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Shih Tzus are fuzzy, cuddly hugs on four legs. You'd never guess how closely related they are to wolves. No, seriously — Shih Tzus share more DNA with wolves than most dog breeds. This ancient breed is featured in paintings and documents dating back to the seventh century C.E.
Originally from Tibet, this small-sized and medium-energy breed can grow to between 9-16 pounds and lives an average of 10-16 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Toy group. While these “lion dogs” used to warm the feet of Chinese royalty, today's Shih Tzus have embraced democracy: they'll sit in just about anyone's lap.
AKC Recognized: Y
Breed's Original Pastime: Companion
Breed Group: Toy
Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Bark Factor: Moderate
Energy level A sprinter
Exercise needs A walk in the park
Playfullness and Games All day, every day
Attachment to People Never leave my side
Behavior with Other Dogs I like being part of a pack
Behavior with Other Small Pets I'm usually friendly, as long as we're supervised
Behavior Toward Strangers I've never met a stranger I don't like
Trainability I love to please
Watchdog ability I'm vigilant, but not very protective
Protection ability I'm not very protective
Grooming needs Daily brushing and probably frequent professional grooming
Cold tolerance Warm climates or lots of jackets, please
Heat tolerance Above 70 degrees? Give me winter, please
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS A SHIH TZU'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
Playful, affectionate, and charming, Shih Tzus really are everything you could want in a lapdog. They're delighted to meet just about everybody, whether on two legs or four. This gal is sturdy but little, so you'll want to supervise play with other dogs.
WHAT IS SHIH TZU BEHAVIOR LIKE?
This dog is everybody's best friend — she's friendly, trusting, and lively. Her small size means you can meet her exercise needs by letting her run around the house, but she'll appreciate a daily walk as a chance to sniff and explore. Some Shih Tzus also enjoy a rousing game of fetch as long as you don't throw the ball too far!
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN A SHIH TZU?
Let's be honest: training a Shih Tzu is an uphill battle. They are slow learners — you might have to practice “sit” or “lie down” as many as 50 times before this breed catches on to what you're asking her to do. Like many toy breeds, they sometimes struggle with housetraining.
Reward good behavior with praise. If you're patient and consistent, your Shih Tzu can excel in agility and obedience events.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO SHIH TZUS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
Shih Tzus don't shed much, but regular trips to the groomer will be needed. If you keep yours in a long or show cut, she'll need daily brushing. Many owners prefer to keep these dogs in a puppy cut, which keeps their hair close-cropped and easier to manage.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO SHIH TZUS HAVE?
As a breed, Shih Tzus are generally healthy and long-lived. These dogs are sometimes susceptible to developmental kidney issues and eye injuries, as well as hip dysplasia, eye disease, and slipping kneecaps.
Breed history has moved while this section is under construction. Please check out the first tab for fun facts about this breed's history. You can also read on to learn about this breed's ideal family situation.
ARE SHIH TZUS GOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?
The American Kennel Club doesn't list Shih Tzus among its breeds recommended for allergy sufferers.
Remember that no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, and any breed can aggravate allergies. You can reduce your furry friend's impact on your allergies with frequent baths and brushings to reduce loose hairs and aggravating proteins in your pet's dander. Use a damp cloth to wipe off your dog after you've been playing outside. Smaller dogs have less surface area, and so produce comparatively less dander than larger breeds — definitely something to keep in mind with a dog as tiny as a Shih Tzu!
WHAT IS A SHIH TZU'S BEST DAY?
Shih Tzus really, really, really just want to be with you. (Unless you're swimming — these dogs aren't great swimmers.) Gentle explorations of the outdoors or new places to sniff with you in tow, frequent potty breaks, and naps in your puppy purse make up this breed's best day. As long as they're with you, they're home.
SHOULD I ADOPT A SHIH TZU?
These little dogs are somewhat sensitive to warm temperatures. You should bring water and maybe an ice pack with you while traveling with them. They're also not great in the cold. (Bonus: adorable tiny dog sweaters.) But they love to go with you wherever you're going. If you've ever wanted a personified (canine-ified?) cuddle, the Shih Tzu is the fuzzy snuggle for you.
Have you decided that a Shih Tzu is the perfect dog for you? Why not be your new best friend's hero and adopt a rescue! Be sure to check out our article on what to expect when you're adopting a dog or cat.