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Shih Tzu Breed Guide

Shih Tzu Breed Guide

Despite its name meaning “little lion” in Mandarin, the Shih Tzu is a calm and affectionate breed that makes an excellent family dog.

The Shih Tzu’s history and origin

Originating in Tibet, the history of the Shih Tzu breed dates back as early as 1,000 BC, though the breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1940. Shih Tzus were particular favourite pets of the Chinese royals and lived exclusively in imperial palaces for several centuries, where they were considered sacred and revered by many.

Small Dog Small Dog
Up to 10kg Adult weight Up to 10kg
11-16 years Average life expectancy 11-16 years
Needs a lot of grooming Needs a lot of grooming
Can struggle in warmer weather Can struggle in warmer weather
Intelligent and Lively Intelligent and Lively
Common Shih Tzu health problems

Common Shih Tzu health problems

Although their eyes are one of their most distinguishing features, Shih Tzus can be prone to eye issues such as cataracts and corneal dryness. The protruding shape of the Shih Tzu’s eyes makes them more vulnerable to scratches and injuries.

Shih Tzus can also be susceptible to breathing difficulties, so excessive exercise should always be avoided. What’s more, their thick coat means they can’t tolerate the heat very well, so on hot days it’s better to walk them in the early mornings and evenings when it’s cooler.

Another thing to be aware of when it comes to Shih Tzu health issues is that they are predisposed to environmental allergies which can affect their skin health.

Nutrition: What is the best food for a Shih Tzu?

To keep Shih Tzus strong and healthy, they
need a well-balanced diet that’s packed with essential nutrients, such as:

  • High-quality proteins to help maintain muscle mass.
  • Highly digestible nutrients to support healthy digestion.
  • Antioxidants to support a strong immune system.
  • Essential fatty acids to support skin and coat health.

Lifelong nutrition

A dog’s nutritional needs change throughout their life – a Shih Tzu puppy’s needs are different from those of an adult or ageing Shih Tzu.

ROYAL CANIN® Shih Tzu diets are specifically designed to support the nutritional needs of Shih Tzus and to help keep your dog healthy at every stage of life, from puppyhood right through to adulthood.  



Shih Tzus are gentle, affectionate and fiercely loyal to their families. These intelligent dogs know their own minds and can exhibit stubborn behaviour, which can make training a little bit challenging at first. But in time, and with plenty of encouragement, Shih Tzus can become very well-mannered and obedient.



Compact and solid with a level topline and broad chest.


Plumed, set high and curved over the back.


Round and broad with a domed skull.


Eyes set well apart and a short, square muzzle.


Long, dense fur that can vary in colour.

Common Questions

The Shih Tzu’s growth starts to slow down around the 10-month mark, with most Shih Tzus being fully grown by the time they reach a year old.

A healthy weight for an adult Shih Tzu of either gender is approximately 5-10kg.

For Shih Tzus, grooming frequency really depends on the length of their coat. Giving your long-haired Shih Tzu a gentle brush every day will help keep their fur from matting. Shih Tzus with medium-length coats will only need a brush every two days or so, while short-coated Shih Tzus probably only need a brush around once a week. Monthly teeth-brushing, nail-trimming and ear-cleaning is also recommended.

The average life expectancy for dogs of the Shih Tzu breed is 11-16 years.

Definitely! Giving your Shih Tzu a mixture of wet and dry food means they will reap the benefits of both food types. You don’t have to mix both the wet and dry food in the bowl together, you can just give your dog one pouch of ROYAL CANIN® Shih Tzu in Loaf and adapt your dry food ratio according to the on-pack feeding guide.

A happy life with your labrador


Shih Tzus were bred to be companion dogs, so they thrive on lots of attention and close bonds with their human families.


Shih Tzus are social animals and, when you’re that small, the world can seem pretty big! That’s why it’s important to socialise Shih Tzus early on by introducing them to new people, pets and places.


Although bred to be house dogs (meaning they theoretically need less exercise than most breeds), Shih Tzus are still active little dogs. A short walk twice a day will help support their health and wellbeing.


Known for their distinctively long and silky tresses, a Shih Tzu’s coat requires a significant amount of grooming. Grooming frequency depends on your Shih Tzu’s coat – but a rough rule of thumb is that they should be groomed approximately every 4-6 weeks.


Shih Tzus tend to have naturally playful personalities, so they love both outdoor activities and indoor games to help keep them engaged and entertained.


Shih Tzus definitely know their own minds, so training can be challenging at first. However, given time and encouragement (and treats!), they can become obedient and well-mannered.

Find the right food for your dog

At Maltby’s, we offer a wide range of high-quality Royal Canin wet and dry dog food, specifically formulated to suit your beloved companion’s needs.

View our range

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