Shih Tzu

Other names: Chrysanthemum dog


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Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is a small tibetan dog. Used exclusively as a pet, he isn’t the ideal companion for active people. Very pleasant to live with despite sometimes proving stubborn, he’s sociable and friendly with everyone. Lively, intelligent, playful and relatively docile if he’s been trained well, this little dog will bring joy to all members of his social group, both young and old.

Key facts about the Shih Tzu

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Temperament :


Size :

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Origins and history

His origins go way back: he originates from a cross between the dogs that lived in the imperial Chinese palace, about which we know very little, and the Lhasa Apso. He’s originally from Tibet, and his development took place exclusively in China. In Tibetan, his name means "Tibetan lion" and not "lion dog", as many people think. He was initially bred to resemble a little lion, a sacred animal in the Buddhist religion and emblematic of Tibet. The Shih Tzu wasn’t recognised in the UK until the 40s.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs


Section 5 : Tibetan breeds

Physical characteristics of the Shih Tzu

  • Shih Tzu
    Shih Tzu

    Adult size

    Female : Between 8 and 10 in

    Male : Between 9 and 11 in


    Female : Between 9 and 18 lb

    Male : Between 9 and 18 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    The Shih Tzu is a small dog with a very proud demeanour, and a long and compact body. His head is big, round, with a gap between his eyes, while his coat is dishevelled and falls onto his eyes, complete with a beard and moustache. The hair around the nose grows upwards, forming a curious shape of a chrysanthemum. His muzzle is square, short and smooth. His teeth protrude outwards. His eyes are big, dark, round and bulging, while his ears are big, floppy, and covered in fur so that they normally aren’t visible. His limbs are short, strong and muscular, while his build is robust. His tail, heavily fringed and curling up to his back, is worn high and proud.

    Good to know

    The Shih Tzu is considered a hypoallergenic dog. This makes him perfectly suited to people allergic to the hair and saliva of dogs.


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      While often looking for attention, this little affectionate dog isn’t overly clingy. He will happily keep himself to himself and keep his distance. That said, he makes an excellent daily companion and is very pleasant to live with.

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      This little dog is particularly active. He loves playing, and this trait plays a key role in his training. Both gentle and jovial, he will make the perfect playmate for children.

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      If his needs are properly met, this little Tibetan dog can be very calm. This quality can make him an ideal pet for the elderly or a life in a flat.

      While he is more active than most other dogs in his category, he can still happily spend many hours sleeping in his basket.

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      In spite of his appearance, the Shih Tzu is an intelligent little dog that can understand very well what is expected of him. He can observe and reproach his master for an incoherent or unfair attitude.

      However, despite his liveliness, he’s only used as a pet and isn’t very versatile, and can sometimes be quite stubborn.

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      The Shih Tzu doesn’t have a very defined predatory instinct, but he can be curious and playful around things he considers as prey.

      This instinct is often subconsciously reinforced by owners that play fetch with their dog. This game actually elicits a predatory instinct.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      Very sociable, the chrysanthemum dog loves receiving strokes and attention from anyone, regardless if he knows the person or not.

      As long as he’s not handled roughly, mistreated or pressurised, the Shih Tzu can be a friendly, happy dog that gets on with everyone.

      However, he is also known to flat out ignore strangers at times, being neither scared of or aggressive towards them.

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      Independence is very relative for a dog living in a flat, however, the Shih Tzu will need a quiet corner that he can retreat to for peace and quiet should the need arise. He needs these tranquil moments to relax and re-energise.

      Behaviour of the Shih Tzu

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        Tolerates solitude

        While not overly independent, the Shih Tzu equally isn’t a loner. He prefers to be in the presence of his masters, which, once again, makes this dog perfectly compatible with retired people.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        Thanks to his intelligence and liveliness, training this little dog can be quite a pleasant experience. However, you should take into account his propensity to stubbornness. If he feels mishandled or pressurised, he can quickly shun his master and refuse to cooperate.

        A firm yet fair hand will be necessary to train the Shih Tzu. The basics of training should be established from a very early age, in order to avoid the learning of bad habits.

        Under no circumstances should you ever neglect the training of this dog just because he is small and calm. Fun and educational games will reinforce obedience and also the master-dog relationship.

        As his owner, you need to be patient, coherent and diligent in order to obtain the results you want from this dog.

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        While sociable and welcoming for the most part, this dog nonetheless makes a good alarm dog who will indeed bark to warn his masters of a perceived danger.

        Training can help to subdue or reinforce this trait, depending on the needs and wishes of his master.

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        Tendency to run away

        Solitude is this pet’s worst enemy, it would never occur to him to venture off on his own. He much prefers going for walks with his owner than on his own.

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        Able to be very calm, this little dog can spend hours sleeping in his bed or on the sofa, if he’s allowed. He’s not destructive and can be discrete.

        His rare stupidities are usually rapidly forgiven thanks to his adorable little face.

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        Greedy / Gluttony

        This little dog has a good appetite, but it’s not excessive. He takes pleasure in eating from his bowl as well as in little treats as a reward for good behaviour.

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        Guard dog

        While his small size lacks intimidation, the chrysanthemum dog remains a good alert dog who won’t hesitate to bark to notify his masters of an irregular event.

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        First dog

        The Shih Tzu is a perfect first dog. Whether for a young, active person, a family with children or a retired couple, he can adapt to a number lifestyles.

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          Shih Tzu in a flat

          This little dog’s preferred lifestyle is in a flat. He’s not an outdoorsy dog, even if he would appreciate having a garden to wander around in.

          Life in a house in the country suits him too, but he won’t want to spend lots of time outside. Above all else, he’s a dog that likes his creature comforts.

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          Despite his “sofa dog” appearance, which he will happily be for hours at a time, he nonetheless has exercise needs, like all dogs.

          He doesn’t need intense exercise; simple 10-minute walks around the block will be enough for him.

          He should be walked several times a day to maintain his physical and mental wellbeing. Going for walks fulfil his physical, psychological, sensory and social needs.

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          This dog’s little size and joviality makes traveling with him very easy. In public transport, he will be perfectly happy in his travel bag. If you’re travelling by plane, his small frame allows him to accompany his master in the cabin. By car, a little transport cage will be ideal to keep him safe.


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            Shih Tzu and cats

            Particularly sociable, this little dog will get on very well with a cat, and even more so if they’ve grown up together.

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            Shih Tzu and dogs

            This little dog isn’t really aware of his size. He therefore won’t be scared to interact with other dogs that are bigger than him.

            You should remain vigilant of course, but the Shih Tzu is far from a fragile dog to be cradled in your arms at the slightest altercation.

            Sociable and playful, he loves playing and having fun with his canine counterparts. Meetups are therefore highly recommended to reinforce this dog’s grasp of the canine code.

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            Shih Tzu and children

            This little Tibetan dog is a very good pet for children, but they still need to respect his nature and not treat him like a living teddy bear.

            Rules should still be established and respected since even a little dog can lose his patience and react in an unideal, or even aggressive, manner.

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            Shih Tzu and the elderly

            This dog has many qualities that are well suited to elderly people: he’s sociable, small, friendly, and not as active as many dogs.



            The price of the Shih Tzu varies depending on his origins, age and sex. You should budget around £785 for a dog registered with the KC. 

            As for your monthly budget, you should set aside between £20 and £30, which will cover treatments, food and grooming.


            The Shih Tzu needs regular grooming, especially if he lives in the countryside. His long hair should be combed several times a week.

            It’s also possible to cut his hair short at a professional grooming parlour.

            His eyes should be cleaned regularly, if not daily, as he tends to “cry” tears that can mark his fur.


            This dog doesn’t shed an excessive amount of hair. However, he will still need regular brushes to maintain the beauty of his coat.

            Nutrition of the Shih Tzu

            Whether dry or homemade, his daily rations should be adapted to the dog’s age, health and physical condition. 

            This little dog should never be overfed at risk of becoming obese, due to his lack of intense activity. He should never be allowed to help himself freely to his bowl. 
            One meal a day is enough for this dog, preferably given in the evening at the same time every day to facilitate digestion.

            For the Shih Tzu puppy, you should provide him with all the necessary resources he requires to properly develop. It is recommended for a vet to track his growth while he’s young.

            Health of the Shih Tzu

            Life expectancy

            His lifespan is around 13 years.

            Strong / robust

            While he might not look like it, this is a very resistant little dog that enjoys an excellent life expectancy.

            Withstand heat

            The Shih Tzu does not deal well with the heat. Make sure you don’t leave him outside in intense sunlight. Fresh, cold water should always be available to him in a shady spot when it’s hot.

            Withstand cold

            His coat provides him with very good protection against the cold and humidity. Many owners provide little dogs with coats in the cold weather, but this isn’t really necessary for the Shih Tzu.

            Tendency to put on weight

            It is not in this dog’s nature to put weight on easily, but sometimes, his inactive lifestyle can make him prone to it. Therefore, it’s important to provide him with an appropriate diet and to walk him every day.

            Common illnesses

            • Cardiac problems
            • Urological disorcers
            • Cancer
            • Juvenile kidney dysplasia
            • Musculoskeletal problems
            • Eye problems (dermoid, progressive retinal atrophy, nictitans gland prolapse, etc.)
            • Overheating
            • Difficulties during labour

            Frequently asked questions

            Is a Shih Tzu a good family dog?

            Do Shih Tzus bark a lot?

            Can Shih Tzus be left alone?

            How to groom a Shi Tzu?

            How much does a Shi Tzu cost?

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