Learn more about this month's featured productsSee Featured Products »
10 Fun Facts About Shih Tzus

10 Fun Facts About Shih Tzus

The Shih Tzu is one of the most popular toy dogs in the United States, and for good reason! They are charming, affectionate, and playful pooches. Although these beloved pets can be a bit stubborn at times, they make up for it with their sweet, teddy bear faces. Learn more about these charming canines in these 10 fun facts about Shih Tzu!

1.They are an ancient breed.
The Shih Tzu can be traced back more than 1,000 years. Plus, the breed’s ancestry goes back even further! Although many people think the Shih Tzu came from China, they actually came from Tibet. Similar to the Lhaso Apso and Pug, Shih Tzu were highly regarded dogs that were often given as gifts. The Shih Tzu was probably given as a gift to Chinese royalty. It’s believed that the Chinese ended up breeding them with Pugs, Pekingese, or Lhaso Apsos to create our modern-day Shih Tzu.

2.They lived in the lap of luxury.
During the early 20th century, Shih Tzu were gifted to royalties and emperors. These dogs served as royal lap warmers, lived in palaces, were carried in robes, and lived a pampered life.

3.“Shih Tzu” means “little lion.”
Where does “little lion” come from? Well, people assume that it probably has to do with the Tibetan Buddhist God of Learning. According to legend, the Buddha Manjusri the God of Learning traveled with a small lion dog that would transform into a full-sized lion and carry him on his back.

4.You may also hear them called “chrysanthemum-faced dogs.”
Shih Tzu are also called “chrysanthemum-faced dogs.” Why? Because the hair on their sweet little faces tends to grow in every direction, which can resemble a chrysanthemum flower.

5.They almost became extinct.
It’s true! These affectionate canines were almost wiped out during the Chinese communist revolution. This was also around the time that the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi died. She was well-known for supervising a world-renown breeding program of Shih Tzu, Pugs, and Pekingese. Sadly, the breeding program fell apart when she died. Fortunately, 14 dogs (7 males and 7 females) were able to rebuild the Shih Tzu breed, which means that every Shih Tzu alive right now can be traced back to those 14 dogs!

6.The military brought them to the United States.
Starting in 1930, the first Shih Tzu were imported into Europe. They were initially classified as “Apsos” but then later categorized as Shih Tzu in 1935. After World War II, American soldiers who were stationed in European countries took Shih Tzu back with them when they returned to the United States in the late 1940s and 50s. The sweet dogs quickly grew in popularity with Americans, and they were admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1969.

7.Their coats come in many colors.
The Shih Tzu coat can come in a variety of different colors, including black, white, brown, brindle, liver, gold, and blue. A Shih Tzu with long hair requires daily brushing and a lot of maintenance. For less maintenance, many owners have their dogs clipped into a “puppy cut.” The hair on the top of their heads should be tied up into a topknot or trimmed short to protect the eyes from being irritated.

8.Shih Tzu require minimal exercise.
These adorable small dogs were bred to spend a majority of their days as a companion inside royal palaces, so they don’t require a lot of exercise. Short daily walks and some playtime with their owner are usually enough to meet their activity needs! For this reason, they are a great pet choice for apartment dwellers.

9.They can’t tolerate hot weather.
Shih Tzu can’t tolerate heat well due to their flat faces and heavy coats. They are a brachycephalic dog breed, which means they are flat-faced and shorter-nosed. This can lead to respiratory distress in some dogs and make it more difficult to breathe during exercise, stress, or in the heat. Because of this, it’s best to keep Shih Tzu in an air-conditioned area during the summer.

10. They are a generally healthy breed.
Shih Tzu are generally healthy dogs that live an average of 10 to 18 years. Some health conditions that they are prone to include hip dysplasia, dental problems, renal dysplasia, patella luxation (a slipped kneecap), and eye issues like cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and retinal detachment.

Bonus fact: Shih Tzu are predisposed to developing kidney or bladder stones. These stones can cause a lot of discomfort and often end up in costly surgery. You can help minimize the chance of stone formation with Thomas Vet’s Cal Ox, which minimizes available oxalates, limits crystallization, and supports ideal urine pH and flow.


The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.

Sign up to receive deals and information