Breed Spotlight: Shih Tzu

Five Minutes
Sep 28, 2022

Shih Tzu Quick Stats


10 – 18 years


9 – 16 lbs


9 – 10.5 inches


Yes, minimally


Fun, affectionate, confident, and intelligent

Common Health Problems:

Overheating, hip dysplasia, cataracts, retinal atrophy

Shih Tzu: How Do I Look?

Tiny, shaggy, and adorable, the shih tzu has wiggled their way into the hearts of dog owners everywhere. A popular “toy breed,” they’re known for being less yappy and more personable than other dogs their size. Shih tzus are longer than they are tall, surprisingly sturdy, with short legs and a fuzzy tail that hangs over its back. They have a dense coat that hangs over their eyes, nose, and chin that gives them a cute beard and whiskers.

Typically, a shih tzu shouldn’t exceed 16 pounds or it will put too much pressure on their short legs. Most shih tzus are 10 inches tall at the shoulders, so don’t expect them to be bulky dogs.

Coat Type and Colors

These beautiful dogs have long, double coats that come in various lengths and colors. The American Kennel Club lists over 19 different solid colors and color combinations, but here are a few of the most popular:³

  • Black
  • White
  • Blue (Dark Gunmetal Gray)
  • Brindle
  • Gold
  • Chocolate

You can find these colors combined with white, black, and silver. Keep in mind that their coats often change as they age. For example, a blue and white shih tzu may fade into blue, silver, and white as your pup becomes a senior.


Shih tzu ears are long, floppy, and covered in soft fur that frames their delicate facial expressions. Their ears need to be cleaned during grooming sessions to prevent ear infections.

Shedding and Grooming

Shih tzus aren’t heavy shedders, but their long hair requires consistent grooming. Pet parents should expect to brush their shih tzu twice a week. Puppies should be handled regularly to teach them to tolerate grooming sessions, especially baths and nail trimming.

Their coats can cause them to overheat in the warmer months, so consider hiring a groomer to cut their fur low. However, a shih tzu’s size makes them susceptible to cold so you may have to invest in a jacket or sweater during the winter.

Drooling Level

Shih tzu isn’t known for drooling or slobbering.


Shih Tzu: Personality Traits

What My Adoption Bio Would Say:

I am a bundle of love that can’t wait to nap with you on the couch. I enjoy playing just like any dog, but I don’t need a big yard. A simple apartment is good enough for little ol’ me! Let’s get to know each other so we can be best friends for life!


Shih tzus are very adaptable animals who are happy to play or lounge while you binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. They are social dogs who love pleasing their owners, but they can be very stubborn. However, once they make up their mind about loving you, you have a friend for life.

Exercise Needs

Due to their size, shih tzus don’t need a lot of space to meet their exercise needs. Small spaces like apartments or a small townhouse’s backyard are ideal for these compact dogs to run around in. They enjoy chasing balls, but they may not bring it back. A daily walk and plenty of attention will ensure a healthy shih tzu.

Good with Other Pets?

Shih tzus are affectionate with other pets, even bigger dogs. You shouldn’t have issues with your dogs or cats if you provide them with an enriched environment.


Don’t expect this dog to roll over or speak on command. Shih tzus can be trained to sit and not jump up on house guests, but you probably won’t get a performance out of them. They benefit from positive reinforcement training so they can follow basic commands, such as “sit,” “come,” or “outside.”

Consider dog training classes for your shih tzu if you want to avoid mischievous behavior. A professional can help you with these intelligent animals and teach you how to be firm, but gentle.

Good with Kids?

Even though shih tzus are outgoing animals who get along well with all kids, older children are the best match for a shih tzu. Older kids will understand they should be gentle with toy-sized animals. If you’re looking for a good family dog for younger kids, a shih tzu may not be for you.

Barking Level

The shih tzu can be very yappy and vocal. They tend to bark at strangers and cars passing by. Training and making sure they are socialized with people and the noises we make can curb this behavior.

Shih Tzu: A History

The shih tzu is a breed Tibet created through a mix of a Pekingese and the Lhasa apso.³ This upbeat, outgoing dog’s personality explains why the shih tzu's name translates to “lion dog.” Popular amongst Chinese emperors, shih tzus weren’t known outside Asia until the 1930s.⁴

Now, shih tzus are one of the most popular toy dog breeds in the world. They bring beauty and exuberance to millions of households across the globe. Notably, shih tzus are ideal companions for the elderly. Shih tzus are smart, alert, and adequate watchdogs who bring their royal demeanors to people who need them.

Common Shih Tzu Mixes

Given the shih tzu’s popularity, you’ll be hard pressed not to find a dog they haven’t been mixed with. It’s important to chat with the breeder about the health of the puppies; it’s not uncommon for dog mixes to inherit diseases.

Here are some popular shih tzu mixes:

Shih Tzu Health Problems

Unfortunately, no dog is immune to breed-specific health complications. Remember, being prepared is the single best thing a pet owner can do! Shih tzus may experience a variety of health issues, including:³’⁵

Protect your Pets

Even the healthiest of pups can come with unexpected vet costs. Pet insurance can help keep your dog and your bank account happy.

How Pet Insurance Can Help Shih Tzu

Despite their miniature stature, shih tzus are strong and resilient dogs — but they’re by no means invulnerable. As a pet owner, you have to ensure the highest quality of life for your scraggly-haired companions...after all, they are royalty!


Shih tzus require regular grooming but sometimes, things happen to their skin. Pyoderma is a type of infection on the skin that looks like a red, raised rash. The infection can be simple (e.g. flea bites) while complex infections can be caused by allergies, hypothyroidism, or even parasites.⁶  A MetLife dog insurance policy may help cover the cost of diagnosis or treatment for pyoderma.1,2

For more information on how pet insurance can help your shih tzu, check out our guide on how pet insurance works. And remember, signing up for dog insurance while your shih tzu is a puppy is smart, as it can ensure your dog has coverage before something becomes a preexisting condition.

Protect your Shih Tzu with Pet Insurance

Enroll in 3 Easy Steps

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC. 

³ “Shih Tzu,” American Kennel Club

⁴ “Shih Tzu,” Britannica

⁵ “Shih Tzu: Recommended Test,” The Canine Health Information Center

⁶ “Pyoderma in Dogs and Cats,” Merck’s Veterinary Manual

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