Essential Information for Choosing and Caring for a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is a small sturdy dog with a big heart. With a name meaning “lion,” the Shih Tzu is an ancient breed and a popular family pet. Recognized as part of the toy group by the AKC in 1969, the breed is an excellent choice for families with children or for the elderly.

The Shih Tzu has racked up a number of honors. The breed won the Eukanuba Tournament of Champions in October 2001, and was one of the top top 10 AKC small breeds. According to AKC, Shih Tzus are the 20th most popular dog breed.

History and Origin

Based on their presence in various Chinese paintings and tapestries, it is thought that the shih tzu has been in existence since 624 AD. Despite many theories about the origin of the breed, it is not disputed that the Shih Tzu was part of the ancient Chinese court. The dogs were bred and selected with great care. From this foundation, along with the help of Russian refugee Madame de Breuil, the dogs of today were developed.

In the 1930s the interest in the breed had spread to England. During World War II, U.S. military personnel stationed in England fell in love with the breed. When returning home, the Shih Tzu accompanied them, thus introducing the breed to the United States.


The Shih Tzu has a short nose and slightly pushed in face. The hair coat is naturally long and dense and requires daily care. The hair of the face is typically tied on top of the head as a topknot. To reduce the need for daily brushing, some people have the coats trimmed in a short terrier-like trim. Shih Tzus can be any color or combination of colors.


Standing only 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder and weighing 9 to 16 pounds, the Shih Tzu is a small but tough little dog.


The Shih Tzu is bred to be a pet and nothing else. The breed is strong and sturdy, the least delicate of the toy breeds. They have the appearance of being proud and arrogant but are actually gentle and very playful.

Home & Family Relations

The Shih Tzu is a friendly dog that adapts to any family situation but is definitely an indoor dog. Their size gives them poor blood circulation, so you want to limit the amount of time that your Shih Tzu spends outside when the temperatures are chilly. They can easily withstand the rough treatment, and even the occasional dress-up of children and make excellent children’s companions. The breed is also loyal and gentle enough to be a great choice for a companion for the elderly.


Basic obedience is recommended to help develop a content and pleasant member of the family. The shih tzu is not typically trained for specific jobs and does best as just a loving pet.

Special Concerns

With a long hair coat, the shih tzu needs grooming to prevent mats.

Famous Shih Tzus

The plot of the movie Seven Psychopaths starring Colin Farrell centers around the abduction of a Shih Tzu named Bonny. Breath easy Shih Tzus lovers. While not all the characters see a happy ending in this movie, Bonny comes away unscathed.

Celebrities with Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus make for wonderful pet dogs. The adorable little fur balls are popular with celebrities as well. The following celebrities have pet Shih Tzus:

  • Nicole Richie has a Shih Tzu named Honeychild.
  • Geri Halliwell, of Spice Girls fame, has a pet Shih Tzu named Harry.
  • Queen Elizabeth of England has a pet Shih Tzu named Choo Choo.
  • Bill Gates has a Shih Tzu named Ballmer.
  • Mariah Carey has a pair of Shih Tzus named Bing and Bong.
  • Beyonce has a Shih Tzu named Munchie.


Health Concerns

Proptosis is displacement of the eyeball out of the eye socket that can occur in some dogs.

Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.

Atopy is an itchy skin disease of animals that is caused by an allergy to substances in the environment.

Urolithiasis is a urinary tract disorder characterized by the development of bladder stones.

Corneal ulcers are common in the Shih Tzu due to the protrusion of the eyes.

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is a disorder that affects the spinal disks resulting in pain, difficulty walking and possibly paralysis.

Tracheal collapse is a weakening of the rings of the windpipe. This leads to irritation and coughing.

Kidney disease – is associated with a lack of development of the kidney has been found to be inherited in the Shih Tzu.

Chronic valvular heart disease (VHD) is a condition characterized by degeneration and thickening of the heart valves.

Ventricular septal defect (VSD) – a congenital defect of the ventricular septum of the heart.

Drug reactions to “glucocorticoids” can occur. Subcutaneous injections may cause local hair loss in this breed.

Perianal gland adenomas – are tumors that can occur of the anal glands.

Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.

Distichiasis is a condition in which there is growth of extra eyelashes from the glands of the upper or lower eyelid.

Life Span

The life span of the Shih Tzu is 14 to 16 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.