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Shih Tzu Size

When you own a Shih Tzu, you are probably quite aware of the expected, or standard size, of the breed…But will still have many size questions.

Small yet sturdy is what many say...But what does that really mean?

The standard of 9-16 pounds (4.08-7.26 kg) for weight and 8-11 inches (20.3-27.9 cm) for height is simply a standard… It is a guideline, set by the AKC to let us know the range to expect…in general.

While it is true that Tzu shown in conformation events must fit into this standard to win a ribbon, there will be many dogs that fall under or over this size.

For this reason, we will dive into the details of this to let you know:
  • What is normal and what is not
  • What is healthy and what is not
  • The Shih Tzu size in comparison to other toy breed dogs
First, let us look at the Tzu in comparison to some other very popular toy sized dogs (we will be looking at and referring to adult dogs for this).
Shih Tzu size comparison chart
Okay, let's look at the comparative Shih Tzu size chart above, showing this breed alongside other popular toy breed dogs. As you will notice, the Chihuahua is the smallest of all toys..And the Pug is the largest. Please note that height = height from floor to top of shoulders.

One interesting element to note is that the Shih Tzu, in general and per breed standards, is not that much taller than the Yorkie to its left. However, the dog is comparatively much bigger in regard to weight...9-16 pounds compared to 4-7. This is because of the body shape and construction. The Yorkie has a long, straight back. The Shih Tzu is more compact....he has shorter legs and while a shorter back, making for a more compact, almost square dog.

The Shih Tzu is a "full" looking dog. This adds to his unique and beautiful appearance. He is not sleek...He is sturdy. With a gorgeous coat and when well groomed, the dog is just perfect. Small enough to carry around easily yet not too fragile that children cannot play with him.
Growth Time

Many owners are concerned about Shih Tzu size when their dog is still a puppy. It must be noted that the first year is a time of rapid growth....It also may be a time of growth spurts. Nothing may seem to happen during, say, month 3. But then at the age of 4 to 5 months, the dog may grow quite a bit. Therefore, unless your Tzu is having eating issues such as refusing to eat, most owners should not be concerned about growth during this time. It is an up and down time...and it is most difficult to know what the ending adult size will be.


Many owners worry about how their dog compares to other Shih Tzu. You may worry that your dog is too small, or you may be concerned that he or she is too large.

Let's first take on the issue of "too small". With the standard being 9-16 pounds, many breeders will try to produce litters who will end up being on the low end of that scale. They will shoot for the 9-11 lbs. range. With this said, it is impossible produce litters that fit exactly into the goals that one has. Therefore, there will always be those that are smaller and those that are larger.

In some cases, even ethical breeders who have the goal of the lower end of the standard will occasionally have a pup who grows up to be 7, maybe 8 pounds. While outside of the breed standard, if all precautions regarding health were followed during the breeding process and the puppy was given and passed a health check after birth, there should be no major concerns regarding this size. 
Large dog sitting next to Shih Tzu
Now, a major problem is Shih Tzu size that falls very much below the standard. Sadly, there are people who try hard to convince the public that Imperials exist (they do not)....Or that they have the capability to produce healthy "miniature" Shih Tzu. 

We cannot stress enough the fact that miniatures are not a variation of the breed. While there are some groups who state that they are working toward having the "Imperials" or "miniatures" someday become their own separate and distinct dog breed, this will not happen.
It is unethical and unsafe breeding practices that produce very tiny dogs and we cannot even envision such a day as when this would be accepted by any reputable kennel club, and certainly not by the AKC.

Those particular breeders will take 2 dogs of smaller than average size (known as runts) and pair them together. There are no special "royal" bloodlines. The resulting litters are not special. They are puppies that are more prone to health issues such as luxating patella, hip dysplasia and collapsed trachea to name just a few.

Now, let's talk about Shih Tzu size that is larger than the standard. This is to be expected with any dog breed. The standard is a guideline. It is a guideline to follow as to what your goals will be. Therefore, there will always be Tzu who are bigger in size that one may expect.

There are actually 2 different reasons for this:

1) The dog may be overweight - thus his true size should not be larger than normal - changes can be made to bring the dog to a health weight.

2)The dog's may have a larger body frame and bone structure than expected - size will remain. Once a dog is accepted into a family and is loved, size should not matter and the dog, we assume, would be lovingly accepted no matter what

Now, if a Tzu is overweight, a plan of healthier eating along with exercise, over time, will bring the Tzu back to a proper weight. Carrying extra pounds will put stress on the heart. It will also put stress just about everywhere on the body, particularly the knees, hips and back. 

The best method to help with this issue is to never feed without planning. The dog should be on a schedule of 1 to 2 meals per day depending on his age. Snacks should be limited and time should be taken to add fresh vegetables such as baby peas and baby carrots to meals. Also, fruit can be added with blueberries, raspberries and mango just some of the healthy fruits that a Shih Tzu can eat.

Exercise should be increased slowly. If an owner normally takes their Shih Tzu for a 20 minute walk once per day, this should be increased to 30 minutes.

The key is to increase the length of time and not the pace (unless your dog saunters along so slowly that it barely counts as that case, the pace should be a bit more brisk). In addition, some extra cardio such as taking 20 minutes, 3 times a week to allow your Shih Tzu to run around in a safe, enclosed area... Or taking that time to play an active game of fetch will be terrific.

Do not expect a fast change. The healthy and proper way to lower body fat and increase lean muscle is to plan on this happening gradually. Once the dog has lost the extra pounds, one must be careful to not fall back into bad habits (giving table scraps, etc) and to continue with a good feeding and exercise plan.
Remembering the Range

Owners must remember that the range for Shih Tzu size is big... 9 pounds compared to 16 is a very noticeable difference, with both sizes being completely normal. Therefore, 2 Tzu, side by side, may vary quite a bit in regard to size, with both being within the standard and both being healthy.

One must also remember that with a height range of 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder, you can have 2 dogs side by side that are both 10 pounds... if one is 8 inches tall and one is 11 inches tall, obviously the shorter one is going to appear more compact and meatier than the other. This again, is normal and is nothing to be concerned about.
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