Shih Tzu: Understanding The Personality Of This Small Breed

Shih Tzu: Understanding the Personality of this Small Breed

The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed that originated in Tibet. Though their exact origins are uncertain, they are thought to have descended from Tibetan “holy” or “lion” dogs gifted to Chinese royalty several centuries ago. The name “Shih Tzu” literally means “lion dog” in Chinese. These small but prideful companions were favorites in royal courts and noble households in China and were treasured for their lively, affectionate nature.

The Shih Tzu was primarily bred as a lapdog and companion. Their long, flowing coat was prized and required extensive grooming. The breed nearly became extinct after the Chinese Revolution in the early 20th century, but a few dogs were taken to England and Europe where they were revived. Today’s Shih Tzu maintains much of the personality and appearance of its regal ancestors.



Shih Tzus are a small toy breed weighing between 9 to 16 pounds and standing between 8 to 11 inches tall (American Kennel Club, They have a distinctive appearance with a short muzzle and large, wide-set eyes giving them an almost human-like expression. Their body is compact and solidly built. One of their most defining features is their long, flowing double coat which reaches the ground.

The Shih Tzu coat comes in a wide variety of colors including various shades of gold, white, brown, and black. Common coat colors and patterns include black mask gold, black and white, solid black, solid liver, liver and white, brindle, white, red and white, and gray and white (Dogtime, Their lush coat is prized for its beauty, often described as a “lion’s mane.”

The Shih Tzu’s purposeful small size, soft and fluffy coat, cute face, and naturally confident and lively temperament gives them an affectionate toy-like appeal.


Shih Tzus have a lively, outgoing, affectionate, and playful personality. They are gentle and trusting with their owners, and tend to attach to one specific person. They are loyal little dogs who enjoy curling up on their owner’s lap. Shih Tzus are typically good with children and get along with other pets. However, their small size means they should always be supervised around very young kids.

Despite their diminutive size, Shih Tzus have big personalities and are alert and active indoors. They do have a tendency to bark, so early socialization and training is important. Their spirited nature makes them excellent family companions. They thrive on being around people. Left alone for long periods, their mischievous side may come out through undesirable behaviors like barking, digging, or chewing.

While the Shih Tzu aims to please, they can sometimes be stubborn or manipulative when it comes to training. Consistency and positive reinforcement training is key. Their spirited and affectionate nature makes up for any difficulty in training.


Shih Tzus are intelligent dogs despite their cute appearance. They rank around 128 out of 138 breeds for working and obedience intelligence according to one ranking ( However, Shih Tzus are alert and attentive, and can be trained to perform a variety of tricks and tasks.

While Shih Tzus may not be the quickest learners compared to some breeds like Border Collies, they are certainly smart enough to learn basic obedience commands, house training, and tricks with consistent training involving positive reinforcement. Their tendency to be stubborn means training requires more repetition, but Shih Tzus are very food motivated which facilitates training.

Shih Tzus will quickly pick up on clicker training or reward-based methods, and can learn fun tricks like spinning, jumping through hoops, or playing fetch. Their alertness and attentiveness enables them to be trained for dog sports like agility. With proper technique and patience, Shih Tzus can reach high levels of training.

Exercise Needs

Shih Tzus have moderate exercise needs and enjoy short walks ( They do not require a lot of high intensity exercise. A couple 20-30 minute walks per day is sufficient for most Shih Tzus. They enjoy brisk walks at a pace appropriate for their size and abilities ( Shih Tzus only need around 70 minutes of exercise per day, so splitting up the daily walks into 2 or 3 outings works well. Long hikes or jogging are not necessary for this breed. Shih Tzus prefer shorter, more frequent walks close to home over long excursions. Their small size makes them content with short jaunts around the neighborhood or local park.


Shih Tzus have high maintenance grooming needs due to their long coat, which requires daily brushing. Their long fur can easily become tangled or matted if not properly maintained. According to Espree, “As a young dog, it is imperative that you get the dog used to regular grooming. A full brush out 2 to 3 times a week is recommended” (Source). Pet Care Rx also recommends grooming a Shih Tzu at least once a week, but some may need grooming every few days to prevent matting (Source). In addition to frequent brushing, Shih Tzu owners should plan to trim their dog’s hair around the face and feet every 4-6 weeks. Their nails will also need trimming about once every 6 weeks.


Generally, Shih Tzus are fairly healthy dogs 1. However, there are some common health issues to look out for with the breed:

Patellar luxation is one of the most prevalent issues in Shih Tzus. This occurs when the kneecap slips out of place, causing pain and potential lameness. Keeping the dog at an ideal weight can help minimize issues.

Breathing problems are also somewhat common due to the Shih Tzu’s short muzzle and flat face. Conditions like brachycephalic airway syndrome can cause snoring, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, especially in hot weather. Care should be taken not to overexert the dog.

Eye issues including cataracts, tear duct problems, and corneal ulcers may crop up. Regular vet checks and keeping the facial fur trimmed can help monitor eye health.

Overall, while the Shih Tzu is prone to a few potential conditions, they are generally quite healthy with proper care and vet supervision. Their lifespan averages 10-16 years.

Living Conditions

Shih Tzus do well in apartments and small homes due to their small size. According to the American Kennel Club (, they are affectionate lap dogs that enjoy being with their family. Their small stature makes them well-suited for city or suburban living. Shih Tzus are adaptable to various living situations but require indoor companionship. They should not be left alone for long periods or kept outdoors. Their perfect home is one where they can be close to their owners and receive plenty of love and attention.


Shih Tzus respond very well to positive reinforcement training techniques. They are intelligent dogs that aim to please their owners. Using rewards like treats, praise, and affection to reinforce desired behaviors is highly effective with this breed.

Early socialization is also important for Shih Tzus. Exposing them to a wide variety of people, animals, places, and experiences at a young age will help prevent shyness and fearfulness later in life. It’s ideal to start socialization as soon as puppy vaccinations are complete, around 12-16 weeks of age.


In conclusion, the Shih Tzu is a charming small dog breed that makes a wonderful companion for many families. Despite their petite size, Shih Tzus have huge personalities packed into their little bodies. They are known for being playful, friendly, affectionate and loyal. While their long, luxurious coats require regular grooming to keep tidy, many owners find brushing and bathing their Shih Tzu to be a pleasant bonding routine. Shih Tzus are intelligent and generally easy to train using positive reinforcement techniques. Their modest exercise needs make them well-suited to apartment living. With their sweet, loving temperament, Shih Tzus thrive when treated as beloved indoor family members. For those seeking a lively, cuddly lap dog, the Shih Tzu’s small size but outgoing personality makes this breed an excellent choice.

Similar Posts