That face! Those big dark eyes looking up at you with that sweet expression! It’s no surprise that Shih Tzu owners have been so delighted with this little “Lion Dog” for a thousand years. Where Shih Tzu go, giggles and mischief follow.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 20 of 192
- Height: 9-10.5 inches
- Weight: 9-16 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 10-18 years
- Group: Toy Group
About the Shih Tzu
Shi Tsu (pronounced in the West “sheed-zoo” or “sheet-su”; the Chinese say “sher-zer”), weighing between 9 to 16 pounds, and standing between 8 and 11 inches, are surprisingly solid for dogs their size. The coat, which comes in many colors, is worth the time you will put into it—few dogs are as beautiful as a well-groomed Shih Tzu.
Being cute is a way of life for this lively charmer. The Shih Tzu is known to be especially affectionate with children. As a small dog bred to spend most of their day inside royal palaces, they make a great pet if you live in an apartment or lack a big backyard. Some dogs live to dig holes and chase cats, but a Shih Tzu’s idea of fun is sitting in your lap acting adorable as you try to watch TV.
When you own a Shih Tzu, you own a little bit of Chinese history. Imperial breeders in the palace of the Chinese emperor developed the Shih Tzu (meaning “lion dog”) centuries ago from Tibetan breeding stock. The breed is most likely the product of crosses of two even older Sino-Tibetan breeds, the Lhaso Apso and the Pekingese.
For hundreds of years, Shih Tzu lived the life of royal lap warmers and were pampered by emperors and their families. It is said emperors would give valuable gifts to breeders of Shih Tzu who produced the most beautiful and affectionate dogs.
The breed remained hidden behind palace walls, virtually unknown to the outside world, until the1930s. Breed clubs formed in Peking and later England further refined the breed, not without much debate among fanciers as to proper type. The Shih Tzu entered the AKC Stud Book in 1969.
Since then, the Shih Tzu has been one of the most popular toy dogs here and in the United Kingdom. And they still treat their owners, no matter who they might be, like royalty. Owners as diverse as Queen Elizabeth II and Miley Cyrus have succumbed to the Shih Tzu’s exotic charms.
A high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will have all the nutrients the breed needs. To help ensure that the Shih Tzu does not become overweight, watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. If you choose to give your dog treats, do so in moderation. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.
A Shih Tzu with a long coat requires daily brushing. Use a good-quality wire brush with flexible pins, and layer the hair to be sure you reach to the skin. A bath about every three or four weeks will help to keep the coat clean and at its best. Remember to comb the mustache and topknot daily, and gently clean the corner of the eyes with a damp cloth. To protect the Shih Tzu’s eyes from being irritated, the hair on the top of the head should be trimmed short or tied up into a topknot. If you don’t want to have to spend time on your dog’s coat, the Shih Tzu can look adorable when clipped into a “puppy trim” by a professional groomer. Trimming nails and cleaning ears should be part of the Shih Tzu’s grooming routine.
The Shih Tzu was bred to be a house companion. As such, they require minimal exercise. Short daily walks with their owner and indoor playtime will satisfy the activity needs of this small, short-legged companion.
Training a Shih Tzu can be both an amusing and a frustrating experience. The breed tends to charm his owner into letting him have his own way, which can result in a chubby, less-than-completely-housebroken pet who is difficult to groom. Because Shih Tzu are such people dogs, training methods based on praise and rewards work best. Harsh corrections should not be used with this breed. Introduce desired new behaviors a bit at a time, be firm, and never give in while the dog is misbehaving. If he nips or jumps up on you, ignore him until he settles down, then praise him. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Shih Tzu grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. When enrolling in a puppy class, be sure that the training methods used in the class are based on praise.
Because of their heavy coats and short faces, Shih Tzu do not tolerate heat well and are not good swimmers. Although most Shih Tzu are generally healthy, as in all breeds there may be some health issues, such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (a slipped kneecap), and eye disease. Corneal dryness and inflammation from excessive exposure to the air because of improperly closing eyelids occurs in the breed. Cataracts, juvenile cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and retinal detachment are other eye conditions that occur. Before breeding, responsible breeders screen their stock for conditions that can affect the breed.