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Shih Tzu Pros and Cons: 11 Things To Consider Before Buying

Written By: Sharon Waddington

Last Updated:

Shih Tzus are small, personable dogs known for their playful nature. Though they’re originally from Tibet and sent to China as gifts, they’ve gained a lot of popularity in the US and worldwide these last few years.

While it’s clear that Shih Tzus are widely loved, when it comes to getting one for yourself, you’ll want to do your due diligence and consider the Shih Tzu pros and cons before deciding.

Shih Tzus’ pros are that they are small, affectionate dogs that make excellent companions and pets. They don’t demand a lot of exercise, are great with children, and generally lead long, happy lives. However, some cons are they’re also high-maintenance, stubborn, and prone to several health issues.

Shih Tzus are adorable little dogs that don’t demand a whole lot of space, but they do need a lot of tender loving care. Don’t get a Shih Tzu until you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the pros and cons I’ve outlined below.

Shih Tzu Pros and Cons
Shih Tzu Pros and Cons

What Are The Pros & Cons of Shih Tzus?

Anyone getting a Shih Tzu should understand their advantages and disadvantages. While most dogs are friendly, they can’t all be taken for granted.

But wait! If you’d like a quick glance at the pros and cons of Shih Tzus, here you go:

Shih Tzu ProsShiz Tzu Cons
Shih Tzus are great apartment dogsShih Tzus incur high maintenance costs
Shih Tzus have gorgeous coatsShih Tzus are expensive
Shih Tzus shed lowShih Tzus are stubborn
Shih Tzus are hypoallergenicShih Tzus are prone to some health issues
Shih Tzus are excellent with children
Shih Tzus have long lifespans
Shih Tzus are great first dogs
Shih Tzu Pros and Cons

Shih Tzu Pros

There’s a reason why so many people gravitate toward Shih Tzus. The American Kennel Club has even ranked them in the country’s top 30 most popular dogs. After all, they’re great apartment pets you can keep even in urban areas, are incredibly loving and playful, and fare exceptionally well with kids — what’s not to love?

So, let’s dive into some of the reasons why this breed is so widely beloved.

Shih Tzus Are Great Apartment Dogs

Though you’ll spot many high-energy breeds on top of the AKC list, the problem with these dogs is that they require a great deal of time, effort, and, most importantly, space to thrive. 

However, considering that roughly 80.7% of the US population lives in urban areas, that’s simply not feasible.

That’s why we’ve seen an exponential increase in the popularity of smaller lap dogs like Shih Tzus. These breeds allow potential owners to add a companion to their lives without having to uproot it altogether.

Unlike a Golden Retriever or a Boxer, a Shih Tzu’s idea of fun is sitting on its owner’s lap watching TV, so they require far less effort to be kept happy and healthy.

Shih Tzu

Don’t get me wrong, Shih Tzus still have moderate activity requirements, but they’re not nearly as demanding as those of higher-energy breeds. Shih Tzus typically only need around 30 minutes of exercise daily, and a wide array of activities count as exercise when it comes to Shih Tzus.

For example, this active time can consist of a short walk, playtime in the backyard, or even some simple indoor games — all’s fair. With that said, each dog has varying needs regarding activity level, so always try your best to carve out as much playtime as needed.

Moreover, while keeping your Shih Tzu active indoors is an excellent solution in those days when you simply can’t be bothered to go on a walk, it’s still a good idea to make a point to take your pup out and about as frequently as possible.

That way, they breathe in some fresh air, go potty, and get a chance to socialize, all of which are essential to their well-being.

Many have even gone as far as likening Shih Tzus to cats since they’re so happy being indoors and lounging around. However, it’s important to note that since they move so little, Shih Tzus are prone to weight gain, so keep an eye on that since obesity can lead to many health-related issues you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

Shih Tzus Have a Gorgeous Coat

If you’re a sucker for a long, healthy coat, you’ll love Shih Tzus. These small dogs boast healthy, thick hair that’ll be a dream to pet through. Moreover, they come in a wide variety of colors, including but not limited to:

  • Black and white
  • Red and white
  • Solid black
  • Brindle and white
  • Gold and white

I’d go on, but the color combinations are virtually endless. So, not only will you be able to pick the dog of your dreams, but there’s also a good chance that the colors on your pup’s coat will be one of a kind.

Coat of Shih Tzu
Coat of the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus Are Low Shedding

Many first-time dog owners make the mistake of equating long fur with shedding, which isn’t always the case. A prime example of that is a Shih Tzu.

These small dogs have some of the longest, most luscious coats you’ll ever see; however, they’re surprisingly easy to care for and, most importantly, clean up after. Besides being low-maintenance, their furs also come with another significant advantage.

Shih Tzus Are Hypoallergenic

Shih Tzus are hypoallergenic and are far less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in those sensitivities to dog fur. 

So, if you’ve wanted to get a dog for some time, but your allergies are holding you back, opting for a hypoallergenic breed like a Shih Tzu can be the answer.

Keep in mind that the word “hypoallergenic” should be used with caution, as no breed can be deemed 100% safe for people with allergies. It just means that a Shih Tzu has less dandruff than the average dog.

That’s because, depending on the severity of one’s sensitivity, there’s no guarantee that these dogs won’t cause any type of reaction. 

However, it’s worth giving cohabitating with one of these dogs a try. To do so, you can simply visit one at your local shelter or pet shop and see how you react or consult your doctor for their opinion on how well you’d do with one of these dogs around.

Remember that allergies aren’t directly caused by fur but rather by dander. Their diet also plays a role. However, since dander usually comes attached to fur, their spread is correlated. That’s why low-shedding dogs like Shih Tzus leave behind very little of either.

Excellent With Children

Families with small children know how important it is to find a patient, playful dog that can peacefully cohabitate with them. Luckily, Shih Tzus have a (well-earned) reputation for being some of the best family pets out there.

As mentioned, they’re not overly energetic or aggressive, so they can easily cohabitate with small children without causing any issues. On the contrary, they’re known to be incredibly affectionate towards babies and toddlers, who are bound to love their pups right back. After all, who could resist Shih Tzu’s charming personality?

With that said, it’s still essential to properly train your dog and educate your children on how to interact with one another. It’s never wise to rely solely on this breed’s loving personality. Always take matters into your own hands when it comes to keeping every member safe and happy.

Here’s a wonderful, heartwarming video of a kid and a Shih Tzu sharing a beautiful bond. Take a look!

Shih Tzus Have Long Lives

Shih Tzus are especially known for their impressive lifespan, with many living up to 18 years. Though this quality is a great source of comfort for owners who already have and love their Shih Tzus, it also means that you’re making a decades-long commitment if you get one.

A pet passing away is one of our worst nightmares; luckily, by choosing this breed, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to enjoy your pup’s company for a long, long time.

Shih Tzus Are Great First Dogs

Not all dogs are suitable for first-time owners, especially high-energy, high-maintenance dogs like Pit bulls. However, that’s not the case with Shih Tzus. Thanks to their calm yet affectionate personalities, they’re relatively easy to care for, even if you don’t have any previous experience with pets.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I chose a German Shepherd as my first dog. However, a close friend has always had Shih Tzus, and I remember thinking during a 5-mile hike – if only I’d chosen a Shih Tzu!

Shih Tzu Cons

If you’ve made it thus far, you know that Shih Tzus are a wonderful breed that boasts a wide array of positive attributes. However, like all other dogs, they’re not always the easiest to handle or care for.

So, before you make a decades-long commitment, it’s essential to read through the potential drawbacks outlined below to make a well-informed decision.

High-Maintenance Coats

There had to be a downside to these gorgeous, low-shedding, hypoallergenic coats — they require frequent maintenance to keep healthy and growing. 

For example, their long fur requires daily brushing. Otherwise, it can get tangled and matted, which can not only be painful but also lead to a plethora of skin issues.

Moreover, a Shih Tzu’s coat grows fast (the only downside to it being so healthy). This means you’ll have to commit to regular grooming sessions, which are time-consuming and costly. This brings me to my next point.

Also, they need plenty of healthy omega-rich food to stay hydrated to keep their coats shiny. If you’re considering getting a particular Shih Tzu and its coat looks dull, that’s probably why.

Grooming a Shih Tzu
Grooming a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus Are Expensive

Like most pure breeds, Shih Tzus are a pretty expensive breed to get and care for. They require regular trips to the groomer and high-quality food that meets their specific nutritional needs.

These daily expenses can quickly add up, so if you want to keep your pup looking and feeling its best, make sure to budget.

Shih Tzus Are Stubborn

Don’t let their charming, playful personality fool you; these little pups are among the most stubborn breeds you can get. They’re also not above using their puppy eyes to get what they want, so beware of unruly behaviors.

Excessive stubbornness can be dealt with if you properly train and socialize your Shih Tzu from a young age. Remember, this quirk is part of their personality, so if you don’t think you can deal with it, opt for a more docile breed.

Furthermore, they tend to have a favorite person in the family, and their stubbornness leads them not to appreciate the attention or walks from other family members.

Prone to Some Health Issues

Like all other dogs, Shih Tzus are prone to a set of health related-issues, in some cases, even more so than other breeds. Here are some of the most common conditions this breed deals with and what you’ll want to screen for at every vet appointment:

  • Eye Anomalies. These include several conditions, including retinal detachment, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, and inflammation. This last one is pretty common, as Shih Tzus often don’t close their eyelids properly, leading to excessive air exposure and, in turn, dryness. 
  • Patellar Luxation. This issue occurs when the kneecap slips from its standard position and into the thigh bone. It can either be inherited or caused by injury. Either way, it requires immediate medical attention.
  • Hip Dysplasia. This is one of the most common genetic problems in Shih Tzus. Unfortunately, hip dysplasia can be very painful and isn’t always treatable, so it’s essential to screen for it regularly. Generally speaking, this condition occurs when the hip joints develop abnormally, leading to pain and difficulty in walking and moving around.
  • Renal Dysplasia. This is an inherited condition that causes parts of the kidney to stay underdeveloped.
  • Overheating. Due to their long, heavy coats, Shih Tzus are especially prone to overheating. Keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu when exercising outdoors in the summer. Do your best to keep it in the shade, and always have a bottle of water near you to keep your pup hydrated. It’s difficult for these dogs to perspire properly, so these solutions can help regulate their body temperature.
  • Skin conditions. Following the same logic, Shih Tzus are especially prone to skin irritation and other skin-related conditions. These include dermatitis, itchiness, and allergies, to name a few.
  • Breathing problems. These are common among short-headed breeds like Shih Tzus. Due to their head shape, their upper airways are too narrow, which can make it unnecessarily difficult for these dogs to breathe. Sometimes, Shih Tzus can even suffer from a collapsing trachea, which occurs when the cartilage that gives the trachea its shape collapses and flattens, often requiring corrective surgery.

Final Thoughts

Shih Tzus are small, affectionate dogs known for their playful nature, gorgeous fur, hypoallergenic fur, and cat-like personality. However, though there’s a reason why these dogs keep growing in popularity in the US, it’s also vital to consider some of their potential drawbacks before getting one yourself. 

After all, they’re one of the longest-living dogs on the planet, so they’re a long-term commitment. Some drawbacks include their breed-specific health issues, stubborn personality, and a long list of expenses.

Be sure to compare the pros and cons before getting a Shih Tzu.

Photo of author

Sharon Waddington

Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs.