Shih Tzu – Characteristics, Temperament, Health, & Training

shih tzu


A close up of a dog

Shih Tzu is a breed known for being loyal and loving companions to their families. They are affectionate but not clingy. They adjust well to new surroundings and can be good family pets with children over 10 years old provided the dog is properly introduced to the children and the environment is safe.

Shih Tzu’s tend to bark at strangers or unusual sounds but generally make poor watchdogs because of their size and non-threatening appearance. Their hair needs to be groomed daily to avoid matting, which can lead to hairballs if not removed by hand or through a grooming mitt.

Shih Tzu is a small, sturdy dog with a short muzzle (no longer than 1 inch). The eyes are dark and large. The tail is long and sickle-shaped, arched over the back, and hanging down to the hock. There should be a slight curl at the end of the tail. A Shih Tzu’s earset is generally high on its head and it has a double coat that comes in many colors with some being preferred above others. The coat can be straight, wavy, or slightly curly and the length should only reach the bottom of the ribcage. Hair should not be thick or coarse or too long. Males have a more profuse coat than females, which is part of what makes them look so different from each other.


A woman holding a dog

Shih Tzu’s are affectionate and loyal to their family but generally reserved with strangers until they get to know them better. They need early socialization as puppies to adjust well to new situations as adults. Shih Tzu makes excellent watchdogs due to their protective nature towards those closest to them but does not make good watchdogs as a whole because of their size and appearance as non-threatening as Shih Tzu’s are. Shih Tzu has a “low-key” demeanor and does not require a lot of exercise but enjoys any they can get. They dislike being left alone for long periods of time and may develop separation anxiety.


Shih Tzu has an average lifespan of between 10 to 16 years or longer, with the most common cause of death being old age followed by cancer. Hip dysplasia is also a potential health problem in Shih Tzu. In addition, Shih Tzus are known to suffer from eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) that occurs in both eyes around 4-5 years old and they may be prone to dental problems which can lead to bad breath.

Training & Care

Shih Tzus are easy to train but may have problems with housebreaking at first. It is important not to let the Shih Tzu puppy get away with things when they are housebreaking because it will take longer for them to learn if you do this. Crate training does work well for young puppies in helping them understand what is expected of them when in their crate and older dogs can be taught to use a crate as well, provided they aren’t left alone in one too long. Shih Tzu should never be given food or allowed access to people’s food at any time; instead, provide several small meals throughout the day if possible. Shih Tzu should also not be fed large meals once or twice a day because this can cause bloat or torsion which can be fatal if not treated immediately. They should also be given plenty of water at all times, especially when exercising to avoid dehydration.

Shih Tzu’s are low-maintenance dogs that do not need much grooming but will shed year-round with heavier shedding occurring twice a year; they tend to get along well with most other animals and even cats after a proper introduction. Shih Tzus need regular exercise (at least 15 minutes) every day and prefer cooler climates over hot ones but love attention from their family members. Shih Tzu does better in homes with one or two people instead of bigger families with children because they form very strong bonds with their owners and may become jealous of the children in the household.

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