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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.

The need-to-know
  • Dog suitable for non-experienced owners
  • Basic training required
  • Generally healthy breed
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Needs under an hour of walking a day
  • Small dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming daily
  • Quiet dog
  • Barks and alerts to visitors/anything unusual
  • Generally friendly with other dogs
  • Gets along with other pets with training
  • May need additional supervision to live with children
  • Needs a small garden
  • Can happily live in the city
  • Can be left occasionally with training
Generally healthy breed

The Shih Tzu breed is classed as brachycephalic  problems associated with the condition include;
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome: a condition in brachycephalic breeds (those with a short nose and squashed face) where breathing is obstructed and can lead to reduced ability to exercise, or even severe respiratory distress.
Skin inflammation/infection: brachycephalic breeds have a short nose and a normal amount of facial tissue. This means there is often excess skin around their face which leads to skin folds. The skin inside these folds can become sore and infections are prone to develop. 
Eye ulcers: ulcers are painful erosions on the surface of the eye. They are more common in brachycephalic breeds due to their conformation, as their eyes tend to be more bulbous.

The breed can also suffer from:
- Patellar luxation 
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) which is a painful condition where the tear gland stops working properly. 
- Cataracts¹ which is a condition where the lens in the eye becomes cloudy and this can result in blindness. 
- Rostral bite problems which can lead to teeth overcrowding and dental problems.
- Renal dysplasia² which is where the kidney does not develop properly and so cannot function normally. 
- Intervertebral disc disease³ a condition where there us abnormality in the discs which act to cushion the bones in the spine.
Priority Kennel Club health schemes and testing: 
None but there are several recommended schemes that the Kennel Club recommends which can be found here.

¹S. A. Park et al, 'Clinical manifestations of cataracts in small breed dogs', 2009, Veterinary Ophthalmology N. G. Papaioannou, 'Histopathological and immunohistochemical features of vitreoretinopathy in Shih Tzu dogs', 2013, Journal of Comparative Pathology
²K. B.Brum et al, 'Renal dysplasia in a Boxer dog: case report', 2008, Arquivo Brasileiro de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia
³B. A. Brisson, 'Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs', 2010, Veterinary clinics: small animal practice

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


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


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.

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.