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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.

This breed is described as small yet sturdy; however, what does that really mean?
The standard size of the Shih Tzu is 9-16 pounds (4.08-7.26 kg) for weight and 8-11 inches (20.3-27.9 cm) for height. These are measurements set by the AKC to serve as a guideline for breeders and to judge conformation in the show ring. 

While most Shih Tzu will indeed fall into this range, there are some that will be a bit under and some that will be a tad larger. Here, we'll cover:
  • How the Shih Tzu compares in size to other popular toy breeds
  • Size and body construction
  • The elements of being both under and over-sized. 

The Shih Tzu Compared in Size to Other Toy Breeds

It is interesting to see how the Shih Tzu compares to others. As you'll see, the Chihuahua is the smallest of all toys, both in weight and height, and the Pug is the largest. Do note that height does not include the neck or head; it measured from floor to withers (top of the shoulder blades). 

One interesting element is that the Shih Tzu can be the same height as the Pomeranian. However, in regard to weight there is a big difference, 9-16 pounds compared to 3-7 pounds. This is because of body shape and construction.

Size and Shaping of the Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu has relatively heavy bone set and is rather compact. This is covered in the breed standard as so, "... must be compact, solid, carrying good weight and substance."
He is almost as tall as he is long. Per the AKC standard, "Length between withers and root of tail is slightly longer than height at withers." If you add in his height that includes the neck and head, he will - overall - be taller than long. 

His legs are moderate size, more short than long, "... must never be so high stationed as to appear leggy, nor so low stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty."

The two other elements that lend to a Shih Tzu being sturdy and compact are his wide chest "... Broad and deep", and his compressed muzzle. 

To summarize, the Shih Tzu is a sturdy dog with heavy bone set and a good weight to him; this makes this breed a great choice for those wanting a toy sized dog, but with enough substance that he is not overly frail. The Shih Tzu is easy to carry around, yet not too fragile that children cannot play with him.

Growth Phases

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, yet this is usually due to fast spurts and stalls. Expected growth is almost never linear. 

For example, nothing much may seem to happen at the age of 4 months, but then a Shih Tzu may gain quite a bit in month 5 to make up for the stall. 

This breed finishes growing to its adult size between the 9 month and 12 month mark, though a few will continue to fill out just a bit up until 15 months. 


Some Shih Tzu will end up a bit smaller than the standard. This is sometimes due to a breeder purposefully producing smaller than standard dogs, and sometimes due to simple genetics where a pup will be on the smaller end of the scale. 

It should be noted that there is no such breed as the Imperial Shih Tzu or any other term meant to lead one to think that there is a variety smaller than the standard 9-16 pounds. 

If a Shih Tzu is 1 to 2 pounds smaller than expected (7 or 8 pounds as an adult), this is generally nothing to be concerned with. 

There can be issues, however, if a Shih Tzu is a great deal smaller than the standard. When you start getting to the 6, 5 or even 4 lb. range, these are often dogs that are bred down much too small. You'll start to see issues with hypoglycemia. 
In addition, these smaller than natural dogs will be more prone to health issues such as luxating patella, hip dysplasia, and collapsed trachea just to name a few. 

It is unethical and unsafe breeding practices that produce very tiny dogs; often done by pairing together two 'runts', to be blunt. 

We cannot even envision such a day as when this would be accepted by any reputable kennel club, and certainly not by the AKC.

Oversized Shih Tzu Dogs

Whenever you have a set maximum size for a breed, this is sure to be exceeded in some cases. It is simply not possible for every single Shih Tzu to be under 16 pounds, without ever going over. 

Therefore, if your Shih Tzu is larger than you expected, this is not necessarily a bad thing. 

There are 2 different reasons why this may be:

1)The dog 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. 

This said, if a Shih Tzu is much larger than the standard, in the 18 to 20 lb. range and this is due to body structure, he/she should not be bred as size is genetic and will be passed down to resulting litters.

It is not uncommon for an owner to have a large Shih Tzu and be really taken by surprise because both dam and sire where smaller dogs. This can happen because size is a genetic trait that can be passed down up to 5 generations back. 
larger than average Shih Tzu
This is Travis, a 25.5 pound Shih Tzu that is quite a bit larger than average. Both of his brothers were bigger than normal too (24+ lbs.) His owner, Thomas Kubat, tells us that Travis runs like a gazelle, enjoying running full tilt into snow piles and is very friendly with people. 
So, a Shih Tzu can have parents on the low end of the standard, but get his size from his grandparents, great-grandparents, or even relatives further down the line. 
2) 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 healthy weight.

Due to the Shih Tzu's compact body structure, it can be difficult to ascertain if there is or is not a weight problem, particularly if the coat is a moderate to long length. There may be times after a bath, when the coat is wet, that you will be able to see that the tummy is extended out more than it should be. 

However, if you have any questions about whether or not your Shih Tzu is too large due to excess weight, this is best confirmed by your veterinarian. 

If it is found that the dog needs to lose a few pounds, this can be accomplished by a combination of offering few calories and more exercise.

Since good-sized Shih Tzu will have hearty appetites and cutting down on a dog's food is never a fun thing for owner or dog, you'll find that it is best to keep offering the same amount of food, but decreasing the calories that it holds.

Making a switch to the low calorie formula of the food that you offer is a good idea, as long as you know that you are giving your Shih Tzu one of the better dog food brands.
In addition, offering low-calorie treats like Fruitables Skinny Minis Apple Bacon Treats or one of their other great flavors can be a great way to allow a Shih Tzu to be rewarded and stay satiated while helping him shed excess weight. 

Finally, you'll want to gradually increase the dog's activity level. The goal should be two walks per day, for at least 20 minutes. Five minutes can often be added to each outing without causing undue stress on the body. 

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 exercise, in which case, the pace should be a bit more brisk). 

Remembering the Range

Owners must remember that the range for how big a Shih Tzu can be has a wide margin of 7 pounds (9 to 16), so when any two Shih Tzu dogs stand side-by-side, they can be quite different in size from each other, but both can be healthy, 'normal', and within the standard for the breed. 

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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