Shih Tzu

If your dream dog or puppy is a loving, adorable, and easy-going small-sized dog, the beautiful Shih Tzu may be the perfect dog for you. The Shih Tzu is sometimes called the Chrysanthemum Dog, a nickname that describes the way the hair on his face grows out in all directions — he looks like a flower with a nose for the center.

While this affectionate little companion may not want to stay outside all day playing fetch or racing around the yard, they are known to be some of the absolute best snugglers. Any dog requires at least a small amount of physical activity to be happy and healthy, but the Shih Tzu's favorite activity is curling up next to you on the couch and even snuggling in bed with you at night if allowed. Other than the Shih Tzu's lovely personality, one of the first things you may notice is their gorgeous coat - that is if the owner has not cut it short to cut down on daily grooming. The Shih Tzu's long, silky coat is somewhat close to the texture of human hair, and like human hair requires daily brushing to remain tangle free. So, be prepared to spend a fair amount of time grooming your dog and consider regular appointments with a groomer you trust. If you decide to bring a Shih Tzu puppy into your home, you may find that they are notoriously difficult to housetrain. Proper crate training can ease this process considerably. Overall, Shih Tzus are charming companions who will quickly find a place in your heart and your home.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Shih Tzu breed is also commonly known by the names Chinese Lion Dog,Chrysanthemum Dog.

Popularity: Very popular

Life expectancy: 10 - 15 years

Breed group: Toy Dogs (AKC), Utility Dogs (KC), Companion and Toy Dogs Dogs (FCI)

Size: Tiny

Male Female
Height 8 - 11 in 8 - 11 in
Weight 9 - 15 lbs 9 - 15 lbs

Coat: Long

Colors: Black, Brown, White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Average shedder

Grooming requirements: Very high

Good with children: Yes

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: High

Exercise needs: Low

Tolerates being alone: Average

Hunting drive: High

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Average

Good for novice owners: Definitely

Hypoallergenic breed: Yes

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Occasional

General health: Average

Cost to keep: Average


The Shih Tzu breed is thought to originate in China around 800 B.C. and this history has given them the nickname "Lion Dog". DNA tests reveal that the Shih Tzu's ancestors are of an ancient breed referred to as the "Kitchen Midden Dog". One branch of this type eventually become the Papillion and Long-haired Chihuahua, while the Pug and Shih Tzu belong to another branch of this type of dog.

While the exact origin of the breed is unknown, one theory is that they are descended from a Pekingese and Lhasa Apso cross that was gifted to Chinese emperors by the Dalai Lama in the late 17th century. Often seen in ancient paintings, dogs resembling the Shih Tzu were favorites of the royalty and were bred for their beautiful coats. They were rarely seen out of the possession of the nobility.

In 1928, the first Shih Tzus were brought to England from Peking by Lady Brownrigg, the wife of the quartermaster general of the north China command. In 1933, a Mrs. Hutchins brought a Shih Tzu from China to Ireland; this dog was eventually bred to Lady Brownrigg's. These three dogs formed the foundation of Lady Brownrigg's kennel. Maureen Murdock and Philip Price, her nephew, were the first to import and breed Shih Tzus in the United States. There were three Shih Tzu clubs by 1960: the American Shih Tzu Association in Florida, the Texas Shih Tzu Society, and the Shih Tzu Club of America. In 1963, the Shih Tzu Club of America and the Texas Shih Tzu Society merged to form the American Shih Tzu Club. In 1969, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the Toy Group.


The adorable Shih Tzu is a Iively, affectionate and playful companion.
Typical characteristics are:

  • Round, broad head, large, round eyes, square, flat muzzle, and a sweet, friendly, and trusting expression.

  • Short coupled body, longer than the dog is tall.

  • A high-set tail carried curved over the back.

  • Luxurious, long, flowing double coat.

  • A variety of colors including: black, black and white, gray and white, or red and white.



Shih Tzus are generally intelligent, and can quickly grasp basic commands. However, they are moderately difficult to train. Shih Tzus tend to have a stubborn streak and require a kind, consistent hand when training. Positive reinforcement is particularly helpful. Because of their happy, affectionate, and generally easy-going nature, Shih Tzus are very good dogs for novice owners.

As intelligent dogs, Shih Tzus will need an outlet for their intelligence and energy. Playtime and walks will help prevent your dog from acting out in undesirable ways like chewing, barking, etc.


Shih Tzus are wonderful lap dogs. The are snuggly companions and do not require a lot of exercise. A short walk around the block a couple of times a day is plenty.

Because of their flat muzzles, Shih Tzus may have more difficulty breathing in extreme temperatures. Be very mindful when exercising your dog in hot or cold weather.

Provide daily play sessions, these intelligent dogs need some kind of mental stimulation to be really happy. Learning small tricks or performing in agility or obedience will help keep these little attention seekers happy and content.

Special attention should be given to puppies. Avoid jumping up and down furniture and running up and down the stairs, as their bones and joints are still growing and too much exercise can induce problems later on. Even as adults, jumping down from furniture and high places is not recommended for small dogs like the Shih Tzu.


Shih Tzus were bred as companion animals and they require attention from their owners. They are happiest if they can spend all of their time alongside their family, preferably in your lap. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own.


Because they are suspicious of strangers and will bark, Shih Tzus can be decent "alert" dogs. They will warm up to strangers quite quickly and because of their small size, they are not suitable guard dogs.

Living Conditions

As they don't require a lot of exercise or a large space to live, Shih Tzus make excellent apartment dogs. However, they will be just as happy in a larger home. They are indoor dogs and need a safe, comfortable indoor home where they can be close to their family.

Children and Other Pets

Shih Tzus are excellent family dogs and live comfortably alongside children as calm companions and snugglers. However, due to their small size, care should be taken so that a child does not accidentally injure the dog. They should never carry the dog, as they could accidently drop it and children should taught to be careful around a Shih Tzu's prominent eyes, which are easily injured. That said, extra care should be taken, especially with young children (under the age of 6).

  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

No dog, regardless of breed, should be left unattended with young children.

In general, Shih Tzus get along very well with other dogs and pets, especially if they are properly socialized as puppies.


The average life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is between 10 - 15 years. Like all breeds, the Shih Tzu is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Shih Tzu is prone to these diseases:
  • Reverse sneezing (hereditary)
  • Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) (hereditary)
  • Umbilical Hernia (hereditary)
  • Retained baby teeth and tooth and gum problems (hereditary)
  • Ear Infections (hereditary)
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye) (hereditary)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»
  • Ectopic Cilia (hereditary)
  • Distichiasis (hereditary)
  • Proptosis (hereditary)
  • Keratitis (hereditary)
  • Eye Problems (hereditary)
  • Bladder stones and bladder infections (hereditary)
  • Juvenile renal dysplasia (JRD) (hereditary)
  • Patellar Luxation (hereditary) : Patellar luxation is a very common orthopedic disorder in dogs. A patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated or slips out of its normal position. More info»


A Shih Tzus long, silky coat requires quite a bit of grooming. In fact, many people of to take their dog to a professional groomer and have the long hair trimmed short. Their beautiful coat requires daily, careful brushing to eliminate tangles. Make sure to brush all the way down to the skin. Brushing the hair in sections makes it easier and more comfortable for your dog. Wipe your Shih Tzu's face daily with a warm, damp cloth to remove any tearing from the eyes.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness, or a foul smell that could indicate an infection and cleaned when needed with ear cleaning fluid.

To keep the coat in top condition Shih Tzus need to have a bath every week. Wet the coat with lukewarm water, apply the shampoo and gently run your fingers through the coat to remove the dirt. Make sure you rinse the coat thoroughly so no shampoo remains. If you use a dryer, spray the coat with conditioner to prevent split ends when drying.

Shih Tzus don't usually wear their nails down on their own, Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Like many small breeds, Shih Tzus are prone to dental problems. They tend to form a lot of plaque on their teeth. If you don’t brush their teeth regularly, the plaque becomes tartar which can lead to tooth problems, at a very young age. Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and adapted dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.


1/2 to 1 cup of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Shih Tzus are prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.