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Your Pet, Our Passion.

Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is a long-coated, sturdy little dog that comes in a variety of colours. They move in almost an arrogant manner with their tails carried over their backs.

  • Dog suitable for non-experienced owners
  • Basic training required
  • Enjoys gentle walks
  • Enjoys walking half an hour a day
  • Small dog
  • Minimum drool
  • Requires grooming daily
  • Hypoallergenic breed
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Guard dog. Barks and alerts
  • Great with other pets
  • Great family dog

Key Facts

Lifespan: 10–16 years
Weight: 4–7.5kg
Height: 20–28cm
Colours: Black and white, brindle, brindle and white, gold and white, gold brindle, gold brindle and white, gold with black mask, grey and white, solid black, solid gold
Size: Small
Kennel Club group: Utility

Ratings

Family-friendly: 4/5
Exercise needs: 2/5
Easy to train: 3/5
Tolerates being alone: 3/5
Likes other pets: 4/5
Energy level: 2/5
Grooming needs: 2/5
Shedding: 3/5
shih tzu dog standing next to pine trees

Personality

The Shih Tzu is an affectionate, playful and intelligent dog. As a breed they can be independent and wary of strangers. They enjoy learning and like to please, but while intelligent they can sometimes give the impression that they think training is simply beneath them. With patience and consistency, they will enjoy learning and can become surprisingly obedient.

shih tzu dog walking on grass

History and Origins

Country of origin: Tibet

The Shih Tzu we know and love today is itself an ancient crossbreed having been created within the walls of the Forbidden City in the 17th century from crossing the Lhasa Apso from the monasteries of Tibet with an early form of the Pekingese.

The resulting dogs, called Lhasa Lion Dogs, remained hidden away from the eyes of the West until the 20th century when the Peking Kennel Club was formed and the Lhasa Lion Dogs were shown for the first time alongside the Lhasa Apso.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that these dogs found their way to England and once again they were shown alongside the Lhasa Apso, but it was clear they were quite different, and so the types that had the rounder skull and short muzzle became known as the Shih Tzu and a breed in their own right.

Health and Common Issues

In common with many other breeds, the Shih Tzu dog can suffer from some hereditary eye problems and kneecaps that may temporarily slip out of place (luxating patella). They are also more prone to ear infections, and spinal disc disease.

They are a brachycephalic breed and so can have all the health problems and breathing difficulties associated with a shortened skull and flattened face.

Exercise Needs

Shih Tzus are perfectly content with short walks and would prefer three 20-minute strolls to an hour-long hike. With their short nose and flattened face, they should never be exercised on hot days and great care should be taken not to put them in situations where they could overheat.

They also enjoy exercise at home, so games and interaction with their owner is important.

Space Requirements

This is a small dog who can live in a flat or a smaller property as long as they have access to the outdoors for toileting and walks. They do however enjoy having their own garden.

Nutrition and Feeding

Small dogs have a fast metabolism, meaning they burn energy at a high rate, although their small stomachs mean that they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.

Grooming Shih Tzus

The coat of the Shih Tzu is long, soft and dense, with a good amount of undercoat, and requires a lot of daily grooming to keep it looking in top condition. They also require frequent bathing, sometimes as much as once a week and they must be dried completely.

As the hair grows upwards from the bridge of the nose, it is often tied up in a topknot, on top of the head. Their faces may need to be washed daily, as food etc can get stuck on the hair. If the coat becomes too much, it can be kept short, a groomer or the breeder is probably the best person to advise on how this is carried out.

Training Shih Tzus

Despite their tendency to try and convince their owners that training is very definitely beneath them, they can be clever dogs who will enjoy learning tricks and games - and should be trained to walk on a harness and lead as well as come back when called.

While they look like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, they can be surprisingly game when out and have been known to enjoy chasing squirrels or even the neighbour’s cat!

They need early socialisation so as to gain confidence with people and other dogs.

Best Family Dog Breeds

The Shih Tzu tends to be a one-person dog but will get on with everyone in the family. They like their peace and quiet however and so are better in quieter families with older sensible children.

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • An original Chinese breed standard for the Shih Tzu must be the most romantic ever written. It says (among other things) that they should have the head of a lion, the face of an owl, the eyes of a dragon, the tongue of a peony petal, teeth like grains of rice, ears like palm leaves, the back of a tiger, the tail of a phoenix and the movement of a goldfish.
  • Despite originating in China in the 17th century (or perhaps even earlier) the breed was hidden from the West, and was largely unknown until the 20th century.
  • They’re also known as “chrysanthemum-faced dogs” because of the way the hair on their face grows in every direction.
  • All Shih Tzu’s alive today can be traced back to just 14 dogs that were used to rebuild the breed after they were nearly wiped out during the first half of the 20th century.
  • Some have a white spot on their head which is known as the “Star of Buddha”. The legend goes, Buddha was travelling with his Shih Tzu companion when robbers tried to attack him, but then the tiny dog transformed into a fearsome lion and chased the thieves away. Buddha kissed the dog upon the forehead in thanks, giving it a little white mark.

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