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11 Fascinating Shih Tzu Facts That Might Surprise You!


Feb 8, 2023
mother shih tzu dog and her puppy


mother shih tzu dog and her puppy

Shih Tzus are cute, cuddly, and super soft. They are also quite sociable and interactive. However, many people don’t know much about the breed because they aren’t as prominent as breeds like Golden Retrievers and Chihuahuas. So, we put together a list of fascinating Shih Tzu facts that should help you get to know this breed better!


The 11 Fascinating Shih Tzu Facts

1. They Hail From Tibet

shih tzu out in the snow wearing a red sweater
Image Credit: Damir., Pexels

While many people believe that Shih Tzus originated in China, these little dogs actually hail from Tibet. It is thought that the Tibetans gifted these dogs to Chinese royalty. From there, the Chinese bred their royal dogs with Pugs or Pekingese to create what we know as the modern Shih Tzu.

2. They Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Documentation from more than 1,000 years ago tells us that short dogs with square bodies, just like the Shih Tzu, were companions to royalty in China by 1,000 B.C., if not earlier. It’s believed that the dogs mentioned in ancient documentation refer to the ancestors of the Shih Tzu — the dogs that essentially started it all.

3. They’re Called “Little Lions” for Good Reason

nine month old shih tzu standing on an ice floe
Image Credit: Tatiana Gasich, Shutterstock

The name Shih Tzu translates into the phrase, “little lion,” in Mandarin. Shih Tzus look like little lions due to their long hair. Some people even give their Shih Tzus haircuts that mimic the look of real lions.

4. They Almost Became Extinct

The Shih Tzu was nearly impossible to find in the early 1900s, after a prominent overseer of a popular breeding program in China passed away. The program fell apart, and it took a while to put things back together again. Fortunately, breeders didn’t give up and continued their efforts until extinction was no longer a threat.

5. They Got to the United States Because of the Military

soldier cuddling his shih tzu dog
Image Credit: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock

England imported Shih Tzus from China and started their own breeding programs. After doing so, the country exported Shih Tzus to other European countries. American soldiers who were stationed in Europe took a few of these dogs and brought them back to the United States with them in the 1950s.

6. They’re Likely All Related

After the Shih Tzu nearly went extinct in China, a group of breeding enthusiasts took it upon themselves to revive the breed using just 14 dogs. These seven pairs of dogs are responsible for the creation of every other Shih Tzu that came along after them. Therefore, chances are that your dog and your neighbor’s dog are related!

7. They Are Popular Among Celebrities

Many celebrities have fallen in love with the Shih Tzu. Colin Farrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Bill Gates, and Queen Elizabeth are just a few examples. But many people are fans of this breed’s small appearance, luxurious coat, and heartwarming personality!

8. They Are Considered Hypoallergenic

While no dog is truly hypoallergenic, the Shih Tzu is about as close as one can get. They grow hair instead of fur, so they don’t harbor as much dander as the average dog does. For this reason, many people with allergies can handle spending time with or even living with a Shih Tzu.

9. They Do Well in Apartment Settings

shih tzu puppy sitting on sofa
Image Credit; Pattarit S, Shutterstock

Every dog needs daily exercise and the opportunity to spend time outdoors, so it makes sense to consider a house with a yard as an ideal setting for any dog breed. However, Shih Tzus tend to do extremely well in apartment settings as long as they get a short walk outside each day. They don’t take up much space, and they enjoy hanging out with their human family members.

10. They Have Huge Personalities

Although Shih Tzus are little dogs, they have big personalities! Most people become instant friends with any Shih Tzu they meet due to their sociability and affection. These dogs tend to be goofy, and they seem to like “kidding around” whenever they get the chance to.

11. They Happen to be Athletic

side view of a running shih tzu outdoors
Image Credit: Helena Lopes, Pexels

The Shih Tzu has an impressively athletic body that can keep up with moderately intense activity. Whether you’re a hiker or love to swim, you can count on your Shih Tzu to perform as a reliable buddy during those experiences. Many Shih Tzus do awesome on the agility course, especially in competitions.



Shih Tzus are adorable, loving dogs that enjoy the company of human companions. They have been around for a long time, yet not much is known about their ancient history. Luckily, there are a few facts that we do know about this breed that gives us insight into what it’s like to share a life with this dog.

Featured Image Credit: JennyandtheSummerDay, Pixabay

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