Shih Tzu Complete Dog Breed Guide: Lively, Beautiful, and Loyal

Shih Tzu Complete Dog Breed Guide: Lively, Beautiful, and Loyal
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A Shih Tzu's only job in life is to sit there and look pretty. Shih Tzu puppies are extremely adorable and one of the most playful breeds you can own. They are great for people living in small spaces and are very mild-mannered and well-behaved. A Shih Tzu does not need to chase cats, dig holes, or tear up your house.


Shih Tzus are also widely known for being great with children and small babies. They are not aggressive and will not lash out at you for stealing a bone or something small. Find out why Shih Tzus are one of the top favorite dog breeds to own around the world!



Shih Tzu Characteristics (Physical)

A Shih Tzu's general appearance is a straight-up head with a tail that curves over the back, and the sizes will range depending on the size of the Shih Tzu. They are also known for their elegant flowing double coat that comes with various vibrant colors.


A Shih Tzus head is broad and round with a large section between the eyes. Along with the head, their shoulders fit just right compared to the rest of the body. The Shih Tzus body is short, stubby, and sturdy. They have deep, broad chests with a strong rib cage. The ribcage of the Shih Tzu should pass just below the elbow.


The Shih Tzus' short and stubby legs make it hard for them to jump on couches and beds, which is great if you do not allow pets on the furniture. The short legs also make them just that more cute watching them waddle around looking for the next person to give them rubs.



Shih Tzu Dog Breed Size

Shih Tzus are very small dogs, making them part of the Toy Dog breed category. They typically stand from 8 to 11 inches tall, meaning they have very short legs. Shih Tzus are only 9 to 16 pounds, with males and females being similar in size.



Shih Tzu Personality

Even though Shih Tzus are known as being lap dogs and one of the cutest dog breeds, they are actually quite intellegent. They are incredibly smart but can be very stubborn at times.


Shih Tzus are one dog you don't want to underestimate. They have a lot of unique personality traits that make them incredibly special. With the right training and resources, your Shih Tzu will be the center of attention at any dog show.


Shih Tzus make great family dogs because of their natural friendliness, confidence, affectionate demeanor, and absolute lack of prey drive. Shih Tzus are completely fine being picked up and carried by small and respectful children.


Because of these characteristics, Shih Tzus are incredibly loyal to the family they were adopted by. Shih Tzus are not known for running away or becoming tired of the same old family. They are very simple dogs and are happy with their family's simple love and affection.


Some Shih Tzus are very independent and can be stubborn at times. However, with enough training and socialization, their personalities are easily manageable. Maybe making you pick them up halfway through a walk, them not eating all their food when you want them to, or them just simply not listening to you. It is important to remember this is not a malicious act from your Shih Tzu.



shih tzu with flower bows on ears



Shih Tzu Dog Breed Exercise

Shih Tzu puppies six months or older need at least one walk a day that lasts around 20 minutes. Exercise is important for all dogs to maintain a healthy weight. The ideal exercise for a Shih Tzu that is fully grown is two walks a day, lasting anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. More active Shih Tzus can have up to three walking sessions per day, but it's also important to not overwork your Shih Tzu.


There are many benefits to exercising your dogs. Exercise increases your dog's heart strength, manages their glucose levels, helps keep their metabolism in check, and could also increase your dog's appetite. Along with these benefits, exercising also

  • Aids in a good night's sleep
  • Helps your dog release energy or pent-up anger from the day before.
  • Allows a dog to engage their senses like hearing, scenting, sight, which often leads to a more emotionally satisfied dog
  • Outdoor exercise can enable a Shih Tzu to be exposed to stimuli, which eventually leads to less reaction
  • Improve your dog's lifespan


When walking and exercising your dog, it is important to keep a solid few things in mind to ensure they get the best workout they can. Sticking to a schedule can help build a daily workout routine that they look forward to.



Training a Shih Tzu Dog

House training for a Shih Tzu is one of the most difficult things found out by dog owners. Because of their small bladders, Shih Tzus have a hard time waiting for their owners to let them out to use the bathroom.


House Training

It is important to start training them young to ensure your dog doesn't have any accidents in the house and is trained right. Be sure to take them out every few hours and right after they eat, take a nap or have a play session.


You can start early training for your Shih Tzu puppy as soon as eight weeks of age is important to solidify good behaviors. Otherwise, it may be much harder to correct bad behaviors later on.



Socialization for your puppy is one of the most important things you can provide. Exposing them to different environments, animals, and other people helps them become accustomed to new experiences. They won't freak out as much if they are ever put in an unfamiliar situation.


Make them comfortable going out by taking them to many places when they are puppies and giving them lots of treats throughout the trip. Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to train a new puppy. Give them plenty of praises, dog treats, and head scratches to associate new experiences with positive rewards!



Shih Tzu Dog Breed History

The first Shih Tzu breed was recorded at least 100 years ago, but they may have existed far before that. You can find paintings and art of these short and stout lapdogs in China as early as 1000 BC.


Some people speculate that the Shih Tzu actually originated from the neighboring country of Tibet. However, most experts agree that Shih Tzus were developed for Chinese royalty. Many believe the modern-day Shih Tzu came from a mix of Pekingese and Lhasa Apso.


The name Shih Tzu means "little lion" in Chinese and Tibetan culture. According to ancient legend, they received this name from the Tibetan Buddhist goddess of learning. The legend says that the goddess traveled with a small lion dog that could turn into a full-size lion.


Empress Tzu Hsi

In 1861, Empress Tzu Hsi was one of the first significant figures that boosted the popularity of the Shih Tzu. She had a great love for all dogs and made it punishable by death to torture or kill any palace dogs.


When the Dalai Lama gave Empress Tzu Hsi two extraordinary and beautiful Shih Tzus, she created an extensive breeding program for the breed. Her program led to the increase in popularity for Shih Tzus across the nation.


After her death in 1908, many royal families sought to produce a breed with the finest coats and colors. However, this led to poor breeding practices and a decrease in breed quality overall. Higher quality Shih Tzus were smuggled out of the palaces and sold to the highest bidder, noblemen, or foreigners.


Modern-Day Shih Tzus

The first Shih Tzus arrived in the western world in 1928. Lady Brownrigg of England is credited with creating the first Shih Tzu kennel. Soon the popularity of the breed found itself making its way to America.


Shih Tzu clubs began to pop up all over the United States until 1963, until the creation of the American Shih Tzu Club. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed as a member of the Toy Dog category.



Common Health Problems Found in Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus are generally healthy but may have some health problems that pet owners should be aware of. If you notice any of these health issues, it is important to get them to the vet and treated as soon as possible. Some health issues may be hereditary, but most have been phased out from responsible breeding.


Ear Infections

Many Shih Tzus can easily obtain ear infections because of their big floppy ears. A Shih Tzu's ear makes a perfectly dark and moist canal that is the prime environment for ear infections. Ear infections can be particularly painful if not treated early enough.


Eye Problems

Many pet owners will notice their Shih Tzu's large prominent eyes. Because of their big eyes, they are prone to damage like scrapes and cuts. Shih Tzu's eyes are known to get keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea that could lead to dry eye and blindness. Shih Tzu's can also have their eyes dislodged from the socket. This is called proptosis distichiasis is an overgrown eyelash that rubs on the corner of the eyes and could lead to dry eye, redness, irritation, or excessive tearing.



How to Care for a Shih Tzu

Caring for your Shih Tzu is pretty easy. You can keep your puppy healthy and happy with regular vet checkups. Remember to:

  • Watch their diet
  • Make sure they get plenty of exercise
  • Regularly brush their teeth and coat


Make sure gets daily brushing to their teeth and coat to ensure it stays beautiful. Shih Tzus can have serious problems with their teeth, and it is important to brush them at least three times a week. Be sure to clean their ears weekly. They can also be sensitive to very hot temperatures, and it is best to avoid spending a long time in extreme heat.



Nutrition and Feeding For A Shih Tzu

The recommended feeding for a Havanese is ½ to 1 cup of high-quality dog food divided into two meals. However, their diet depends on the dog's size, age, activity levels, and metabolism. Dogs are just like people and react differently to all different kinds of foods. The dog who sleeps all day will eat less than the extremely active dog and play all day. The quality of dog food also has a huge effect on their health and wellness.


Related: Organic Dog Food Vs Non Organic [In-Depth Comparison]



Coat Color And Grooming

Shih Tzus have very soft eyes and a silky smooth coat that is perfect for cuddling. The color patterns on a Shih Tzu are very beautiful and are never the same on two dogs.


It's important to groom the coat of your Shih Tzu to keep it silky and smooth. Shih Tzus do not shed easily despite having long hair and will not leave your couch covered in fur. The coat is long and ranges from straight to curly. The colors come in white, black, gray, stable, or a combination the different colors and markings.


Many owners clip the coat very short of making it easier to take care of so it's not always matted. Longer coats often need more grooming and maintenance to keep them clean and neat.


Many owners hire a professional groomer to manage the long coat and make sure it doesn't become dirty and tangled. You can learn great grooming tips from the groomer so that it's easier for you to manage at home. If you plan on going this route, plan on making an appointment every six to eight weeks.



lounging small white dog by window



Children And Other Pets

Shih Tzus love children and are never aggressive with them. They love playdates, being around people, and getting attention from you. The Shih Tzu is known to relax and calm their owners down, making them great therapy dogs. Shih Tzus have the personality and capability to cheer someone up or calm them down with just their presence.


Shih Tzus are great house and family dogs because of their friendly, kind, and playful nature. It is, however, important that the child understands how to properly handle and play with the animal.


A small child needs to know how to approach a dog to ensure that there are no bad experiences. Small kids are often very aggressive towards animals and don't understand that they shouldn't pull on their tails or disturb them while eating.


If a bad experience does occur in the presence of a child, either for the puppy or the kid, they could become traumatized. The dog could become very skittish and sometimes even mean. If a dog has a bad experience with a small child in the early stages of life, it may become mean and snippy. If a dog bites a child at an early age, it is fair to say that child may gain some phobia related to dogs.



Shih Tzu Dog Rescue Groups

Rescue groups are dedicated to saving and taking in unwanted or abused pets. Many of these groups are completely volunteer-run and often care for the dogs before they find their forever homes!


Some of these organizations are:

  • Colorado Shih Tzu, Maltese and Lhasa Apso Rescue.
  • Fuzzy Pawz Shih Tzu Rescue.
  • Lone Star Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso Rescue.
  • Peke A Tzu Rescue.
  • ResQ Animal Coalition..
  • Shih Tzu and Furbabies Rescue.
  • Shih Tzu Rescue.


These groups focus on the Shih Tzu species and have great options for looking to adopt a pet or giving away a pet if you cannot care for it.



Shih Tzu Dog Breed Organizations

A breed organization is a great place for all Shih Tzu lovers and enthusiasts to come together. The American Shih Tzu Club has all the information you need regarding events and meetups with other owners. The website also has referrals for breeding and training videos to ensure you know all about your dog before purchasing.


These sites allow you to take a deep dive into your dog species and find out their true needs. You can learn great tips to ensure you also don't make a mistake buying a dog that may be too high maintenance for your lifestyle.



More About Shih Tzus

Getting a Shih Tzu from a reputable breeder can cost around $1000-1500. However, Shih Tzus with a higher quality bloodline or pedigree may be worth thousands of dollars more. Many Shih Tzus that have purer bloodlines are usually show-quality and represent all the best qualities of the breed. Remember to always visit the breeder in person to ensure that your next dog grew up in a proper, clean environment with no health problems.


If you still want to own a Shih Tzu but can't afford the exorbitant prices, check out your local rescue shelters to adopt one. You can also contact your local rescue group, who can help you locate a Shih Tzu near you. The adoption fees are typically much lower, ranging in the hundreds of dollars.


Shih Tzu owners will tell you all about how amazing this breed is. According to the AKC, the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, ranking at 20th out of almost 200 different breeds. They are incredibly lively and loyal companion dogs that make them perfect for any family!

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