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Shih Tzu: Everything You Need to Know

Mira Gibson

The Shih Tzu is a toy-sized dog, which has been recognized by the American Kennel Club as a purebred since 1969. This lovable, affectionate breed derived from two Asian purebred dogs, the Pekingese and the Lhaso Apso. 

Shih Tzus are hypoallergenic, gentle, and sensitive dogs. They live to love their families and are great with children and other household pets. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the adorable Shih Tzu dog breed!

HISTORY

The Shih Tzu originated in China and Tibet roughly one thousand years ago. Thought to be a cross between the Pekingese and Lhaso Apso dog breeds, “Shih Tzu” means “little lion dog.” In ancient China and Tibet, Shih Tzus spent their days keeping their royal owners company as they relaxed in palaces and enjoyed fair weather on the verandas of their majestic estates. 

This speaks to the Shih Tzu’s personality and temperament, which we’ll look at in the next section. Shih Tzus love their owners and are happiest when seated in the lap of their favorite person. You might not live in a royal Tibetan palace, but your Shih Tzu will lay on your feet as you watch TV, sit in your lap while you work, and nudge you with its cute, flat face to indicate it’s time to snuggle! For anyone who wants a furry friend to comfort you at all hours of the day and night, the Shih Tzu dog breed has a long history of affection and companionship. 

PERSONALITY & TEMPERAMENT

A happy Asian couple hold a white Shih Tzu dog while relaxing on their living room couch on a sunny day.

Belonging to the “toy” group of purebred dog breeds, the Shih Tzu is cheerful, outgoing, and playful. Shih Tzus have a perky personality. They thrive on human company, and they need a lot of personal attention. When you’re at home, your Shih Tzu will probably live on your lap, follow you around, and make the most out of every moment with you! If the Shih Tzu has a job, it’s to provide you with delightful company and make sure you’re always in good spirits. 

APPEARANCE

A long haired Shih Tzu smiles as its favorite person, a man, holds and hugs it while on a hike through the mountains.

Though Shih Tzus are small in stature, they have very sturdy bodies. Their shortened muzzles, huge eyes, long hair, and slightly elongated torsos give them a distinct look. They have fluffy tails that curl up over their backs. Thanks to their long, flowing hair, smiling faces, and prancy gait, Shih Tzus appear bouncy and fluffy. Try not smiling as you watch your Shih Tzu trot happily over to you to say hello!  

ENERGY & EXERCISE NEEDS

A happy, healthy black woman bends down during her daily jog to pet her Shih Tzu on a sunny autumn day.

Shih Tzus are said to have moderate energy levels. But thanks to their small size, a little exercise goes a very long way with this companion dog breed. You will not need to take your Shih Tzu out for long walks. And if you bring him on a hike, be prepared to carry him in your backpack most of the way. 

A Shih Tzu will be happiest trotting beside you to simply cross the street, especially when the destination is a park bench where you two can sit in the sunshine for hours. A simple walk around the block will be more than enough exercise for your Shih Tzu. This makes Shih Tzus a great breed for people who don’t want to exercise with their dogs, as well as older people who don’t get out of the home too much. 

Also, because Shih Tzus are so small, your Shih Tzu will help himself to bouncing around the living room if and when he needs to burn off some steam right away. Shih Tzus enjoy quick tug-of-war games, a good dog puzzle or Kong toy, and other self-entertaining indoor activities. This makes the Shih Tzu one of the easiest dogs to please and live with. 

TRAINABILITY

A man trains his Shih Tzu dog outside, teaching the purebred dog breed Shih Tzu to shake hands on command.

Shih Tzus are very easy to train thanks to their eager-to-please temperament. Shih Tzus are not strong willed, which means that your Shih Tzu isn’t going to test your boundaries or try to disobey you during puppy training. In fact, Shih Tzus are smart enough to learn little tricks, in addition to quickly mastering basic dog commands. 

Though Shih Tzus are easy to please, your Shih Tzu might try to turn a training session into a snuggle session instead. Aim to keep your training sessions short, i.e. no more than 5 minutes long. As you live with your Shih Tzu, work into your interactions with your puppy some of the commands you’ve been teaching him to show him why and how listening to you is important in daily life. By using this puppy training method, your Shih Tzu will quickly become a great companion and member of your family!    

GROOMING REQUIREMENTS

A pretty Shih Tzu dog with pink bows in its hair is combed at the professional dog groomers.

Shih Tzus are one of the top purebred show dogs thanks to their long hair, beautiful hair colors and markings, and overall unique beauty. The Shih Tzu has a long coat of hair, not fur. This makes this dog breed hypoallergenic and less likely to shed. That being said, Shih Tzus need to be brushed daily in order to prevent tangles and matting. Shih Tzus should be shampoos and bathed once a month to keep their hair clean and healthy. 

Shih Tzus also need their faces and under eyes to be wiped with a damp cloth to clean and prevent tear stains. The Shih Tzu has long hair on top of its head, too, and if that hair hangs down into its eyes, it can cause eye irritation. For this reason, Shih Tzu owners often “clip” their dog’s hair into a high ponytail to keep their hair out of their eyes. Some Shih Tzu owners use professional dog groomers to give their dogs hair cuts, keeping the hair relatively short.  

IS A SHIH TZU RIGHT FOR YOU & YOUR FAMILY?

An adorable, soft, affectionate Shih Tzu with a pink bow in its hair snuggles and comforts an elderly person by resting its head on the older person's hand.

The purebred Shih Tzu dog breed is one of PuppyBuddy’s top recommendations to families who want a loving, affectionate dog with minimal exercise needs. 

Shih Tzus are especially good for families with very young children, as this dog breed tends to be gentle and patient with little humans. A Shih Tzu will err on the side of being aloof and walking away if and when a young child gets too annoying. This can help parents feel reassured that their dog won’t become territorial or domineering with their children. 

Shih Tzus are also one of the best dog breeds for people and families who have dog allergies and sensitivities to pet fur.

The one caveat with Shih Tzus is that they really don’t like to be left all alone for very long. Shih Tzus that are left all alone because their owner works long hours away from the home tend to become depressed and anxious. 

All told, the Shih Tzu is a sweet, affectionate dog breed that bonds deeply with its owner and family. If you want to be showered with constant unconditional love, you can’t go wrong with a Shih Tzu! 

PuppyBuddy in Boca Raton, Florida, has Shih Tzu puppies for sale. Come in and meet our adorable Shih Tzu puppies. We hope to see you soon!