20 Shih Tzu Facts You May Not Know

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 01-02-2022

Check out these 20 Shih Tzu Facts to test your knowledge about the breed, its history, grooming needs, health care, and temperament. 

If you've ever lived with a Shih Tzu dog, you are probably an expert and these "facts" are not new to you.  If, on the other hand, you are considering adding a dog to your household and are contemplating a Shih Tzu, you will find that this information may help you understand the breed and equip you with the knowledge to make an informed decision on whether the Shih Tzu is the right breed for you.

We here at Miracle Shih Tzu love this breed, but we also know that the breed may not be right for everyone.  So, here are the facts, and just the facts.

Twenty Shih Tzu Facts

1. Shih Tzu: A Companion Dog

Shih Tzu Facts

Shih Tzu were bred for centuries to be a companion dog. They can't hunt, can't guard, can't protect farm animals, can't flush out vermin.  They can just be your friend!

Read more about the Shih Tzu Temperament

Read, 7 Common Misconceptions About Owning a Shih Tzu

2. An Ancient Breed

Shih Tzu Facts:  An Ancient Breed

According to DNA research, they are one of the world’s 14 most ancient breeds according to making them very close to the wolf.

Read about Breed History

3. Shih Tzu:  The Lion Dog

Shih Tzu Facts:  Lion Dog

They were called a lion dog, but they aren’t the only breed with that nickname:  Lhasa Apso, Pugs, and Japanese Chin were also bred to look like little lions.

Read about the Shih Tzu Breed Standard

4. Chrysanthemum Dog

Shih Tzu Facts:  Chrysanthemum Dog

Another nickname for the Shih Tzu is the Chrysanthemum faced dog.  They were called that because when their hair around their face and head grow out as a puppy, it grows in all directions resembling the flower.

5. Pronounced "Sheed zoo"

Shih Tzu Facts:  Pronounced Sheed Zoo

There is some confusion about how to pronounce the name Shih Tzu.  Pronounced "Sheed zoo" it means lion in Chinese.  In case you don't know, both the singular and plural of the word is Shih Tzu.  (Not Shih Tzus)

Find out if the Shih Tzu is  Right For You

6. Protector of Palaces and Temples

Shih Tzu Facts:  Protectors of ancient temples and palaces

From ancient times, the main job of the breed was to guard palaces and monasteries in ancient china and of course, keep everyone happy.  They served as foot warms, hand warmers, lap warmers and bed companions.

History of the Breed

7. Modern Shih Tzu Descendents

Shih Tzu Facts:  All descended from 14 dogs

Of all the Shih Tzu facts, this one is least known:  The breed was almost completely destroyed by the Communist Party in China after the Revolution in 1949. All surviving Shih Tzu today descended from 14 dogs, one of which was a Pekingese.  What a Pekingese!  This was not a popular decision but one made by a lone breeder.  While the history of this breed is shroud in mystery, it does make for an interesting read.

Shih Tzu History

8. Double Coated Breed

Shih Tzu Facts: Double Coated Breed

The Shih Tzu has a thick double coat that consists of a harder outer coat and soft inner coat.  Puppies are born with a single coat and their adult coat begins to grow after about 7 months. Not all Shih Tzu coats are the same, though.  Some are straighter, some have some waves, but none should be curly.  Also worth noting is that some have very cottony, soft coats that mat easily,  and others have outer coats that are thicker and straighter.  There are even some Shih Tzu that only have a single coat.  These are known as Prapso.  Of course, Shih Tzu dogs are not the only breed with a double coat.  Each type of coat presents it's own challenges when it comes to grooming. 

Read More About Grooming Your Shih Tzu

9. Shih Tzu Grooming

Shih Tzu Facts:  Grooming

Shih Tzu dogs need much brushing and grooming to keep their coats looking good.  Daily brushing is ideal, but  coats that go more than a few days without grooming begin to mat.  Most Shih Tzu owners opt for professional grooms that make daily maintenance much easier.  Some though, enjoy the challenge of keeping their Tzu in a long show coat.  What's your preference?

Read More about Brushing your Shih Tzu

10. Hypoallergenic Breed

Shih Tzu Facts:  Hypoallergenic Breed

They do not shed onto furniture and floors, so may be appropriate for someone with allergies, but beware of claims of hypoallergenic breeds.  They do shed, though, and the loose hair remains in the coat and if not brushed will turn into mats.  If you have ever combed your own hair and found hairs caught in the comb, this is the way the Shih Tzu works.  With that said, their coat consists of hair not fur.

There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog breed.

What is a hypoallergenic Dog Breed?

11. Shih Tzu Temperament

Shih Tzu Facts:  Shih Tzu Temperament

Shih Tzu dogs love to play, cuddle, snuggle or just be by your side.  These are not the type of dog to leave outside or away from human companionship.  They need your love daily to survive. A well tempered Shih Tzu will be your loyal companion for as long as they live.  They were bred for centuries to love their people and that is what they do best.  

Read more about Shih Tzu Temperament

12. Travel Partner

Shih Tzu Facts:  How to travel with a dog

They are alert, friendly, playful, inquisitive and devoted to their owners.  They make great little traveling companions. Due to their small size, it is easy to travel with them, whether on a road trip, a camping trip or flying with your dog.  

Read More about Traveling with Your Dog

13. Smart but Stubborn

Shih Tzu Facts

The Shih Tzu breed is a very smart breed, but can be stubborn, so gentle training methods work best.  Socialization and training should begin the minute you bring your puppy home.  Training a puppy from day one will help when he or she enters adolescence, a time when they try to break all the rules.  

Puppy Socialization

Shih Tzu Puppy Training

Shih Tzu Puppy Development

14. Shih Tzu Breed Standard

Shih Tzu Facts:  Puppy Weight Chart

The breed standard states that the normal Shih Tzu dog should weigh between 9 and 16 pounds.  The standard also spells out exactly what a well-bred Shih Tzu should look like and how they should behave.  Even if you have no intentions of showing your dog, it's not a bad idea to check out the standard.

Read More about the Shih Tzu Standard

Read More about Puppy Weight Charts

15. A Coat of Many Colors

Shih Tzu Facts:  Coat Colors in the Shih TzuColors

They come in a wide assortment of colors, solids, two colors and three colors.  The American Kennel Club says all colors are acceptable, but everyone has a personal preference.  Do you know what color you like best?  Do you know what color options you have?  It's fun to see what varieties these dogs come in, but please don't get caught up in colors especially puppy colors.  Did you know that many puppies will look vastly different by the time they turn one-year-old?  

Read More about Shih Tzu Colors

Read More About Shih Tzu Color Changes

16. Cool Climate Dogs

Shih Tzu Facts: Prone to Heat StrokeCold Climate Dogs

Shih Tzu do best in cooler climates;  They do not do well in hot climates are are prone to heat stroke.  Shih Tzu dogs love snow and could play for hours in it if you let them.  It doesn't mean that if you live in a warm climate, you should not own a Shih Tzu.  It just means that you may want to take some precautions.

Read more about Heat Stroke in Shih Tzu Dogs

Read about Cold Weather Advice

17. Brachycephalic Breed

Shih Tzu Facts:  A brachycephalic breed

They are considered a Brachycephalic breed:  This means they are prone to  breathing problems.  Some Shih Tzu dogs snore.  Some dogs have other respiratory problems that are associated with the brachycephalic syndrome.

Read more about Brachycephalic Breeds

18. Long Life

Shih Tzu Facts:  A long life span

Their Life span is between 10 to 18 years and many do well into their senior years.

Read more about the Health of the Shih Tzu

19. Litter Size:  2 to 6 Puppies

Shih Tzu Facts:  Litter Size

They usually have litters that consist of between 2 and 6 puppies.  Average litter size is 4 puppies.

Read more about Puppy Development

20. Therapy Dogs

Shih Tzu Facts: Shih Tzu make good therapy dogs

Shih Tzu make wonderful emotional support animals and many choose this breed for that very reason.  They are also a great choice if you are considering training your dog to do therapy work.  They are gentle, friendly and take to strangers with ease. Not sure what the difference is between an emotional support dog and a therapy dog?  Learn what the differences are between the various assistance dogs.

About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.