All You Need to Know About Shih Tzus: The Ultimate Breed Guide

Last Updated: 8 months ago

The Shih Tzu is a toy dog breed whose name means “little lion,” but they are small and gentle despite this fierce-sounding name.

If you’re thinking of bringing a Shih Tzu into your family, read through this key information before you make your decision so that you know what to expect and whether or not it’s the right breed for you.

Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

The Shih Tzu is a small dog maxing out at just 10 inches tall and by adulthood, they will weigh somewhere between 9 and 16 pounds. So it’s a pretty compact breed but it’s also very sturdily built.

Their fur is extremely long and requires a lot of grooming. Even if you intend to clip it short, it will need to be trimmed every 6 weeks or so because it grows very fast. The coat is very silky and soft, making them a great dog to pet!

When trimmed short (which we recommend doing if you’re not planning to make it a show dog), they tend to look like cuddly little teddy bears. There are a wide variety of coat colors, patterns, and variety in this breed.

Colors include solid black, black and white, red and white, and grey and white.

Personality and Temperament

Personality and Temperament

The Shih Tzu was bred to be a relaxed companion dog, and that shows in its personality. While they can be energetic if you raise them to lead an active lifestyle, they are naturally inclined to lay around (especially when there’s a comfy lap available).

They are a very loving and affectionate breed, which is a great quality in dogs, but it does mean they need a lot of attention and do not handle being alone very well, so you should avoid leaving them alone for extended periods of time.

It is very friendly and can be a good family dog if your children are a little older.

Common Health Issues

Common Health Issues

These are fairly healthy dogs, but, of course, they do come with their own health risks.

It’s not guaranteed they will get any of these conditions but they are at higher risk for them so you will want to keep an eye out for these symptoms so you can detect and treat them as early as possible.


When the thyroid does not function properly, it affects the metabolism and can lead to immune system problems as well. Symptoms usually appear in middle-aged dogs.

The most recognizable symptoms include rapid weight gain, hair loss, muscle loss, and being unusually lethargic. It can be treated effectively with medication so detection is key.

Intervertebral Disk Disease

this is a condition that affects the spine and can cause your dog to lose the ability to feel pain throughout the body (which is dangerous) but the spine is in a lot of pain.

Voluntary movement becomes difficult. Symptoms include lack of coordination and back pain which can be recognized if they seem to resist being pet on the back or avoid movement.

Breathing Problems

Due to the shape of their faces, the Shih Tzu is prone to a lot of breathing problems.

If you notice any kind of difficulties with breathing, you’ll want to go to the vet because it can sometimes require surgery.

Hip Dysplasia

this affects many breeds so it’s not really unique to the Shih Tzu.

Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of because it can be very debilitating if left untreated. It usually appears when your dog is still a puppy.

Check for symptoms like difficulty walking, limping, avoiding movement, and difficulty getting up or sitting down. With treatment, the condition can be managed but if you wait too long it can cause permanent damage.

Basic Care Instructions

Basic Care Instructions

If you keep the hair long, prepare for daily brushing and weekly baths to keep the coat smooth, silky, and tangle-free (consider getting a good dog dryer).

If you plan on trimming it short, prepare to do so every 6 weeks. It’s best to start with grooming practices as early as possible so that your pup grows comfortable with it.

Your Shih Tzu should be fed between ½ cup and 1 cup of dog food per day. Preferably, this should be divided into two meals. A very active dog will need a little more to meet his calorie requirements and a very lazy dog will need less to prevent obesity.

The Shih Tzu is definitely an indoor dog. They are well-suited to small apartments but also do fine in larger homes. They just should not be kept as outdoor dogs on any count (although they will enjoy some outside playtime).

Their exercise requirements are not high. One or two short walks per day is more than plenty. 20–30 minutes of energetic play is also an option. Since they are especially prone to heat stroke, stick to indoor exercise when it’s hot outside.

While they are friendly and loving, they don’t do well with young children because the Shih Tzu needs to be handled gently.

Final Word

This is the ideal dog for a small apartment and anyone who wants a great companion pet with minimal exercise requirements.

That said, grooming can be a major chore and absolutely can’t be neglected so you’ll need to be prepared for regular grooming (even if you choose to keep its coat clipped short).

They are very friendly and loving pets so if you’re willing to deal with the grooming, you will find the Shih Tzu to be a wonderful companion dog.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *