Shih Tzu – Breed Profile

The Shih Tzu is a small breed of dog, well known for their short muzzle and long coat. To find out more about the breed, and if it is a good fit for your family, read on below.


Shih Tzu Bailey, a Yorkshire Vets Shadwell patient.

Shih Tzu


Shih Tzus are a small but sturdy breed. Females typically weigh between 4.5 and 8kg, with males between 5 and 8.5kg. They frequently have an obvious underbite, which is prominent under a short muzzle. They have drop ears and a tail that curls over the back. The Shih Tzu coat is soft, long and double layered. While show dogs typically only have this trimmed at floor level, it is common for pet Shih Tzu to receive regular trims to keep their coat at a more manageable length. Because of the coat length, Shih Tzu’s do require regular brushing to avoid matting.  Compared to other dogs, shedding is minimal, so Shih Tzus can be good for those allergic to pet hair. The coat comes in a great number of colours, and the breed standard does not prefer one colour over any other.


Shih Tzus are typically outgoing and loyal. Training and socialising at a young age is important, as the breed can often become stubborn without proper training. Their alert nature means they can be excellent watch dogs, though they are typically very friendly when introduced to strangers. If socialised properly, they can be excellent dogs for families with children and other pets. The Shih Tzu is an affectionate breed and loves nothing more than cuddling up and spending time with their family.


The life span of a Shih Tzu is typically between 10 -16 years. Due to their short muzzle, they can suffer from airway problems, such as brachycephalic syndrome. This is typical of most short nosed dogs and does sometimes require corrective surgery. Scratching or injury to Shih Tzu eyes is not uncommon, due to their prominent nature. They are also prone to cataracts and issues with tear production. Other health concerns include Hypothyroidism, Epilepsy and intervertebral disk disease.


The history of the Shih Tzu is not fully known. Some suggest that the breed originated in China (where the name means ‘Lion Dog’), as far back as 800 BC. Others believe that the Dalai Lama gifted the breed to the Chinese after it came to prominence in Tibet. The presence of dogs resembling the Shih Tzu has been noted in art and literature from the 10th Century. They rose to prominence in the late 19th Century, as much loved pets of Empress T’zu Hsi. It wasn’t until 1928 that the first pair of Shih Tzus made their way to England, where the awareness and popularity of the breed began to grow, before becoming recognised by the Kennel Club in 1940.

Famous Examples

Although not commonly seen in films and TV, a number of high profile celebrities are Shih Tzu owners. These include Geri Halliwell, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama and the Queen!

The Shih Tzu in the attached photo is Bailey. As a Pet Health Club member, she is a regular visitor to our Shadwell surgery.

Yorkshire Vets Heart