Shih Tzu Breed Profile

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Shih Tzu dog breed profile

KC Group Utility

Size Small

Good with children? Yes

Good guard dogs? Would bark

Moulting level Low

Grooming Heavy

Exercise requirement Moderate

Jogging partner Short runs

Editors Pick Yes

Shih Tzu Breed Profile

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The Shih Tzu is a lovely companion dog with an independent personality and a slight distrust of strangers.

History of the Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is thought to be a cross between Lhasa Apsos, who were brought as gifts to the courts of China from the great monasteries of Tibet, and the resident Pekingese dogs.

The original Chinese breed standard for the Shih Tzu must be the most romantic ever written. It says that they should have the head of a lion, the face of an owl, the eyes of a dragon, the tongue of a peony petal, teeth like grains of rice, ears like palm leaves, the back of a tiger, the tail of a phoenix, and the movement of a goldfish!

Despite originating in China in the 17th century, the breed was hidden from the West and was largely unknown until the 20th century.

Shih Tzu character

Loyal to their owner and family. Has a slight arrogance and often thinks he knows better! They make excellent pets for children and will happily play all day. Can live in town or country, and although will adapt to the family's lifestyle, they still enjoy daily exercise.

Shih Tzu size

The Breed Standard stipulates height at withers not more than 27cm. Weight: 4.5-8kg.

Shih Tzu health

Generally healthy, but there are one or two breed-specific areas to watch out for, especially eye infections.

Shih Tzu health concerns

Q: My daughter is looking into the possibility of getting  a Shih Tzu puppy, and has asked for my advice as  a lifelong dog owner. I have always found the Shih Tzu  I have come across to be charming, generally good-natured, and full of character, so in that respect I think the breed would be ideal. However, I have some concerns regarding their health as I know they are brachycephalic. Can you fill me in on any health issues affecting this breed?

Maggie Fulmer, Kent.

Vicky says: Shih Tzu can make wonderful companion dogs, but there are some health problems that are more prevalent in this breed. The main issue I see in the clinic is eye injuries; the combination of short nose, large eyes, and a lot of hair can make tear overflow, eye injuries, and infections common. 

The breed seems less affected by brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) than some other short-faced breeds, but some do suffer from small nostrils and long soft palates, which can lead to respiratory distress and may require surgery. 

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Dental crowding is possible, but won’t always cause problems, especially not if you accustom your puppy to tooth brushing from a young age. 

Umbilical hernias are common in the breed (and their crosses) but small ones are of little consequence in a pet. 

Other problems that the breed club is monitoring include a form of blindness called PRA, renal dysplasia, and skin allergies. While this may all sound worrying, most breeds (and cross-breeds) have their own list of health concerns. 

A good breeder will be taking measures to breed puppies who are less likely to be affected by any issues, so take time to research the source of your puppy.

Shih Tzu care

Plenty of grooming tools required!

Remember! All breed profiles are general and every dog is an individual.