Other names: Chrysanthemum dog
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
- Life expectancy : Between 11 and 16 years
- Temperament : Playful
- Size : Small
- Type of coat : Long
- Price : Between £510 and £790
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 5 : Tibetan breeds
Physical characteristics of the Shih Tzu
|Female dog||Between 8 and 10 in|
|Male dog||Between 9 and 11 in|
|Female dog||Between 9 and 18 lb|
|Male dog||Between 9 and 18 lb|
All colours are accepted for this dog’s coat, but there is a preference for multi-coloured subjects that have a white mark on their forehead and end of the tail.
Type of coat
The Shih Tzu’s hair is long.
His outer coat is long, dense, thick and straight. His undercoat is light and not woolly.
His eyes are dark.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- Cardiac problems
- Urological disorcers
- Juvenile kidney dysplasia
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Eye problems (dermoid, progressive retinal atrophy, nictitans gland prolapse, etc.)
- Difficulties during labour
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.
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.
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Frequently asked questions
Is a Shih Tzu a good family dog?
The Shi Tzu is an excellent family dog. Indeed, this dog breed is great with children and gets on well with other pets. The Shi Tzu doesn't need too much exercising, is pretty much happy in any living area and loves the company of its family.
Do Shih Tzus bark a lot?
The Shi Tzu is a breed which is prone to barking. Despite its size, this dog is an excellent watchdog and will alert its owner of any perceived danger. Of course, it is possible to train your dog not to bark or to bark on your command.
Here's how to train your dog to stop barking.
Can Shih Tzus be left alone?
How to groom a Shi Tzu?
The Shi Tzu famous for its long and silky hair must be groomed regularly. His coat should be brushed several times and week and his eyes should be cleaned frequently.
You could always treat your dog to a pampering moment at the dog groomer.
How much does a Shi Tzu cost?
The price of a Shi Tzu will vary according to its origins, age and sex. If a dog is registered with the Kennel Club, the cost will be approximately £785. If the dog isn't registered with the Kennel Club, the average price for this breed is £510.