Shih Tzu

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Shih Tzu

Breed: Shih Tzu (pronounced sheed zoo)
Temperament: devoted, spirited
Maintenance: high
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Recommended for: older families, apartments


The name Shih Tzu is a Chinese word meaning ‘lion’, but the origin of this breed is most probably Tibetan. It is believed that the ancestors of the Shih Tzu were brought to China during the Manchu period and the dogs were held in great esteem by Chinese royalty for many years after this time.

It was in China the Shih Tzu was named for its flowing mane-like coat, similar to that of the lion. It has been featured in ancient artwork throughout many centuries in that country. In 1930s the Shih Tzu was imported to England and then made its way to America after WWII.

The Shih Tzu was not established as a formal breed until 1949. Prior to this time, they were quite a variable group of dogs, with no pedigrees establishing parentage and no guarantees of purebred status. The breed has always been popular and remains so today.


Despite its most regal look the Shih Tzu is not aloof but is surprisingly robust. They are loving and loyal, bonding particularly well with one member of the family. The Shih Tzu is a playful and active breed often retaining its puppy-like behaviour until well into the later stages of life. This is one breed that loves human contact and companionship, but may have a tendency to become spoilt and act accordingly. Shih Tzus are intelligent dogs that learn quickly.


Shih Tzus are covered with a long, dense coat with a good undercoat. The face hair hangs well over the eyes and must be tied back to avoid irritation to the eyes. Body hair will easily reach the ground in an unclipped adult dog. The moustache and whiskers may also reach ground length. Shih Tzus are small dogs with a broad and deep chest. They have large dark eyes set apart and a black nose set on a short muzzle. Dogs come in black or white with parti colour.


Due to their thick and profuse coat, a Shih Tzu needs to be groomed whether it is clipped or not. Dogs in full coat need daily brushing and weekly washing to maintain the coat. The hair ends of show dogs are often kept in papers to prevent damage. Hair above the eyes should always be tied up.

Pet dogs may be clipped after the dog is 10 months old. The dog should then be clipped throughout the year depending on the length desired, but still needs to be brushed at least once a week. The fine soft undercoat of the Shih Tzu has a tendency to matt regardless of length. Due to the thickness of the coat breeders and owners recommend a professional groomer be used for clipping for a neat look. If clipped, facial hair must be monitored to ensure that sharp hair is not poking into the eyes.

The eyes must also be checked and cleaned regularly and the ears cleaned weekly. Hair must also be pulled from between the feet pads and trimmed around the edges of the feet.

Health and lifespan 

The breed can be inflicted with respiratory problems associated with deformity of the nasal passages. This is can be operated on. They can also experience joint problems such as luxating patellas. Both conditions are detectable in puppies.

Because of the protruding eyes they are more prone to eye irritations and ulcers which may lead to blindness. They should live between 12-17 years.


$400 – $1000

Recommended for

Shih Tzus are an ideal companion dog for a single person living in an apartment. They are also suitable for older families or those families with well behaved children who do not treat the dog roughly. They require little exercise so are compatible with apartment life. Small children may not mix well with this breed.

National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.

Dogs NSW
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 – Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409