Shih Tzu - Perfect Small Dog Breed

Shih Tzu - Perfect Small Dog Breed

Author WDF Staff | Last updated: May 02 2023


Shih Tzu is an affectionate, playful, and outgoing dog breed that was bred to be a companion. Their name means little lion, but this dog has nothing fierce in him. These dogs, most of all, love to follow their people wherever they go. Other names for this dog breed are Chinese Lion Dog and Chrysanthemum Dog. Their name is pronounced in the west “sheed-zoo” or “sheet-su” and the Chinese pronounce it “sher-zer”.

Before you start searching for Shih Tzu breeders take your time and find everything this dog breed has to offer so you can be sure that Shih Tzu is the right dog for you. These dogs make great family pets, and they will get along with other animals and kids. If you are searching for a small dog who can adapt to apartment living and who will enjoy cuddling with you on the couch, maybe this is the right dog breed for you. Because of this dog's characteristic and their temper, no wonder they are one of the most popular pets in the world.

FUN FACT: Many people believe that Fu Dogs (the guardians of Buddhist temples) are Shih Tzu dogs.

History of the breed

The origin of this dog breed is ancient, and a recent study has revealed that the Shih Tzu dog is one of the 14 oldest dog breeds in the world because they discovered dog bones in China that prove that these dogs existed as early as 8000 B.C. Many people believe that the Tibetan Monks developed these dogs and that they were a gift to the Chinese royalty. This dog breed is the most likely product of cross-breeding of the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese. One thing is certain – these dogs were treasured companions from an early age.

For many thousand years, these dogs lived a life as royal lap warmer, and they were loved by emperors and their families. At that time, Shih Tzu breeders who produced the most beautiful and affectionate dogs were highly rewarded with gifts by the emperors.

In 1908 many royal families started to produce these dogs, and because of the high competition, breeding was kept a secret. They were selling poor quality dogs on the market, and good dogs were often smuggled out of palaces, and they were gifts for Chinese noblemen. That period lasted until 1930.

The first pair of Shih Tzu was brought to England in 1928 from Peking, and in 1933 first Shih Tzu dog was brought to Ireland from China. By 1960 there were three Shih Tzu clubs in America, and from that time, the popularity of this dog breed is on the rise, and is one of the most popular dogs in the US today.

FUN FACT: Many famous people owned this dog breed, including Queen Elizabeth II and Miley Cyrus.

shih tzu dog

Shih Tzu characteristic

Shih Tzu is a small dog with a short muzzle and dark brown eyes. Their entire body is covered with long hair. Their floppy ears are covered by long fur, and their tail is carried over the back.

Grooming and care

Shih Tzu has a long and silky coat that comes in a variety of colors, including

  • black,
  • black and white,
  • red and white,
  • gray and white.

A white blaze and a white tip on the tail are highly prized. Keeping your dog in good condition is a hard and demanding job. You will need to brush your dog daily to prevent tangles. Because brushing is a very demanding job, many Shih Tzu owners hire a professional to do the job. If you trim their coat short and you want to keep it this way, you will need to groom your dog every six to eight weeks.

If you choose to do the brushing by yourself, you need to make this experience pleasant for the dog. That is why you must start with the grooming sessions when the dog is still a puppy so he can get used to it. Many experienced owners and groomers will recommend that you put a dog on their side during brushing because it is easier that way, and the dog is more comfortable. But for the dog to be calm they will have to get used to grooming sessions.

When your dog is ten to twelve months old, his coat will change from a fluffy puppy coat to an adult silky coat. That time is the most important for their grooming. Brushing will become a very hard job because their coat will mat extremely fast, but you need to stick it through. This period will last for about three months, and after that, when the adult coat comes fully, brushing will get easier.

The rest is basic care – trim their nails as needed and always check their ears for any signs of redness, or wax build-up, which can indicate infection. Clean their ears with a cotton ball dipped into ear cleaner. Because the hair will grow in their ears, in some cases, you will need to trim that hair if the dog has many infections.

Their face also needs a lot of attention. They will become dirty after eating, so you need to wipe their face after a meal. To prevent the hair to go into their eyes, you will need to trim the top hair, or you should tie the hair into a topknot.

Many small dog breeds have dental problems, and the Shih Tzu is no different. You will need to take good care of his teeth to keep the gums healthy and to secure a fresh breath.

Shih Tzus have thick, fluffy, double coats requiring grooming. You should get the proper tool like Hartz Groomer's Dog Brush or the FURminator, and they will do the trick.

shih tzu sleeping


They are excellent apartment dogs, and they do not require a lot of exercise. Short daily walks and a short indoor playtime will be enough to keep this breed happy. Most of the time, they will relax in your lap.

Like any other breed with a short muzzle, they are heat-sensitive. Because of that, during hot days, these dogs should remain indoors with a fan or air conditioning on so they won't suffer from heat exhaustion.

This breed is known for the fact that they like to jump. They will fiercely jump from a bed or a chair, and that is extremely dangerous for them. Because they are so small in most cases, they will injure themself. Although it may seem not so high from your perspective, this is some serious height to a small Shih Tzu. In some cases, they can earn a concussion. Also, you must be careful when carrying around this dog and not let him slip out of your hands.

FUN FACT: These dogs tend to wheeze and snore.


Because these are people dogs the best training method is one filled with praises and rewards. Harsh training methods should not be used while training this dog because he will not respond well and will not do what you ask. If the dog is misbehaving, be firm and never give in until he stops to misbehave. When he settles down, reward him.

Because they are small dogs, many people think that they don't need training and socialization, and that is completely wrong. No matter how small or how good the dog is, he will still need socialization to grow up into a well-mannered dog. You will need to start with socialization when your dog is still a puppy.

This way he can get used to many different situations that will allow them to know how he should behave. From a young age expose your dog to a variety of people, dogs, sights, and sounds, and you can be sure that he will grow into a well-balanced dog. Many owners teach their dogs to use a doggy litter box so they don't have to go out in bad weather or so they don't need to rush home from the job.

Shih Tzus are pretty small, so they don't require too much space. It is a good idea to get them a small, comfy bed just for them. Check out the Aspen Pet Bolster Dog Bed.

shih tzu on the grass

Shih Tzu - kids and other animals

These are great family dogs that will get along well with everybody. They are great for kids, but they are not best suited for a small child or a toddler because there is a chance that your child could hurt the dog because of their small size.

Also, if you let your kids play with these tiny dogs, always it should be on the ground, and you shouldn't allow your kids to carry Shih Tzu in their arms because it could easily slip them and fall on the ground and thus injure them. These dogs will get along excellent with other dogs and pets in the house.

Health problems

Shih Tzu has a life expectancy of 10-18 years and is generally a healthy dog. Like any other breed, they are prone to some problems that every owner and the future owner should be aware of. Many health problems you can eliminate if you purchase a dog from an official and responsible breeder.

Because they test their breeding dogs and take good care of dogs and puppies, the chance that any hereditary disease will occur is small. Because of their short muzzle and long coat, they do not tolerate heat, and they are not good swimmers.

They are prone to

  • hip dysplasia,
  • ear infections,
  • eye problems,
  • bladder stones,
  • bladder infections (if your dog urinates frequently, has blood in his urine, suffers from appetite loss, take him to the vet),
  • reverse sneezing (happens when the dog is overly excited or when he gulps his food too fast),
  • umbilical hernia,
  • retained baby teeth and teeth problems, etc.

Teeth problems

Like any small dog breed, they can have various teeth problems. In some cases, Shit Tzu's baby teeth can remain intact while the permanent ones are growing. In those cases, the veterinarian will have to extract the baby's teeth. Because of their small jaw, in some cases, they can miss some teeth, or they can even be misaligned. That is why it is so important to brush your dogs' teeth regularly. Regular brushing will prevent gum diseases and secure a fresh breath.

shih tzu on the sun

Shih Tzu breeders

Now that you have learned what this dog breed has to offer, if you are still interested in getting Shih Tzu it's time to find good and responsible Shih Tzu breeders. Because these are so popular dogs, many unregistered breeders will try to sell you these dogs, and that is why you should be extremely careful when searching for them.

If you don't want to get a dog who will most likely end up with health and behavior problems, we advise you to search for breeders only on the World Dog Finder website or at the cynological associations of your country. This way, you can be sure that you are talking to official and responsible breeders and that you will end up with the best possible dog. Before talking to breeders, always prepare questions you would like to know, and most of the good breeders will welcome them and answer them to help you find your perfect dog.

Don't get fooled if you hear the expression „imperial“ or „teacup“ Shih Tzu. There are no such dogs. These are just marketing words that some breeders will use to help them sell their puppies. These expressions are just different words that indicate a very small or large Shih Tzu dog.

If you are looking for a family pet who enjoys spending time with you on the couch, Shih Tzu certainly can be the right dog breed. They are affectionate, small, and very intelligent dogs who will adapt to your lifestyle. If you raise them right from the start, with proper training and socialization, you can be sure that they will grow into well-behaved dogs with whom you will enjoy every minute of the day.

World Dog Finder team