Shih Tzu

AKC Toy Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Shih Tzu, or lion dog, probably originated from matings between Tibetan Lhasa Apso dogs brought to China during the seventeenth century and native Pekingese dogs. The Shih Tzu became a favorite of the imperial Chinese court. The breed was so revered that for many years after the Chinese began trading with the West, they refused to sell, or even give away, any of the little dogs. It was not until 1930 that the first pair was imported to England. The Shih Tzu was recognized in Britain in 1946 and by the AKC in the United States in 1969. Today the breed is very popular, both as a companion and as a glamorous show dog.


This small, sturdy dog, like the Lhasa Apso, is covered with an abundant double coat of long hair lined with a woolly undercoat. The hair above the nose grows upward, creating a “chrysanthemum” face. The head is rounded, with a profuse beard and mustache, short hairy muzzle, and black nose (except in liver-colored dogs, which have liver noses). There is a definite stop. The large, round, and wide-set eyes are dark on most dogs but lighter on liver and blue dogs. The pendant ears are so covered with hair that they blend right into the body coat. The teeth should form an undershot bite. The topline is level and the body is slightly longer than the height at the withers. Dewclaw removal is optional. The heavily plumed tail is curled over the back. Any color is acceptable, though white on the forehead and tip of the tail is preferred.

Key Facts

  • Height:  8 to 11 in.
  • Size:  Very small
  • Weight:  9 to 16 lbs.
  • Availability:  Very popular
  • Talents:  Watchdog


Can be difficult to housebreak. Tends to wheeze and snore. Some bloodlines are prone to ear, eye, and respiratory problems. Susceptible to slipped stifle. Sensitive to the heat. The long, dense coat requires extensive grooming attention. Pet dog owners might choose to trim the coat short to make coat care easier. Do not overfeed as the breed tends to gain weight easily. Don’t jog with this dog in hot weather. The long hair on the head is often tied up in a knot so the dog can see properly. The Shih Tzu is a very popular breed. Buy only from a reputable breeder, as many inferior animals are being produced to satisfy the demand.


Assertive and engaging. Arrogant and proud. Alert and spunky. Very loyal. Friendly. Likes his comforts. Playful and lively. Needs to be with people. Can be willful, but will respond to training. Can be snappish if surprised or peeved.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Fairly friendly with strangers
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Fairly active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Extensive grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Long coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Exercise:  Very little exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A poor jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Good for apartment living
  • Outdoor Space:  Does all right without a yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Long (15 or more years)

Useful Links

AKC® Shih Tzu Breed Standard

Shih Tzu Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu Gifts