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Shih Tzu 101

A smal brown,white, and grey Shih Tzu walking in the grass.

Shih Tzu’s are a very popular dog breed. They’re small, suitable for apartment living, and can be very friendly, people-pleasing dogs.

History Of The Shih Tzu

The history of the Shih Tzu is extremely long. They date back to about 2,000 years ago, and the name Shih Tzu means something similar to ‘Little Lion’ in Mandarin. They were possibly initially bred in Tibet, and they are related to both the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. They were gifted to the Chinese emperors as companion dogs and lapdogs.

Some historians believe that they were not only companion dogs but also had a purpose in the security of the palace as well. Palaces had large guard dogs that would patrol the exterior. It’s possible that Shih Tzu’s remained inside the palace to act as a secondary warning system.

The Chinese Dowager empress Tzu Hsi was a massive fan of these dogs, and bred them, paying close attention to bloodlines, and coloring. Because of her interest and social standing, the breed was considered to be a Chinese breed, rather than a Tibetan breed.

Some of Shih Tzu’s were brought to Ireland in 1933 by Mrs. Hutchins. This was the start of their mainstream popularity. Today, they are possibly the most popular breed of toy dog in the world.

What Is The Average Size of A Shih Tzu?

The Shih Tzu dog is considered a toy dog breed, making it the perfect dog for those that are looking for a smaller breed of dog to bring into the family. 

Both male and female Shih Tzu at an adult size stands at about 10 inches and their weight can vary from around 8-16 pounds. 

Shih Tzu Temperament

Shih Tzu’s are very happy, friendly little dogs. They love to be around their family and are people pleasers. They are often very good with other animals and can be great with children, as long as the children are taught to handle them with care.

They are very small, adults weigh between 9 and 16 pounds. Puppies can weigh under a pound, which is why children will need to be taught how to handle them and be gentle.

The downside that some people may find about the Shih Tzu personality is that they can be a tad stubborn, this sometimes can create conflict when working on training, so making sure that you have the patience, time and commitment to be able to work on those moments of struggle will benefit you and your Shih Tzu a lot. 

The Shih Tzu breed is not known to be an aggressive breed but they are usually there to alert you when someone is out around the house. 

This breed is not particularly known to be playful outside of puppy-hood, as long as they can be involved during family activities such as car rides or strolls around the neighborhood, they will usually be fairly satisfied. 

Shih Tzu’s are happy, confident, and trusting dogs. Whoever you trust and call a friend, your Shih Tzu pup will be likely to do the same. 

Shih Tzu Training

They need early socialization and training. They do not respond well to harsh training methods and will do better with consistent, reward-based training. They also respond really well to praise. They can become very difficult if they are shouted at, or treated unfairly.

They can be stubborn and manipulative, which can lead to spoiled adult dogs. They can be difficult to toilet train, this is partly because of their size. As they are so small, it can be hard to see when they are toileting as a puppy because of their temperament and need for reward-based training.

They need quite a lot of attention, but when properly trained, they make a fantastic addition to any household.

The size of these dogs does not mean that they can not compete in dog sports and in fact, they can excel in any number of disciplines, such as agility, obedience, and speed competitions. They are very clever, and they can learn tricks quickly, as long as they’re taught in an appropriate manner.

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Shih Tzu Grooming 

Shih Tzu’s needs quite a lot of grooming and maintenance. They are very long-haired and need very regular brushing. They can be kept clipped, which needs a little less grooming, however, some dog shows won’t accept a clipped dog as an entrant. You can still take your Shih Tzu to a groomer regularly to have the coat trimmed slightly.

The facial hair needs daily brushing, and the eyes should be regularly wiped. The ears will need to be cleaned out regularly. They should also have regular tooth brushing.

Shih Tzu’s will need a bath once a week. If you choose you may apply a coat oil, but be aware that this will need to be done immediately after a bath. Also, if you choose to oil the coat, you need to be sure that all of the coat has been covered in the oil. This will also be a lifetime commitment as stopping the oil can cause mats and hair breakages.

Oiling the coat, however, can improve the appearance, and some owners prefer this especially for a show dog.

Common Health Issues

Like many other small dogs, Shih Tzu’s can suffer from some common health problems such as:

Hip Dysplasia

Shih Tzu’s can suffer from hip dysplasia. This is a condition where the hip bone doesn’t sit in the socket as well as it should, and it can slip out. This causes pain and discomfort. The treatment for hip dysplasia will depend on the severity of the issue.

Some cases can be managed easily by diet and lifestyle changes. Other cases will need to treated by surgery.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is very similar to hip dysplasia, however, it involves the knee. The kneecap doesn’t fit into place as it should do, and can move out of place. Again, the treatment depends on the severity.

Some cases can be managed with medication, diet changes, and a change in an exercise regime. Some cases may need to be resolved through surgery.


Cataracts can occur from old age, but some cases can be inherited from the parents. Cataracts cause cloudiness in the eye which affects the vision. If a cataract isn’t treated it can detach and float around the eye. This can then cause glaucoma and permanent blindness.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, is an inherited condition in which the rod cells in the retina start dying off. One of the first signs of PRA is night blindness, and increased shine in the eye or a glow. Previously, there was no cure for PRA, and it was almost certain to lead to complete blindness. However, now, this may be able to be prevented, or at least the progression may be able to be delayed if caught in time, and the dog is given oxidation supplementation.

Improperly Closing Eyelids

As Shih Tzu’s have prominently placed eyes, they can be prone to a number of conditions affecting the eyes. One of these is known as Entropion. It causes the eyelid to turn inwards, the eyelashes rub on the eye and cause irritation. 

The eyelid won’t be able to close properly. This condition can be caused by injury, but it is also an inherited condition. It will need surgery to correct it.

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How To Know If You’re Ready For A Shih Tzu

As long as the training is reward-based and consistent, a Shih Tzu is an amazing little dog for almost everyone. While they do need exercise, they don’t require a massive amount of it. They love nothing more than cuddling on the sofa and sitting in your lap. They can adapt to apartments, and they are good around other animals and children. 

Meet The Author 

Grant Withers

Canine Specialist & Writer

Grant is an award-winning writer for SitStay with a passion for pets and especially dogs! Grant loves writing about furry little goofballs and aims to educate pet parents about anything and everything regarding their dogs.

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