The Royal Shih Tzu Could Be Your Lap Dog (2023)

The Shih Tzu is a small but sturdy dog with a lush, long, double-hair coat.This breed'salert, confident, playful, and courageous demeanor makes it a favorite amongst toy dog enthusiasts. The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed and has a long history as a lap dog to nobles.

When properly trained and cared for, Shih Tzus can make wonderful companions. Its petite size makes this breed ideal for apartments and small living spaces. Just be prepared for some snorting and snoring; The Shih Tzu is considered a brachycephalic breed because of its head shape and short, "smooshed" face. Overall, most owners of the breed will tell you that the Shih Tzu is truly a lovable dog breed.

Breed Overview


HEIGHT: 8 to 11 inches

WEIGHT: 9 to 16 pounds

COAT: Long double coat

COAT COLOR: Found in nearly any color, most commonly in black, white, blue, gold, liver, or combinations

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 16 years

TEMPERAMENT: Friendly, intelligent, playful, alert, loyal, lively



Characteristics of the Shih Tzu

Beloved for their charming and lovable temperament, Shih Tzus adore attention and will need lots of it, loving nothing more than hanging out with (and sitting on) their humans. They warm up to strangers quickly and will do well in homes and families large and small.

Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsLow
Energy LevelMedium
Tendency to BarkMedium
Amount of SheddingLow

History of the Shih Tzu

The name Shih Tzu originates from the Chinese word for "lion" because of the breed's lion-like appearance. Evidence of the Shih Tzu 's ancestors can be traced back to ancient breeds, particularly in Tibet. DNA analysis shows the Shih Tzu, like the Lhasa apso, is a more direct branch from the wolf than many other dog breeds.

The exact origins of the Shih Tzu as a Chinese royal house pet are hazy, with different dates offered over the past 1,100 years. The breed became known as a noble dog of China, primarily as a royal house pet to members of the Ming Dynasty from the 14th to 17th century. They were also favorites of the Empress T'zu Hsi in the late 1800s.

The Shih Tzu has always been a house pet and lap dog and has never been bred for any other known purposes. This differentiates the breed from the Lhasa apso, which served as temple guards. Perhaps this is why the Shih Tzu remains, to this day, one of the most pampered and popular of the toy dog breeds.

Historically, Chinese royals didn't allow the dog to be traded outside of the nobility. It wasn't until 1930 that the first Shih Tzus were imported into Europe. They then arrived in the U.S. after World War II and were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1969.

Shih Tzu Care

Due to their petite size and high intelligence, Shih Tzu dogs are relatively easy to train and care for. By keeping just a few important care requirements top of mind, you can ensure a happy and healthy dog for years to come.

The Royal Shih Tzu Could Be Your Lap Dog (1)

The Royal Shih Tzu Could Be Your Lap Dog (2)

The Royal Shih Tzu Could Be Your Lap Dog (3)


The Shih Tzu has a moderate energy level and needs routineexercise. Dailywalksand fun activities likegamescan help keep your Shih Tzu mentally and physically stimulated. They adapt very well to apartment living as long as you give them enough time for active play. However, Shih Tzus will not do well in overwhelmingly hot environments or weather, due to their flat faces and propensity towards heat exhaustion.


The Shih Tzu's coat grows continuously with very minimal shedding, leading the majority of people to consider them a low allergy breed (see: hypoallergenic dog breed).The loose hairs are more likely to be retained in the coat rather than the air—however, be aware that the allergens remain in dander and saliva, so there will still be some present in the environment around the dog. If you're sensitive, it's wise to spend time with a Shih Tzu to see if this breed provokes your allergies before adopting one.

Many owners choose to keep their dog's hair trimmed short, making it appear somewhat curly and fluffy. Others opt to keep the coat long and luxurious.Because of their coat type, routinegroomingis an absolute necessity for the Shih Tzu. They should be brushed once or twice a week (up to once daily if the coat is kept long) and haircuts may be necessary every several weeks. When their facial hair isn't trimmed, it can irritate their eyes—this is why you may see some Shih Tzus adorned with a topknot or a bow.

The dog's nails should be trimmed at least once a month, and you'll need to help your dog with oral hygiene by brushing its teeth daily. Keep in mind that due to head shape, this breed usually has poorly aligned teeth with overlapping and rotated teeth that lead to more advanced dental disease sooner in life and will require regular professional dental cleanings by a veterinarian several times throughout their lives.


Propertrainingandsocializationare important in order to keep your Shih Tzu happy and well-adjusted.Don't skip these practices just because the Shih Tzu is a small dog.The breedis relatively smartbut also has a bit of a stubborn streak.

Shih Tzus can be difficult to housebreak, so you'll need to be diligent in training your dog beginning at a young age. They can be also trained to use a litter box indoors—be aware, however, that they tend to eat their own (and other dogs') feces, so you will need to keep your dog's area clean.

This breed gets along well in a multi-pet household with other friendly dogs and cats, especially if they're raised together. Shih Tzus can be great with children as long as the child is old enough to handle a dog gently and respectfully and the dog has been appropriately socialized. As a small dog, the Shih Tzu can be easily injured by rough play.

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in Shih Tzus. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Brachycephalic Syndrome: Common in flat-faced breeds, this is a problem caused by abnormal airway anatomy that leads to difficulties breathing. Common symptoms include snoring, noisy or labored breathing, exercise intolerance, and nasal discharge.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease: This age-related disorder of the spine is also called a "slipped disc." Symptoms include pain, abnormal gait or limping, shivering, and difficulty standing.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: This is a fancy term for dry eyes, and in Shih Tzus is often caused by an auto-immune disease. Symptoms include thick eye discharge, eye redness, crusting in the fur around the eyes, and excessive blinking.
  • Distichiasis: Another eye issue, this is a problem of abnormal hair growth on the eyelids that can lead to irritation, corneal ulcers and scarring. Symptoms include eye redness, pawing at the eyes, squinting, and difficulty seeing.

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Diet and Nutrition

As a small dog, a Shih Tzu needs only up to 1 cup of dry dog food per day. The exact amount depends on the dog's age, activity level, size, and health factors. It's important to monitor your dog's weight and take action if you see the dog is becoming overweight. Discuss the appropriate nutritional strategy with your veterinarian to get recommendations.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Shih Tzu

Anytime you're looking to adopt or buy a dog, there is a variety of price factors you need to consider, such as the cost of the puppy, supplies, and veterinary bills. On average, Shih Tzu dogs can cost from $500 to $2000 (even up to $5000 depending on quality and championships in the line). However, they require ongoing and lifelong expenses that will greatly exceed the purchase cost with proper veterinary, grooming, and dietary care. It's important to plan ahead for regular care and unexpected emergencies, as well as looking into a reputable breeder or adoption agency, which you can do through the following Shih Tzu organizations:

You can also get in touch with a local animal shelter to find out if there are any Shih Tzu rescues in your area.

Shih Tzu Overview


  • Loyal and affectionate

  • Great with kids

  • Loves to sit on your lap


  • High-maintenance coat

  • Difficult to housebreak

  • Issues with breathing

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More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think the Shih Tzu is the right dog breed for you, be sure to do plenty of research before adopting one. Talk to other Shih Tzuowners, reputable breeders, your veterinarian and rescue groups to learn more.

If you're interested in similar breeds, explore these to compare the pros and cons:

  • Silky Terrier Dog Breed Profile
  • Maltese Dog Breed Profile
  • Bolognese Dog Breed Profile

Explore the variety ofdog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.


  • How do you groom a Shih Tzu?

    Because of their long and fluffy coats, Shih Tzus need to be brushed a few times a week, and bathed and groomed every few weeks. It's easy, once you get the hang of it, although you can always hire someone to do it for you.

  • How many puppies can a Shih Tzu have?

    Shih Tzu litters are usually about three to four puppies, unless it's the mother's first litter. If that's the case, it's one or two.

  • How do you train a Shih Tzu?

    Shih Tzus are notoriously hard to train. While you can do it yourself, you might want to enlist some help with online training, recommended books, or even hiring a trainer in person.


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