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Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu Breed


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Energy Level

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Physical Characteristics:
Height: 8-11”
Weight: 8-16 lbs.
Energy Level: Moderate
Health & Longevity: 10-16 years
Breeders screen for the following conditions:

  • Kidney disorders
  • Dental problems
  • Hip, knee, eye disorders
The American Kennel Club recognizes the Shih Tzu in 14 colors and 3 markings, including the following:

  • Black
  • White
  • Liver
  • Red
  • Gold
  • Silver
While the Shih Tzu can be found in many colors, the following color traits and markings are most common:

  • Solid
  • Parti-color
  • Blended colors
  • Black, tan, white markings
  • Black mask

Like all brachycephalic breeds (those bred to have a shortened muzzle), the Shih Tzu has difficulty regulating their body temperature, and therefore cannot tolerate temperature extremes. High heat and humidity are especially dangerous. In areas with high temperatures, your Shih Tzu must be housed in an air-conditioned place with access to water. Exercise should be minimal during heat, with walks limited to early morning or nighttime when temperatures are lower. They tolerate cold somewhat better than heat, but should not live outdoors. With heavy bodies, short legs and shortened nasal passages, Shih Tzu are notoriously bad swimmers; those living near or frequently visiting bodies of water, care must be taken to ensure the safety of your dog by using a properly fitted flotation device. Harnesses are recommended for walking to ensure that there is not undue pressure placed on the dog’s airway.

Because Shih Tzu’s eyes are fairly prominent, care should be taken to protect them from injury; hair should either be tied up in a topknot or trimmed to allow the dog to see clearly. Hair over the eyes can result in a dog not seeing objects such as shrub branches, possibly resulting in eye injury. Dental problems are also common, so care should be given to keeping teeth clean. Allergies and ear infections can be caused by foods or environmental allergens and range from mild to severe. Breeders also screen for hips, knees and eye disorders.

Juvenile Renal Dysplasia, a congenital disorder in which the kidneys do not properly develop, can affect Shih Tzu puppies. This results in early kidney failure. Liver shunts are also known in the breed, as well as umbilical hernias. When surgical procedures are performed on your Shih Tzu, it is critical that modern, safe anesthetics (such as Isoflurane) are used, as well as monitoring of heart rate and blood pressure be performed during the procedure.

Temperament & Train-ability

Whereas the Lhasa Apso was bred to be a guard dog, the Shih Tzu was bred strictly to be a companion dog in the palaces of ancient Tibet and China. As such, they possess the hallmark attributes of companion dogs; affectionate, happy, and playful, loving nothing more in life but to share it with their people. While Shih Tzu can handle some alone time, they will not do well housed outdoors or left alone for long periods. A Shih Tzu without near constant companionship is one unhappy creature. And unhappy dogs usually behave in undesirable ways born of their frustration and anxiety; destructive habits and even self-mutilation can result from an isolated, lonely and bored dog.

Small but sturdy, Shih Tzu are a good choice for novice dog owners, senior citizens and families with older children, although toddlers are not recommended. Being highly social means that most Shih Tzu gets along well with other dogs and strangers. They are well suited to apartment or condo living, as well as those with small yards; their exercise needs are minimal, and they are usually not the barkers that other toy breeds can be.

Training a Shih Tzu can be an entertaining and frustrating process, but more often than not, difficulties are a result of the method used. These dogs do not respond well to being pushed around, so traditional force based methods have the potential to destroy the trusting nature of your Shih Tzu and harm the bond between you. By choosing a positive reinforcement method for your Shih Tzu, you will be delighted by their response; not only will you succeed in teaching them what you desire, your relationship will deepen and your dog’s trusting, clever nature will flourish. For those mildly stubborn dogs, simply stay the course; when your Shih Tzu asks “do you really mean it?” calmly respond “yes”, and more than likely you’ll have a dog happily complying.

While a few Shih Tzu have made their way into sports such as competitive obedience, rally and agility, if you wish to compete at a high level, a Shih Tzu is probably not the best choice. However, don’t assume because of this that you can’t train your Shih Tzu to do many things; they love the social interaction inherent in positive training methods, and you will find your relationship deepen whether you are training to compete in rally or just do tricks in the living room. And if high scores are not your priority, there is no reason you cannot enjoy the fun of competing.

Housetraining is typically one of the biggest challenges for Shih Tzu owners, so have a strict plan and stick to it from the beginning. Many owners opt for an indoor potty option for their dogs, such as pee pads or another type of potty tray. This ensures an acceptable location for the dog to relieve itself is always close by, reducing the likelihood of accidents in unwanted places.


A definite part of the charm of the Shih Tzu is their beautiful, soft coat. Long, luxurious locks or the perpetual ‘puppy’ look of a trimmed coat, the Shih Tzu has high grooming needs. If left long, daily brushing and combing are mandatory. If you opt for a trimmed coat, grooming will need to be done every 6-8 weeks. Care should be taken to keep any wrinkles and skin folds clean and dry or they can become havens for bacteria to grow. Ears must be cleaned regularly, and toenails will need to be trimmed, as most Shih Tzu will not wear their nails down even if walked on concrete. Teeth should also be checked and cleaned as necessary.

Shih Tzu are moderate shedders, but the coat tends to stay on the dog rather than end up on the floor. Good news for housekeeping, but this means that matting will occur if not thoroughly brushed. If you get a puppy Shih Tzu, be aware that during the time when the puppy coat is being replaced by the adult coat (roughly 10-12 months), grooming requirements are extremely high. As the puppy coat falls out, it can mat very quickly, so the coat must be brushed often to prevent matting that could necessitate shaving.

The Shih Tzu is available in nearly every color imaginable. They come solid, parti-color, and in blends; a blaze on the face is common, as is a spot on the top of the head. Legend has it that this spot is from Buddha’s kiss.


The amount of food a Shih Tzu will require can vary depending on age, activity level, and type of food fed, but on average will be around ½-1 cup per day. This amount should be fed in two meals per day; free feeding should be avoided to keep your Shih Tzu at a healthy weight. A high quality diet will produce the best results, but one should avoid a high protein diet as these are typically better suited to more active dogs and can cause problems for Shih Tzu. Since Shih Tzu can experience food-related allergies and sensitivities, some experimentation to find a food that works may be needed if sensitivities surface.

A constant supply of fresh, clean water must always be available. Shih Tzu are prone to becoming overweight, so monitor food intake carefully; use a portion of their daily diet for training to avoid overfeeding. Regular exercise is also important to keep your Shih Tzu trim and healthy, but is easily satisfied with some house or yard playtime, or a walk around the neighborhood.

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You can expect to pay between $600-$1500 for your Shih Tzu. Some breeders ask for top dollar for highly desired colors or other perceived valuable attributes, such as size; be aware, there is only one Shih Tzu breed. Those attempting to sell “teacup” or “miniature” Shih Tzu are simply using marketing ploys in an attempt to get top dollar for a smaller dog.

With airline restrictions on flying brachycephalic dogs, it may be necessary to add considerable travel expenses and driving time to get your new dog home.

Paws ‘N’ Pups Ranking

Paws ‘N’ Pups ranks every breed out of 4 with 1 being easiest to integrate into your life and 4 being the toughest – The lower the ranking the better.

Ranking takes into account a few basic factors such as cost, skill level needed, high vs. low maintenance, and how critical regular training is to success. The Shih Tzu rates a 2.5, primarily because of their many health challenges. Their cost is not usually prohibitive, and they are usually easy to live with and have no great need for ongoing training to be happy.


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