Shih Tzu are lively and energetic companions. Yet, they are also amazingly low-key and satisfied—assuming they get an adequate amount of attention. They like nothing better than to be held, stroked, petted and pampered by their owners, and are perfectly happy sitting on the couch with you for hours while you dote on them. This is a noble breed—sometimes translating into arrogance and haughtiness, other times into courageousness and politeness—but they are never too proud for a roll on the floor with a treasured squeaky toy.
Compact, yet slightly longer than it is tall, the Shih Tzu hides a sturdy body beneath its mantle of luxurious hair. It has a smooth, effortless stride with good reach and drive. Even though its function is that of companion, it should nonetheless be structurally sound. Its expression is warm, sweet and wide-eyed, imparting the impression of trust and friendliness. The long, dense coat is double and fairly straight.
The spunky but sweet Shih Tzu is both a gentle lap dog and a vivacious companion. It has an upbeat attitude and loves to play and romp. It is affectionate to its family and good with children. It is surprisingly tough and does have a stubborn streak.
- There is no such breed as an “imperial” or “teacup” Shih Tzu. These are simply marketing terms used by unscrupulous breeders use to indicate a very small or large Shih Tzu.
- Shih Tzus are difficult to housebreak. Be consistent, and do not allow a puppy to roam the house unsupervised until he is completely trained. Crate training is helpful.
- The flat shape of the Shih Tzu’s face makes him susceptible to heat stroke, because the air going into the lungs isn’t cooled as efficiently as it is among longer-nosed breeds. He should be kept indoors in air-conditioning rooms during hot weather.
- Be prepared to brush and comb the Shih Tzu coat every day. It mats easily.
- While Shih Tzus are trustworthy with children, they’re not the best choice for families with toddlers or very young children because their small size puts them at risk for unintentional injury.
- The Shih Tzu tends to wheeze and snore, and can be prone to dental problems.
- While all dogs eat their own or other animals’ feces (coprophagia), the Shih Tzu seems especially prone to this behavior. The best way to handle the problem is never let it become a habit. Watch your Shih Tzu closely and clean up poop right away.
- To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
Other Quick Facts
- Shih Tzus are often called chrysanthemum dogs because of the way their hair grows up from the nose and around the face in all directions.
- The Shih Tzu may have originated in Tibet, bred by Tibetan lamas to be a tiny replica of a lion, which is associated with Buddhist mythology.
- The Shih Tzu is prized for his small size, sweet nature, flowing coat, and intelligent mind.
- The name is pronounced SHEED-zoo.
- Comparable Breeds: Lhasa Apso, Pekingese
DNA analysis placed the ancestors of today’s Shih Tzu breed in the group of “ancient” breeds indicating “close genetic relationship to wolves”. Another branch coming down from the “Kitchen Midden Dog” gave rise to the Papillon and Long-haired Chihuahua and yet another “Kitchen Midden Dog” branch to the Pug and Shih Tzu.
It is also said that the breed originated in China, hence the name “Lion Dog”, in 800BC. There are various theories of the origins of today’s breed. Theories relate that it stemmed from a cross between Pekingese and a Tibetan dog called the Lhasa Apso. Dogs during ancient times were selectively bred and seen in Chinese paintings. The dogs were favorites of the Chinese royals and were so prized that for years the Chinese refused to sell, trade, or give away any of the dogs. The first dogs of the breed were imported into Europe (England and Norway) in 1930, and were classified by the Kennel Club as “Apsos”. The first European standard for the breed was written in England in 1935 by the Shih Tzu Club, and the dogs were recategorised as Shih Tzu. The breed spread throughout Europe, and was brought to the United States after World War II, when returning members of the US military brought back dogs from Europe, in the mid 1950s. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 in the Toy Group.
The breed is now recognized by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world. It is also recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale for international competition in Companion and Toy Dog Group, Section 5, Tibetan breeds. In the United States, the Shih Tzu ranked the 15th most popular breed in 2013, falling slightly in popularity since 2012, when it was placed in 11th position.
The Shih Tzu is an alert, lively, little dog. It is happy and hardy, and packed with character. The gentle, loyal Shih Tzu makes friends easily and responds well to consistent, patient training. It makes a very alert watchdog. It is courageous and clever.
Playful and spunky, this affectionate little dog likes to be with people and is generally good with other pets. Some can be difficult to housebreak. The Shih Tzu needs all of the humans in the house to be pack leaders, with the rules of the house made consistently clear. Owners who allow their dogs to take over may find them to be snappish if they are surprised or peeved. Because of this dog’s small size and its adorable face, it commonly develops Small Dog Syndrome, human induced behaviors where the dog believes he is the boss of humans. This causes a varying degree of behavioral issues, such as, but not limited to separation anxiety, guarding, growling, snapping, and even biting. These dogs may become untrustworthy with children and sometimes adults, as they try and tell the humans what THEY want THEM to do. They will be obstinate as they take their stand and defend their top position in the pack. They may bark obsessively as they try and TELL you what they want. These behaviors are NOT Shih Tzu traits, but rather behaviors brought on by the way they are treated by people around them. Give this dog rules and limits as to what it is and is not allowed to do. Be its firm, stable, consistent pack leader. Take it for daily pack walks to burn mental and physical energy. Its temperament will improve for the better, and you will bring out the sweet, trustworthy dog in it.
The Shih Tzu has a lifespan of 11 to 16 years. Some of the minor diseases that can affect this breed are renal dysplasia (abnormal growth of tissue), trichiasis (eyelash malformation), entropion, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), otitis externa, patellar luxation, and inguinal (groin) hernia, as well as a major concern like canine hip dysplasia (CHD). This breed is also prone to cataract and dental problems. Eye, hip, and DNA tests can be good for preventive health care, or for management of non-preventive conditions.
The Shih Tzu doesn’t really mind where he lives, as long as he’s with you. He’s a very adaptable dog who can be comfortable in a small city apartment or a large suburban or country home. He is definitely a housedog and should not be kenneled outside, though he enjoys a bit of backyard play.
The Shih Tzu is content with short walks each day. He is not an extremely active dog; he’s content to sit in your lap, wander around the house, play with his toys, or run to the door to greet visitors.
Like other breeds with short faces, the Shih Tzu is sensitive to heat. He should remain indoors in an air-conditioned room (or one with fans) on hot days so he doesn’t suffer from heat exhaustion.
No, the breed cannot fly; but owners commonly report that their Shih Tzu thinks he can. It not unusual for a Shih Tzu to fearlessly jump from a bed or a chair. While they may not seem high to you, these heights are towering to the small Shih Tzu. And, unfortunately, these jumps often end in injury. The breed is front heavy and crashes forward, causing injury or even a concussion to the head. Be very careful when carrying your Shih Tzu. Hold him securely and don’t let him jump out of your arms or off furniture.
Even though he’s naturally docile and friendly, the Shih Tzu needs early socialization and training. Like any dog, he can become timid if he is not properly socialized when young. Early socialization helps ensure that your Shih Tzu puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Shih Tzus are often considered difficult to housebreak. Most important is to avoid giving your puppy opportunities to have accidents inside — you don’t want him to become accustomed to using the carpet. (Some Shih Tzu owners teach their dogs to use a doggie litter box so they don’t need to walk them in bad weather or rush home to take them out.) A Shih Tzu puppy should be carefully supervised inside the house until he has not eliminated indoors for at least four to eight weeks. Crate training is helpful for housetraining and provides your dog with a quiet place to relax. A crate is also useful when you board your Shih Tzu or travel.
The Shih Tzu is good for apartment life. These dogs are fairly active indoors and will do okay without a yard. This breed is sensitive to the heat.
The Shih Tzu needs a daily walk. Play will take care of a lot of its exercise needs, however, as with all breeds, play will not fulfill its primal instinct to walk. Dogs that do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behavior problems. They will also enjoy a good romp in a safe, open area off lead, such as a large, fenced-in yard. Do not overfeed this breed or it will quickly become fat.
These little dogs require a good daily grooming using a bristle brush. When kept in a long coat a topknot is usually tied to keep the hair out of the dog’s eyes. Some owners prefer to have them trimmed to make the coat easier and less time-consuming to care for. Keep the ear passages and area around the eyes clean. Shih Tzus have sensitive eyes that need to be kept clean. There are special drops you can buy to put in them if needed. Ask your vet what to use on your dog. This breed sheds little to no hair and is good for allergy sufferers
if its coat is kept very well groomed, due to the fact that they shed little skin dander.
The Shih Tzu is a wonderful family pet. He gets along with other dogs or animals, and his docile personality makes him a good companion for children.
Kids should sit on the floor to play with a Shih Tzu puppy, however, so there is no risk of carrying and dropping him. Children should also learn to keep their fingers away from the Shih Tzu’s prominent eyes, which can be easily injured.
Did You Know?
One of the more ancient breeds in existence, Shih Tzus are believed to have been bred by Tibetan lamas to be a tiny replica of a lion, which is associated with Buddhist mythology.