So many Shih Tzu are being bred which have incorrect heads, are too narrow, too tall or lack the character. Perfection is impossible but we hope the following will aid prospective Shih Tzu puppy buyers to buy a dog that resembles the breed we love.
If you are interested in more detail, please see our extended breed standard.
A Shih Tzu should have a sturdy body with heavy bone and a broad deep ribcage, necessary for the heart to have room. The Standard allows for this when it says a slight bow in the front legs is correct, if the front legs are straight then the body is too narrow. An adult should be a maximum of 27cm (10.5") at the withers and weigh 4.5 - 7.5kg (10-18lb).
When you pick one up it should feel heavier than it looks. The head should be broad with wide set large dark eyes, the nose tip tilted with the top of the nose leather level with the bottom of the eyes. The nose should be 'about' an inch - depending on the overall size of the dog.
Their tail carriage should be high enough to complement the length of neck so that, as they move, it gives a balanced appearance. They were once called a “which way dog” because head and tail looked alike.
The Shih Tzu is a bright, lively little dog who loves human company - both child and adult. They can, at times, be a little wilful. They would rather do things their way than perhaps the way you would like but, provided they receive sufficient attention, are totally devoted to their owners. They are usually a healthy, long lived breed with few serious inherited illnesses and none which could be considered common. A Shih Tzu should be bold, energetic and friendly. They should not back away or appear timid. They are not normally aggressive but will often stand their ground - size being no barrier! They are very adaptable to either town or country life but they do not like being left on their own for extended periods. Whilst a few hours a day is fine they aren't a suitable breed for a home where everyone is out at work all day. This applies to any dog really but Shih Tzu thrive on human company and - starved of companionship - can pick up bad habits such as barking and soiling the house.. They are not a dog generally possessed with a great deal of road sense - they being of the opinion that cars should stop! You do have to spend time with one to understand and appreciate their true character. They are very adept at wheedling their way into the affections of men as well as women and children. Many an initially reluctant husband has been won over! Both dogs and bitches are very affectionate although most enthusiasts will tell you the dogs are usually more so.
Shih Tzu are naturally a long coated breed and require regular grooming, even if kept in a trimmed condition. Although they look glorious in full coat, the effort required to keep it clean and tangle free means most pet Shih Tzu are trimmed. They also look very attractive with a suitable trim and this is definitely preferable to a matted coat. Trimming is usually done every 6 - 8 weeks and you can expect to pay £25 - £30 at a grooming parlour. We have more in depth articles on Shih Tzu grooming here.