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Teacup Shih Tzu: Pictures, Info, Temperament & Care

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

imperial shih tzu sitting on grass

Teacup Shih Tzu: Pictures, Info, Temperament & Care

As far as the cutest toy dogs go, the Teacup Shih Tzu is right there on top of the list. Essentially, it’s the miniature version of the world-famous Shih Tzu breed: it has the same personality and behavioral patterns. Hailing from Tibet, this pooch has been around for thousands of years, and today, it’s just as popular as ever. If you’re looking to adopt an adorable tiny pup with a cheerful, playful, and inquisitive personality, the Little Lion will be a great pick.

Breed Overview

Height:

5–7 inches

Weight:

6–8 pounds

Lifespan:

12–15 years

Colors:

Black, white, red, blue, golden, brindle, liver, gray, mixed

Suitable for:

Families with adult kids, senior owners

Temperament:

Curious, joyful, active, loyal, sociable, slightly stubborn

Despite the compact size, the Teacup Shih Tzu is an energetic doggo. It has a sweet, loving heart and is quick to create strong bonds with its favorite humans. With that, Teacup Shih Tzu dogs can be stubborn and require regular grooming. So, how do you train and maintain this little guy? Should you pick it as a first-time dog owner? Will it get along with kids? What does the perfect diet for a Teacup Shih Tzu look like? Join us, and let’s find the answers together!

Energy
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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.
Trainability
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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.
Health
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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.
Lifespan
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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.
Sociability
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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.

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Teacup Shih Tzu Puppies

teacup shih tzu puppy on white background
Image By: Ken Hurst, Shutterstock

Back in the day, these dogs were treated as royalty. Tibetan monks used to give them to rich and influential Chinese people as a sign of respect. Today, teacups are just as popular, but you won’t have to spend a fortune to get a miniature Shih Tzu pup. On average, a reputable breeder will charge you $1,000–$2,000 for a healthy, well-trained pup or an adult Little Lion—that’s a fair price for a miniature breed.1

Be careful, though, as some breeders will charge $5,000 or even more for this doggo. But that mostly applies to purebred, show-quality canines. If you have a very limited budget, consider trying your luck at an adoption center. It’s possible to get a Shih Tzu there for less than $300; plus, the pup will be vaccinated and treated properly. You might have to wait for a while before a “candidate” becomes available, though.

Now, Teacup Shih Tzus grow pretty fast, but they’re not that hard to catch up to. Do, however, keep in mind that a fully-grown Teacup Shih Tzu weighs 6–8 pounds and rarely goes over 7 inches in height. The puppies are significantly smaller than that, so you’ll have to be very careful not to hurt them!


Temperament & Intelligence of the Teacup Shih Tzu

These chaps aren’t shy, standoffish, or aggressive. On the contrary: with a miniature Shih Tzu, you’ll get a joyful, gracious, and devoted pet. The nickname “Little Lion” fits it perfectly, as the dog has the heart of a beast while being a tiny, adorable pooch. Confident and intelligent, Teacup Shih Tzus aren’t afraid to show it when they’re genuinely happy. Also, you won’t have to worry about this dog making a scene in a public place.

It’s very quick to catch on and adapt to new circumstances. So, if you’ve been raising the dog right (we’ll talk about training/exercises in a moment), a miniature Shih Tzu will become an amazing companion. You can take it on your next shopping spree, morning jog, or a trip to the local beach or park. Miniature Shih Tzu dogs can be a bit headstrong at times, though, due to their wits and upbringing. But this isn’t the most mischievous breed—far from it.

Are These Dogs Good for Families?

The Teacup Shih Tzu is a wonderful pet, thanks to its curious, affectionate, yet not-at-all-destructive nature. These are low-maintenance dogs that don’t need 24/7 babysitting or 4–5 hours of training/exercise. The miniature Shih Tzus aren’t clingy, either, and won’t suffer from separation anxiety unless you leave it alone for a very long time. Another big pro: the Little Lion doesn’t mind living in a relatively small apartment.

As long as you give it enough attention and take it out for short walks outside, the doggo won’t show any signs of anxiety. Again, Shih Tzus are among the most adaptive dog breeds: they handle big changes (including a change of scenery) with ease. And for this reason, it’s a go-to pet for many seniors around the world. Instead of running around the house/yard and causing trouble, this dog is mostly calm, obedient, and likes to hang out on your lap.

What About Little Children?

We wouldn’t necessarily recommend adopting a Teacup Shih Tzu if you have little kids in the house. The reason: children don’t really know the line between playing with a dog and annoying, scaring, or hurting it. Sometimes, they play a little too rough, and for a tiny pooch like the Little Lion, that can end badly. That said, by nature, these dogs are very open and friendly, and they get along with kiddos very well.

In fact, Shih Tzus are widely recognized as one of the most child-friendly pets and can tolerate lots of activity. However, you’ll still have to be there all the time to provide supervision, which is not a realistic scenario for most families. That’s why Teacup Shih Tzus are often adopted by families with adult children that know how to have fun with a toy breed without making it anxious, frustrated, or causing it pain.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

black teacup shih tzu dog walking in the forest
Image By: mothelifeStudio, Shutterstock

Thanks to this dog’s upbeat, ready-for-whatever personality, it’s always happy to meet new dogs and make friends. While it might be a bit nervous if you introduce the Teacup Shih Tzu to a giant doggo, it will get along just fine with most canines its size. Sometimes, these pets do try to assert dominance when introduced to other dogs, but this happens rarely. Besides, with proper training/socialization, this won’t at all be a problem.

So, do your best to introduce the four-legged bud to as many strangers (dogs and humans) as possible while it’s still a pup. That’s how you make sure it doesn’t see other dogs as enemies. Also, when raised together, Teacup Shih Tzus will happily coexist with a fellow dog, no matter how big or small it is. But what about cats, though: will they get along? With a proper introduction, yes, it’s very much possible.

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Things to Know When Owning a Teacup Shih Tzu:

Food & Diet Requirements

Shih Tzus don’t need tons of food to satisfy their nutritional needs. This is especially true for the Teacup Shih Tzu dogs that weigh less than 10 pounds. So, while you should, of course, encourage proper behavior with treats (along with toys and praise), see that you’re not going over the pet’s daily calorie limit. A vet that specializes in toy breeds will help put together the right diet based on the dog’s activity level, temperament, and current weight.

That said, the Teacup Shih Tzu does need its fair share of fats, protein, minerals, and vitamins to stay healthy and fit. It all comes down to picking the right food for it to avoid obesity. Premium-quality meat that doesn’t include any colors or flavors is the way to go here. We would also recommend picking a product that was specifically formulated for toy breeds. Lastly, try to feed the dog 3–4 times a day and keep the meals relatively small.

Exercise

teacup shih tzu dog standing in a meadow
Image Credit: StefanieMueller, Shutterstock

The Teacup Shih Tzu is an energetic dog, but it’s not a particularly strong or enduring breed. That’s because, originally, it was bred to be a companion, not a record-breaker at dog shows. A regular walk or jog around the block will be enough to keep it in shape. We’re talking about a 20–30-minute stroll. Marathon runs, hikes, and other “extreme” activities aren’t a good choice for a Teacup Shih Tzu, though.

These pooches have short legs and won’t be able to keep up. Focus your attention on puzzle games, as these dogs need quite a lot of mental stimulation. Tug-of-war is another great game for bonding with your Teacup Shih Tzu and ensuring it doesn’t get bored but stays motivated. So, short walks outdoors plus challenging indoor games are the perfect combo.

Training

Socialization from a young age: that’s the best “tool” in any Teacup Shih Tzu owner’s arsenal. If you put time and effort into training the dog while it’s still a pup (around 8 weeks old), you’ll be able to grow it into a confident, open-hearted, and sweet-tempered adult. And it will happily make friends with other dogs. Start slow, with simple commands like “sit” and “stay” and go from there. These intelligence chaps learn new tricks very quickly.

Keep the training sessions short and reward obedience with treats and lots of praise. Do that, and the dog will stay interested in the training process and see it as a game with a reward at the end, not a tedious task. Be patient and consistent yet firm and very thorough. Don’t yell at the dog or use harsh words, but don’t let bad behavior go unnoticed, either. Only reward the pet for following commands: that’s how you turn it into a well-mannered, socially active canine citizen.

Grooming ✂️

teacup shih tzu dog lying on the couch
Image Credit: David Soanes Photography, Shutterstock

Compared to other dogs, Teacup Shih Tzus are less likely to drool. On top of that, they have a very low shedding level. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to brush their coats, though. On average, a gentle brush 2–3 times a week should do the trick. This way, you’ll get to keep it nice and soft instead of letting the fur get tangled up. Regular brushing also helps remove any dust and dirt that might be trapped in the hair.

If it’s a long, lush coat, daily brushing with a wire brush will be necessary. The topknot and cute doggo mustache require daily care as well. If the pet doesn’t have a topknot, cut the hair on top of its head to protect the eyes. As for bathing, do it once in 3–4 weeks and also when the fur gets very dirty on your next trip to the park. Trim the nails every other week and clean the ears regularly (cotton balls are great for this) to prevent bacteria from “setting up shop”.

Health and Conditions

Shih Tzus are generally healthy dogs that live for up to 15 years. However, miniature pooches are susceptible to dysplasia, PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), cataracts, and ear infections. They also have a low tolerance for heat and don’t like to swim. Here’s a closer look at the most common medical issues that a Little Lion owner might have to face:

Minor Conditions
  • Corneal dryness and inflammation
  • Cataracts and other eye problems
  • Retinal detachment
  • Various allergies/bacteria
  • Diabetes (caused by obesity)
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patella
  • PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Portosystemic shunt
  • Glomerulonephropathy
  • Brachycephalic syndrome

Male vs Female

The boys are a bit more headstrong and independent than the girls. And they tend to be more aggressive and overzealous. The females are slightly smaller. More importantly, they take less time and effort to potty train (since they’re a bit more easygoing). In this regard, Teacup Shih Tzus aren’t very different from other breeds. But ultimately, it all depends on the dog. Some female Shih Tzus can have male traits and vice versa.

The best thing about these dogs: no matter the sex, they’re always sweet-natured, eager to please, and relatively easy to train.

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Top 3 Little-Known Facts About the Teacup Shih Tzu

1. In Mandarin, Shih Tzu Means “Little Lion”

The Shih Tzu dogs have been around for at least a thousand years, with their ancestors dating back to 1000 BC. They originated in Tibet and were incredibly popular in China. In Mandarin, the literal translation for Shih Tzu is “Little Lion”. So, where does this name come from? Is it because of the lush coat? Well, according to an ancient Tibetan legend, the Buddhist God of Learning had a pet lion dog that could turn into a real lion.

Shih Tzus aren’t particularly strong or capable of pulling carts, scaring away burglars, or protecting livestock. They have two big selling points: the miniature size and “royal” status.


2. These Dogs Almost Went Extinct Once

The Communist Revolution in China that lasted for many decades was very close to wiping out the entire Shih Tzu population in the country. It all started with the passing of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. She single-handedly created a new breeding program that included Pugs, Pekingese dogs, and, of course, Shih Tzus. Sadly, when the empress passed away, the program failed, and back then, it was almost impossible to find a Little Lion in China.

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

3. The Army Brought Shih Tzus Into the US

So, how did these lovely dogs make it into the States? Who brought them into the country, and when? We have the military to thank for that. First, they were imported from China to the UK. After that, the British introduced them to the rest of Europe. Back in the 1940s–50s, quite a few American soldiers were deployed in various European countries. Some of them found the Shih Tzu dogs to be extra cute and took them back to the US.

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Final Thoughts

Dog fans in the market for a loyal, sociable, and friendly pooch won’t be disappointed by the Teacup Shih Tzu. True, this tiny dog won’t be able to protect your house, carry heavy loads, or even join you on a long hike. But that’s compensated by the cute face and adaptive nature. Besides, with early socialization, you can shape the dog into a well-adjusted, affectionate, and devoted pet.

The Teacup Shih Tzu does have a stubborn streak, but, for the most part, it’s an obedient, eager-to-follow commands type of pooch. And it’s very easy to take care of. A 30-minute walk, a game of tug-of-war to keep its mind stimulated, and premium-quality food will be enough to get you started with a miniature Shih Tzu. It can be equally happy on a large property and a tiny apartment.

Also, while long coats do need to be brushed daily, grooming this dog isn’t at all hard. Lastly, with proper training, Teacup Shih Tzus can get along with fellow dogs, little kids, and even felines. So, large families, senior dog enthusiasts, and single folks looking for an adorable dog to join their “ranks” and get all cuddly should put these royal pups on their lists!

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Featured Image Credit: Tanya Consaul Photography, Shutterstock

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