The Shih Tzu — loved by many for its adorable appearance & quirky personality.
There’s no wonder the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dogs in America. (Ranked #20 in 2022)
Believed to have originated in China several hundred years ago, Shih Tzus were bred to be companion dogs for the Chinese aristocracy. These charming little dogs make excellent family pets.
7 Pros of Owning a Shih Tzu
First, let’s explore the fantastic qualities that make Shih Tzus an excellent dog breed to own.
- Affectionate and loyal companions — Shih Tzus make great lap dogs
- Hypoallergenic coat — A good choice for those allergic to dogs
- Low exercise requirements — This makes Shih Tzus great apartment dogs or if you just don’t want to be walking your dog hours each day
- Adaptable to different living environments — Can live in pretty much any household & situation
- Excellent with children and other pets — Shih Tzus are friendly & loving to all, especially children and other pets
- Long lifespan — Shih Tzus are generally a pretty healthy breed with an above-average lifespan
- Easy to train with positive reinforcement — They are eager to please their owners and will do anything for a treat
1. Affectionate and loyal companions
Shih Tzus are known for their affectionate and loyal personalities.
They are known for forming strong bonds with their families and want to do nothing more than spend time with them.
Shih Tzus make great lap dogs
If you’re looking for a “lap dog”, then the Shih Tzu might be right for you. They’d love to curl up with you on the couch all day and just lounge around. They’re loving dogs that are always there to provide emotional support & comfort.
As long as they’re with you, they’re happy.
Shih Tzus have hypoallergenic coats, making them low-shedding dogs that produce less dander and are less likely to cause allergies in people sensitive to pet hair.
Shih Tzus are considered to be hypoallergenic because they are very light shedders & produce less dander than other breeds.
Why Shih Tzus are good for people with allergies
- Low-shedding: Shih Tzus are considered hypoallergenic due to their very-low-shedding coat.
- Less dander: Their coat produces less dander, which can be a cause of allergic reactions in some people.
It’s important to note that no dog is 100% hypoallergenic — a hypoallergenic dog is one that is just less likely to cause allergy issues, but not completely allergen-free.
3. Low exercise requirements
Let’s face it.
Not everybody enjoys being outside with their dog for long long long periods of time.
Sometimes we just want to take them for a quick walk to pee and go back inside to relax.
Fortunately, your Shih Tzu won’t mind — especially on hotter days!
Shih Tzus can get plenty of exercise from a few short walks each day (~15 mins or so) and playing indoors with their toys.
This makes a Shih Tzu a great breed for those that live in apartments or have limited yard space. These are living situations where owning a big dog like a German Shepherd would just be unimaginable.
4. Adaptable to different living environments
Shih Tzus are highly adaptable dogs.
It doesn’t matter… who they’re around… where they’re living… if there’s pets or small children… if they’re laying around all day… or on-the-go…
The Shih Tzu can do it all.
Why Shih Tzus are adaptable
- Size: Shih Tzus are a small breed, which means they can adapt well to living in both smaller homes & apartments as well as larger homes.
- Temperament: Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and affectionate personalities, which can make them adaptable to different living situations and environments. You can bring your Shih Tzu around in any social situation and expect them to do well.
- Energy level: Shih Tzus have a moderate energy level, which means they can adapt to different levels of physical activity and exercise. They can sit around on the couch and do nothing or get up and have an outdoor day.
- Trainability: Shih Tzus are intelligent and trainable, which means they can learn to adapt to different situations and environments with proper training and socialization.
5. Excellent with children and other pets
Known for their gentle and friendly nature, Shih Tzus make excellent companions for children and other pets.
Most of us are getting a dog as a new member of our family.
The last thing we’d want is a dog that is antisocial and aggressive towards our loved ones.
But a Shih Tzu…?
That’s the last thing you’d need to worry about…
Shih Tzus are highly loving, loyal, and patient — a great option for families of any size.
Why Shih Tzus make great family dog
- Size: Shih Tzus are a small breed, which means they are generally well-suited for families with young children who may accidentally hurt or injure a larger dog.
- Temperament: Shih Tzus are known for their affectionate and friendly personalities. They are typically social dogs and enjoy spending time with people, including children.
- Adaptability: Shih Tzus are adaptable to different living situations and can do well in apartments or smaller homes, which can make them a good choice for families with limited space.
- Playfulness: Shih Tzus are a playful breed and enjoy playing with toys and interacting with their owners, which can make them a fun and engaging companion for children.
- Trainability: Shih Tzus are intelligent and trainable, which means they can learn to behave well around children and follow basic commands.
Supervision is still recommended
As with any dog, you’ll want to supervise them around children, especially when they’re young puppies with relatively unknown behaviors & personalities.
While Shih Tzus aren’t known for being an aggressive breed, it’s a possibility for any breed to show aggression if it feels provoked or threatened.
6. Long lifespan
What makes Shih Tzus healthy
- Small size: Shih Tzus are a small breed, which means they have less body mass to maintain and fewer health issues that are common in larger breeds, such as hip dysplasia.
- Good appetite: Shih Tzus are generally good eaters and have a healthy appetite, which means they are less likely to experience malnutrition or related health issues.
- Good energy levels: Shih Tzus have a moderate exercise requirement, and regular exercise can help maintain their weight, prevent obesity, and improve overall health.
- Low stress levels: Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and affectionate personalities and are generally not prone to high stress levels, which can negatively impact health and longevity.
A reputable breeder is an important factor
If you find a Shih Tzu from a reputable breeder, you can decrease the risk of any health issues and behavioral issues — though it is no guarantee.
Even dogs from reputable breeders can experience health issues.
But you can generally expect a Shih Tzu to live a long & happy life.
7. Easy to train with positive reinforcement
Most people want an easy-to-train dog, and luckily, Shih Tzus are eager to please and love challenges.
They’re intelligent dogs that respond well to positive reinforcement training techniques.
Shih Tzus enjoy learning new tricks and can be trained for various tasks, including basic obedience commands, agility, and therapy work.
They still might be stubborn at times
While Shih Tzus are eager to please and will usually do what you want them to do when they know a reward (treat) is coming their way…
Sometimes they don’t want to listen if they don’t have a treat.
My Shih Tzu would only perform a command if she saw we had the treat in hand.
This can be pretty frustrating.
It can feel like you’re making progress with training, but they just refuse to listen at some times.
7 Cons of Owning a Shih Tzu
Now that we’ve discussed the great qualities of Shih Tzus, let’s look at some aspects to consider before getting one.
- Regular grooming and maintenance required — If you want to maintain that beautiful coat, expect to put some work in.
- Prone to certain health issues — But they still are pretty healthy & live long lives.
- Tendency to be stubborn or have “small dog syndrome” — Big dogs in a little body.
- May suffer from separation anxiety — If you work or travel a lot, a Shih Tzu might not be right for you.
- Housebreaking difficulties — Housebreaking a dog is never easy, but Shih Tzus have a reputation for being tough to housebreak.
- Sensitivity to heat — Their flat-faces and heavy coats make them prone to overheating.
- Potential for excessive barking — Nobody likes a barking dog; fortunately this is correctible through training.
1. Regular grooming and maintenance required
Shih Tzus have long, thick coats that require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling.
When it comes to grooming, the Shih Tzu is far from low-maintenance.
They need baths more frequently than
In addition to regular brushing and trimming, Shih Tzus may need baths every 2-4 weeks to keep their coat clean and healthy.
It’s important to use a dog-specific shampoo and rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving any residue that could cause skin irritation.
Some owners opt for Professional Grooming
Grooming a Shih Tzu, especially if they have a particularly thick or tangled coat.
Some owners may opt to take their dog to a professional groomer every 4-8 weeks for a more thorough grooming session.
However, it’s important to note that professional grooming services can be expensive and may not be necessary if the owner is able to maintain the dog’s coat at home.
Shih Tzus need their eyes cared for as well
Along with their coat, Shih Tzus’ eyes require special attention to prevent infections and irritation.
Tear stains can be common in this breed, so cleaning the area around their eyes with a damp cloth or specialized tear stain remover can help prevent staining and discomfort.
Regular trimming of the hair around their eyes may also be necessary to prevent it from poking or rubbing against the eyes themselves.
It’s important to maintain your Shih Tzu’s coat
Overall, grooming and maintenance is an important aspect of caring for a Shih Tzu.
While it may require time and effort, regular grooming can help prevent health issues and keep the dog looking and feeling their best.
2. Prone to certain health issues
Shih Tzus can be susceptible to certain health issues, such as eye problems, allergies, skin problems, dental problems, and respiratory issues. They may also be prone to spinal problems due to their short legs and long backs.
Health Problems Shih Tzus are Prone To
- Respiratory issues: Due to their flat faces and short snouts, Shih Tzus are prone to respiratory problems such as snoring, snorting, and difficulty breathing, especially in hot or humid weather. In severe cases, this can lead to a condition called brachycephalic airway syndrome, which can cause chronic breathing difficulties and require surgery.
- Eye problems: Shih Tzus have large, round eyes that are prone to several eye problems such as cataracts, corneal ulcers, and cherry eye (prolapsed gland of the third eyelid). These conditions can cause discomfort, vision problems, and may require surgical intervention.
- Dental problems: Shih Tzus are prone to dental issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Regular dental care, such as brushing their teeth and providing dental chews, can help prevent these problems.
- Skin problems: Shih Tzus are prone to skin allergies and irritations, which can cause itching, redness, and hot spots. Maintaining a regular grooming routine, such as brushing and bathing, can help prevent these issues.
- Joint problems: Shih Tzus are prone to joint problems such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, which can cause pain and difficulty walking. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent these issues.
- Ear infections: Shih Tzus have long, floppy ears that can trap moisture and bacteria, leading to ear infections. Regular cleaning and drying of the ears can help prevent these infections.
3. Tendency to be stubborn or have “small dog syndrome”
Shih Tzus can be stubborn and may exhibit “small dog syndrome,” which can manifest as excessive barking, aggression towards other dogs, and reluctance to obey commands.
Shih Tzus with “small dog syndrome” may show…
- Excessive barking: Shih Tzus may bark excessively in an attempt to assert dominance or protect their territory. This can be a problem if it disrupts neighbors or becomes a nuisance.
- Aggression: Shih Tzus with “small dog syndrome” may become aggressive or territorial, especially towards other dogs or strangers. This behavior can be dangerous and may require professional intervention.
- Separation anxiety: Shih Tzus may become overly attached to their owners and exhibit separation anxiety when left alone. This can result in destructive behavior, excessive barking, and other problematic behaviors.
- Demand for attention: Shih Tzus with “small dog syndrome” may demand constant attention from their owners and become jealous or possessive if attention is given to others.
- Refusal to obey commands: Shih Tzus may refuse to obey commands or listen to their owners if they believe they are in charge. This can make training difficult and frustrating.
- House soiling: Shih Tzus with “small dog syndrome” may refuse to follow house-training guidelines and have accidents indoors as a way to assert dominance or mark their territory.
They can be stubborn & treat-motivated
It’s a common issue that a Shih Tzu will only listen & follow commands when you have a treat.
You need to show patience during training — it might take a while for them to master some commands without treats.
4. May suffer from separation anxiety
Shih Tzus are companion dogs and do best with owners who spend a lot of time at home.
They become very attached to their owners and may suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for extended periods.
This can result in destructive behavior, excessive barking, and other undesirable behaviors.
Signs of separation anxiety include:
- Destructive behavior: Shih Tzus with separation anxiety may become destructive when left alone. They may chew on furniture, scratch doors or windows, or dig at carpets or floors.
- Excessive barking or howling: Shih Tzus may bark or howl excessively when left alone, which can be a sign of anxiety or distress.
- House soiling: Shih Tzus with separation anxiety may have accidents indoors, even if they are normally house-trained. This can be a result of anxiety or stress.
- Escape attempts: Shih Tzus may try to escape from their crate, room, or home when left alone in an attempt to find their owner. This can be dangerous and may result in injury.
- Pacing or restlessness: Shih Tzus may become restless or pace when left alone, which can be a sign of anxiety or stress.
If you work or travel a lot, Shih Tzus may not be the right fit for you.
5. Housebreaking difficulties
Housebreaking a Shih Tzu can be challenging — no matter the breed, there are sure to be challenges with housebreaking.
It requires a lot of patience and consistency with training.
Even when you’re doing everything right, you still might not get the results you want — accidents, begging for
food, barking, etc…
Due to their small size, they’ll have a smaller bladder than a bigger dog and will need to be taken out more frequently.
Especially when they’re puppies…
You’ll need to wake up to take them out throughout the night unless you want them to have an accident.
Fortunately, when they get older they’ll be able to hold their pee in through the night.
It might be a good idea to roll up any precious rugs or section off parts of the house so that they’re confined to hard wood or tile floors while they’re being housetrained.
6. Sensitivity to heat
Like other flat-faced dogs, Shih Tzus are prone to getting overheated easily.
This means they aren’t able to play outside as intensely & for as long as other non-flat-faced dogs would.
Shih Tzus have tiny nostrils and thick coats, making them sensitive to heat.
Reasons why Shih Tzus are prone to overheating
- Brachycephalic skull structure: Shih Tzus, like other flat-faced breeds, have a shortened skull and narrowed airways, which can make it more difficult for them to regulate their body temperature in hot weather.
- Thick coat: Shih Tzus have a long, thick coat that can trap heat and make it more difficult for them to cool down in hot weather.
- Small size: Shih Tzus are a small breed, which means they have less body mass to help regulate their body temperature.
- High energy: Shih Tzus are a playful and active breed, which means they may be more prone to overexerting themselves in hot weather and becoming overheated.
If you decide to bring home a Shih Tzu, it’s important that the whole family knows: Shih Tzus require special care and attention during hot weather.
7. Potential for excessive barking
Nobody likes a non-stop barking dog…
While Shih Tzus make great apartment dogs, what good is it if they’re barking constantly when you’re not home and disturbing the whole building?!
Shih Tzus can be vocal and may bark excessively, particularly when bored or anxious.
Reasons Shih Tzus might bark excessively…
- Territorial behavior: Shih Tzus are naturally protective of their homes and their families, which can cause them to bark at perceived threats or intruders.
- Attention-seeking behavior: Shih Tzus are a social breed and may bark to get attention or to communicate their desires to their owners.
- Anxiety or fear: Shih Tzus may bark excessively when they are anxious or afraid, such as during thunderstorms or when they are separated from their owners.
- Boredom: Shih Tzus may bark excessively if they are not given enough mental or physical stimulation, such as regular exercise or playtime.
- “Small dog syndrome”: Shih Tzus, like other small breeds, may develop a condition known as “small dog syndrome,” where they exhibit behaviors typically associated with larger breeds, such as excessive barking, growling, or snapping, in an attempt to assert dominance.
Fortunately, behavior issues like this are correctable through consistent training — the earlier & younger you correct the bad behavior, the easier it’ll be to break them of it.
Don’t let this turn you off from the breed though.
Not all Shih Tzus are barkers, but it’s something they’re prone to.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Shih Tzus good dogs?
Yes, Shih Tzus are definitely good dogs — it’s just a matter of whether they are the right breed for you and fit into your lifestyle.
They are one of those breeds with which you just fall in love at first sight. You’ll probably know if a Shih Tzu is right for you pretty quickly — it won’t take much convincing.
They’ll steal your heart with their cuteness and silly antics.
Shih Tzus aren’t perfect
Shih Tzus are adorable, friendly, charming little creatures and make great pets. They are also very gentle and affectionate companions, but sometimes, they may become anxious when there is chaos or noise around them.
It is essential to ensure they are socialized properly from puppyhood.
While they are intelligent and trainable, but can also be stubborn at times, so it’s important that you have patience when training your Shih Tzu — don’t get discouraged if they only want to listen if you have a treat for a while.
Is a Shih Tzu right for me?
- You want a lapdog — Shih Tzus love to hang out right by your side, especially if you’re just curling up on the couch together.
- You want a family dog — Shih Tzus are loyal, friendly, and playful. They’re a great breed to add to your family if you have small children or just want a loyal companion.
- You want a dog with low exercise needs — Not everybody likes going for super long walks and having a dog that forces them to be more active. The Shih Tzu is just fine laying around playing ball in the house and going for a few brief walks each day.
- You have allergies — Shih Tzus barely shed, making them a great choice for those allergic to dogs.
- You live in an apartment — Shih Tzus make great apartment dogs. With their low exercise needs & small size, they’re fine to live just about anywhere.
A Shih Tzu might not be right for you if…
- You want a low-maintenance dog — Shih Tzus require lots of grooming to keep their coat nice & healthy. Don’t get a Shih Tzu if you aren’t ready to maintain their coat.
- You work or travel a lot — Shih Tzus are companion dogs that don’t enjoy being alone for extended periods of time. They are also prone to separation anxiety.
- You want a highly active dog — While Shih Tzus aren’t lazy, they’re not the most active dogs that you would expect to go do lots of outdoors stuff like hiking with you.
- You’re not prepared to deal with health issues — While Shih Tzus live long lives and are generally a healthy breed, they’re still prone to their own share of chronic health conditions that will require long-term management.
- You live somewhere extremely hot — If you live somewhere where it’s super duper hot, you’ll probably be spending a lot of time indoors with your Shih Tzu. They can’t handle the extreme heat for long periods of time.
- You aren’t prepared for a long commitment — Shih Tzus live a long time (10–18 years), so be prepared for a long-term companion when you bring home a Shih Tzu.
Shih Tzus are undoubtedly adorable, sweet-natured, and loving dogs to have in your home.
Ultimately, only you can decide if a Shih Tzu is the right match for you.