Shih Tzu: Color, Lifespan, Characteristics & Facts

Few dog breeds have been around as long as Shih Tzus. The small breed traces its ancestry back to ancient China, where it became the favorite lapdog of the monks and nobles alike.

The fluffy canines, which come in a range of shapes and sizes, are known for their loving demeanor, friendly disposition, and haughty attitude. As such, while they can be headstrong, the dogs make great family pets for all different homes.

A toy breed through and through, Shih Tzus love to both run and relax. The dogs need a good amount of play and exercise to keep their brain stimulated, but they also don’t mind lounging during a slow or quiet day.

They are not the easiest dogs to train, but proper exposure and training practices go a long way with the breed.

There are many types of Shih Tzu around today, including the blue eyed Shih Tzu, Perro Shih Tzu, Brown Shih Tzu, and Brindle Shih Tzu. Every coloration is cute and affectionate.

Breed Overview

Other Names: Chrysanthemum Dog, Tibetan Lion Dog

Origin: China, Tibet

Height: 8 to 11 inches

Weight: 8 to 16 pounds

Life Span: 10 to 16 years

Colors: Black, White, Liver, Brindle, Liver & White, Light Brown, Dark Brown, Black & White, Blue, Gold

1. Personality & Temperament

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Shih tzus tend to get a bad rap. Due to their appearance and independent nature, many people see them as arrogant or stubborn. However, the breed is simply confident and proud.

The dogs are extremely loving, almost to a fault. They will gladly accept pets from anyone and they actively seek attention. While that makes them great lap and family dogs, it also means they do not do a good job of guarding your house.

Shih tzu puppies tend to be excited and energetic. They love to play and you will often find them running around the house. However, the breed does tend to slow down a bit as they age.

In both states, the affectionate canines love to cuddle and spend time with their owners. They are quite intelligent and need constant affection.

2. How to Care for a Shih Tzu


Shih Tzus need protein. The small dogs love to consume all forms of the nutrient, including dairy products, raw eggs, fish, chicken, and organ meat. The best Shih Tzu foods come with extremely high protein content backed with all sorts of essential nutrients.

You can feed your pup high quality kibble or you can provide them with wet food. The nutrient content is the only thing that matters.

In terms of amount, you should free-feed your Shih Tzu until they reach three months of age to prevent early onset hypoglycemia. From there, give them three smalls a day for the next nine months. A full grown Shi Tzu should then eat two meals a day.


As you might imagine, grooming a Shih Tzu is not an easy task. The first thing you may notice when asking “what does a Shih Tzu look like?”, is their fluffy coat.

The small dogs, be they a long haired Shih Tzu or short haired Shih Tzu, have luxurious coats that need to be maintained. Shih Tzu shedding is a problem and should be regulated with certain steps. Proper clippers will help with trimming Shih Tzu.

Brush the Shih Tzu hypoallergenic coat once every few days to prevent mats, and wipe down their face every night after they’re done running around. Careful trimming around the ears and paws is vital, as are weekly baths.

Clip their nails when they get too long and always maintain their ears. If you don’t have the proper equipment, the clippers listed here will give you great results.


Shih Tzus are small, but they have quite a motor. The breed does well with one thirty minute walk a day, but they vastly prefer two walks if you can afford it. In addition, they love to be run around in dog parks, beaches, or open fields.

The breed enjoys indoor exercise as well. Fetch, tug-of-war, and hide and seek will keep their energy level up and provide them with the stimulation they need. This is a perfect complement to a single walk, and it also gets them moving around during stormy days.


Many assume Shih Tzus are easy to train, but that could not be further from the truth. The stubborn breed, while lovable, does not like being told what to do. Though they respond to all training methods, each takes a lot of patience and time.

It is best to start socializing your pup while they are young. This asserts you as the alpha and makes them much more likely to listen. Just be consistent in your training, make it a fun activity, and rely on positive reinforcement. Praise or treats help keep your Shih Tzu excited to learn again and again.

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3. Common Health Issues of the Shih Tzu

The Shihtzu life expectancy ranges from 10 to 16 years. To make sure your dog lives at least to the average age of Shih Tzu, it is key to keep an eye on various conditions they may contract throughout their lifetime. It helps to understand how to care for Shih Tzu pregnancy as well.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Shih Tzus have shallow eyes, which naturally come with a range of retinal issues. Of those, Progressive Retinal Atrophy is the most concerning. The Shih Tzu health problem comes about when the photoreceptors in the back of your pup’s eye slowly begin to fail.

PRA first manifests as night blindness, but steadily develops to full blindness in a few years. There is no cure once the condition sets in. However, your vet can detect it early to give your dog a chance at properly adapting to the blindness.

If you notice your dog has swollen, red, or itchy eyes, it is best to take them in as soon as you can.

Ear Infection

The Shih Tzu terrier has a unique ear shapes that make them particularly prone to ear infections. Such conditions commonly stem from mite infestations or bacteria growth, and each can lead to a lot of issues for your pup.

Though such problems are uncomfortable, a bit of medicine can clear them right up. Always take care of your dog’s ears and watch for head shaking, inflamed pinna, or bad ear odors. Watch to see if they rub their ears against walls as well.


Hypothyroidism, which comes from an overactive thyroid gland, is a threat to the Shitzu lifespan. Dogs with the disorder tend to become fatigued easily, lose their hair, avoid eating, or gain a lot of weight in a short period of time.

Always be on the watch for such symptoms. While it is not serious at first, hypothyroidism can develop into something much more problematic when left untreated.

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4. Children & Other Pets

The small dogs are naturally affectionate with humans, and that includes children. They make great family pets and will spend lots of time playing or lounging with your kids.

If your youngling wants to play with a Shih Tzu puppy, make sure they do so in a way that won’t accidentally harm the dog. That means no carrying or lifting them off the ground. Shitzu adults may not have the same risk, but you should still monitor such interactions.

Shih Tzus also enjoy the company of other dogs. They get along well with all breeds, regardless of size, and relish having another canine to run or play with. However, they are not as keen on cats and can bark, chase, or attack smaller rodents.

5. The History of the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are an ancient breed that date back to around 8,000 BCE. Though nobody knows how they first became integrated into society, records show they were quickly adopted by Chinese royalty. Tibetan Monks also gave them as gifts.

The country valued the purebred Shih Tzu and considered it a sign of nobility for thousands of years. In fact, they were so prized that Chinese royalty refused to give them away to other nations. The breed did not move across the world until they entered Europe around 1930.

At that time, the lovable canines spread like wildfire. Soldiers returning from World War Two brought them back to America during the 1940’s. Ten years later they were officially recognized by the Kennel Club.

This article covers further Shih Tzu facts about their origins.

6. The Regular Expenses of Owning a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus, despite being one of the most popular dog breeds in America, typically only go for between $500 and $700.

7. Shih Tzu Rescue Groups

Various organizations work on both local and national levels to unite Shih Tzus with loving owners.

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