Shih Tzu

"Chrysanthemum-Faced Dog"

Photo of Shih Tzu


The Shih Tzu probably originated from long-coated Tibetan temple dogs sent to China as gifts to the Chinese emperor in the 17th century. These dogs were bred with small Chinese dogs such as the Pekinese to create the Shih Tzu and kept secret for hundreds of years – it was a crime for a commoner to own one. Shih Tzu were perfected and refined to be the ultimate companion dogs by the Dowager Empress T'zu Hsi, who ruled China at the end of the 19th century. She kept large kennels of Shih Tzu, Pekingese, and Pugs, managed by the palace eunuchs, who supervised the breeding programs and probably occasionally mixed the breeds to obtain desirable traits. After the Communist revolution, Shih Tzus were mostly obliterated form China. Fortunately, dogs imported to England, Europe, and the United States reinvigorated the little dogs outside their native land. Today, the Shih Tzu is the 9th most popular breed in the U.S.


Calm, quiet, and hopelessly devoted to you, the Shih Tzu has a friendly personality and gets along with everybody – kids, other dogs, cats, even birds. Sometimes too trusting, they must be protected from large dogs with aggressive tendencies or rough children, because they never suspect anyone would hurt them. Most make quiet house pets, only barking if they sense something unusual is going on. Because they have been bred for centuries to be companion dogs, they want to be with their people and will follow them everywhere. Give them a warm lap and a loving gaze, and the Shih Tzu is in heaven.


Sturdy and surprisingly heavy for her size because of big bones, the Shih Tzu is a small dog with a long flowing coat and a confident, almost arrogant way. She has a round, broad head with large, round, dark eyes, small ears, and a domed skull. The short square muzzle should have open nostrils so she can breathe easily. The luxurious coat may be kept long or cut into a short clip, and may be any color but most often gold and white, red and white, or black and white.


Shih Tzus don't need much training because they are naturally obedient and want to please you. However, teaching them basics like “sit” and “come” can make them even easier to manage around the house, and consistent housetraining efforts in puppyhood will pay off when the Shih Tzu grows up. Always reward good behavior and stay positive. Harsh words and harsh treatment can hurt and even injure the gentle Shih Tzu, and are never necessary to get your point across.

Grooming & Care

The Shih Tzu's most difficult challenge is grooming. The long coat must be brushed and combed every day and bathed and blown dry monthly or it will get matted and tangled. Many pet owners choose to have a professional groomer cut the coat into a short, easy-care style like a puppy clip. During adolescence, sometime between 9 and 18 months, puppies lose their puppy coats and shed heavily for a short period while growing their adult coats. This challenging stage requires daily heavy grooming to get the puppy coat out before it tangles. Wash their faces and wipe their delicate eyes daily. Some veterinarians recommend moisturizing eye drops for Shih Tzu because they can get dry eyes. Shih Tzu must always be kept cool because they are prone to heatstroke. Never exercise a Shih Tzu in hot or humid weather.

Health Concerns

The Shih Tzu's flat face makes her prone to snoring and breathing problems. Like all toy breeds, they sometimes develop luxating patellas (kneecaps that slip out of place) and collapsing trachea. Ask the breeder about liver disease, allergies, and eye problems.

Famous Shih Tzu

Beyoncé Knowles takes her Shih Tzu, Munchy, travelling with her in his $1,500 Louis Vuitton dog carrier.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 2
Schedule 33
Home 44
Children 49
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 56
Exercise 61
Challenges Grooming is a commitment; needs a lot of companionship.
Height 8 to 11 inches
Weight 9 to 16 pounds
Life 14 to 16 years
Home Alone 82
With Kids 86
With Strangers 22
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.