The Shih Tzu

General Appearance

The Shih Tzu is a small sturdy dog with a body that is slightly longer than it is tall.  The head is round, broad and wide between the eyes.  The square muzzle is short with an inch or less from the tip of the nose to the defined stop.  The nose is broad with well open nostrils.  Nose, lips and eye rims are liver (brown) on liver colored dogs, blue on blue dogs and black on all other colors.  The teeth meet in a level or under bite.  The large round eyes are dark in color but lighter on blue and liver dogs.  The large pendant low-set ears hang down and are covered in abundant hair.  The back is level.  The muscular legs are straight and well-boned.  The high-set tail is carried over the back and is covered in abundant hair.  Dewclaws are sometimes removed.  The double coat is dense and long, flowing down over the dog.  The hair above the eyes is often tied in a topknot.  There is a profuse beard and mustache and the hair on the muzzle is short.  Coat comes in all colors.


The Shih Tzu is an alert, lively, little dog. It is happy and hardy, and packed with character. The gentle, loyal Shih Tzu makes friends easily and responds well to consistent, patient training. It makes a very alert watchdog. It is courageous and clever, playful and spunky.  This affectionate little dog likes to be with people and is generally good with other pets.

Life Span:  10-16 years

Exercise and Energy Level
Shih Tzu dogs can get most of their exercise requirements by following you around the house.  Most love to run from time to time, leap and jump.  They will enjoy a walk if it is not too long and the weather is pleasant.  Their energy levels are relatively short-lived, exerting much energy for a very short period, and then collapsing on the floor or a comfortable pillow for a long nap.  This trait makes them ideal for seniors and busy families who may not have the time to devote to appeasing the high-energy demands of some breeds.

Good Family Dog
Most Shih Tzu's love their human family but some individuals will pick a special person within the family in which to bond.  The majority of them just seem to love any human they see and will bond with young children and senior adults very quickly.  They also adjust well to new homes if they must change living arrangements, and become attached to their new owners in a very short period.  Some toy dogs do not make excellent pets for children due to their small size.  Shih Tzu dogs are the exception.  While still small, they are compact and sturdy.

Smart but Stubborn
They are very smart, but stubborn and seem to take on the attitude, “what’s in it for me.”  This little stubborn streak makes training sometimes difficult especially for those dogs that don’t find treats or toys especially appealing or motivating.  Most want to please their owners and developing a strong bond with your Shih Tzu will increase the likelihood that they will cooperate with you most of the time.   The key to training success with this breed is finding the perfect reward to use.  Some will appreciate praise and cuddles, but tiny tasty treats work well with most dogs.  Short training sessions are also advised, as this breed is not known for long attention spans. 

Male or Female?
In this breed, there is little difference in the personality or temperament of males and females.  Both are lovable, devoted to their owner, with equal energy levels.   Both genders get along well with other dogs, especially other Shih Tzu and most are fairly good with the introduction of a young puppy to the family.  
If considering the addition of a second Shih Tzu, most people generally go with one of each gender as they tend to get along better that way.  But that is not always the case.   
Mothers and Daughters do fine together and litter mates do great together.  Depending on the temperament of the dogs, two females can do fine as long as both accept the humans in the family as the alpha dog. 

AKC Breed Standard

The Shih Tzu is a sturdy, lively, alert toy dog with long flowing double coat. Befitting his noble Chinese ancestry as a highly valued, prized companion and palace pet, the Shih Tzu is proud of bearing, has a distinctively arrogant carriage with head well up and tail curved over the back. Although there has always been considerable size variation, the Shih Tzu must be compact, solid, carrying good weight and substance.

Size — Ideally, height at withers is 9 to 10 1/2 inches; but, not less than 8 inches nor more than 11 inches. Ideally, weight of mature dogs, 9 to 16 pounds.

Proportion — Length between withers and root of tail is slightly longer than height at withers. The Shih Tzu must never be so high stationed as to appear leggy, nor so low stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty.

Substance — Regardless of size, the Shih Tzu is always compact, solid and carries good weight and substance

Head — Round, broad, wide between eyes, its size in balance with the overall size of dog being neither too large nor too small. [Fault: Narrow head, close-set eyes.]

Expression — Warm, sweet, wide-eyed, friendly and trusting. An overall well-balanced and pleasant expression supersedes the importance of individual parts. Care should be taken to look and examine well beyond the hair to determine if what is seen is the actual head and expression rather than an image created by grooming technique.

Eyes — Large, round, not prominent, placed well apart, looking straight ahead. Very dark. Lighter on liver pigmented dogs and blue pigmented dogs. [Fault: Small, close-set or light eyes; excessive eye white.]

Ears — Large, set slightly below crown of skull; heavily coated.

Skull — Domed.

Stop — There is a definite stop.

Muzzle — Square, short, unwrinkled, with good cushioning, set no lower than bottom eye rim; never downturned. Ideally, no longer than 1 inch from tip of nose to stop, although length may vary slightly in relation to overall size of dog. Front of muzzle should be flat; lower lip and chin not protruding and definitely never receding. [Fault: Snipiness, lack of definite stop.]

Nose — Nostrils are broad, wide, and open.

Pigmentation — Nose, lips, eye rims are black on all colors, except liver on liver pigmented dogs and blue on blue pigmented dogs. [Fault: Pink on nose, lips, or eye rims.]

Bite — Undershot. Jaw is broad and wide. A missing tooth or slightly misaligned teeth should not be too severely penalized. Teeth and tongue should not show when mouth is closed. [Fault: Overshot bite.]

Neck — Well set-on flowing smoothly into shoulders; of sufficient length to permit natural high head carriage and in balance with height and length of dog.

Topline — Level.

Body — Short-coupled and sturdy with no waist or tuck-up. The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than tall. [Fault: Legginess.]

Chest — Broad and deep with good spring-of-rib, however, not barrel-chested. Depth of ribcage should extend to just below elbow. Distance from elbow to withers is a little greater than from elbow to ground.

Croup — Flat.

Tail — Set on high, heavily plumed, carried in curve well over back. Too loose, too tight, too flat, or too low set a tail is undesirable and should be penalized to extent of deviation.

Shoulders — Well-angulated, well laid-back, well laid-in, fitting smoothly into body.

Legs — Straight, well-boned, muscular, set well-apart and under chest, with elbows set close to body.

Pasterns — Strong, perpendicular.

Dewclaws — May be removed.

Feet — Firm, well-padded, point straight ahead.

 — Well let down, perpendicular. [Fault: Hyper-extension of hocks.]

Coat — Luxurious, double-coated, dense, long, and flowing. Slight wave permissible. Hair on top of head is tied up. [Fault: Sparse coat, single coat, curly coat.]

Trimming — Feet, bottom of coat, and anus may be done for neatness and to facilitate movement. [Fault: Excessive trimming.]

COLOR AND MARKINGS — All are permissible and to be considered equally.

GAIT — The Shih Tzu moves straight and must be shown at its own natural speed, neither raced nor strung-up, to evaluate its smooth, flowing, effortless movement with good front reach and equally strong rear drive, level topline, naturally high head carriage, and tail carried in gentle curve over back.
Picture shown is CH Panda XXX
Father of our two girls Leilani and Lana
The standard is a bluepring that describes characteristics in detail, height, weight, color, tail and even toes of the breed.  At dog shows every dog is judged on how well he conforms to the standard.  Just as no human "perfect 10" exist, no dog is perfect, but certainly a shih tzu who is not a show dog can still be a wonderful pet.

A breeder who uses the standard as her guide will create a dog who retain the sturdy structure, the friendly temperament, the glorious coat and well-bred shih tzu.