The Top 10 Reasons Shih Tzus Are the Perfect Family Dog
Families looking for a dog that everyone will enjoy may struggle to find the perfect breed based on competing wants and needs. As caring for a dog is a responsibility and privilege, parents and children need to be on the same page about chores, training, and exercise. Big dogs like huskies and German shepherds may be too large for young children to handle while toy breeds like Chihuahuas and Pekingese pups tend to be mouthy and unforgiving to young children’s accidentally-tight grasps.
Enter the shih tzu: a small pup with mild manners, a beautiful coat, and deep affection for its owners. Keep reading to discover why shih tzus are the perfect family dog.
Shih Tzu Summary
The shih tzu (which means “little lion” in Mandarin) remains an ancient toy breed with roots in Tibet and East Asia. According to the American Kennel Club, historians believe Tibetans sent the early shih tzu dog to China as gifts, which the Chinese then bred with Pekingese and pugs to create what we know as a shih tzu.
This hardy breed fought against extinction at the beginning of the twentieth century and combines the best of style and strength. Not only does their luscious hair billow in the wind; the long locks cover a muscular body that has helped dozens of shih tzu competitors win agility trials.
With a loveable, sometimes goofy personality and a unique mix of protectiveness, playfulness, and sociability, the shih tzu easily tops the list of great dogs for all sorts of families.
The Top 10 Reasons Shih Tzus Are the Perfect Family Dog
Shih tzus are among the top 20 most popular dog breeds in America for a reason. The size, personality, and grooming needs of a shih tzu contribute to why the breed provides the perfect family dog for households with young children, multiple generations, and/or different pet species.
AZ Animals also interviewed vets and lovers of the breed for their expert opinion on why shih tzus are such great family dogs.
1. Great Size
On average, shih tzus only weigh between nine and 16 pounds and stand between nine and 10 inches high when fully grown. This small size makes them adaptable in a variety of capacities. First, the size allows for children and the elderly to handle the dog on a leash with ease. It also prevents accidental injuries from overly-excited pups. The shih tzu’s size makes them adaptable to different-sized spaces, as well. They don’t need much room when sleeping on a bed or the couch, and most of their toys will take up less room than the kids’ toy boxes!
Harman Awal is a lifelong shih tzu owner and has converted many people to adopt them as well. She’s loved this breed since she was 17 years old. “These compact pups are perfectly suited for any space, be it an apartment, a condo, or a suburban home,” she gushed. “Their small size also makes them less intimidating for children and the elderly.”
2. Easy on Allergies
While shih tzus aren’t 100% hypoallergenic (no dog is), they remain much more hypoallergenic than other popular family dog breeds. Shih tzus have hair instead of fur and a long double coat that traps dander inside rather than spreads it through the home. So, they’re a perfect dog for a family member allergic to pet dander — or busy families who can’t spend hours sweeping.
The shih tzu double coat may inspire dread when thinking of twice the hair to clean off of sweaters, blankets, and couches. You can put the broom away, though — shih tzus only have minimal shedding, meaning one less chore to do around the house while still having a beautiful-coated dog.
3. Happy and Sociable
One of the solidifying reasons shih tzus make such perfect family dogs is their affable personality. Described as playful, affectionate, and outgoing, the shih tzu has little trouble fitting into a group and becoming the life of the party. While it’s semi-protective of its family, shih tzus are pretty open to meeting strangers with kindness and welcoming new friends.
“Making new friends is a breeze with these lil’ furballs, given their inherently friendly, outgoing nature,” said Awal. “And the best part? They are not prone to excessive barking!”
The sociability of a shih tzu enables them to welcome new family members into the fold well. That means they’re a good choice for foster families, extended families or households with multiple generations, and families that live on the road or travel often.
4. Low Barking
As Awal indicated, shih tzus don’t bark all that much. Are they silent? No — they’ll let you know when they need something. But they aren’t as “yappie” as other members of the toy group like Yorkies and Chihuahuas.
The low amount of barking from a shih tzu suits multi-pet families well. Shih tzus won’t usually wound up cats, birds, and other domesticated animals when a single bird flies across the window. However, note that individual breed members will act according to their ancestry and upbringing. Breed stereotypes won’t cover every dog, and training has a lot to do with behavior patterns as well.
The playful and energetic nature of a shih tzu, coupled with its slight protective streak and alertness, makes it a perfect playmate for young children. Shih tzus don’t require a ton of exercise, so playing with toys inside or running around the backyard with their young human siblings will fulfill a shih tzu’s daily exercise needs nine times out of 10.
Based on their exercise needs, the shih tzu makes a perfect family dog for an active or sedentary family. Active families can bring their small companions on adventures and simply carry the pup when their activity meter is full. Busy or sedentary families, on the other hand, only need a few short sessions of indoor play to ensure their shih tzu remains active enough.
6. Versatile Grooming
The shih tzu has a long-haired double coat that needs brushing daily. While the time it takes to brush the dog might sound like a knock against the breed, it’s a positive in many ways for different types of families.
Families with young children can delegate the brushing chore to the kids to learn responsibility and gentleness. Brushing is an important job to maintain the shih tzu’s health, so kids can also learn accountability and how their actions affect others if they forget to brush the dog.
Shih tzu grooming needs also suit the lifestyle of seniors, who may find fulfillment in primping their pups with bows or bowties.
Finally, busy families don’t need to worry about the time it takes to brush and bathe a shih tzu. They can take the dog to a groomer for a “puppy trim” that significantly cuts down on the time to maintain the dog’s coat.
Saying goodbye to a beloved dog is never easy. Thanks to the shih tzu breed’s general healthiness and longer-than-average lifespan compared to other breeds, families get a lot of time with their four-legged friend.
Shih tzus live between 10 to 18 years — pretty long as far as canine lifespans go. According to Pedigree’s research and data, the average lifespan of a shih tzu is around 13 years, with many living longer. The world’s oldest shih tzu lived to an astounding 23 years old.
When adopting a family pet, many households do so with the intent that the dog will be around for a while. They want children to grow up with a playmate and friend or establish a much-needed companion relationship for seniors. With at least a decade-long lifespan (notwithstanding illness or disease from genetic mutations), shih tzus are reliable mates on which parents, children, and seniors can depend.
8. Low Prey Drive, High Cuddle Drive
As part of the toy group, shih tzus aren’t used to being hunters. They won’t chase birds, squirrels, or rabbits ad nauseam, but they will sit on your lap for hours while you binge-watch movies and pet their fur.
Dr. Mollie Newton, founder of PetMeTwice and a seasoned veterinarian, has loved animals throughout her life. Her deep-rooted passion for animals propelled her to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine from the prestigious Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she acquired extensive knowledge and hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating diverse pet health issues.
Based on her personal and professional experience, Dr. Newton shared with AZ Animals that the shih tzu’s temperament makes for a great family pup. “Known for their affectionate nature, they love cuddling and are generally good-natured. Their gentle disposition makes them ideal for kids and seniors alike.”
Families with infants or young children can rest easy with a shih tzu, knowing they won’t need to juggle frequent walks or aggressive tendencies with a new baby in the house. Single seniors, on the other hand, can contently go about their day without worrying about their pup digging under the fence to get to the neighbor’s cat.
9. Incredibly Adaptable
“Whether you live in an apartment or a house with a yard, shih tzus are versatile and adjust well to different living environments,” remarked Dr. Newton.
The mild temperament of the shih tzu, smaller size, and low-maintenance exercise needs makes for an adaptable family pet. That’s why the shih tzu is a perfect dog for families who live in tiny homes, RVs, vans, and small apartments.
Unlike some other stubborn toy breeds, shih tzu dogs have a high eagerness to please their owners. That means even school-aged children who want to learn how to train a dog can practice with their family pet. Despite popular belief for all toy breeds, shih tzus are incredibly smart. If you keep training sessions short and engaging, they’ll pick up dozens of new tricks in a relatively short amount of time.
This trainability also comes in handy when establishing routines. Busy families who need to potty, crate, and house train their shih tzu will find it much easier than some other breeds who take months — or even a year — to train.
Is Your Next Family Dog a Shih Tzu?
Shih tzus fit perfectly into families of all shapes and sizes, including single seniors, young families with small children, households with multiple pets, families who live on the road, and multi-generation homes.
Shih tzus are adaptable, energetic, great with kids, and loving to their entire family. If you’re looking for a dog breed that’s loyal to its owner and family with a long life span and an adorable personality, you may want to consider a shih tzu as your next dog.