Shih Tzu Information & Characteristics

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu dogs are of Asian origin, specifically from Tibet. They were offered as gifts to the Chinese royalty. Big round eyes, floppy ears, a short snout, and an extra hairy coat are some of the reasons why people love Shih Tzu dogs. Their friendly and playful nature makes Shih Tzus great pets and they are a good choice for first-time pet owners. They also require minimal exercise and are good with both adults and children. 

Shih Tzu’s temperament can be defined as happy and affectionate. They thrive best in a climate that remains moderately warm and cool at the same time. These dogs face some health issues in summers and winters but by taking proper care you can avoid these issues altogether. 

Key specifications of Shih Tzu Dog Breed:

  • Weight:

    A healthy Shih Tzu dog weighs between 4.5kg to 8.1kg.
  • Height:

    It stands 8 to 11 inches tall but walks and runs in confident strides.
  • Lifespan:

    Shih Tzu’s lifespan is 10 to 18 years, but its average life expectancy is around 12 years.
  • Coat:

    The coat is its main attraction. If not groomed and maintained, the hair on a Shih Tzu’s coat can grow up to its feet.
  • Teeth:

    Shih Tzus often tend to develop an underbite, a dental condition wherein the dog’s lower teeth extend farther than the upper front teeth.

Behavioral traits of Shih Tzu Dog:

  • A Shih Tzu is a family pet and loves all the attention you will shower on it.
  • Shih Tzu’s personality is friendly, and it is kind to children as well.
  • It is a jolly dog who loves playing around.
  • It does not shy away from displaying their emotions. A Shih Tzu will immediately let you know if something has irritated them or even if they are happy. It is quite known for its assertiveness.
  • Shih Tzus, thanks to its friendly temperament, quite easily mix with people and other pets.
  • It has high energy levels and is eager to play with those who engage with it.

Physical appearance

- Shih Tzus are small breeds, and you can easily carry them as well. They are super adorable to look at and have a soft bark. The coats of these dogs come in 10 colours namely – solid black, solid white, solid blue, solid red, silver, gold, live (chocolate brown), brindle, double coloured and tri-coloured. Their coats also have distinct patterns that set them apart from each other within the breed as well. Shih Tzus coats can be classified into the following patterns:

  • Collar or Shawl

    – This pattern is observed when a Shih Tzu has a solid-coloured coat over most of its body, but a strap of white fur goes around its neck. This makes it look like the Shih Tzu is wearing a shawl.
  • Blaze

    – This pattern has a white fur streak running between the eyes of the dog. The streak may extend down to the neck or the back, but it always runs through the centre.
  • Flare

    – This pattern is like Blaze but here, a patch of white fur widens and extends towards the head. The patch may run down the back and even cover the neck.
  • Tuxedo

    – Here, the Shih Tzu has a solid-coloured coat throughout its body except for a little white fur on the chest and paws. This makes it look like the dog is wearing a tuxedo.
  • Saddle

    – This pattern has a little bit of white fur on the dog’s back making it look like a horse’s saddle.

Apart from their coat colours and patterns, Shih Tzus also have different markings. According to the American Kennel Club, these are four markings acceptable in Shih Tzu:

  • Black Markings
  • Black Mask
  • Tan Markings
  • White Markings

To recognize the original Shih Tzu breed, there are five things you need to check:

  • Size – Shih Tzus are small dogs and typically weigh between 4.5kg to 8.1kg.
  • Tail – One of the most striking things about a Shih Tzu is its tail that curls over its back. Their tails are also noticeable high and plumed.
  • Ears – Shih Tzus are noted for their heavily coated ears. Their ears are quite large and are among the most instantly noticeable features about their appearance.
  • Eyes – They have wide, round eyes that are mostly dark in colour.
  • Nose – Another instantly noticeable aspect of Shih Tzus are their open nostrils. Their noses are flat and mostly black.


- One of Shih Tzu’s most striking characteristics is its extremely friendly nature. There is hardly anything that can dampen their spirits, but they can get moody at times, too. A Shih Tzu is an affectionate dog and loves to snuggle and cuddle. It will never say no to incoming loads of love! It is not too fussy either, making it a great companion to those who are living alone and are looking for a company to come home to. Shih Tzus also have a very low tendency to drool. They do, however, tend to bark more frequently than other dogs due to several reasons, including wanting to get your attention or when it senses any danger, and so on.

Care Requirements for Shih Tzu Dog Breed:

Here’s some more information on Shih Tzu that you should know if you are thinking of adopting one:

  • Health

    - Shih Tzus are classified as brachycephalic, meaning they have flat noses and muzzles. Its breathing passages are compact and narrow. Shih Tzus do not perspire as humans do. And since it is brachycephalic, Shih Tzus find it difficult to pant as loudly as other breeds do. Its nostrils are also pinched which prevents it from breathing and inhaling too deeply. In summers, you must make sure your Shih Tzu remains hydrated. You also may have to cut down on its exercises. These dogs do not like cold weather and tend to frequently fall sick during this season. Shih Tzus are also prone to eye and ear infections. Their skin is also quite sensitive which makes them vulnerable to allergies. Senior Shih Tzus are also prone to develop cataracts that can be surgically corrected.
  • Grooming

    – Shih Tzu’s maintenance might not be an easy task. Shih Tzu owners have to make sure they regularly groom and trim its coat. Its coat also has to be combed through to prevent the hair from getting all tangled, messy and unhealthy. The hair on its head also grows at a fast pace and have to be trimmed to keep it from getting into Shih Tzu’s eyes. A few enthusiastic owners also tie their hair into little ponies and adorn the ponies with adorable accessories, too! Their coat comes in several colours but its prominent colours are black, white, and grey.
  • Exercise

    - With Shih Tzus being brachycephalic, you must make sure it does not feel too hot while exercising or even its exercise does not turn too strenuous. An ideal exercise routine for Shih Tzus includes 2 walks every day for 20 minutes each. It is also advisable to bring water on walks during summer as well. During winters, it is recommended to buy a winter coat for your Shih Tzu and only then take it for a walk outside.
  • Nutrition

    - Shih Tzus’ nutritional needs depend on their activity level and age. Chicken and eggs are the main sources of good protein for Shih Tzu dogs. Chocolate, raw eggs, raw meat, onions and garlic are to be avoided at all costs. Daily, it is advisable to feed your Shih Tzu 4/5 to 1 cup of Pedigree Mini dry dog food, or 77-101g of dry food plus 1/2 cup of wet food from Pedigree Mini for overall healthy growth.
  • Training

    - Apart from their signature furry coats, Shih Tzus are also known for their stubborn nature. Training a Shih Tzu dog needs patience and gentleness. You can try training it by using a leash and through the treats. If your Shih Tzu has not been exposed to other dogs or a gathering of people, and if you suddenly present it to an audience, it may get skittish. It is advisable to make your Shih Tzu dog sociable by introducing it to different people in your circle or neighborhood.

History of Shih Tzu Breed:

Shih Tzu dogs have a royal history, quite literally. These dogs were the favorites of the Chinese royalty, so much so that they disapproved of selling or trading them. The Chinese royals also called Shih Tzu dogs ‘chrysanthemum dogs’ because the hair around their face resembled the flower’s petals. Shih Tzu’s origin is traced back to Tibet over 2000 years ago. These dogs were also deemed as the guards of the royal palace, their consistent barks were held in high regard.

These dogs are also associated with Buddhism and Tibetan lamas also bred them to look like little lions. Legends say that the Tibetan Buddhist God of Learning travelled with a small lion dog that could change its form into a full-grown lion.

Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso caused a lot of confusion in England. In 1934, both these dogs were classified into 2 distinct breeds after the Apso was displayed. The main point of distinction between a Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu is their muzzle. A Lhasa Apso’s muzzle is longer than Shih Tzu’s and its eyes are also smaller than the latter. Lhasa Apso’s coat hair also parts along its spine and darkens around the ears whereas Shih Tzu’s coat hair is slightly wavy.

Nicole Richie, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Colin Farell, Bill Gates, and Queen Elizabeth II are some of the prominent names who are or have been owners of the Shih Tzu dog breed.

Interested in learning about all the different types of dog breeds? Our breeds category page has everything you need to know about them.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shih Tzu Dog:

Do Shih Tzus Get Along with Other Pets?

Known for their friendly temperament, Shih Tzus generally get along with most animals in their vicinity. But you should be extra careful when you have a hamster and a guinea pig along with a Shih Tzu. Shih Tzus might chase the hamster or the guinea pig because of their happy and exciting nature and could be a little rough with them.

Is Shih Tzu a Good Family Dog?

Can Shih Tzus Stay at Home Alone?

Are Shih Tzus Easy to Groom?

Do Shih Tzus Bark a Lot?

Free Voucher Sign Up

Click below and sign up to get a free discount voucher

Get Voucher
popup bg
Pedigree imagery
Buy Now