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Shih Tzu vs Yorkie: Key Differences & Similarities (With Pictures)

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Shih Tzu vs Yorkie

Shih Tzu vs Yorkie: Key Differences & Similarities (With Pictures)

The Shih Tzu and the Yorkie are both considered toy breeds and are roughly the same size, which can make the choice of which to get for your family a seemingly difficult one. However, while they do have their similarities, some big differences may swing the decision one way or the other, according to your personal and family circumstances.

For a start, the Shih Tzu, being one of the smallest breeds of dog in the world, is a little smaller and this can make it less tolerant of young children. The Yorkie is potentially also more of a challenge to groom and maintain, although both have a challenging double coat that grows continuously. Yorkies are also considered more difficult to train. However, they tend to be livelier, which is great for owners that like to get out and exercise, and their tiny size makes them very popular as lap dogs.

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Visual Differences

Shih Tzu vs Yorkie or Yorkshire Terrier - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – Shih Tzu (Goochie Poochie Grooming, Pexels) | Right – Yorkie or Yorkshire Terrier (Nel_Botha-NZ, Pixabay)

At a Glance

Shih Tzu
  • Average height (adult): 8–11 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 9–16 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–16 years
  • Exercise: 60 minutes a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate/High
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Usually
  • Trainability: Difficult to house train
  • Average height (adult): 8–9 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 4–8 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–16 years
  • Exercise: 60 minutes a day
  • Grooming needs: High
  • Family-friendly: Typically, but may stay away from small children
  • Other pet-friendly: With patient introduction
  • Trainability: Difficult to house train


Shih Tzu Overview

shih tzu puppy running on grass
Image Credit: Toberoon, Pixabay

Shih Tzu means “little lion”. According to legend, the Tibetan Buddhist God of Learning once traveled with a little lion dog that could transform into a full-sized lion, when required. The Shih Tzu was bred as a companion and was bred to have a similar appearance to that of a lion, although obviously much smaller. Another link to lions is that merchant Marco Polo once described Shih Tzus as being kept with lions by Mongolian leader Kubla Khan. The little lion dogs kept the lions calm.

As a companion dog, the Shih Tzu is relatively low energy and enjoys spending as much time as permitted with its owner. One of the oldest dog breeds in the world, the Shih Tzu may have originated more than 10,000 years ago.

Personality / Character

The Shih Tzu is a companion dog and has never been bred as a working dog. As such, the breed wants to spend as much time as possible with its humans. Owners that are looking for a lap dog need look no further, but this need for companionship does mean that the breed can suffer separation anxiety if left alone for too long a period. The Shih Tzu is also considered friendly. It will get along with strangers, as well as family, and the breed is known to enjoy the company of most children.

close up of a white shih tzu dog
Image Credit: Julia Barrantes, Shutterstock


Training can be difficult, and the Shih Tzu is known to be difficult to house-train. Most experts recommend crate training as a means of encouraging good toileting patterns. The Shih Tzu is otherwise considered quite easy to train because it is loving, loyal, eager to please, and enjoys having fun with its owner. It can take longer to train than it would with working breeds or hyper-intelligent dogs like Collies, but with patience, you will get there. Socialization is vital for this breed, otherwise, you can end up with a shy and timid Shih Tzu that is scared of strangers.

Health & Care

Unfortunately, the Shih Tzu is prone to a variety of health problems, although it does have a life expectancy of up to 16 years in most cases. The breed is prone to allergies as well as joint dysplasia, patellar luxation, and problems with the bladder and kidney. Ear infections and eye problems can also be more common in this breed than in the average dog.

Shih tzu dog with red bow on head running on leash on green grass
Image Credit: Przemek Iciak, Shutterstock

Suitable For:

Shih Tzus are suitable for families that want an attentive, affection-loving small dog and that have time and patience to dedicate to house training, but don’t necessarily have hours a day to walk their new companion.

  • Agreeable, friendly dog that gets along with most people and animals
  • Keen to learn and eager to please
  • Doesn’t require extensive exercise
  • Can be difficult to house train
  • Can be timid without adequate house training

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Yorkie Overview

yorkshire terrier dog standing on grass
Image Credit: Steve Bruckmann, Shutterstock

The Yorkshire Terrier was bred from traditional Terriers in Yorkshire, England, where it would have been used to catch rats and small vermin, although the terriers of the time would have been larger than today’s examples. The Yorkie does exhibit some terrier traits, and it can be a vocal dog. But it is also known as a good companion dog that will form a close bond with its owner. It can be difficult to train, though, and will not usually grow too close to young children.

Personality / Character

The Yorkie is a confident little dog that is smart and likes to adventure. It enjoys time outdoors and meeting new people. However, some are also very clingy with their owners, wanting to spend as much time as possible with them and following them around the house. Because the Yorkie is such a small dog, it can sensibly choose to stay away from small children. Always supervise any time spent between very young children and dogs, especially with dogs like Yorkies. If the child grabs a handful of fur or pulls an ear, the Yorkie might nip.

Yorkshire Terrier dog sitting on the sand
Image Credit: Digoarpi, Shutterstock


As a terrier, the breed is active and while it is small, it does require daily exercise. Expect to spend around an hour a day exercising your little one. This can include a couple of walks, and it may also incorporate agility or other canine sports classes that are deemed suitable for breeds of this size.


If you start training a Yorkie early, you will enjoy better results than if you train at an older age and try to correct unwanted behavior. The Yorkie is intelligent so as long as yours is eager to please and you can grab and keep its attention, training shouldn’t prove too difficult. But this is another small breed that experts recommend crate training to aid in the house-training process.

yorkie or yorkshire terrier fetching a dog ball toy
Image Credit: Bonnie Kittle, Unsplash

Health & Care

Patellar luxation is a fairly common problem with this breed and occurs when the knee cap is not lined up properly with the femur and the tibia. Other potential health problems include progressive retinal atrophy, portosystemic shunt, and hypoglycemia. It can be beneficial to get pet insurance for this type of breed and ensure that it includes these conditions or as many of these conditions as possible.

Suitable For:

Yorkies are suitable for families and individuals that are looking for a relatively active dog that will get along with older children and adults.

  • Adaptable and can live in apartments
  • Smart, intelligent breed
  • Tends to form a close bond with its humans
  • May not be too keen on small children
  • Can be difficult to potty train


How Do They Compare?


Owners should always start training their dogs at a young age. It is a lot easier to develop good habits than to correct bad ones. Both the Shih Tzu and most Yorkies develop a close bond with their owner and will be keen to please. The Yorkie is generally considered smarter and, in this respect, it may prove easier to train more commands. Both breeds are considered difficult to effectively potty train, however, and experts recommend crate training to assist in this area.

yorkshire terrier puppy gives paw his owner
Image Credit: Yolya Ilyasova, Shutterstock


The Shih Tzu and the Yorkie are very small, or teacup, breeds. These breeds have fairly minimal exercise requirements, but they both need exercise. Generally, you should provide an hour of walks a day, ideally split into two walks that are evenly spaced out. Walking a dog not only helps with their physical development and maintenance but can also encourage good emotional and mental health. The Yorkie does have slightly higher exercise needs and may benefit from being given agility or other canine sports classes for physical and mental fulfillment. Both dogs need early socialization to ensure that they do not grow up too timid or shy.


While these breeds are both considered good family dogs, the Yorkie does not tend to do as well with very small children. Small children can tend to grab at fur and ears, and the tiny size of the Yorkie means this can cause pain. In any case, any time your dog spends with very young children should always be supervised, to prevent accidents and harm from befalling either the child or the dog.

little girl with her Shih Tzu dog in vintage color tone
Image Credit: A3pfamily, Shutterstock

Grooming Requirements

The Shih Tzu and the Yorkie both have double coats that grow continuously. They both need regular brushing, ideally every day but at least two or three times a week. They will both also need occasional cuts to ensure that tufts and areas of longer hair do not get too long and difficult to manage.


Which Breed Is Right for You?

The Shih Tzu and the Yorkie both fall into the teacup category and both tend to be popular with senior owners because, while they do require exercise, they don’t need too much in the way of daily walks. If you have young children, the Shih Tzu may be the better option of these two breeds, however, as it is more understanding and forgiving of being grabbed.

Because the Yorkie requires a little more exercise, this is the better breed for those that like to get out and about or want to enroll in agility or canine sports classes with their dog. Both breeds can be difficult to effectively potty train, and new owners would benefit from having a crate to help with this, especially during the early days but potentially throughout the dog’s life.

Featured Image Credit: Top – Shih Tzu (Tatiana Gasich, Shutterstock) | Bottom – Yorkie or Yorkshire Terrier (Mirko Fabian, Unsplash)

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