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Imperial Shih Tzu: Pictures, Info, Temperament & Care

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

black shih tzu dog walking in the forest

Imperial Shih Tzu: Pictures, Info, Temperament & Care

Imperial Shih Tzus, also known as Chinese Imperial dogs or tiny teacup Shih Tzus, are a miniature version of the standard Shih Tzu. The word “Shih Tzu” means “little lion” and is descriptive of this dog’s stature. Although tiny, it is well-boned, proportionally muscled, and sturdy enough to make a great companion for folks who love cuddly pets.

Are you eager to know more about the Imperial Shih Tzu? Dive in for a detailed breed profile of this dog. We will also analyze its temperament, intelligence, care needs, and more.

Breed Overview


5 to 6 inches


5 to 7 pounds


10 to 16 years


Cream, yellow, golden, red

Suitable for:

Brown, white, black, brindle, gold, gray, combination of colors


Affectionate, snuggly, happy, friendly, outgoing, loyal, and playful

Imperial Shih Tzus are similar to the Shih Tzu breed but smaller. This teacup version of the standard Shih Tzu started in the 1970s when breeders deliberately bred the most miniature dogs in their stocks. Although kennel clubs do not recognize Imperial Shih Tzus because they are lighter than the standard 9 pounds, these canines are descendants of Lhasa Pekingese and Apso dogs.

If you desire a snuggly and affectionate pet, it’s hard to go wrong with the Imperial Shih Tzu. The breed has a bubbly character, is people-oriented, and is even tolerant of kids and other pets. Moreover, its overall looks give it serious bragging points thanks to its long, flowing coat and large, expressive eyes.

Imperial Shih Tzu Characteristics

Imperial Shih Tzu Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog paw

Imperial Shih Tzu Puppies

imperial shih tzu puppy lying on the floor
Image By: Patrick Fhel Tolentino, Shutterstock

Imperial Shih Tzu puppies have a happy-go-lucky character. They are curious and need plenty of supervision to stay out of trouble. Also, they have a stubborn streak and use their charm to get things done their way. It is best to begin puppy training immediately after your pup gets home. Imperial Shih Tzus are generally challenging to train, and conditioning them to unlearn undesired behaviors can be difficult.

The key reason to begin training is to get your pups accustomed to certain routines and etiquettes. Keep your sessions short and use treats, petting, and praises to reinforce desired behavior.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Imperial Shih Tzu

Imperial Shih Tzus are intelligent in some, but not all, dog intelligence dimensions. They rank at number 70 in their work and obedience intelligence, which is low based on dog intelligence standards.

That said, this dog breed has high adaptive intelligence. If you think your Imperial Shih Tzu is smart, that is probably because it scores high in its ability to learn for itself or from past experiences. It also has sharp instincts and an innate ability to sense impending danger and even understand human emotions.

To make up for their lower-than-average intelligence, Imperial Shih Tzus have warm and charming personalities. They are loyal, affectionate, friendly, and outgoing. Most importantly, they love cuddles and can easily make you forget the frustrating training sessions.

Are These Dogs Good for Families?🏡

When trained and socialized early, most Imperial Shih Tzus remain generally well-behaved. They are cuddly and affectionate with all family members, including kids. These dogs are hardly ever aggressive and are even polite with strangers. Although they could bark or act aloof when they see a new face, biting is not their nature.

Generally, Imperial Shih Tzus make excellent family pets because of their social, friendly, and affectionate personalities. They adapt well to different settings and can lead happy lives in large homes with big yards or tiny urban apartments.

Although your tiny teacup Shih Tzu cannot defend you, it is a good watchdog that can alert you if something seems off.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?🐶 😽

imperial shih tzu dog lying on the couch
Image By: David Soanes Photography, Shutterstock

Chinese Imperial dogs are loving, friendly, and easygoing. They are social creatures that get along with everyone, including other pets. Did we mention that Imperial Shih Tzus have high adaptive intelligence? These dogs can blend into any setting, including a multi-pet household.


Things to Know When Owning an Imperial Shih Tzu

If you are ready to welcome this dog into your home, here are a few things you should know about its care needs.

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

Teacup dog breeds have unique dietary requirements because of their small size. Although they don’t eat as much as larger dog breeds, they have higher metabolic rates, meaning they require more calories per pound.

Generally, you should feed your Imperial Shih Tzu a wet or semi-moist calorie-dense diet. Ensure the food contains smaller pieces that are easy to chew and digest. It is also essential for the food to have at least 18% protein and moderate amounts of calcium, fats, and fatty acids.

Technically, your dog does not need carbohydrates. However, carbs in moderate amounts can be a valuable energy source alongside fats and proteins. They also form part of the roughage your dog needs for healthy bowel movements. If you are unsure what to feed your Imperial Shih Tzu, you can seek recommendations from your vet.


imperial shih tzu dog jumps over a tree trunk in the forest
Image Credit: StefanieMueller, Shutterstock

Imperial Shih Tzus experience short bursts of energy that don’t last long. Often, they like to cuddle or nap right after a spike of energy. They are laid-back and don’t have overly demanding exercise needs.

Still, your dog needs daily exercise to remain happy and healthy. Roughly 15 to 20 minutes of physical stimulation can help release pent-up energy.


Imperial Shih Tzus are playful dogs and although they are certainly not dumb, they are not the most intelligent canines in the dog kingdom. They can be hard to housebreak and need lots of command repetition.

When training your dog, patience is a virtue you must uphold. You must also be firm and consistent because this breed prefers play over training. Your doggo will not always listen when you give commands, and it’s easy to feel frustrated.

Fortunately, a few treats can make your training sessions more productive. Imperial Shih Tzus are treat-motivated and can feel more inclined to focus on training with the promise of getting a tasty treat afterward.

Grooming ✂️

imperial shih tzu dog standing in a meadow
Image By: StefanieMueller, Shutterstock

Among the most prominent features of the Imperial Shih Tzu is its luscious coat. Fortunately, the breed is a low-shedder. Although daily brushing is necessary to prevent matting and tangling, you can relax knowing you’ll not deal with dog fur on every inch of your home.

It is also vital to regularly trim the hair around the eyes to prevent eye irritation and keep your furry companion looking its best. Also, bathe your pooch every other month.

Like most teacup dogs, Imperial Shih Tzus are prone to dental problems. Brushing your dog’s teeth every other day is essential to avoid dental issues. Moreover, invest in quality nail clippers and clip your pet’s claws at least once each month.

Health and Conditions❤️

Imperial Shih Tzus are generally healthy, primarily when bred by an ethical breeder. They have a life expectancy of 10 to 16 years, although it is common for some dogs to live even longer.

Unfortunately, even ethically bred Imperial Shih Tzus can be prone to health concerns common to teacup dogs. They include the following serious and minor health conditions.

Minor Conditions
  • Otitis externa (ear infection)
  • Orthopedic problems
Serious Conditions
  • Brachycephalic syndrome
  • Eye issues

Male vs Female

Imperial Shih Tzus are cute, adorable dogs, irrespective of gender. Although both sexes share similar average weight, height, and lifespan, slight differences in their temperaments can make one gender more suitable for specific households.

For instance, males are more attentive and affectionate. They also bond quickly with people and other pets and are even more accepting of strangers. On the other hand, females are more confident and assertive. They prefer pledging their unwavering loyalty to one family member.

Apart from that, neutered Imperial Shih Tzus are much the same. They are irresistible charmers who take their roles as family pets and lapdogs seriously.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Imperial Shih Tzu

1. Imperial Shih Tzus Are Expensive.

Imperial Shih Tzus cost between $2,000 and $3,000 and can fetch an even higher price when dealing with an ethical and well-reputed teacup breeder.

2. They Are Sometimes Called Chrysanthemum Dogs

Imperial Shih Tzus got the nickname “Chrysanthemum Dogs” as soon as they landed in England in the 1930s. They got the name because the fur on their face grows upwards from the nose, making them look like a Chrysanthemum flower.

imperial shih tzu sitting on grass
Image By: Tanya Consaul Photography, Shutterstock

3. They Are Rare Regal Dogs

Imperial Shih Tzus are regal dogs. They are rare because they were so beloved that Chinese royals declined any requests to trade or give them away. Although they are one of the oldest dog breeds in history, they remained strictly in China until the 1930s.


Final Thoughts

Shih Tzus make excellent therapy pets because of their ability to understand human emotions. They were bred to be companion animals, and it’s no wonder they get along well with adults, kids, seniors, and even other pets.

If you are looking for a loyal, loving, and cute furry companion, this is a breed you must consider. Thanks to its cheerful personality, innocent facial expression, and charming, wide eyes, the Imperial Shih Tzus can easily become the best pet you have ever had. After all, it is a dog fit for royalty!

Featured Image Credit: mothelifeStudio, Shutterstock

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