Are Shih Tzus a Good Family Dog?

Shih Tzu
Written by The Best of Breeds

Shih Tzus are at the top of our list of dog breeds that are a great fit for families.

We base our recommendation on their ability to get along with family members of all ages, other animal breeds, maintenance, and other factors.

Here’s our in-depth review.

Are Shih Tzus Good With Toddlers?

Shih Tzus are good-natured dogs that bond quickly with babies and kids.

They make for great companions to toddlers are they’re gentle, adaptable, forgiving, and playful.

Whether your child is learning to crawl or walk or you have a three-year-old trying to play catch, your home will be the center of many kiddie activities. And adding a Shih Tzu to the family dynamics can make everything twice the fun.

Not only will your Shih Tzu be eager to get involved, but they’ll also have just the right amount of energy to play with a child. You won’t have to worry about your toddler being bowled over or trampled by a large dog in a moment of excitement.

By the time nap time rolls around, both your child and your family pet will be ready to cuddle and settle down.

Shih Tzus need minimal to zero training to get along with kids.

Other traits that make Shih Tzus a good family pet include their unwavering trust, loyalty, and protectiveness. Even though they are little in size, a Shih Tzu will look out for your kids.

Are Shih Tzus Good With Children?

Shih Tzus and children, irrespective of age, are a perfect combination.

Not only because Shih Tzus have the temperament suitable for children but because your children can learn plenty from your family dog.

With Shih Tzus, your children can enjoy a relationship of love and support. In being involved in the feeding, training, and grooming tasks, your children will experience how rewarding it is to care for someone other than themselves.

The good news is that your Shih Tzu will reciprocate that same level (or more) of attention and care to your kids, creating a solid support system for your youngsters.

Shih Tzus are also highly recommended for kids with autism.

They have a calming influence on children with autism. So having a Shih Tzu around means, you’ll have help easing your child’s emotional storm. There’s no better way to introduce a child with special needs to new activities and routines and overcome fears than through involvement with a family pet’s training. A Shih Tzu’s ability to love unconditionally means your child will have a new best friend.

Shih Tzus take their job of protecting their family seriously. Sure, they are no Labradors or German Shepherds, but their loyalty can make their small frame do the impossible.

Teach Your Children to Play with Shih Tzus

Given their size, Shih Tzus fit in the toy dog category. And while it’s natural for most children to see Shih Tzus as cute and cuddly, they are by no means a toy.

All kids need to learn the proper way to handle and interact with a Shi Tzu. Sure, this breed interacts well with youngsters, but giving your children guidelines and teaching them appropriate behavior when playing with the family dog can make everyone in your household happier and safer.

Note that younger pups can’t handle rough play from over-excited children.

Here are some recommendations that you can reinforce to your children when playing or handling your family dog.

  • Don’t grab your dog out of the blue—you’ll almost always surprise or shock your Shih Tzu, and they may bite in response.
  • Teach your child to lift your Shih Tzu correctly—crouch so you’re level with your pet, cradle your dog with one hand around the rump while the other hand supports your dog’s chest and tummy area.
  • Children should never run, spin, jump and swing their Shih Tzus around.
  • While playing, never pull your Shih Tzu’s tail.
  • Never poke your Shih Tzu’s eyes, belly, or ears. Sure, your child is curious about the dog but teach them as early as possible that this action can hurt the family dog.
  • Shih Tzus tend to nip when excited or scared. Teach your children not to tolerate this behavior, so your dog doesn’t carry it to adulthood.

Are Shih Tzus Good With Seniors?

Shih Tzus are one of the best companions you can partner with senior family members.

Since they are little, a Shih Tzu’s exercise needs are almost negligible—a walk around the house or backyard is sufficient. This means your family pet will be happy sitting next to a senior member, doing nothing, without getting restless or aggressive.

Shih Tzus also live for cuddles and attention, which seniors are usually happy to oblige them with.

Although they require regular grooming, Shih Tzus are surprisingly low-maintenance, another aspect that makes them perfect for seniors. If no member of your household has dander allergies, give your Shih Tzu the shortest possible haircut for its breed, and you’ll have an easier time with grooming.

A walk with the family pet is also an excellent excuse to get your parents or in-laws out of the house for some much-needed Vitamin D.

Shih Tzus are not expensive. Owners don’t need to spend a lot on food, and this breed is easily content with minimal chew toys.

With their petite size, handling Shih Tzus won’t exhaust seniors.

Your golden-aged family member may find a new purpose by caring for a Shih Tzu. Plus, they can benefit your senior loved ones by increasing their “feel-good” serotonin levels. If for no other reason, getting a Shih Tzu is great for boosting your senior family member’s mental and physical health.

Are Shih Tzus Good Apartment Dogs?

The Shih Tzu is one of your best options for a family pet if you live in an apartment.

Here are some reasons why Shih Tzus make excellent apartment dogs:

They have an apartment-friendly size.

Shih Tzus can grow between 8 and 11 inches in height and about 9 to 16 pounds. This size will work in most standard apartment areas.

Additionally, this dog breed cannot handle extreme temperatures, so you can’t keep them outdoors for an extended period due to the possible heat or cold. As a result, Shi Tzus are intended to be primarily indoor dwellers.

Shih Tzus thrive well in confined spaces. With apartment living, space is always a question, just not for a Shih Tzu.

They have a winning temperament.

In general, Shih Tzus are calm and quiet dogs. This makes it a win-win as your neighbors will never complain about your dog barking.

Shih Tzus are very polite neighbors.

Aside from naturally being friendly, Shih Tzus are also excellent watchdogs. You can count on them to protect your territory just like any dog would.

They have what it takes to be left alone.

When you are home, you can expect your Shih Tzu to welcome you and cuddle on your lap for the remainder of the day.

But for the hours that you need to attend to work or run some errands, your Shih Tzu will be content with their toys. This is because they don’t experience as much separation anxiety as other toy breeds.

Are Shih Tzus Good With Cats?

In general, Shih Tzus are cat-friendly dog breeds. They have a high tolerance for cats and, ideally, can live with them without any significant drama.

But still, whether a cat and a dog can live together depends on factors, like their temperaments. Experts also advise that cats and dogs will get along particularly well if introduced at a very young age.

Even better, your Shih Tzu should be younger than your cat. Why? Because Shih Tzus are happy to be followers rather than leaders, and they respect hierarchy.

A Shih Tzu’s need to always be part of a pack can play a pivotal role in ensuring that they get along with their cat siblings.

Since Shih Tzus are laid-back and happy to play, your dog and cat will have plenty of fun-filled moments together. These two also share a great love of cuddling. Your Shih Tzu’s lack of prey drive works to your cat’s advantage—fewer aggression-filled moments and more instances of cuddling.

Shih Tzus are known for being stubborn. And for having very strong likes and dislikes. So, if your Shih Tzu isn’t fond of your cat or vice versa, you can still expect them to tolerate one another, but you’ll have to ensure that each has its territory.

You can do a lot to ensure that your cat and Shih Tzu start off as friends. Read up on how to introduce your cat to your Shih Tzu, and follow low-conflict habits like separate feedings times and areas.


The Shih Tzu is a well-known breed from China characterized by small bodies and short, smooshed faces. They are favored the world over as companions and lapdogs because of their size, winning temperament, love, and loyalty.

Considering they can thrive in any home set-up and with people of all ages, Shih Tzus are one of the best candidates if you are looking for a family dog.

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