Characteristics of The Shih Tzu Dog Breed & How to Care For Them

by Amanda Flores

Get to more about the Shih Tzu breed's characteristics, health care, nutrition and grooming needs.

If you’re looking for a pup who will fill your days with amusing antics, the Shih Tzu is exactly what you’re looking for. Known as the “lion dog” this pint-sized pup is anything but ferocious. Shih Tzus are friendly, charming dogs whose preferred activity is following their family around and feeling like part of the pack.

Bring this pup into your family and get ready for the snuggliest lap cuddles and just an all-around good time. Keep reading to learn what to expect and how to care for your Shih Tzu.


The Shih Tzu breed is centuries old. While today, these pups are associated with China—largely in part to the breeding that resulted in the present-day characteristics—the Shih Tzu actually originated in Tibet. Some say they were likely given as gifts to the royal family in China, leading to their popularity.

Shih Tzu translates to “Lion Dog” for its physical traits, however, their fiery personality certainly matches their name as well. It’s said that the Shih Tzu was originally used in the imperial courts of the Chinese Emperor to act as mini alarm systems. They’d bark when people would approach and so would warn him of any unwanted visitors. These rambunctious little pups quickly won over their humans and transitioned into the role of companion dogs instead.


Physical Traits 

Standing at a shoulder height of eight to eleven inches and weighing anywhere from nine to sixteen pounds, the Shih Tzu is an adorable little pup who is just the perfect size to nestle into your lap.

While the Shih Tzu is more friendly than fierce, their long, silky coats do resemble a lion’s mane. The long topcoat can grow up to several inches in length and covers a shorter, soft undercoat. They are typically a mix of several colors, like white, gray, and brown, however, very rarely you’ll find a Shih Tzu who is completely solid-colored.

Personality Traits

Spend a few minutes with a Shih Tzu and it’ll be no surprise that these pups were bred to be companion dogs. They love nothing more than to hang with their family, whether cuddling on your lap or playing adorably at your feet.

If you’re thinking of adding a Shih Tzu to your family and already have children or other dogs, you’re in luck. This breed is known for their gentle, affectionate temperament and do well with busy families. 


A generally healthy breed, the Shih Tzu can live up to 18 years. Of course, with any breed there are certain health conditions to be on the lookout for. 

Shih Tzu’s have a short muzzle and noses which can make it more difficult for them to breathe. They can develop brachycephalic syndrome, which can make these pups prone to snoring or wheezing. This means, you’ll want to pay close attention that they don’t overexert themselves when playing or exercising.  

The Shih Tzu breed can also develop eye conditions, such as cataracts and corneal dryness. The dryness is often a result of the large size of their eyes and smaller lids, which don’t always fully cover and protect.


Grooming Recommendations

There are several options when grooming your Shih Tzu. For those who choose to keep their pup’s outer coat long, make sure to brush daily. Give them a bath at least once a month to keep the coat clean and shiny. 

You can also opt to give your Shih Tzu a “puppy trim.” Visit a professional groomer to have their outer coat clipped down. You’ll still want to do regular brushing to prevent matting. 

Keep your Shih Tzu comfortable by making sure to have their nails trimmed and ears cleaned on a regular basis.  

Exercise Recommendations 

Shih Tzus do well with a family who enjoys short walks, as they are not suited for rigourous activities like long hikes. They will get all of the exercise they need to remain healthy by going on leisurely walks and playing inside.

Training Recommendations 

These people-pleasers are all about positive reinforcement. Be sure to train and socialize your Shih Tzu puppy early, focusing on praising them when they perform the desired behavior and ignoring them when they are jumpoing up or nipping. 

These adorable little pups will quickly have you wrapped around their finger. They have a cute little way of getting out of training exercises so keep this in mind when teaching them new tricks or housebreaking to ensure you are getting positive results. 


Your Shih Tzu deserves only the best. Feed them nutritious food with high-quality ingredients. Because of their small stature, these pups can easily become overweight if you’re not careful so speak with their vet about the right amount of food to serve based on their size and age.

At Sundays, we make it easy to feed your Shih Tzu a balanced diet with only the best ingredients. Our gently air-dried, human-grade food is ready to eat with no fridge, prep, or clean-up required, and is delivered straight to your door right when you need it. 

Try Healthy, Easy Sundays