Shi Tzu

The word shih tzu means “lion” in Chinese—a big name for a toy dog! The Shih Tzu was the treasured house pet of Chinese royalty for most of the Ming Dynasty but was later brought home by the English after World War II.

Common Characteristics

  • Size: 1 to 20 pounds
  • Lifespan: 6 to 15 years
  • Pet purchase cost: $501 to $1000
  • Allergies: Moderate
  • Shedding: Moderate
  • Primarily suited for indoors


Common Reasons for Surrender

Before the economy tanked, Shih Tzus were overwhelmingly surrendered to shelters and rescues because they just did not do well with children in the home. Since the economy has hit people hard, they are now surrendered because their families simply cannot afford the expensive grooming and veterinary care.


A loyal, affectionate companion, your Shih Tzu will want to sleep right next to you in bed and maybe even make some room for herself on your pillow. The polar opposite of a hyper breed, Shih Tzus are lapdogs who just want to be with their families. Their non-shedding fur makes them the ideal pet for families who suffer with allergies.


Shih Tzus do not do well in homes with young children, especially toddlers. Like toddlers, the Shih Tzu always wants to be the center
of attention. When she isn’t the center of attention or doesn’t get along well with a child or children, she’ll likely display behavioral problems such as regressing on house-training and, less commonly, nipping at others out of fear.

Because they are so small, they are more easily injured than other larger breeds. While Shih Tzus do not shed, they still require professional grooming at least every month to six weeks, which can become expensive over time. Complete house-training can also take as long as a year, so you will need to be patient.


Because the Shih Tzu is prone to food allergies, she will require a high quality, dry kibble diet. Make sure whatever food you purchase, ideally the best you can afford, does not contain grains.


Shih Tzus don’t need much exercise. Take your dog for a nice stroll around the block, or throw the ball for him for five or ten minutes when it’s too wet or cold to go outside, and your Shih Tzu will be happy and tired. Make sure they get some exercise every day, however, to keep their body healthy and their spirits up.

Possible Health Issues

Shih Tzus are prone to eye injuries because of their short muzzles and tend to get ear infections because of their long ears. Many Shih Tzus suffer from food allergies and skin problems, the latter of which can be fixed by changing your dog’s diet.


Your Shih Tzu will require a lot of grooming. Brush him daily and take him to a professional grooming at least every four to six weeks. A groomer will be able to cut the hair around your dog’s eyes, express his anal glands, and pluck the hair from inside his ears. Remember, it’s essential to keep the Shih Tzu’s ears dry and hairs plucked from inside the ear in order to prevent ear infections.


Positivity works best with the Shih Tzu. Use harsh words or a negative tone and your Shih Tzu is simply going to respond like a defiant, angry two-year-old. Be positive for the best results. Most Shih Tzus enjoy learning tricks. However, be prepared for a long house-training process. It can take a minimum of a year for your Shih Tzu to become completely house-trained.


If Shih Tzus could talk, they would probably tell you fall is their favorite time of the year because they love running through the fallen leaves. Most, however, don’t like the rain but will tolerate the snow. All generally love going for walks. Throw a ball or another toy for your dog, and she’ll happily run after it, but don’t expect her to bring it back to you. She’d rather you get it and throw it again. If you have enough room in your home and money in your budget, consider adopting a second Shih Tzu as two Shih Tzus love playing together and enjoy the companionship.

We want to thankShih Tzu and Japanese Chin Rescue for help with this profile.

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