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Shih Tzu


General Description:

The Shih Tzu is reported to be one of the holy dogs from China. Although based on documents, paintings and art dating from A. D. 624, the origination date of the Shih Tzu is not known for sure. Shih Tzu means “lion” and they are also known as the “chrysanthemum-faced dog” because the hair grows about the face in all directions. They are one of the Tibetan holy dogs, associated with the Buddhist deity, introduced to China in the mid-17th century. The dogs were brought from Tibet to the Chinese and bred in Peking.

Prized house pets for over a thousand years, it is believed to have descended from crossing the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. The Shih Tzu was the house pet for most of the Ming Dynasty and was discovered by soldiers in England during World War II.

Shih Tzu’s are a sweet but demanding and a manipulating breed. They thrive on people’s attention and generally have spirited and manipulating dispositions. They can be difficult to house train and not good with small children or with children who are rowdy and rough. They do not have a good bite inhibition and will surely bite if they feel they are being mistreated. They need to be worked with daily in dominate positions as pups to allow for grooming needs. They often object to being left at home alone for long hours and will display their objections by acting out, destroying things, crying, chewing.



Ideally, height at withers is 9 to 10½ inches; but, not less than 8 inches nor more than 11 inches. Ideally, the weight of mature dogs, 9 to 16 pounds.



Shih Tzu’s come in various colors and all are permissible in the AKC show ring (example: black, white, red, blue, brindle, liver, silver, and variations of the above). The coat is luxurious, double-coated, dense, long, and flowing. Slight wave is common. Hair on top of head is typically tied up.


Energy Level:

Although a lively outgoing breed, the exercise demands for the Shih Tzu are relatively low. As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is that of a companion and house pet, it is essential that its temperament be outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly and trusting towards all. To achieve this they must be excessively socialized in positive situations as young pups.

The word Shih Tzu means "lion" and although this dog is sweet and playful, he is not afraid to stand up for himself! One of the most popular dogs in the United States according to statistics, this portable pooch has a distinctively arrogant carriage with his head well up and tail curved over the back.


Life expectancy:

Average longevity is between 14 to 16 years.



Although some Shih Tzu are very fond of children and highly tolerant of the noise and activity, they do prefer gentle and responsible handling. Many may not be suitable for families with small children. If you think you will be having a child soon it is recommended not to get a Shih Tzu at this time, but rather to wait until the child is 5-10 yrs of age.


Other animals:

Some Shih Tzu get along very well with other dogs as well as cats. Sometimes they can be possessive of their owners and are often one person dogs.



Most Shih Tzu’s are satisfied being a household pet, however there are some who excel in dog sports activities such as obedience, rally, agility and tricks.



The breed does not shed, but does require almost daily grooming including; brushing, bathing and trimming. If not combed at least every few day, the hair will mat causing problems for the dog. Even clipped down they also need to be bathed and dried at least every 2 weeks and professionally groomed at least once a month which can be costly. If left ungroomed, the result is a dog with sore irritated skin and matted hair. The groomed Shih Tzu one sees competing in the AKC conformation breed ring may look easy and carefree, but is rather the result of a lot of work and perseverance.

People may buy this type of dog on a whim or impulse, and end up giving it up when they realize that they are not able to cope with the basic Shih Tzu care requirements. It should definitely not come to this – hence, one should be careful to understand what Shih Tzu care and grooming involves before taking in this dog variety. For the comfort of the dog and the ease for owners, many dogs get regular haircuts from a professional groomer which is costly but necessary.

Here is what you will need for grooming your Shih Tzu: 1) two types of combs – one long toothed made of steel for the long hair and the other a soft slicker brush for the wooly undercoat and a good scissor. 2) Shampoo and cream rinse –Shih Tzu care dictates that this dog needs to be bathed at least once every two weeks lest it becomes the target of skin parasites using a good quality shampoo. Conditioners will keep the long hair beautiful and easy to manage. 3) A blow drier – choose a hands-free model. 4) electric clippers (learn how to use them properly). 5) Nail trimmers..



Small-size dogs, suffer breed specific problems. The Shih Tzu is not an exception. There are several congenital diseases (dogs are born with these diseases) that might present serious health risk in this breed of dog and these include: patellar luxation (slipping knees) and back problems.   Dry eye, Cherry Eye and other eye abnormalities can occur.     Because of the shape of the mouth the teeth need to be cleaned yearly which can also be costly.  The Shih Tzu can be prone to Skin diseases and  skin allergies;   they are especially allergic to flea bites and must be kept flea free.  To learn more about the most common health concerns, visit this website.


Best with:

Adults who have lots of time to spend with their dog and who would enjoy the grooming routine.


Not for:

People with busy lifestyles that take them away from home for long periods. People who do not have the time or inclination to groom their dog regularly.



Small size. Beautiful coat. Often good for people with allergies. Sweet little dogs devoted to their owners. Often they have a happy outgoing temperament but can be one person dogs. Low demand for exercise. No shedding. Long life span. Not yappy. Easy to train. Great for apartments and condos, as well as homes with fenced yards.



High grooming demands. Skin Allergies. Possible health concerns. They may be difficult to housebreak. May be nippy at times dues to: teething, protection reflex against strangers, protection reflex to protect their property and/or negative behavior either learned or instinctual. Costs in caring for health and grooming needs.


Further Information:

AKC website
The Complete Shih Tzu
Breed Details

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