Shih Tzu Breed Information Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.  

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

Their small, regal, and the distinctive faces make it easy to spot a Shih Tzu. This toy breed is a small package of charisma, cuteness, and hair. If you love cuddling with a tiny pup and a dedicated companion, this may be the perfect match for you. There’s a lot to learn about these royal pups, so let’s get to know the Shih Tzu inside and out!

Also Known As…

Shih Tzu (pronounced Sheed Zoo, Shid Zoo, or Sheet Sue). Chinese Lion Dog. Chrysanthemum Dog. “What kinda dog is that?” “That’s not a dog, it’s a real-life muppet!”


The Shih Tzu is one of the more commonly known ancient breeds. Their history starts in Tibet or China where the Shih Tzu’s were thought to have been created from a blend of the Lhasa Apso or Pekingese. As they were bred, and the breeding secrets practiced to make the most affectionate and friendly pups, these dogs became true companions to early royals in China’s Tang Dynasty. The small dogs were found to be depicted in paintings, art, and written about in literature. Worthy of being honored and remembered, the Shih Tzu breed has survived for centuries.

The breed began to expand around the world in the late 1920s. Lady Brownrigg brought a pair, male and female, to England. In the 1930s, a Mrs. Hutchins returned to Ireland from China with her own Shih Tzu. Lady Brownrigg began her kennel in the UK by breeding her pup with Mrs. Hutchins’ dog. Eventually, Maureen Murdock and her nephew, Philip Price, imported and bred the first Shih Tzus in the United States. When recognized by the American Kennel Club, this special breed was identified as a toy breed.


A full grown Shih Tzu, male or female, will grown to be from 9 to 10 & 1/2 inches tall. Maybe a bit taller with a top knot!

Weight Range

Adult Shih Tzus, male and female, can weigh from 8 to 16 pounds.


Shih Tzus have a ton of personality packed in their tiny bodies. This breed is known to be silly, friendly, loyal, and affectionate. Though they tend to be a bit possessive around other pups, with proper training and socializing at a young age, your pup will learn how to behave around others – whether it’s human or animal.

The ancient royal breed can very stubborn at times. They would love to play or cuddle rather than participate in training. Due to their social natures and love of being near people, the Shih Tzu is an excellent watchdog. They’re nosy, hyper, and alert. If someone walks up to your door, your Shih Tzu will be sure to let you know!

Intelligence / Trainability

Many of the Shih Tzu’s traits can make training harder than necessary. Their alertness causes them to be easily distracted. Their silly antics and playful nature can sometimes win out over focusing on the task at hand. Your Shih Tzu may exhibit stubbornness when you’re trying to teach your pal a basic command or trick. Although this breed is intelligent, they are known as one of the more difficult breeds to train.

Training can be a bit difficult. When you add a pup who isn’t easily picking up on the basic commands or cues, it can quickly become frustrating. You’re going to need plenty of patience when you bring your little one home. Starting at an early age will set your pup up for success when you move on to more difficult commands or tricks!

Best Training Techniques For Shih Tzus

  • Start at an early age for the best results.
  • Patience, and lots of it!
  • Make sure you’re training your pup where there are little to no distractions. You want them to focus only on you.
  • Positive Reinforcement. As people-pleasers, these pups will thrive on positive verbal reinforcement for good behavior.
  • Treats are great motivators for a food-driven Shih Tzu!

Ideal Environment

These lap dogs have quite a bit of energy. The Shih Tzu is not the first choice as a hiking partner. This pup is better for backyard play or indoor fun. Easily adaptable to a large home, a condo, or a city center apartment – this pup is small and doesn’t take up much space.

Making sure your Shih Tzu has the proper exercise will be a top priority. A home with a backyard would need a fence. These pups like to make friends and may wander off without warning. Apartment dwellers will need to make sure there’s enough green space nearby for their dog to burn off that energy outdoors.

These lion dogs seem fearless, jumping from porches and furniture. Jumping from such heights can cause serious injury to your little pup. To keep your Shih Tzu safe, make sure they have a way to carefully get on and off couches, beds, and other furniture taller than them. A doggy staircase may be very helpful. With some proper training it could make their environment safer for them!

Good For Families And Kids?

The Shih Tzu prefers to be close to its handler and family members. Warm and friendly towards new people, these pups also would be great with toddlers and older children. They’re small, energetic, and usually ready to play. A Shih Tzu will stay by your side and be quick to pick up a toy – which will keep your children busy when playing inside!

Average Lifespan

This ancient breed can live to be from 10 to 16 years old.


Shih Tzus are healthy young puppies, but like all breeds of dogs, they’re prone to certain health conditions and diseases as they age. It’s always a great idea to keep up with yearly physicals to keep track of your dog’s physical condition. Here are a number of commonly known health issues, some of them hereditary, tied to the Shih Tzu breed.

  • Allergies.
  • Hip Dysplaysia.
  • Patellar Luxation.
  • Bladder Stone/Infections.
  • Eye Anomalies (cataracts, retinal atrophy, retinal detachment, and more).
  • Ear Infections.
  • Baby Teeth and Gum Issues.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Breathing Issues.


The Shih Tzus are lapdogs, indoor companions, and bed buddies. They wouldn’t be marked as active dogs, but they do have energy in those small bodies. The short-legged dogs would be happy with short walks and playing with toys indoors. Keeping up with their exercise is simply, just make sure to create a routine and keep up with it daily. Such small dogs can easily gain weight and routine exercise will keep them fit and happy.

Friendly With… (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)

For the most part, yes! When socialized properly from a young age, this breed will be great companions to humans, as well as other pets in the home. Known for friendliness, this dog will be able to live comfortably with cats, rabbits, and other small pets.

Shih Tzus are watchful and alert. They may get themselves into a frenzy when strangers approach their home or meet them during a walk, but they’re all bark and no bite. Once they get a sniff or come into contact with the new person, these pups will switch from guard dog to friendly and warm!

Coat & Grooming

Whether you little one has long flowing hair or the short puppy cut, Shih Tzus need routine grooming. Maintaining your little one’s looks will take quite a bit of time, attention to detail, and money. Shih Tzus don’t mind being groomed and pampered, they are a royal breed after all!

There are two types of coat styles for this ancient breed; long or puppy trim. The coats can be in a wide range of colors. Various shade and mixes of colors include gold, white, brown, and black . The hair is straight, soft, and silky. Daily brushing with a wire pin brush for the long coat pups will help keep the hair clean, untangled, and smooth. For dogs with the puppy trim, brushing the coat a few times a week will suffice. Don’t forget to brush out the mustache and top-knot, if your long hair Shih Tzu has one!

A bath every few weeks will make sure the fine silky hair remains in good condition. Owners who prefer their Shih Tzus styled in the puppy trim will need to make scheduled visits to the groomers to keep the coat cut short. Either way your pup is styled, be sure to keep the hair out of their eyes. It will be difficult for your pal to see when the hair is in the way. You should also have the nails trimmed short and ears regularly cleaned during their grooming sessions.

Toys Shih Tzus Would Like Best

These small pups are easily excitable and energetic. They love to play and finding the right toy isn’t always easy. You’ll need something small enough to fit in their mouths, something light enough to carry around, and something entertaining enough to keep their attention!

Squeaky multi-part toys like Andi’s Famous Plush Dumplings would be a great fit for a Shih Tzu. The small light dumplings fit in their mouths and they’re perfect for fetch. You can also hide treats inside the container for a new way to play with this super cute and fun set!

Plush Toys, of course, are also a great idea.

For more fun toy ideas for your lion dog, check out our extended list: What Are The Best Toys For Shih Tzus?

Recommended Diet Or Supplements

Supplementing your dog’s daily food with vitamins and extracts are an easy way to keep your pup in top condition inside and out. Here are some recommendations aimed to take care of the Shih Tzu’s most commonly known health issues!

Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil

Full Spectrum Hemp Oil

Does your Shih Tzu experience anxiety or hip dysplaysia? If yes, you might want to try CBD or supplements. But as always, consult your veterinarian first.

BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. Shih Tzus are known for hip dysplaysia, which causes joint pain. Full Spectrum Hemp Oil will help ease your pal’s movements and get them up and playing again. ($17.99-22.99.)

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

Another great option for hip and join problems. This supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your lion dog with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)

Fish Oil Skin & Coat Supplement for Healthy Shiny Skin & Coat

Keep your Shih Tzu’s coat healthy, strong, and shiny with Fish Oil Skin & Coat supplements. Veterinarian formulated and made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. Supports immune health for dogs with skin allergies that may cause discomfort, dandruff, and itching. The Omega oils are derived from salmon oil to promote healthy coat, skin, and general well-being.

Recommended Products

Making friends, being pampered, and playing with toys can be exhausting. A quality and comfortable dog bed is a good idea for your little one, especially those with hip dysplasia. The right support can help ease your pup’s tired joints and help them relax from a hard day of playing.

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Bed

Dog in dog bed

This dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplaysia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)

Notable Rescues To Find The Shih Tzu Of Your Dreams

Notable Instagram Shih Tzus

Get your daily dose of cuteness by following these adorable Shih Tzus on Instagram. Whether you want to see long coat lion dogs or Shih Tzus with a puppy trim, we’ve got you covered!


Sam is a professional napper who was rescued from a puppy mill. Also, he’s super-duber adorable.






***Looking for a gift to blow your Shih Tzu’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

Featured image via SamsSleeps/Instagram

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Savannah Lyons

3 years ago

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