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Shih Tzus: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Dive into the majestic world of the Shih Tzu, a breed with royal roots… in ancient China, that is. (Not to mention their fabulous fur.) Let’s uncover the ins and outs of life with this breed and everything that makes them special.

Shih Tzu


The Shih Tzu origin is steeped in history, dating back over a thousand years to ancient China. Bred by Chinese royalty, the Shih Tzu was a cherished companion in the imperial court, often given as precious gifts. This breed symbolizes nobility and majesty, reflecting its royal connections.

After near extinction following the Chinese Communist revolution, the modern Shih Tzu was bred from just thirteen dogs and a "lion dog" imported to England.

The 14th Dalai Lama gifted Shih Tzus to prominent individuals like the President of India, and one of Nicole Richie’s many pets is a Shih Tzu named Honeychild.

That’s what we'd call "range.”

Shih Tzu Breed guide infographic


The Shih Tzu is renowned for its luxurious, flowing double coat, expressive eyes, and distinctive pushed-in face. Their elegant appearance, coupled with a proud and regal carriage, makes them a standout breed. The coat can be found in various colors and patterns, each adding a unique charm to this beautiful dog.****

Similar breeds

If Shih Tzus are your style, maybe you could see yourself hanging out with a Maltese, as they have a similar size and coat to Shih Tzus. The Lhasa Apso is another popular pick, and the Pekingese is a breed with similar connections to Chinese royalty.


The Shih Tzu temperament is affectionate, outgoing, and friendly. For this reason, they are excellent with families, children, and other pets. Their gentle and loving nature, combined with a playful and sometimes mischievous attitude, truly defines the Shih Tzu temperament, making them wonderful companions.

Are Shih Tzus hypoallergenic?

They sure are! The Shih Tzu is considered a hypoallergenic breed. Their coat tends to hold onto shed hair, reducing allergens in the environment. Regular grooming can further minimize potential allergy triggers.

Looking for other allergy-friendly dogs? Take a look at our guide to hypoallergenic breeds.

Illness/health concerns

This breed is prone to specific health issues, including Brachycephalic Syndrome due to their flat faces, Hip Dysplasia, a common joint problem, and eye issues.

Keep up with regular vet visits to prevent and detect these issues early, and make sure to maintain consistent grooming and cleanliness around the eyes.

How big do Shih Tzus get?

Shih Tzus are on the smaller side, reaching up to 11 inches tall and weighing up to 16 pounds.

As with most breeds of dog, the Shih Tzu’s age, whether they’re male or female, and their overall activity levels can affect their adult size. Mixed breeds will be a little more complex to estimate in this area.

Life expectancy

The Shih Tzu's life expectancy ranges from 10 to 16 years, depending on their genetics, diet, and overall care.****

Expected lifetime cost

Owning a Shih Tzu can cost approximately $17,000 throughout their lifetime. That’s roughly $1,300 per year, accounting for food, grooming, training, treats, and fabulous bows and other accessories (let’s be honest).

Estimated cost to insure

Pet insurance is a great way to prepare for the unexpected. Insurance for a Shih Tzu may range from $25 to $40 per month. This cost can vary based on factors like age, health, and where you live.

The good, the bad, the ugly

Thinking about bringing home a Shih Tzu? Keep these less-than-fabulous quirks in mind.

  • Grooming needs:

    Their luxurious coat requires a little TLC to maintain that shine. Expect to keep up with regular grooming for your Shih Tzu.

  • Training challenges:

    This breed can be stubborn, so training will likely require some patience on your end.

  • Health issues:

    These pups are prone to a few health problems, including Hip Dysplasia, Brachycephalic Syndrome, and general eye problems.

  • Low activity levels:

    Shih Tzus are happy to play but don’t expect them to go on hikes or long runs, as they have relatively moderate exercise needs.

  • Potential for weight gain:

    That being said, proper diet and exercise are essential to maintaining a healthy weight, so make sure to find a balance between being a lap dog and doing a few laps around the block.

So you want a Shih Tzu...

The Shih Tzu's affectionate nature and elegant appearance make it a popular choice for those searching for a soulful sidekick. Understanding the Shih Tzu can help you to make an informed decision, embracing both the glamorous and less glamorous aspects of this remarkable, royal breed.

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