shih tzu running along road

Shih Tzu

A Complete Breed Guide for Shih Tzu Dogs

LAST UPDATED November 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Maree Monaghan BVSc (Hons)

Hard to spell but easy to love, the Shih Tzu is a whole lot of happiness in a cute fluffy package. These lively, friendly little dogs were developed as companion dogs for the Chinese nobility and love being around humans young and old.


Facts About the Shih Tzu



Best Toys for Shih Tzus

Best Food for Shih Tzus

Health Concerns

Related Breeds

Further reading

Facts About the Shih Tzu

shih tzu dog looking up
shih tzu close up
shih tzu close up
Breed size: Place of origin: Intelligence:
Small Tibet/China Medium
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Non-sporting Low 4.5 - 7.5kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
11 - 14 years High Up to 27cm
Drool factor: Coat type: Colours:
Low Long silky double coat All colours except merle
Shedding factor: Easy of training: Overall grooming needs:
Low Moderate Very high

How big do Shih Tzu get?

The Shih Tzu averages 4.5 to 7.5kg and stands 27 cm high at the shoulder.

How much does a Shih Tzu cost?

Shih Tzu and Shih Tzu cross pups in Australia may cost anywhere from $1,500 - $,4000. The pandemic significantly increased demand for Shih Tzu puppies and the price of a purebred pup can occasionally even exceed this. Of course, as with any breed, it is cheaper to adopt an adult dog from a rescue.

Are Shih Tzu good pets?

The Shih Tzu is a lively, happy little dog that makes an excellent pet even for the first time dog owner. True to their origins as a lap dog, they love attention and make ideal pets for older owners. Shih Tzus are generally friendly towards all humans and other pets and early socialisation will reinforce this trait. They are eager to please and easy to train using positive reinforcement, although toilet training can be their downfall.

How long do Shih Tzu live?

Like most small breed dogs, Shih Tzus are relatively long lived. As long as you ensure your Shih Tzu has a complete and balanced diet, appropriate exercise, does not become overweight or develop dental disease, you can expect to have your companion for up to 14 years.

Do Shih Tzu shed?

Shih Tzu shed minimal amounts of hair, however, their long luxurious coats need daily grooming with a good quality pin brush. Extra attention should be paid to the hair on top of the head and around the mouth. To avoid eye irritation, it is a good idea to tie the hair on the top of the head in a "topknot" or trim it short. They should also be bathed every three to four weeks using a gentle shampoo and conditioner for long coats.

To avoid daily grooming and heat stress, you can have your Shih Tzu clipped by a professional groomer.

How much exercise do Shih Tzus need?

Shih Tzus do not require a lot of exercise and a short walk each day will suffice. Care must be taken during hot weather as Shih Tzus are prone to overheating due to their short faces and long coats. Walking early in the morning or at night is recommended.

Do Shih Tzu bark much?

Yes, Shih Tzus can be prone to barking a lot. They are very alert and one of their duties is to protect their family, so Shih Tzus may bark at the slightest noise or movement which they perceive to be a threat. If you work out the reason your Shih Tzus is barking, then provide appropriate training and distractions, you will be able to curb this unwanted behaviour.

How do I choose a Shih Tzu breeder?

When looking for a Shih Tzu, your options are to: a) adopt from a rescue (this is our top recommendation!) b) buy from an or online marketplace or pet store (NOT recommended!), or c) Research a reputable breeder. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions first. Good breeders socialise their animals, house them humanely, allow you to inspect their premises, and selectively breed healthy traits and good temperaments. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Shih Tzu History

Shih Tzu statue

Shih Tzus are said to have originated in Tibet as the result of crossing Lhasa Apsos with Pekingese although this idea has its critics. Regardless of their origins, Shih Tzus were the highly prized companions of the Chinese nobility for centuries and Dowager Empress Cixi maintained a kennel which bred Pugs, Pekingese and Shih Tzus during her reign in the early 1900's.

The name Shih Tzu means "little lion" and, because lions are considered sacred in Buddhism, Shih Tzus have long been associated with this faith. Buddha is said to have ridden to earth on a lion and carried a small lion dog with him everywhere he went.

Tomb, temples and public buildings in China are guarded by pairs of lion dog statues at their entrances that symbolise the loyalty, strength and bravery required to keep out bad spirits.

A small number of Shih Tzus were taken to Europe in the 1930's where they soon became popular. Shih Tzus reached the United States in the 1940s with the troops who had fought in Europe in World War II. The Shih Tzu arrived in Australia in 1954 with British immigrants Tony and Soo Dobson of "Wawnehill Kennels".

Shih Tzu Personality

shih tzu with a group of people having picnic

Bred purely as a companion dog for royalty, the Shih Tzu has no desire to hunt, retrieve or herd and prefers being pampered and cuddled by their adoring owners. It's easy to fall in love with a Shih Tzu's happy, playful demeanour and they will reward you with loyalty, affection and lots of laughs. Shih Tzus thrive on companionship and will often follow you wherever you go. They are ideal for first time dog owners, older people and families with other pets. The Shih Tzu does have a stubborn streak and are known for being difficult to toilet train.

Best Toys for Shih Tzu

Dental disease is a common problem for Shih Tzus so teaching your Shih Tzu to chew from an early age is a must. Shih Tzus are also prone to weight gain and puzzle feeders are ideal for turning meal times into fun times and slowing down greedy Shih Tzus.

Kong Puppy Teething Stick

Get your Shih Tzu pup off to the right start and teach them appropriate chewing behaviour with the KONG Puppy Teething Stick

Tasty Bone Dental Trio

The unique nubs help to scrape tartar off your Shih Tzus teeth as they chew, which helps keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Wahu Tug Chew and Toss

Fetch and tug-of-war are great games to play with your Shih Tzu to burn off excess energy while doing what comes naturally to them.

Paws for Life Snuffle Mat

Sprinkle and hide your Shih Tzu's meal in the various hiding spots on this colourful and quirky snuffle mat.

Can't decide? Why not let us pick for you with the Curious Box? Each Curious Box contains a selection of two to three engaging toys (and treats!) Even better, the theme changes every 6 weeks, making it the perfect way to keep your pet's supply of toys and treats fresh, fun, and varied for mental stimulation!

Shih Tzu Diet and Nutrition

shih tzu puppy

Shop all small breed dog food now

Shih Tzu puppies

Some points to note about Shih Tzu puppy ownership include:

What to feed a Shih Tzu Puppy

Shih Tzu puppies need to eat a premium, small breed diet that is nutritionally formulated to meet AAFCO Guidelines until they are around 10 months of age. You may consider a Rotation Diet to provide exposure to different proteins and reduce the risk of food sensitivities.

Raw diets for Shih Tzu puppies? Raw diets are not suitable or safe for Shih Tzu puppies due to the risk of bacterial contamination upsetting their tummies, and an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Read more about Raw Diets: The Risks and Benefits.

When should you transition a Shih Tzu from puppy to adult food?

As a general guide, Shih Tzus can usually be transitioned from a 'puppy' food to an 'adult' food at around 10 months of age. This does, however, vary depending on your dog's body condition score - if your pup is underweight, they may require puppy food for a little longer. Likewise, if they're starting to show a bit of 'pudge', it may be time for a lower-in-calories 'Adult' diet.

Best Food for Shih Tzu Puppies

Best food for adult Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu adults are prone to a number of health conditions including dental disease and obesity so the following diets have been recommended to help support healthy teeth and maintain an ideal body condition.

Royal Canin Shih Tzu Adult

This premium dry food has an exclusive kibble size, shape and texture made specifically to encourage Shih Tzu dogs to chew and also contains calcium chelation agents to reduce dental tartar, promoting good oral health.

Advance Triple Action Dental

Sodium Tripolyphosphate is added to promote dental health by binding to minerals in the saliva, reducing tartar formation.

Eukanuba Adult Weight Control Small Breed

This formula contains lower levels of fat plus l-carnitine to support a healthy weight along with optimal levels of omega fatty acids to support skin and coat health.

Royal Canin Light Weight Care Loaf

Helps to maintain lean muscle mass with higher levels of quality protein and also helps your dog feel fuller for longer with a specific blend of dietary fibre.

Shih Tzu Health Issues

Shih Tzus are prone to a variety of eye diseases as well as joint problems and dental disease.

Eye Problems

Short faces and large eyes make the Shih Tzu susceptible to dry eyes, conjunctivitis and eye ulcers. Other eye diseases that Shih Tzus can suffer from include cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy and retinal detachment. It is important to ensure that your Shih Tzu's hair is kept out of their eyes and, if you notice any abnormalities in their eyes, take them straight to your vet for a check up.

Patellar Luxation

The patella is the kneecap and luxation is where the patella dislocates out of place to one side, usually momentarily. This can be very uncomfortable, and the severity is assessed in stages based on degree of luxation and how easily the kneecap slips back into place. Advanced stage luxation often requires surgery.

Dental Problems

Shih Tzus very commonly have protruding or "undershot" lower jaws which makes them very prone to dental disease. Even without an undershot jaw, the Shih Tzu, like many small breed lap dogs, are often reluctant to chew which leads to plaque build up, dental infections and tooth loss. Starting a home care dental regime at an early age is the best way to avoid dental problems for your Shih Tzu.


Lounging around on comfy pillows all day being adored certainly sounds like the ideal lifestyle for a dog, however, lack of exercise and overfeeding lead to weight gain and all the diseases that obesity brings with it.

Top health recommendations for Shih Tzu

K9 Natural Brain and Eye Omega Oil

Made from a premium blend of New Zealand cold-pressed Flaxseed and Hoki Oil, rich in Omega 3, with the addition of Avocado and Blackcurrant Seed Oil, high in antioxidants, for healthy brain and eye development.

Aralis Shih Tzu Vitamins

Rich in Vitamin B6, Cranberry Extract and Echinacea to support urinary health, L-Carnitine and Omega 3 for optimal weight and Turmeric and Pepper to support tear production. The addition of Hemp Extract, Chamomile, Valerian Root and L-tryptophan helps to make your pet more relaxed during anxious periods.

Paw Osteocare Chews

Supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin provides nutrition for joint cartilage to help maintain healthy joints and are a great option for young active Shih Tzus as well as older dogs at risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Related Breeds

Lhasa Apso

lhasa apso dog

The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet where they were used as guard dogs in monasteries. Despite their small size and deceptive long flowing locks, the Lhasa Apso is still a fiercely independent guard dog.


pekingese dog sitting on someones lap

The Pekingese and Shih Tzu are surviving examples of the flat faced lap dogs bred and prized by Chinese nobles for centuries. Pekingese are also known as Lion Dogs and have a luxurious long silky coat that forms a lion's mane around their neck and shoulders.

Chow Chow

black chow chow looking at camera

Chow Chow are an ancient Chinese breed that were developed as hard working farm dogs rather than pampered palace pooches.

Further reading

dog paws on book

How to Groom a Dog

Eye Discharge in Dogs and Cats

Luxating Patella in Dogs

Your Guide to Pet Supplements

Shop All Dog Supplies Now