The Shih Tzu is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.
Remarkably, these so-called little lion dogs can trace their ancestry back to 1,000 BC in China.
The breed as we know it today originated in Tibet rather than China but were sent to Chinese royalty who are believed to have bred them with Pekingnese or Pugs to create the modern-day Shih Tzu.
Although the Shih Tzu were popular at the turn of the 20th century, they almost faced extinction during the communist revolution in China.
However, the Shih Tzu’s numbers bounced back in the second half of the 20th century thanks to a breeding program that involved seven males and seven females.
The American Kennel Club claim that every Shih Tzu in the world can be traced back to one of these 14 dogs.
The AKC rank the Shih Tzu as the 22nd most-popular dog breed in the United States, having first been recognised by the organization in 1969.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at Shih Tzu pros and cons, what it’s like to own one of these little lion dogs, and examining the advantages and disadvantages of the breed.
So with the introduction over, let’s take a closer look at Shih Tzu pros and cons.
Shih Tzu Pros
One of the standout advantages to the Shih Tzu breed is their low-shedding coat. Shih Tzu are an example of a hypoallergenic dog breed. While there’s no guarantee these little dogs won’t trigger a person’s allergies, they’re less likely than most other dog breeds. The Shih Tzu have a long coat but it doesn’t shed a lot or produce a lot of dander. As a result, Shih Tzu have proven popular with dog lovers looking for a hypoallergenic breed.
A PupMom on Reddit revealed that her Shih Tzu hasn’t trigger her allergies.
I have somewhat severe allergies to dogs and cats. I thought I was never going to be able to have a dog. I researched hard and found out Shih Tzus are great for allergy sufferers. I have had my little guy for 3 months and have not had an allergic reaction. I do use puppy wipes on him after walks in case of any pollen getting in his hair.
The Shih Tzu has been excelling as lap dogs for centuries seeing as they were much-loved by Chinese nobility as companions. The American Kennel Club’s website explains that “a Shih Tzu’s idea of fun is sitting in your lap acting adorable as you try to watch TV”. They’ll develop a deep bond with their owners and be content to curl up on the sofa within touching distance of their pet parents. Known for being lap dogs to Chinese Emperors, it’s hardly a surprise that the Shih Tzu is ranked as the 22nd most popular dog breed in the United States.
Charlie explained on social media just how devoted his Shih Tzu is.
My Shih Tzu has just turned four and honestly you can’t get rid of him. Not only does he sit on my lap constantly, he sleeps on my legs and chest and even sits in me feet while I pee… It’s very weird. So yeah, my personal experience with them is that they are very cuddly/clingy little dogs but still very sweet.
If you’re looking for a dog breed that doesn’t have excessive exercise requirements, you may want to consider getting a Shih Tzu. These small dogs have relatively moderate exercise needs so you won’t have to spend hours and hours attempting to tire out your pup. Wag Walking recommend around 30 minutes of exercise a day for the Shih Tzu – that’s the equivalent of a quick walk around the block in the morning and in the evening.
A Shih Tzu owner likened his dogs to cats.
Our Shih Tzus are basically hairy pillows that eat and breathe. They sleep like cats (literally, they love to hang out on the backs of couches and on top of whatever you’re trying to work on). They get tired really easily even going on walks around our block.
Great with children
Shih Tzu have a reputation for being excellent family pets. In fact, the American Kennel Club explain that the Shih Tzu breed are known for being particularly affectionate with children. These little dogs tend to have charming personalities and a welcoming smile. As we’ve already mentioned, these lap dogs love to give and receive affection. Pet owners would be wise to educate their children on how to interact and treat a Shih Tzu with care given their small size.
Reddit user Brian emphasised this particular point.
The Shih Tzu breed is generally very good with children. I say this with the disclaimer that every dog has its own personality and children must be good with it. Even the nicest dog would eventually run out of patience if kids are rough with it.
Long live the Shih Tzu!
These noble dogs live long lives so if you’re looking for a companion that will hang around the best part of two decades, the Shih Tzu could be the right breed for you. They’ve got an average lifespan that ranges between 10 and 18 years. If your Shih Tzu can steer clear of health issues, you could have around 18 fun-filled years with your canine companion. It’s thought the oldest living Shih Tzu was a dog from Florida called Smokey who lived to be 23-years-old.
Shih Tzu Cons
Shih Tzu can be prone to sensitive stomachs so you’ll want to make sure you find a balanced, complete and high quality dog food to give to your pup. They’ll benefit from fresh dog meals that use real meat and fresh produce with natural minerals and vitamins. Some Shih Tzu can be fussy at mealtime so you may find fresh dog meals rather than kibble or wet food is a better choice for your pet. We’d recommend Spot&Tango or Open Farm if you live in the United States, while Butternut Box is a great choice for Shih Tzu owners in the UK.
A Reddit user shed light on just how fussy Shih Tzus can be!
They have always been very picky eaters and rarely ever touch their food bowls. We’ve been to the vet multiple times and they have confirmed that my dogs are 100% healthy and have no issues. They aren’t under or over weight for their size and they’re always playful and full of energy. Even so, their lack of eating worries me and until now I’ve never thought about posting for advice online. We’ve tried 4 different food brands. We’ve tried feeding them all wet food and all dry food and a 50/50 mix of both. We’ve tried all kinds of flavors but they don’t seem to lean towards any. Somedays they’ll eat up their food bowls completely and some days they’ll go the whole day without touching them.
While the Intelligence Of Dogs ranks the Shih Tzu at a lowly 70 (out of 79 breeds assessed) in terms of ability to quickly learn new commands and follow instructions, some Shih Tzu owners may prefer to describe their dog as stubborn rather than lacking intelligence. During our research on the breed, we found multiple Shih Tzu pet parents who were keen to emphasise the stubborn temperament was real thing.
A Reddit contributor called Moody Iguana revealed that his Shih Tzu is still stubborn despite training sessions with a professional!
Shih Tzus are notoriously stubborn. They are super smart, but boy are they stubborn! My advice is to get a professional who trains you rather than the dog. We still have issues with our dog despite training.
While Shih Tzu tend to have relatively long lives, some do fall quite a bit short of the 18 year-mark. Just like any dog breed, Shih Tzus can be prone to some health issues. For instance, the American Kennel Club advise prospective Shih Tzu owners to check with their breeders that they’ve screened for conditions such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (a slipped kneecap), eye anomalies including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, retinal detachment, and corneal dryness. The AKC add that Shih Tzu owners should be aware of the potential for overheating due to their sub-nosed faces and long hair. The organization warns that Shih Tzus aren’t good swimmers, either.
During our research on the Shih Tzu breed, we discovered that potty training these dogs can be tricky. These little dogs don’t have the strongest bladders so you may find it difficult to master the art of potty training. It’ll require a lot of patience on your part!
Naranja revealed that she experienced potty training issues with all 10 of her Shih Tzus!
They are difficult to fully potty train. Some people will say theirs did great with it, but we’ve had 10 Shih Tzus over the years and this is common.
Another Reddit user shared that it took her Golden Retriever puppies two weeks to figure out potty training but her Shih Tzus required two months!
For instance, our Golden puppies took 1-2 weeks to potty train and both of our Shih Tzus took 2 months.
Shih Tzu may have a low-shedding coat but you should be prepared for lots of grooming. These dogs have long coats that require a lot of maintenance. It’s a good idea to brush your Shih Tzu a few times a week to remove dead hair, debris and dirt. The AKC recommend a bath every three or four weeks to maintain their coat’s appearance and health. You’ll need to put aside some money each month to take your Shih Tzu to a professional groomer to ensure their coat gets the love and care it needs.
Maddy had some advice for prospective Shih Tzu owners.
Find a groomer and start early with baths to get them used to it. Get on a 6 weeks schedule and stick with it. Shih Tzus need regular grooming to avoid matting that can bruise their skin and cut off circulation to ears and feet(like all dogs with hair that grows). They already have oddly shaped legs so nail need to be kept off the ground for their comfort and so arthritis doesn’t set in early.
Janelle underlined the financial commitment involved with Shih Tzu grooming.
It’s a huge time and financial commitment, Shih Tzus need a lot of grooming, as well. Look up grooming places in your area and see how much it costs. If you want to maintain a puppy look you are looking at grooming every 6 weeks. If you shave them down, you’re looking at grooming about every 3 months. If you decide to grow the fur out, it needs a lot of care everyday.