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Although the Shih Tzu is on the small side, their big hearts makes up for their diminutive stature.

The Shih Tzu was bred for a sole purpose: companionship. Only royalty had the privilege of owning a Shih Tzu, but they were nearly extinct by the end of the Communist Revolution in China, which lasted from 1911 to 1949. Fortunately, many Shih Tzus were introduced and revived in England and the U.S.

Lion Dogs

The 10th most popular breed in the world according to the American Kennel Club, the Shih Tzu's name translates to “Lion Dog” - so named because they were bred to resemble the lion and the Foo Dog, a breed sacred to the Buddhists.

The Shih Tzu originates from China (more specifically, Tibet) and is one of the oldest breeds in the world. They're also the closest known breed to the dog's ancient ancestor, the wolf. Dating back to the 7th or 10th century (still in debate), this little breed was documented in Chinese art, carvings, and embroideries. Experts debate whether the little dog is of Tibetan or Chinese origin, and we probably will never know for sure.

Meet Your New BFF

Shih Tzus have a wonderful, friendly disposition, and they usually get along with everyone, whether they be children, strangers, or other pets and animals. They are extremely affectionate, gentle, attentive, and trusting. They make great traveling companions and will enjoy being with you on your adventures. This breed is very needy, however, and requires consistent attention and TLC, which most owners are more than happy to give!

The Center of Attention

Although they require a lot of attention, theShih Tzu’s activity level is on the low end, making them a wonderful companion for reading, lounging by the pool, or following you around as you do things around the house or yard.

Like all dogs, they do require exercise, so a daily 30-minute walk is suggested. Shih Tzus are playful but only for a short time span. Although they are friendly toward children, if you have high energy and active children that want a dog to participate in their fun, a Shih Tzu might not be the best choice. And with their small size, children will need to be careful when running around this little “Lion Dog,” as an injury can easily occur with this fragile breed.

The Shih Tzu is easygoing, has a gentle spirit, and LOVES everyone they encounter. Remember, being a small breed with a low-activity level, a family full of young, highly-energetic children may not be the best fit.


The Shih Tzu is a proportionate dog with a short muzzle and large, dark eyes. They are double-coated and have long, flowing hair that can come in any color combination. Because their coats are quite long, this breed requires regular grooming and daily brushing. Many owners opt for the “puppy cut,” which is short and easy to maintain. They're a rather small dog with a height of 8-11 inches and a weight of 9-16lbs.

Health Concerns

Shih Tzus have a fairly large potential for several health issues, including:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Intervertebral Disk Disease
  • Breathing problems (due to their short nose)
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Shunt of the Liver
  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Cleft Palate
  • Eye Problems
  • Renal Disease
  • von Willebrand’s disease
  • Epilepsy

Shih Tzus have a much larger than average lifespan range, with dogs commonly living between 6 and 20 years.

Adopt First

Consider looking for a Shih Tzu through rescue organizations first. Every year, there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!


Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe

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  • Greta blog Victoria. I grew up with Shih Tzus and I have to say they are just about the perfect little dog. They have a big dog personality in a small dog body. My little "Beau" would often run across the street to play with our neighbors great dane. I think the great dane was afraid of him.

  • Aw these dogs are so cute and adorable! :) My friend had a shih tzu growing up and I always loved that dog. She was a lover.

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