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How Big Do Shih Tzus Get? (Size + Growth Chart)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

shih tzu dog running outdoors with tongue out

The Shih Tzu is a firm favorite amongst small dog lovers, ranking in the top 10 most popular toy dogs to own as a pet.1 If you know or own a Shih Tzu, you likely understand why this is the case. They may be small in stature, but they are huge in personality. These gorgeous, affectionate, and fun-loving pups make the perfect companion for anyone looking for a doting buddy or cuddly lapdog.

Although their adult size can vary, it is rare for Shih Tzus to exceed 15 pounds when fully grown. In this article, we’ll look at their expected size and growth patterns through the various stages of their development.

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Facts About Shih Tzus

Take a look at these fascinating facts about the charming Shih Tzu:
  • “Shih Tzu” is a Mandarin phrase meaning “little lion”.
  • Many people believe that Shih Tzus come from China, but this is incorrect. Shih Tzu experts generally agree that they originated in Tibet.
  • They are an ancient breed. Official documentation extends back 1,000 years, but there is evidence that they may have existed as far back as 1,000 BC.
  • The breed almost went extinct in the early 1900s at the beginning of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Fourteen Shih Tzus were rescued and all modern Shih Tzus are descended from those 14 dogs.
  • Believe it or not, Shih Tzus are incredibly athletic! They are muscularly built and nimble and known to excel in agility competitions.
  • They have stunning, silky coats that, although requiring constant grooming to remain tangle-free, are also considered “hypoallergenic”.
  • Shih Tzus are popular with the stars. Celebrities like Beyonce, Colin Farrell, Nicole Richie, Mariah Carey, Bill Gates, Queen Elizabeth II, and Bill Gates have all owned or currently own a Shih Tzu.

shih tzu dog playing with training toy on the grass
Image Credit: Castorly Stock, Pexels

Shih Tzu Size and Growth Chart

Every dog is different and it’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all approach. Nevertheless, most Shih Tzus will probably fall within the height and weight ranges listed in the below chart.

While there is not a significant difference in sizes between males and females, males may approach the higher end of each range. If they don’t, or, if a female does, this does not at all mean that there is something wrong with their development.

Age Weight Range Height Range
4 weeks 1–1.5 pounds 2 inches or less
8 weeks 2–3.5 pounds 2–5 inches
3 months 3.5–7 pounds 3–6 inches
4 months 5–9 pounds 4–7 inches
6 months 6.5–12 pounds 5–8 inches
9 months 8–15 pounds 6–9 inches
11 months 9–16 pounds 8–11 inches

When Does a Shih Tzu Stop Growing?

Shih Tzus officially reach adulthood at one year old, but most have already finished growing between 10–12 months old. Some individuals may continue to grow a little beyond the one-year mark, but this is the exception and not the norm.

Some male dogs, especially those that remain unneutered, might fill out a little in their second year of life. The emphasis is on “a little” and, once again, every individual is unique, so don’t be alarmed if this doesn’t happen.

small Shih Tzu outdoors
Image Credit: Tatiana Gasich, Shutterstock

Factors Affecting the Size of Shih Tzus

Not all pups of the same age will be the same size at various stages of their growth and development. This is because there are so many factors that can affect their growth, such as genetics, diet, existing health conditions, and, to a lesser degree, sterilization status.

Your Shih Tzus parentage and direct bloodlines are going to determine its “blueprint”. Within any breed, there are naturally bigger or slighter individuals. This is simply how they are built—it’s in their DNA. Except for unacceptable cases of cruelty and neglect, no amount of feeding-up or careful dieting will change their bone structure. Also written into their genetic code are the instructions for how they develop and when.

Having said that, if a Shih Tzu is malnourished as it is growing and developing, it may not reach its full genetic potential in terms of size.

If your Shih Tzu is unfortunate enough to suffer a disease at some stage in its life, this could affect its ultimate adult size. If the disease happens during adulthood, they may lose weight, and in rare cases, they may struggle to regain this weight.

At the other end of this scale, doggies that are overfed or fed an incorrect diet may be prone to obesity. They may be temporarily or permanently bigger than nature intended.

Ideal Diet for Maintaining a Healthy Weight

It is advisable to feed a nutritionally balanced, low-carbohydrate food that is high in a single source of protein and free from artificial ingredients, fillers, sugars, and colorants. A food that has fewer ingredients is usually going to be better than one that has a huge ingredient list. Ensure that you choose a feed that is specifically formulated for toy breeds as well.

Puppies under the age of three months old should receive age-appropriate meals either 5–6 times a day, or they should be free-fed (fresh food available 24 hours a day).

Puppies between the ages of three and 12 months should be fed three times a day with food formulated specifically for this stage of their development.

Adult Shih Tzus can be fed 2–3 times a day. Remember that toy breeds cannot be fed once a day like many large dog breeds can.

Hungry Shih Tzu puppy holding an empty bowl
Image Credit: Rasulov, Shutterstock

How to Measure Your Shih Tzu

A Shih Tzu’s height is measured from the ground in a straight line, perpendicularly, to their withers. The withers are the highest point between their shoulders. You need to ensure that your Shih Tzu is on firm level ground and standing perfectly still. This last point is often easier said than done, particularly if your Shih Tzu is a boisterous youngster!

Measuring your Shih Tzu’s weight can be done in two ways, depending on their age and size. If your fur baby is still a little pup of less than about three months old, you can use a good kitchen scale with a large plastic bowl in which to place the pup. If your pup is older than this or is fully grown, the best means of weighing them is with a normal bathroom scale, with you holding them. Weigh yourself first, then weigh yourself holding your fur baby, then subtract the first weight from the second and you will be left with your pup’s weight.

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You can be guaranteed that a Shih Tzu will never be anything more than a toy size. If you’re looking for a cuddly companion with whom to share your apartment, a Shih Tzu is a great choice. They are even able to keep you company on long walks or the occasional short jog.

The figures listed here should give you an idea of how your Shih Tzu will grow and develop. Remember that each dog is an individual and may not conform exactly to the norms. If you are worried that your Shih Tzu is not developing at a healthy rate, then it is always a good idea to chat with your veterinary specialist.

Featured Image Credit: Nikolay Tchaouchev, Unsplash

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