Shih tzu

An ancient breed originating from Tibet. It is a calm dog that needs constant interaction with people. In translation from Chinese, «Shih Tzu» means «Little Lion».

Energy level
Level of affection
Level of friendliness
female: 4—7 kg
male: 5—8 kg
female: 27 cm
male: 27 cm
require average time
Gives birth to
Gives birth to:
4—5 puppies
in 16 century
Life span
Life span:
16—18 years


Shih Tzu are affectionate pets. Interaction with people is important for them. Meanwhile, these dogs know how to keep to the border between being affectionate and intrusive. They understand when the owner is busy. These pets do not get easily through loneliness. Every family member is a friend for them. Shih Tzu will not choose only one person from the family who they will get the most attached to. These dogs like children. However, if someone hurts Shih Tzu, they might bite in respond. That is why it is better to control their games. It will be safer both for the kid and the dog.

Shih Tzu are calm dogs. Constant running, playing and barking are not about them. These pets are often called “dogs of older people”. Their favourite place for rest is owner`s knees. They might lay on the couch for hours, getting up only in order to eat something. Apart from being calm, Shih Tzu are also very friendly dogs. They treat every person as a friend and get on well with other animals. These small dogs will not be the first to start a fight. If Shih Tzu are not paid enough attention — they might develop depression.


Shih Tzu are smart dogs. The only way to get them interested in training is making the process in a playful way. Despite being very attached to people, these dogs like showing off their personality. It is hard to make a Shih Tzu do something that it does not want to do. That is why patience and playfulness are key instruments in communicating with a Shih Tzu. If you get on well with the dog, it will quickly learn basic commands and become a faithful friend.

The pet needs to understand house rules starting from the first day it starts living at home. It is crucial to show your authority without aggression. Otherwise, your dog`s psyche might be damaged — it will become closed-minded and vulnerable. After your Shih Tzu understands what is allowed to be done and what`s not — you can start working on its socialization. The earlier the pet gets used to streets, noise and other animals — the better it is. Recommended period is 2–3 months.

The main command that a Shih Tzu has to understand better than others is «no». Sometimes, these pets like doing whatever they want: damage furniture, behave intrusively. Then, you can teach your dog other commands like «sit down», «lay down», «go to your place», «come here». It is important to understand that it is a decorative dog breed. It is pointless to make a Shih Tzu do more than it is able to.


Shih Tzu are small dogs. Their body is muscular, the back is straight. Shih Tzu, just like Maltese and Afghan Hound pets, have the longest hair. Males and females do not differ in height and size.
Long, silky and hypoallergenic. There is a fluffy undercoat. Guard hair is soft. Curled hair is acceptable.
Many colors are acceptable. The most common ones are: black, white-and-black, blue-white, white-gold, white-red and red in the mask, ashy, creamy, black and blue with tan. 
Rounded. The snout is short, just like it is in brachycephalic breeds: Bulldogs and Mastiffs. It is covered with hair.
Wide and rounded. Their color depends on the one of the coat. They are mainly brown. However, Shih Tzu that are of brown and chocolate-spotted color, have eyes of a light color.
Long and floppy. They are set below crown of the head and are covered with long hair.
Proportional and curved, of medium length.
Straight and short, with well-developed muscles.
Carried in a curve over the back, covered with thick hair.

Basic Care

Shih Tzu require much time to be groomed. Their long hair gets matted. That is why it needs to be brushed every day. During the molting period — in spring and fall — few times a day, using a massage brush and a metal comb. If you do not do that, pieces of hair will be all around the house. Hair brushing should start from the hind legs and follow the direction of hair growth. Tangled areas should be cleared up with hands, hair mats — cut off with scissors. Apart from brushing, hair of Shih Tzu dogs also needs to be cut. You can do it either yourself, or with a professional groomer. It is important to understand that hair grows on dog`s snout too. It needs to be shortened so that pieces of food do not get accumulated in it.

Shih Tzu need to be given a bath few times a month, using shampoos for longhair pets. It is important to brush your pet`s hair before washing it, so that it does not get matted. Then wipe your dog with a towel and use a hairdryer. Their paws need to be cleaned after each walk. Check your dog`s snout every day to see if any pieces of food are stuck there. It is important to pay attention to dog`s eyes too. Hair often gets into eyes, which leads them to tearing. If pet`s eyes got inflamed, they need to be wiped with a cotton pad, soaked in boric acid. Check your dog`s ears once a week and clean them when needed, using cotton swabs. Teeth of Shih Tzu need special attention. They have to be brushed once a week, using a zoo-paste and a soft brush.

Shih Tzu can be fed with either high quality dry or natural food. Dry food of premium quality contains vitamins and minerals, needed for dog`s health. If you choose to feed tour pet with natural food, it is important to make sure that their diet contains 20% of animal proteins: chicken, turkey and beef. You can cook soups in meat broth. Additionally, such products can be given to the dog: offals — heart, liver, lungs and tongue; boiled grains — rice and buckwheat; fat free dairy products — cottage cheese, sour cream and kefir; boiled vegetables — carrot, zucchini and cabbage. Once a week, boiled sea fish fillet can be given to the dog. A puppy under the age of 4 months needs to eat 4 times a day, under 8 months — 3 times a day, then — twice a day (in the morning and in the evening).

For comfortable life, Shih Tzu need peace and interaction with people. These pets can live without physical exercises. That is why they can be kept both in a small flat and in a private house. It is recommended to create a play area for the pet. It is important to control temperature both inside the room, and outside of it. Shih Tzu are very vulnerable to coldness and heat.

Health and Illnesses

Shih Tzu can live up to 18 years if treated well. It is a breed of long-livers. Serious hereditary health issues are absent in this breed. They mostly suffer from acquired disorders.

Urolithiasis is the accumulation of mineral crystals that transform into stones that can clog the urinary tract or kidneys. It develops because of disturbance of pH level in urine. Because of the disorder, it hurts the pet to go potty. Urolithiasis can be cured with drugs and by keeping to a diet.

Dislocation of patella — orthopedic pathology that is often diagnosed in pets of small size. It develops because of disturbed growth of the skeleton. When the knee joint bents, such anatomical structures work together: the quadriceps muscle, patella and tendons. The muscle is attached to part of the hip and the ilium. The joint bends when the quadriceps muscle contracts. Then, pressure is put on the patella. It is located in the thigh block, and in the patellar tendon. The tendon itself is attached to the tibial tuberosity. When the joint bends, the entire structure is aligned in the distal femoral block. That is how it works. Disturbance of functioning of these structures leads to dislocation of patella. The disorder is cured surgically.

Alopecia is disturbance of hair growth that leads to dog becoming hairless. It can be of three types:

  1. Alopecia areata (patchy) — a pet looses its hair on different spots on the body. It develops because of parasites and hormonal disorders.
  2. Alopecia totalis — a pet looses its hair on one particular part of the body. It happens because of parasites, bacteria, and as a reaction to different drugs.
  3. Alopecia universalis — a pet looses hair across the whole body. It develops because of lichen or parasitic diseases.

For that reason, if your pet starts loosing its hair, you should consult a vet.

Cataract develops because the lens in the eye becomes darker. If it is not cured in time — the pet might become blind. It is a hereditary health issue that and can appear either with time, or after a trauma. It can be surgically cured.

Distichiasis is an abnormal growth of eyelashes. It develops because of hair follicles embedded in the meibomian glands, that get formed throughout the whole life. There might be up to 30 of them in one eyelid. Distichiasis can be surgically cured.

Periodontitis is one of the most common disorders among dogs. 85% of pets suffer from it after they turn 4 years old. Because of it, gums, alveoli, periodontium and root cementum get inflamed. There are four stages of periodontitis:

  1. Slight — symptoms are not that noticeable. Dental pockets are not swollen, gums bleed a little.
  2. Moderate — periodontal pockets are enlarged, gums bleed a lot, sensitivity of teeth increases.
  3. Advanced — periodontal pockets are greatly enlarged and filled with pus, gums are swollen, teeth become loose and get dislocated.

Main symptoms of periodontitis include: bad breath, tartar, redness and bleeding of gums, increased teeth sensitivity. If you notice one of these symptoms in your dog — you should take it to a vet.

History of the Breed

Homeland of Shih Tzu is China. Tibetan monks were the first to start breeding these dogs. These pets were used as guard dogs. They came to Tibet in the 7th century from Byzantium. An assumption exists that Shih Tzu appeared as result of crossbreeding a Pekingese and a Lhasa Apso.

Shih Tzu were first mentioned in 1653. That was when Dalai lama gave some pets to the Emperor of China as a sign of respect. The Emperor liked those dogs so much that he forbade breeding of Shih Tzu anywhere away from his palace. Death penalty was waiting for those people, who would be breeding these dogs illegally. That is why breed`s popularity was not increasing.

Everything changed after communists came to rule China. Having decided that dogs were symbolizing bourgeoisie, they started destroying them. That is how Shih Tzu appeared in Europe. First representatives of this breed were brought to England in 1930. Two years later — to Norway. Pets started becoming more and more popular. In 1934, the first Club of Shih Tzu Lovers was established. In 1940, the breed was officially recognized by the Kennel club. Standard of the breed was accepted in 1948.