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Shih Tzu

ShihTzu

A Spunky Sweetheart

Gentle, friendly, attention-loving

Shih Tzus are lively, playful, and sometimes stubborn small dogs. The “Chinese Lion Dog” is affectionate toward their family, and good with children, other dogs, and strangers. These furry companions are indoor dogs that don’t do well with hot weather, but they make great pets for seniors, families with older children, and people with allergies because they do not shed. Despite their high energy, they only need a short walk or play session every day.

Understanding their unique needs will help keep them healthy and create a strong bond between the two of you. Explore this page to learn more about the breed’s history, health concerns, characteristics, and care needs.

Breed Details

Height:8-11 in. Weight:9-16 lb Lifespan:13-15 years

Size
2

1=small 5=large

Grooming requirements
4

1 = little grooming - 5 = much grooming

Energy level
3

1 = low energy - 5 = high energy

Ease of training
2

1 = difficult - 5 = easy

Affection toward owners
4

1 = independent - 5 = very affectionate

Friendliness toward strangers
4

1 = shy - 5 = very friendly

Routine Care: The Shih Tzu is well suited for apartment living; they will need a daily walk and regular inside play. They can be sensitive to warm temperatures; avoid any prolonged exposure and be very alert to the signs of heat stress. They are highly intelligent and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks to keep them mentally stimulated.

Grooming: Regular brushing and grooming is needed to keep their coat beautiful. 

Dental: Shih Tzu often have serious problems with their teeth, so you’ll need to brush them at least three times a week! 

Ear Care: Clean their ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—your veterinarian can show you how! 

Their large personality and adorable underbite makes it easy to understand why the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

Positive Traits:

  • Excellent companion 

  • Needs minimal exercise 

  • Sweet, playful, and friendly 

  • Alert, curious, and busy 

  • Good around other pets and dogs 

  • Intelligent, friendly, and easily won over

Negative Traits:

  • An indoor dog that doesn’t do well in the heat 

  • May have a tendency to bark excessively 

  • Can be aggressive, fearful, or snappy if not socialized properly 

  • Can be difficult to housetrain 

  • Fragile and easily injured because of their small size 

  • Needs frequent attention from their family 



Whether you are considering adding a new Shih Tzu to your family or you already have one as a companion, it is important for you to know about the genetically linked diseases known to occur more often in this breed. Of course not every Shih Tzu will have these problems, but research shows your pal is more at risk than other breeds.

By exploring the health concerns specific to the Shih Tzu you will become a knowledgeable and confident pet parent. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about breed risks every time you visit and educate yourself on the most important signs to watch for at home. They are counting on you to be their health expert.

Some health concerns a Shih Tzu could encounter:


The “Little Lion Dog” originated in the 17th century in China and is believed to be a cross between the Tibetan Spaniel and the Lhasa Apso. They are a new breed to America: in the 1960s there were only 100 registered in this country! Their popularity rose quickly and they were recognized by the AKC in 1969. They are sensitive to the heat and require only moderate exercise. They make a great companion dog, and take their job very seriously. Shih Tzu love to be with their family as much as possible. They are a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 13-15 years. 

Consult with a veterinarian if your Shih Tzu shows signs of the following:

  • Slow or stunted growth; sometimes seizures after eating 

  • Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping” 

  • Blinking, redness, pain or itchiness around the eyes 

  • Squinting, watery eyes, bluing cornea, redness, enlarged eye 

  • Redness, squinting or greenish eye discharge 

  • Cloudiness to eye lens

  • Pain or straining to urinate, bloody urine 

  • Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat 

  • Excessive licking or chewing, pawing at face and/or ears, head shaking, face rubbing 

  • Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest 

  • Loud breathing, tires easily at exercise 

  • Misplaced or missing teeth, bad breath, hair and food stuck between teeth

  • Care

    Routine Care: The Shih Tzu is well suited for apartment living; they will need a daily walk and regular inside play. They can be sensitive to warm temperatures; avoid any prolonged exposure and be very alert to the signs of heat stress. They are highly intelligent and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks to keep them mentally stimulated.

    Grooming: Regular brushing and grooming is needed to keep their coat beautiful. 

    Dental: Shih Tzu often have serious problems with their teeth, so you’ll need to brush them at least three times a week! 

    Ear Care: Clean their ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—your veterinarian can show you how! 

  • Characteristics

    Their large personality and adorable underbite makes it easy to understand why the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

    Positive Traits:

    • Excellent companion 

    • Needs minimal exercise 

    • Sweet, playful, and friendly 

    • Alert, curious, and busy 

    • Good around other pets and dogs 

    • Intelligent, friendly, and easily won over

    Negative Traits:

    • An indoor dog that doesn’t do well in the heat 

    • May have a tendency to bark excessively 

    • Can be aggressive, fearful, or snappy if not socialized properly 

    • Can be difficult to housetrain 

    • Fragile and easily injured because of their small size 

    • Needs frequent attention from their family 



  • Health Concerns

    Whether you are considering adding a new Shih Tzu to your family or you already have one as a companion, it is important for you to know about the genetically linked diseases known to occur more often in this breed. Of course not every Shih Tzu will have these problems, but research shows your pal is more at risk than other breeds.

    By exploring the health concerns specific to the Shih Tzu you will become a knowledgeable and confident pet parent. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about breed risks every time you visit and educate yourself on the most important signs to watch for at home. They are counting on you to be their health expert.

    Some health concerns a Shih Tzu could encounter:


  • History

    The “Little Lion Dog” originated in the 17th century in China and is believed to be a cross between the Tibetan Spaniel and the Lhasa Apso. They are a new breed to America: in the 1960s there were only 100 registered in this country! Their popularity rose quickly and they were recognized by the AKC in 1969. They are sensitive to the heat and require only moderate exercise. They make a great companion dog, and take their job very seriously. Shih Tzu love to be with their family as much as possible. They are a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 13-15 years. 

  • Watch Out For

    Consult with a veterinarian if your Shih Tzu shows signs of the following:

    • Slow or stunted growth; sometimes seizures after eating 

    • Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping” 

    • Blinking, redness, pain or itchiness around the eyes 

    • Squinting, watery eyes, bluing cornea, redness, enlarged eye 

    • Redness, squinting or greenish eye discharge 

    • Cloudiness to eye lens

    • Pain or straining to urinate, bloody urine 

    • Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat 

    • Excessive licking or chewing, pawing at face and/or ears, head shaking, face rubbing 

    • Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest 

    • Loud breathing, tires easily at exercise 

    • Misplaced or missing teeth, bad breath, hair and food stuck between teeth

Shih Tzu Discussions

Share your thoughts and experiences, ask questions, or just show your love for the Shih Tzu breed here!

Select Another Breed

To view the sources for the information listed on this page, see our Dog Breed Guide Reference page.

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