Shih Tzu Breed Profile

by Leanne Thompson on August 8, 2008

At the time of writing, the Shih Tzu (pronounced shi-zoo), is one of the most popular family dogs in the UK. It is also referred to as the chrysanthemum dog, because of the shape formed around the nose and mouth when the fur first starts to grow, which resembles the flower. The plural of ‘shih tzu’ is also ‘shih tzu’.

General Shih Tzu Information:
This dog breed is generally good natured, non aggressive and just loves being with its owners. They are very cuddly and fluffy, and they are known as non-shedding, so are often suitable for those who suffer from pet allergies. Actually, the shih tzu is not completely non-shedding – see the below Grooming section for more detail.

Typical Shih Tzu

Height: 9 – 11 inches
Weight: 7 – 8 lbs
Average Litter Size: Around 3 – 5 puppies
Life Expectancy: 12 – 14 years, although known to live up to 18 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: Utility Group

Colour of a Shih Tzu:
Any – the most common colour is a base of white with patches of brown or beige, although some have black patches. Traditionally, the shih tzu should have a saddle of colour in the middle of their back, a white tip to the tail and what is termed a white ‘flame’ from just above the nose and between the eyes. A solid colour is quite rare, although you can get solid red and solid black colours. However, any colour is acceptable by the Kennel Club nowadays.

Grooming a Shih Tzu:
The shih tzu has two coats of fur, which is very similar to human hair. The top fur coat is non-shedding, however, the inner coat sheds just a little. This bottom level of fur sheds into the outer coat and hence the shih tzu appears to be non-shedding. If you brush the dog regularly, this small amount of fur becomes caught in the brush so there will be no fur all over your house.

Without clipping, the shih tzu’s fur can grown down to the ground (this is the usual image you will see on most shih tzu artwork and memorabilia, and it is how most people who are not acquainted with the shih tzu will know them). If you let it grow, the fur is extremely high maintenance.

Most owners have the fur clipped every six to ten weeks. This costs around £15 – £30, dependent on when and where you go. If you are considering showing the dog, then you should never have them clipped, even at an early age, because a good judge can tell.

Their eyes can weep frequently, so the shih tzu may need his eyes wiping every now and then. As with many dog breeds, their ears need checking to ensure they are dry and clean.

Shih Tzu Common Ailments/Health Issues:
Compared to many breeds, there are fewer problems with the shih tzu, because it is quite a hardy breed. Well-bred lines should have little trouble. Eye or knee problems are the most common ailments. Reading extensive dog profiles, you may find other ailments listed, such as anemia, luxating patella, vWD, thyroid or kidney problems and other such scary sounding problems. These are possible problems with poorly-bred shih tzu puppies but having owned more than 20 shih tzu and never having experienced anything other than one eye problem, it could be considered unlucky to have any of these. Having said that, all puppies should be vet-checked.

Shih Tzu Coughing/Reverse Sneeze (Inspiratory Dyspnea):
The shih tzu is ‘brachycephalic’ (i.e. snub nosed, with a short muzzle). As such, they are sensitive to high temperatures, like many dog breeds. It also means that occasionally, especially when they get excited, they might seem to cough or snort. From experience, this could happen once a week or so. They will only cough for less than a minute, but you can help them recover quickly by helping them swallow.

To do this, simply place your fingers or thumb over their nostril and rub the throat gently, and slightly open their mouth. This should stop it almost immediately. Be sure that this ‘reverse sneeze’ is the issue and not something more serious. If this corrects it, then it is probably just a reverse sneeze/cough. If you do this, your shih tzu is likely to learn to run to you when it happens.

Temperament of the Shih Tzu:
Non aggressive, good natured, good with children and pets (subject to the usual correct socalisation). Although friendly, they will bark a warning if someone comes to the door so they make quite effective watchdogs.

Training a Shih Tzu:
The shih tzu is intelligent, responsive and eager to please, so their training requirement is quite low. Some can be quite stubborn and haughty, but with perseverance they make a great addition to the home.

long haired shih tzuExercise for a Shih Tzu:
Many describe the shih tzu as having a low exercise requirement level and this is true to some extent. However, there are shih tzu known to be happy to go running with their owner. When raising a shih tzu puppy, it is important to build them to, and maintain, the exercise level you wish them to have. Hence, if you want your shih tzu puppy to enjoy a walk round the block with you, then that will suffice, but if you build him up to going running every day, then that is usually what he will do.

History of the Shih Tzu:
The shih tzu originated in Tibet, and was bred in China. Reportedly, Tibetanese Terriers were used to guard the temples of Tibet and if anyone managed to get past the terriers, the shih tzu acted as warning dogs for the Tibetan monks. Some say that a shih tzu is the reincarnation of a sinned monk.

Since approximately 700BC, the little dogs became known as the little ‘lion dog’. They were referred to as ‘Shih-Tze-Kou’. The word ‘Shi-Tze’ or ‘Shi-Tzu’ is a compound term meaning ‘lion’ and ‘kou’ means dog. Reportedly, this name came about because the legends said that when Buddha was travelling as a simple priest, he would always be accompanied by a small shih tzu. Whenever anyone threatened Buddha, the little shih tzu would transform into a lion, allowing Buddha to ride away to safety in a saddle on the back of the shih tzu. This is why the traditional colouring of the shih tzu would include a saddle of colour on his back – see Colour section above. The Chinese Emperors of the imperial dynasties bred dogs to look like small lions to encourage a comparison between themselves and Buddha.

Shih tzu were often given as a gift to indicate good luck, and they were always presented in pairs. Tibetan monks would present a pair of shih tzu to the Emperors, and this was a tradition that the Chinese continued.
The dogs came to England in the 1830’s and to the USA around 100 years later when they were initially registered as the ‘Lhasa terrier’. Approximately 1940, the American Kennel Club registered the breed as the Shih Tzu but it wasn’t until 1969 that the Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso were officially separated.

24 Comments »

  1. […] dog Tashi is a Shih Tzu. One of the benefits to his breed is that they don’t shed hair but consequently I need to get him […]

    Pingback by Bathing Your Pet Dog | Shout About Pets — September 8, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  2. good info!

    Comment by rai — December 6, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

  3. omg gorgeus little dogs

    Comment by clo — May 1, 2009 @ 2:11 am

  4. omg gld

    Comment by rach — May 30, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  5. hey, i have got a one eyed shih tzu aswell because he had a leaking abscess and they couldnt save the eye

    Comment by tasha — September 3, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

  6. Hey I just saved one today at the dog pound , are these dogs mixed or what i don’t know much about them but need to learn.Any body please help if you can thanks.Helen N Michael Mink

    Comment by Helen Mink — September 12, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

  7. What do you want to know Helen? Will help if we can

    Comment by Darren — September 15, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  8. hi i have a 16 mths old shitzu dog gold+white big tall boy k c reg good with children+other dogs i want to put him to stud i live in west midlands any takers please e mail thanks g j bytheway

    Comment by gloria bytheway — October 28, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  9. if you can please send me a email because i am concerned about one of the dogs so, if youcan please send me an email. So we cant talk about it

    Comment by stephanie tapia — October 31, 2009 @ 12:01 am

  10. just bought a shihtzu 8 weeks old but she keeps eating her poo how do i stop her.thank

    Comment by molly — January 30, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  11. i am going to get 4 of these dogs so if u dont want theme send theme to me

    Comment by nikki — February 2, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  12. my shih tzu has a bruise (maybe blind spot?) on one of his eyes and i don’t know where it came from or what to do… he’s had it for awhile and i don’t think its bothering him, butshould i get it checked? emails at madisonsunnarborg@yahoo.com ….. thanks!

    Comment by Madison — February 13, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  13. Shih Tzu’s are so cute because i got one with my grandma. He got a hair cut but he still is cute. His name is caleb. They could read your body language which is so omg. I did not they can do that. from: sekayierin@myyahoo.com.

    Comment by sekayi — February 20, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

  14. i have a shih tzu and he is sweeter than sugar. if u get one of these dogs u better get used to a dog that wines ALOT. but its for a good reason like a walk or bathroom. they make good gaurd dogs and there super cute. but my dog HATES being brushed or carried in a purses. train them at any age, they actually learn pretty fast. i trained my dog to sit, lie down and fech in the same day

    Comment by mykala — April 11, 2010 @ 3:39 am

  15. I want a dog that is a good house pet and can be trained easily are these dogs good?

    Comment by lilly — May 3, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  16. lol i mean come on they are absoulutley soooo precious arent i right? my husband and i have 3 dogs a maltese shih tzu and a havanese we are getting a golden soon 🙂

    -Danielle Salling

    Comment by Danielle Salling — August 16, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  17. very they never bark you should get one lilly do you have kids? they would love and it is very playful and loves to cuddle

    -Danielle Salling

    Comment by Danielle Salling — August 16, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  18. madison-yes you should it could get infected and that is not good!! my dog got an infection last year and i had to take it to the hospital because it got REALLY BAD! i dont want that to happen to your dog! thanks for asking you did the right thing!

    -Danielle Salling

    Comment by Danielle Salling — August 16, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  19. i have one thats turning 3 years old this coming january. sooooo cute..i take him with me everywhere. super sweet ,loves everyone and doesnt bark whatsoever..and has a teddy bear he got when he was 8 weeks old and sucks and kneeds it everynight for hours to go to sleep. cant leave house over night without sending it with him or even go up to bed without bringing the smelly thing haha beautiful dog and loves children to pieces. used to not be a fan of little dogs and now shih tzu’s are my favourite! and my family who always had big dogs loves him n spoil him rotten.

    Comment by shenaya — September 25, 2010 @ 2:41 am

  20. my husband and i got a 2 month old malti-shu. i was wandering if anybody could tell me whats the best age to start teaching her tricks.

    Comment by Brenda — December 1, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  21. i have one and we love her to bits she can dance,sing,wave bye bye and also do the basic tricks to. they are so easy to train i started when she was about 4-5 months old so the brain can hold a bit more

    Comment by aobh — February 20, 2011 @ 12:54 am

  22. My shitzu puppy is a very loyal companion. She’s always following me and if a stranger approached me, she sniffs the person as if checking whether he’s a bad or good visitor. I also love her non shedding or rather less shedding hairs because my youngest kid has an allergy to pet hairs. I’ve learned a lot from your post. Thank you so much!

    Comment by Anne @ shitzu puppies — March 28, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  23. How did you get the photo of my dog Yogi. Top of the page curled in a ball. We were on vacation at our parents in Hayward, WI. when that was taken. He was only 6 months old. I do have a higher res. if you would like it.

    Comment by Donna — October 11, 2011 @ 12:27 am

  24. I have a 11 year old Imperial Shihtzu. I got her about 7 yrs. ago from my Sister. She trained her to do some trick’s, but one of them was to not go to the bathroom outside. If I’m home she will come to me and tell me, she wants to go out. During the day I have to use the training pad’s that she does use. Is there anyway I can get her to wait until I get home ? Another thing is, she will not quit eating her poop. I tried the stuff you sprinkle on her food, and this does help for her own. There are wild cats that run around and poop in the yard. She goes out and finds it and eats it. I try to watch her, but can’t every sec. Roxy Girl is out. She also has terrible allergies, but only when she goes outside. I have also heard that there is no such thing as an Imperial Shihtzu. Is this true ? I find she is smaller than most, if not all the others I have seen. Can someone please help me with some of these problems I have ? I know her first owner didn’t train her right. Is it to late ? They do say, you can’t teach an old dog new trick’s. I also understand that she is so small that she can’t hold very much water. She gets up all during the night to get a drink. Why is this ?

    Thank you, Bill & Roxy Girl

    Comment by Bill — May 23, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

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