The Shih Tzu’s ancestry is unique: it originates in Tibet, where lamas bred these dogs to resemble small lions. According to the AKC, it is the twentieth most popular breed in the world, and after one look at this adorable toy dog, it’s not hard to see why.
The Shih Tzu dog breed
Appearance and temperament
The Shih Tzu weighs only nine to nineteen pounds and stands on average between eight and eleven inches high. The small size and relaxed demeanor make this a perfect little dog for apartment living.
Bred for the sole purpose of companionship, the Shih Tzu is a perfect friend and lap dog. It enjoys meeting new animals and new people, and it is most happy at home with its owners. Due to its delicate nature, it does not do well outside, especially in extreme temperatures, and must be kept inside and allowed to sleep inside. Additionally, the owner should monitor it whenever it is outside for signs of heat exhaustion.
However, the Shih Tzu’s appeal spans more than just its looks. Their small size makes them perfect apartment dwellers, and they only require a short walk each day or could make do once in a while with a zoom around their rooms and under your feet. This breed is playful and sometimes mischievous. They don’t have the same intensity of other toy breeds and will happily partake in any activity you do, including snoozing on the couch, watching TV, brisk walks outside, play dates with other dogs, or sitting by and watching as you cook or organize your closet.
Additionally, this breed does not always have the same separation anxiety as other toy breeds, and if left alone for a few hours, should peacefully play with toys or run around the house until you return. And when you do, you will be greeted with your dog’s sweet, funny smile: nearly all Shih Tzu have an underbite!
Coat and grooming
They have a long, shaggy or silky double coat which comes in many different colors. In show Shih Tzu, it is common for owners to allow their fur to grow long and trim it until it skims the ground, which is an interesting and beautiful cut.
However, most owners prefer to keep their hair shorter, which minimizes tangles. Their beautiful coat, regardless of its length, requires daily brushing and regular and frequent grooming. The Shih Tzu’s tufted tail is carried curled over its back like many of its cousins, including the Papillion.
Owners may need to purchase scissors or electric clippers to maintain the more straightforward, shorter “puppy cut” to mitigate tangled fur, but the easiest method would be to allow a groomer to trim your dog’s coat. Be sure to comb out any tangles before a bath, as the water will tighten these tangles and make them nearly impossible to remove.
Shih Tzu also have a distinctive topknot on their heads, which can be cut or tied into a small bun with a tie made specifically for hair or fur. Rubber bands will break their fur and most likely cause your dog pain when they are removed, so they should be shunned in favor of more responsible options.
Although their coat is relatively-shed free, they are not an entirely hypoallergenic breed. Additionally, when they are about one year old, they go through an intense shedding phase for about three weeks that may startle a new owner, but this is typical and should taper off naturally as they grow their adult coat.
Shih Tzu lifespan
The average Shih Tzu lifespan is approximately 13 years but can range from ten to sixteen years, although this time may not be free from health conditions.
Their small size may manifest itself in different health issues, including dental complications, dislocated kneecaps, and respiratory problems. They may also be prone to obesity. If buying a dog from a breeder, its lines should be checked for kidney function and eye issues, and a breeder worth their salt will have certifications for both of these and more. Additionally, while adopting an adult Shih Tzu from a shelter may not ensure that they will not have these issues, you will at least be able to prepare yourself by knowing if they do, as these should manifest before adulthood.
Wherever you source your Shih Tzu, you will be welcoming a perky lap dog who will bring lots of smiles to your life as you groom and play with your dog.
Shih Tzu FAQ
Are Shih Tzu hypoallergenic?
Yes, Shih Tzu are usually considered to be a hypoallergenic dog breed even though they do shed somewhat.
Do Shih Tzu have dander?
Yes, like all dog breeds Shih Tzu produce dander.
Do Shih Tzu shed a lot?
Shiz Tzu are classed as a low-shedding dog, although they do shed some hair daily. It often isn’t noticeable because the hair tends to get caught in their coat. The shorter the coat is cut the less shed hair will be caught in it and so the shedding will be more noticeable.
Do Shih Tzu bark a lot?
If they’re not adequately trained then yes, Shih Tzu can bark a lot. With the right training from an early age, excessive barking need not be a problem.
Do Shih Tzu bite?
There is a difference between nipping – a quick snap of the jaw – and biting – locking the jaw onto the victim. In general, Shih Tzu can be prone to nipping, especially as puppies, but biting is not common.
When do Shih Tzu stop growing?
Shih Tzu puppies will reach their full adult height and stop growing at about 6 – 8 months old.
Do all Shih Tzu have underbites?
Although not all Shih Tzu have underbites, it is common. This often doesn’t cause any problems, but issues can arise if the underbite is pronounced enough to affect the ability to eat and drink.
How long do Shih Tzu live?
The average Shih Tzu lives for about 13 years. The lifespan can range from 10 to 16 years.
How many teeth do Shih Tzu have?
Shih Tzu have 28 milk teeth as puppies and 42 adult teeth.
When do Shih Tzu puppies get teeth?
Shih Tzu puppies are born without any teeth. They will develop their 28 milk teeth by the time they are about 6 or 7 weeks old. These milk teeth will start to be replaced with adult teeth from the age of about 3 or 4 months. They will have their full set of 42 adult teeth by age 8 months.
How do you pronounce Shih Tzu?
The correct pronunciation of Shih Tzu is “SHEE-dzoo”. The plural form of Shih Tzu is also Shih Tzu, not Shih Tzus.
How big do Shih Tzu get?
The average Shih Tzu height is 8 – 11 inches and weights between 9 and 16 pounds.
How many puppies do Shih Tzu have?
The average number of puppies in a Shih Tzu litter is 3. A litter size ranging from 1 to 5 is considered normal for Shih Tzu.
Do Shih Tzu smell?
While it is not common for Shih Tzu to smell bad, just as with any other dog breed, it can happen. There can be several reasons for a Shih Tzu to smell, including food getting caught in their hair, eye infections, ear infections, and difficulty emptying the anal glands.
Where do Shih Tzu come from?
The Shih Tzu originated in Tibet and developed in China.