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Shih Tzu dog breed profile

These playful, snuggly pups love spending time with their families.

Whether your pup is a 100% Shih Tzu or a Shih Tzu mix, learning about their breed can explain a lot about your pet’s personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you're looking to adopt a Shih Tzu and want to do some research on the breed first — we can help you there.

Originally from China, this breed's name translates to "lion dog" — they're known for their joyful companionship and adorable faces. Today’s Shih Tzus may remind you more of a teddy bear than a lion, with large, round eyes, short snouts and their signature underbite.

Here are some breed basics so you can decide if these affectionate, small pups are right for your lifestyle.

How big are Shih Tzus?

Short but sturdy, these pups were originally a cross between Pekingese and Lhasa Apso dogs. Shih Tzus are smaller pups, usually weighing between 9-14 pounds and standing less than a foot tall. 

This pup's small size makes them a perfect option for those living in apartments or other small dwellings — they're also good options for families without large yards since they don’t need a ton of space to run around in. 

What are Shih Tzus’ personalities like?

When you adopt a Shih Tzu, you’re getting a friend for life. These pups show lots of affection and loyalty to their family, and they love making their pet parents happy.

“In my experience, they seem to think they’re more human than dog,” Dr. Andrew Lee, DVM, medical director at My Vet Hospital in Chicago, says. “They love to follow their humans around and nestle in their laps.” 

Shih Tzus are perky and playful when they're not in snuggle mode, making this breed especially adaptable for family life around children and other pets. They tend to respond quickly to training and usually won't pass up playing with a new toy.

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What are Shih Tzus’ coats like?

Shih Tzus can have a variety of colors and patterns, including black, white, brown and brindle. They're known to have velvety soft, non-shedding fur. While no pet is completely hypoallergenic, Shih Tzus’ minimal shedding can make them a good pet option for those with allergies.

“Classically, they have long fur, which requires a lot of maintenance to keep from tangling,” Dr. Lee says.

A lot of Shih Tzu parents keep their pet’s double coat trimmed short to reduce the need for regular brushing. There are a variety of Shih Tzu haircuts you and your groomer can try out to find what works best for your pet’s functionality and style. 

What are common health issues Shih Tzus face?

These pint-sized pups tend to live long lives, with the Shih Tzu lifespan averaging around 11-14 years, though Dr. Lee says he’s seen many grow even older.

Allergy season can be tough for Shih Tzus. The breed is especially prone to environmental-and-skin-related allergies, so watch out for any itching or irritation as the seasons change. Dr. Lee says Shih Tzus are also susceptible to dry eyes and cataracts, as well as loose knee ligaments as they age.

Overall, with proper nutrition and exercise, pet parents can expect a stocky, healthy pup who is happy to curl into a warm lap or play a good game of fetch with their favorite people.

Adopting a Shih Tzu

Are you interested in adopting a Shih Tzu, Shih Tzu mix or any pet at all? Check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend. 

‍The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Dieny Portinanni on Unsplash

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