Breed Category: Non-Sporting
Country of Origin: China
Average Size: 22-27 cm (at the withers)
Average Weight: 4-7 kg
Average Life Span: 15-17 years
Grooming Requirements: High
Exercise Requirements: Low


The Shih Tzu is a Chinese breed of dog with a long and rich history. It is commonly referred to by its Chinese translation, the Lion Dog. This breed is thought to have originally descended from wolves thousands of years ago. In its more recent history, it is thought to be related to the small Tibetan breed Llasa Apso, which is also thought to be tied to the wolf.

The Shih Tzu has always been highly treasured in Chinese society. It was a breed kept exclusively by royalty and nobility and was not widely known throughout the rest of the world until soldiers returning from World War II brought the dog back to their respective countries. It is now regarded as one of the most popular companion dogs.

Beloved for its playful nature, the small Shih Tzu is classified in many dog groups as a toy breed, but it is recognised in Australia as a non-sporting dog.


The Shih Tzu has a long, silky coat that is commonly white, but may also have black, brown, tan or fawn colouring. Its double coat is usually straight, but may also have a slight wave. Left naturally, the coat can reach the ground, so it requires significant and dedicated grooming in order to avoid tangling. The hair that grows above the eyes is often tied with a hair bow so that it does not impair the dog’s vision. For lower maintenance, the Shih Tzu can be clipped into a puppy cut, which is easier to maintain. Despite its naturally long coat, the breed does not shed more than a minimum amount.

The gait of this dog is elegant, often compared to a prance. Its long tail is carried high and its expression is one of nobility. It has dark, wide-set eyes and a distinct under bite. Its ears are long and hang low, covered in fur. Its feathered tail is set high, curling up onto its back.

The Shih Tzu is known for its miniature size, as it is averages only 22-27 cm high and weighs approximately 4-7 kg. Its body and head have a rounded shape and this breed is of ideal size for a lap dog.


This breed is adored for its engaging and playful personality. It enjoys attention from people of all ages and is quick to greet guests. It also typically gets along well with children and other animals.

Though the breed’s disposition is naturally cheerful, poor training can lead to undesirable behaviour such as aggressiveness, short-temperedness and compulsive barking. With an owner who is willing to take the time to properly train the Shih Tzu, the breed can reach its full potential as an easy-going and affectionate dog.

The Shih Tzu does not require much in the way of exercise, though it does prefer a regular walk. This will also help to ensure that the dog stays in good physical shape. This type of dog is otherwise content to remain indoors and near its family. It enjoys its role as a lap dog, but is also known to be very playful indoors, so toys and room to run around suit it well.


There are quite a few health conditions that can plague the Shih Tzu. Its short nose is set very close to the face, which can lead to respiratory problems. For this reason, this breed should not be exposed to extreme weather conditions.

The Shih Tzu may also experience thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism. It is prone to weight gain, so it should not be overfed. The breed is susceptible to spinal problems and obesity can increase the risk of such ailments.

It may also experience eye or ear problems if both are not regularly cleaned. There are specific eye drops that will help ensure proper care of the eyes.

Despite its potential health problems, the Shih Tzu is known for its longevity, as it has an average lifespan of 15-17 years.

Shih Tzu Organisations in Australia
Shih Tzu Club of Victoria

Shih Tzu Organisations in the UK
Welcome to the Shih Tzu Club

Shih Tzu Organisations in the US
American Kennel Club – Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu Rescue

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