Dogs

Also known as Chinese Lion Dog and Tibetan Lion Dog, this breed resembles the lions as depicted in traditional oriental art. The beautiful flowing coat is definitely the most distinctive feature of this breed.

Overall, the body of the Shih Tzu presents slightly longer than tall. The body is compact, and overall, surprisingly sturdy and solid beneath its generous mantle of hair. It's also well-balanced and without any exaggerated features.

The neck permits natural carriage of the head and flows nicely into the shoulders. The chest is broad and deep with well-sprung ribs. The topline is level. The tail is heavily plumed, set high and carried over the back.

The legs are straight and muscular. Elbows are set close to the body and shoulders are well angulated. The feet are firm and well padded. This breed walks proudly with a distinct gait and carriage of the head.

The head boasts a round, broad skull with a distinct stop. The overall expression is sweet and pleasant. The eyes are large and very dark. The ears are heavily coated and large. The muzzle is short and square with an undershot bite. The nostrils are open and broad.

The double coat is long and luxurious and flows beautifully as the dog walks. The hair on the head is often tied into a topknot. According to the American Kennel Club standard, all coat colors and markings in Shih Tzu dogs are permitted.

    Height Weight
  Male 8 to 11 inches 9 to 16 pounds
  Female 8 to 11 inches 9 to 16 pounds


Shih Tzu dogs boast a happy, sweet-natured temperament which makes them a joy to watch. Compared to some of the other toy breeds, these miniature "lions" are less demanding and yappy. However, they may have a bit of a stubborn streak when it comes to training.

Shih Tzu Sitting

You can make the most out of your training sessions though if you are a consistent gentle leader who uses praise and food rewards. Don't go overboard though and make sure not to bribe or you may get a spoiled and manipulative pet that will work only when food is in sight.

Housebreaking Shih Tzu puppies requires loads of patience and can be an issue due to their tiny bladders. Arm yourself with patience; the process may feel like a very long time. Some owners find the use of an indoor dog litter box better than 100 trips outside when the weather is cold and the ground is frozen.

With other pets, including dogs, this breed is generally peaceful. With strangers, expect Shih Tzu dogs to be friendly and polite; however, some may be more on the reserved side. As with all dogs, early socialization will help to develop a more trusting temperament.

Best Owner and Living Conditions

If you do not mind a lap warmer, you will love this breed! However, don't go overboard: spoilers and meek owners may elicit manipulative and pushy behaviors.

Due to its overall easygoing temperament and reduced needs for exercise, this breed may do well with the elderly and the disabled as long as they can train and take this dog along for a daily stroll. While this dog does generally well in a family with children, puppies are particularly vulnerable, and a clumsy, small child may not be a good match.

Because Shih Tzu dogs do not have major exercise requirements, they make good apartment dogs. They are definitively not meant to stay outdoors where their precious coats can get easily matted. This breed also does not do well in hot and humid weather.

Activity and Exercise

Despite rambunctious play sessions in the yard and acting lively, this breed does not require much exercise. If you are a couch potato, you may be happy to hear that a vigorous indoor play session and a brief walk around the block may be enough for this breed.

Two Shih Tzu Dogs

Shih Tzu Grooming

This breed will need daily brushing and combing sessions for the rest of its life. If you cannot commit to this, but do not want to end up with a walking mat, you can always invest in a pair of clippers so you can clip your Shih Tzu into an adorable puppy cut.

Although this breed is not hypoallergenic, it may be a better choice for allergy sufferers because when its coat is kept long it tends to shed less. Indeed, stray hairs tend to get caught within their long hair rather than being left behind everywhere. This means more work for you to prevent mats and tangles but less sweeping. On the other hand, a puppy cut will require less care but will also mean more stray hairs on the floor, furniture and upholstery.

Due to the breed's predisposition to various eye problems, make sure to keep the eyes clean. Bathe only when necessary.

Health Concerns

From a health perspective, these precious dogs may have a few issues developing from their unusually short face which predisposes them to some respiratory problems. Expect some wheezing, sneezing and snoring.

Eye diseases, knee problems and liver diseases are some hereditary problems common in this breed. It is important to be very selective in choosing Shih Tzu dog breeders; make sure to choose one who health tests and screens his breeding stock to avoid problems.

Visit dog health problems to learn more about dog diseases and health care.

Even healthy dogs get sick. While many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, there are many others that you may handle on your own. Learn how to save time and money (and how to prevent small problems from becoming big problems) by diagnosing and treating dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Shih Tzu Puppy

Some Interesting Shih Tzu Facts...

If you ever stumble upon breeders selling teacup Shih Tzu puppies or imperial Shih Tzu puppies, keep in mind that these are smaller specimens that do not adhere to the breed standard. The official breed standard set by the American Kennel Club calls for a weight range of 9 to 16 pounds.

Some breeders will mix purebred Shih Tzu dogs with other breeds to produce some interesting mixes. Some common mixes are the Shih Tzu Maltese mix, Shih Tzu Chihuahua mix and the Shih Tzu Poodle mix.

Other breeders may selectively breed for specific colors; an example is the black Shih Tzu or the rare black and tan Shih Tzu.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for healthy Shih Tzu dogs is between 13 and 16 years.

Final Thoughts...

If you are looking for a happy, sweet tempered dog who loves snuggling into soft pillows, then this breed may be right for you. With a long history as a companion dog, Shih Tzu dogs make outgoing, happy, friendly and trusting pals that tend to get along with everyone.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Shih Tzu rescue. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to find purebred shih tzu puppies for adoption.

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Want to learn more?

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? If you answered "YES", then check this Shih Tzu Behavior and Obedience Training Guide.


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Shih Tzu Dogs » Dog Breeds

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