Are Shih Tzus Hypoallergenic?
Yes! The Shih Tzu is a
hypoallergenic dog breed that hardly sheds or drools.
When meeting a Shih Tzu for the first time, it is so easy to fall in love with their adorable looks and playful antics. If you are sensitive to dogs due to allergies, you may wonder “are Shih Tzu hypoallergenic dogs?” Luckily, this breed, also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog, does not drool or shed often, and has low dander. These three factors make the Shih Tzu a fantastic option for those who suffer from dog allergies.
For a quick summary of the Shih Tzu, skip to our Shih Tzu Dog Breed Summary further down the page.
Shih Tzus can be a challenge!
Try this easy-read book of 112 dog hacks. It covers everything from behavior to diet. We highly recommend it as a go-to reference book for new owners of the Shih Tzu breed because they will give you your money back if the hacks don’t work for you. Click here for more information.
Shih Tzu Quick Facts
Hypoallergenic Dog: Yes!
|Shedding: Low-to-no shedding||Drooling: Low|
|Breed Group: Companion||
Lifespan: 10 – 16 years years
|Energy Level: Medium||Trainability:Medium||
Family Dog: Yes, but be careful with young children.
About the Breed
The Shih Tzu’s Physical Characteristics and Coat
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The Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, due to their low activity needs and their charming personality.
This breed stays small their entire lives, with males growing to be about 11 inches (28 cm) tall and weighing between 11 and 16 pounds (5–7 kg), while females grow to be about 10 inches (25 cm) tall and weigh between 10 and 16 pounds. Its body is long compared to its small height.
The Shih Tzu face is wide-set, with big eyes and a short upturned nose. The Shih Tzu’s stubby snout and snub nose are a defining part of their features and can be used to help identify the breed. When the Shih Tzu has a full show coat, their long ears blend in seamlessly with their flowing curtains of hair. The tail curls over the back in a feathery plume.
The Shih Tzu generally lives longer than most dogs with a lifespan of between 10 and 16 years. Well bred Shih Tzu that receive good quality food and care usually live well beyond 10 years.
The hypoallergenic Shih Tzu has a double coat – a thick under layer and long overcoat – that comes in a wide range of colors. Shih Tzu dogs shed minimally, and this can be well managed with daily brushing, just like human hair. Since they don’t shed much, Shih Tzu also produce less dander.
Shih Tzu Temperament
Shih Tzus are excellent family pets and great companions for anyone looking for a hypoallergenic breed. They are sweet, smart, docile, affectionate, gentle, fun-loving, playful, energetic, and love a cuddle. While these dogs are usually suitable for any age group, they are fragile, and may shy away from boisterous children. They are sensitive to a person’s mood, and get along great with cats if they are raised with them. The Shih Tzu is usually a quiet dog, and often makes a throat huff rather than barking. This breed is an excellent choice for the elderly.
Exercise & Training
Encouraging Good Behavior In Your Shih Tzu
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Shih Tzu can have a stubborn streak, and while you can have some success if you motivate them with treats, this isn’t a great dog for trick training! Just make sure you don’t overuse treats, or you might find your Shih Tzu is overweight, and only obeys when food is offered!
These dogs also tend to be a little bit strong willed; their stubborn streak can make the process take a little bit longer and require more patience. Be consistent in your expectations and in working on their new skills. Keep training sessions fun and positive and end with lots of praise and a cuddle.
Your hypoallergenic Shih Tzu needs you! If you are not home much throughout the day, they can suffer separation anxiety and quickly become anxious and bored. If you are planning to bring a Shih Tzu into your home, ensure there will always be someone around for them. Even cats can help your Shih Tzu not feel so alone, if they’re raised with them.
Finally, Shih Tzu are rather quiet for small dogs, often vocalizing with a low throaty sound rather than yapping. However, separation anxiety or stress may give them unpredictable behavior. Early socialization and training will usually set your dog up to be a calm, well-balanced individual, who is comfortable around other people and dogs. The early effort to make this happen is certainly worth the lifetime reward of a contented dog.
For more tips on how to train your dog not to bark, read our training article (coming soon!)
The Shih Tzu requires a relatively small amount of exercise throughout the day, only needing at most a 20 minute walk. This makes it great for those who are older and are unable to keep up with a more active pup. This breed adapts fantastically to apartment living, as they do not require much space and would actually prefer to be sitting right on your lap most of the day. A small yard and gentle play is often enough to satisfy them.
What they do need lots of is time with you – even if they are just sitting in your lap or nearby. Be prepared to share your couch, chair, home office, and maybe even your bed if you’re planning to take a Shih Tzu into your life.
Grooming and Care
Maintaining Your Shih Tzu’s Coat
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It should be noted that this breed does require a fair amount of grooming. The best way to maintain the hypoallergenic qualities of the Shih Tzu’s coat is to brush it daily and check for any matted hair. This takes out any loose hair, and stimulates healthy growth in you dog’s coat. Shih Tzus also require regular haircuts every 6 weeks, to maintain a healthy, well groomed coat. Some owners choose to give their Shih Tzu a “puppy cut”, where the hair on their body and ears is cut short. This cuts down significantly on the maintenance requirements of their coat.
To reduce dander levels, washing you Shih Tzu with a gentle moisturizing shampoo can help clear your dog of dander and any other allergens. A high quality diet will also help to maintain a healthy coat and happy dog.
It is important to keep the area around their eyes clean, as they tend to develop what are known as ‘tear stains’. Keep the hair around their eyes short and gently clean their eyes daily with a soft cloth or cotton ball and warm water, then gently dry the area. Clipping or tying Shih Tzu hair away from their eyes can also promote eye health.
Teeth, Ears and Nails
Shih Tzu’s need their ears checked every week. Wipe the wax out of their ears with a little bit of ear cleaner and cotton wipes. Maintaining a good ear checking routine will help prevent many of the ear problems Shih Tzu’s experience.
Dental hygiene is also a necessary task for your Shih Tzu but is often overlooked. Brushing their teeth at least 2-3 times a week can prevent gum disease and tartar buildup. Doing so will also allow you to see any teeth that may be broken or missing.
Trim your Shih Tzu’s nails approximately twice a month. Doing so regularly will help keep the living, inner part of your Shih Tzu’s nails from growing out, so it will be easier to cut their nails without hurting them.
Potential Shih Tzu Health Issues
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There are a couple of health concerns that should be taken into consideration. Shih Tzus have a tendency to develop Urolithiasis, which are stones in the kidneys or bladder. To prevent bladder stones, be sure your Shih Tzu has opportunities to exercise regularly and always has water available.
Shih Tzus also tend to develop an ailment known as Legge-Perthes Disease. Also known as Legge-Calve-Perthes Disease, or LCPD. This disease affects the top of the femur, which in turn can cause issues with hip and joint pain. There is no full understanding of what causes this disease, though it is thought to have to do with blood flow issues. Treatment of this disease consists of surgery, pain management, and regular physical therapy.
While this breed often does not trigger symptoms in people who are allergic to dogs, they can develop their own allergies that manifest as rashes. Most often these allergies are caused by their food and can be helped by switching to a better quality dog food.
Shih Tzus also have a high tendency to inherit Renal Dysplasia, a condition that decreases kidney function and can result in death if it is allowed to progress without being properly treated. This disease can be tricky for breeders, since in the early stages it is symptom free and an afflicted animal may produce a litter before the disease is caught. Therefore, a responsible breeder will conduct genetic testing to avoid passing along this disease.
Unfortunately, the Shih Tzu breed also struggles with liver problems, both genetic and developed later on in life. However, Shih Tzus are good at hiding their discomfort and liver disease in the early stages can often seem like less serious ailments.
As with any dog breed, it is important to keep your eye on your pooch to ensure that you notice any symptoms quickly and make sure to take them to a trusted vet for annual physicals.
Maintaining regular exercise, a healthy diet, proper hygiene and regular vet visits, as well as providing plenty of love, affection and stimulation will help your Shih Tzu to remain happy and healthy for many years.
Shih Tzu Health Problems
|Juvenile renal dysplasia (JRD)||Excessive thirst
Excessive volume of urine
Intermittent loss of appetite
In the final stage :
Low protein diets can sometimes help symptoms
|There is not much you can do to prevent this health issue, except to choose a dog from a breeder who has no reported cases of JRD in the dogs they have bred.|
|Allergies||Itchy red, moist, or scabbed skin
Itchy, runny eyes
Scratching at the back or base of tail (Often from fleas)
Chewing excessively on feet (often a food allergy)
Benadryl (ask your vet before administering and do not use as a long-term or permanent solution as it can irritate the stomach lining)
If your dog responds severely to an allergy (swollen tongue, difficulty breathing, falling asleep while standing)
|Allergy panels can be performed to try to uncover the cause of a dog’s allergies.
Try switching your dog to a high-quality food. We recommend Canidae.
Wipe your dog’s paws and belly after playing outside.
Bathe your dog with anti-itch dog shampoo.
Keep chemicals, smoke, and other irritable inhalants at a minimum.
|Bladder Stones||Urinary accidents
Frequent attempts to urinate without producing much urine
Straining to urinate
Licking around the urinary opening
Antibiotics to treat underlying causes
Therapeutic dog food administered by a vet
|Be sure your dog has access to, and drinks plenty of water.
Once bladder stones have formed in a dog, you can give them special pet food to reduce the chance of a reoccurrence.
|Proptosis||Abnormal pupil (dilated or restricted in size)
Ulcer on the cornea of the eye
Inflammation in the eye
Inner eye hemorrhage
Rupture in the globe of the eye
The eye is put back in place while the dog is sedated.
Antibiotics are given afterwards
In severe cases, the eye will have to be removed.
|Most commonly caused by head injuries.
Keep your Shih Tzu safe by not exposing them to large dogs or children who don’t play gently.
|Ectopia Cilia||Eye pain
Severe abnormal ticking or twitching of the eyelid (blepharospasm)
Overflow of tears (epiphora)
|Surgery||Facial shape and genetics cause this condition.
Choose your puppy from a reputable breeder whose dogs have no history of this condition.
|Reverse sneezing||The dog will stand, extend their head and neck, pull back their lips, and inhale repeatedly and forcefully through their nose.
The usually make a distinct “snorking” sound.
Episodes can be as long as 10-15 seconds or so.
|Most cases do not need to be treated. For those that are severe, underlying ailments are usually treated.
To reduce the length of a sneezing episode :
|This condition is caused by facial shape & breed.
Keep the dog away from allergens.
Prevent dogs from eating too fast by feeding them in low-stress environments.
|Hip Dysplasia||Decreased activity
Decreased range of motion
Lameness in the hind end
Looseness in the joint
Specialized Physical Therapy
Maintaining a proper weight
Dull, dry and opaque cornea
Thick yellow-green ocular discharge
Sensitivity to light
|Medications to simulate tear production||Maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle
Vaccinate for distemper
|Distichiasis||Stiff cilia (eyelash)
Pawing at eye.
Abnormal tick or twitch of eyelid
Overflow of tears
Increased blood vessels in the cornea.
Change in iris pigmentation.
Plucking extra eyelashes
(portosystemic liver shunt)
|poor muscle development
staring into space circling or head pressing seizures
|Surgery||Parent dogs should not possess this disorder|
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The Shih Tzu is a very friendly, small, hypoallergenic lap dog. They shed very little and hardly drool. While they are intelligent, they also can be a bit stubborn at times. A lot of people love this breed because they’re less energetic than other small dogs, so they don’t need as much exercise. They do, however, need a lot of time to hang out with their people! Even the presence of other animals can help a Shih Tzu to feel less lonely. This breed may be standoffish with rough kids, as they’re quite fragile. They are also quieter than a lot of small dogs, and often give a huff-like bark rather than a high pitched yappy one. Their beautiful coats take a lot of maintenance, and you’ll have to be careful to brush their teeth on a regular basis. If you cut their hair short, these guys are a bit easier to manage. It’s no wonder these dogs are loved far and wide. Their sweet disposition, cuddliness, and receptivity to your feelings make them some of the greatest best friends that the dog world has to offer.
Shih Tzu FAQ
Are Shih Tzus Good Apartment Dogs?
Shih Tzus make great apartment dogs, as long as you are around to give them enough attention.
Are Shih Tzus Good With Kids?
Shih Tzus make good family dogs, however, they are small and fragile so they aren’t good dogs for rough housing or boisterous play.
Do Shih Tzus Shed a Lot?
Shih Tzus hardly shed at all. Their hair continues to grow, without shedding. They do, however need daily brushing and trimming every 6 weeks, to maintain their hypoallergenic coat in it best condition.
Do Shih Tzu Have Hair or Fur?
Shih Tzu have hair which continually grows. It needs to be brushed daily to remove loose hair and clipped every 6 weeks.
Do Shih Tzu Have Dander?
All dogs have dander, but Shih Tzu dander levels are low, and the little they have is caught in their coat and can be brushed out easily. Many people report their Shih Tzu is hypoallergenic, and they have no problems with dog dander from their Shih Tzu. If you are allergic to dog dander, it’s recommended you spend some time around the Shih Tzu, to see how your allergies react to them before making the decision to buy one.
Are Shih Tzus Smart?
Yes, Shih Tzus are intelligent and willing to please! They’re not the best dogs for trick training though. They can be a little stubborn, so be sure to establish yourself as the boss and be consistent in training them.
Do Shih Tzu Bark a Lot?
It all depends on how you train them. With correct training, Shih Tzu can be taught to ‘speak’ and be ‘quiet’. Use positive reinforcement to affirm your Shih Tzu when it is behaving appropriately. Be consistent when they are young, and your Shih Tzu will soon learn to be quiet and only bark when necessary.
Are Shih Tzu Good Family Dogs?
Shih Tzus make wonderful family dogs! They are gentle, affectionate, great with kids, and patient. They may need supervision with small children until the children are able to understand how to be gentle with your dog.
Are Shih Tzu Good Apartment Dogs?
Shih Tzu suit apartment living well. They don’t require a lot of exercise, so a brisk 20-minute stroll each day will provide adequate exercise, stimulation and fresh air. Being a companion dog, Shih Tzus have lower energy levels and prefer to cuddle with you, making them ideal apartment dogs as long as they have plenty of contact from other people and animals.
Other Interesting Shih Tzu Facts
The Shih Tzu is fairly new to the United States, having first arrived in the 1930s. However, the Shih Tzu has been popular in China for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and it is believed that Buddhist monks in Tibet were the first to develop this breed as gifts to Chinese royalty. Indeed, this breed was so highly prized by Emperors and Empresses that at one point being caught with one outside of the palace was a capital offense. Today, this breed is often referred to as the “Lion Dog” as a nod to the traditional Chinese name.
Shih Tzu Facts Summary
|Other Names?||Lion Dog
|Height||Male : 9.1–11.0 inches or 23–28 centimetres
Female : 7.9–9.8 inches or 20–25 centimetres
|Weight||Male: 11.00–16.00 pounds or 5–7.3 kilograms
Female: 10.0–16.0 pounds or 4.5–7.3 kilograms
|Lifespan||10–16 years, average is 12 years old|
|Temperament||Loyal, friendly, affectionate, playful, outgoing, alert, sweet, smart, docile, gentle, fun-loving, energetic, and love a cuddle|
|Colours||Available in a wide variety of colors|
|Coat – describe the coat||Shih Tzus have a double coat (an outer coat plus a woolly insulating undercoat). Often multiple color coats|
|How much grooming?||A lot of grooming is necessary.|
|How much shedding||Non-Shedding|
|Dander levels||Low dander level|
|Saliva – Do they Drool or Lick much?||Low|
|Energy levels||Below Average|
|How much exercise do they need?||20 minutes a day
|Health problems||Prone to allergies, dental problems, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, eye problems, renal dysplasia|
|Good for apartment?||Adapts well to apartment life.|
|Suitable for kids?||Yes, but they are delicate.|
|How much do they bark?||High tendency to bark|
|Can they be left alone?||Not for long periods of time|
|Trainable?||Yes, but they are stubborn.|
|How popular as a pet?||Very Popular|
|Any other important facts?||Shih Tzu were bred as gifts to the Imperial Palace’s advisers in China so that they could have a pet to be with – to relax and have fun with when they were not busy discussing politics.
Now, they are bred to be companions and lap dogs for anyone – from older individuals to little children.