Are you considering getting a Shih Tzu but don’t know whether to get a male or a female? Unlike some breeds, Shih Tzus are similarly sized regardless of whether they’re male or female. Shih Tzus were bred as a whole to be companion lap dogs and share similar characteristics, although you might find that the males tend to build stronger bonds with their humans than their slightly aloof female counterparts. Both will likely make adorable pets who like to feel your love and will give you all of theirs. Let’s learn more about male vs female Shih Tzus so that you can decide which one is right for you.
At a Glance
Shih Tzu 101
Known as the Lion Dog, the Shih Tzu has been associated with royalty since ancient times. They’re believed to have been originally bred by Tibetan monks, and they gained notoriety because they were often given as gifts to the Chinese emperors. Unfortunately, their royal connection cost them their lives during the Communist takeover in the 20th century. Thankfully though, British trading ships had already transported a bountiful breeding stock to the West before the native dogs sadly perished.
Today, Shih Tzus are adored by people across the globe. They tend to kindle close connections with their owners and don’t ask for much. Perfect for apartment living, Shih Tzus don’t even need that much exercise. A quick half-hour walk each day should be enough to keep them healthy. Their long silky coat does require daily brushing, however, which is more maintenance than what is required for most dog breeds. Regardless of their low maintenance physical needs, Shih Tzus demand your undulating affection, or they may become destructive barkers.
Male Shih Tzu Overview
Personality / Character
While all Shih Tzus are born to build close bonds with their owners, male Shih Tzus are particularly affectionate. They usually pick a female in the home to be their favorite human. Males have an exceptionally caring heart and can forgive easily, but unfortunately their heightened emotional sensitivity means that they suffer more profusely from abuse and harsh words. For this reason, it’s especially important not to over-correct your Shih Tzu. They want nothing more than your love and will usually make friends with everyone in the house, including children and other animals.
While the Shih Tzu scores high on emotional intelligence, they are among the breeds that are least suited for hard work or rigorous training. In particular, you may have a difficult time house-breaking your male Shih Tzu. With patience and consistency, your efforts will eventually pay off. Male Shih Tzus usually don’t listen because they are paying attention to your attitudes and actions rather than your commands. You can always consult a canine trainer if you have a particularly distracted dog. They’ll be able to teach you some tips and tricks on how to make the process better for you both.
If your Shih Tzu is being aggressive or obstinate, trainers recommend that you isolate them for a few minutes instead of raising your voice at them. Shih Tzus are practically rewarded by your attention, and even negative reactions may only fuel their bad behavior.
Health & Care
Shih Tzus are considered generally healthy with an average lifespan ranging between 10-18 years. You’ll need to watch out for eye problems such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, retinal detachment, and corneal dryness. Hip dysplasia is a common condition among most dog breeds that affects Shih Tzus as well.
Both genders are relatively healthy, but males are more prone to urinary stones than females. If your male Shih Tzu suddenly stops urinating for more than several hours, you should take them to the vet immediately to make sure they don’t have a potentially fatal urinary obstruction.
While they don’t need much exercise, you should also regulate their intake of treats so they don’t become obese. When you do walk, make sure you don’t over-stress them and try to schedule walks in the cooler parts of the day during the summer. Shih Tzus are brachycephalic dogs with snub noses that can struggle to breathe in excessively hot climates.
If you aren’t intending on breeding your male Shih Tzu, it’s a good idea to have him neutered. Neutering involves removing the testicles and not only prevents unwanted puppies but also reduces the risk of testicular cancer, especially as your dog ages. Male Shih Tzus can be neutered as early as 6-9 months of age. If you are planning on breeding, it’s best to wait until your male Shih Tzu is at least 1 year old, up to date on vaccines, and screened for any health conditions.
Female Shih Tzu Overview
Personality / Character
Like their male counterparts, female Shih Tzus crave human attention more than anything. However, they’re also a little moody, and might ask you to press pause on your undying affection if they become bored. Whoever wrote “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” must have been talking about their Shih Tzu. She wants your whole heart—despite not desiring your constant attention—and may become jealous or territorial if you welcome another female dog into your residence. She’s more likely to be accepting of male dogs and cats, though, especially if they’re introduced at a young age. While she’ll likely make friends with everyone in the house, she’ll usually share her closest connection with a male family member.
Like males, female Shih Tzus are emotionally intelligent but lack the obedience skills needed for rigorous training. More than that, females are often obstinate because they believe they own you instead of the other way around. You’ll have to assert your dominance early in order to avoid being overruled by this beauty queen. However, despite their strong nature, female Shih Tzus have tender feelings, so be careful not to yell or be harsh with them. Positive reinforcement works best, especially coupled with a few minutes of isolation in response to extremely unruly behavior.
Health and Care
Female Shih Tzus are prone to the same health conditions as males are. However, female Shih Tzus may be prone to mammary cancer and other types of cancers, especially since they have such long life expectancies. The chances of your Shih Tzu developing cancer increases with age.
Like males, female Shih Tzus don’t need much exercise. A quick 20-minute walk around the neighborhood fulfills her exercise requirements for the day. If you live in a hot climate, avoid walking her in the middle of the day since Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed that can’t breathe well in intense weather.
It’s a good idea to have your female Shih Tzu spayed in order to prevent unwanted puppies, especially if there are other male dogs in your home that aren’t neutered. As with males, you can spay a female Shih Tzu around 6-9 months of age. Spaying involves removing the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes can also reduce the risk of mammary cancer and other cancers in female dogs. If you are planning on breeding your female Shih Tzu, she will have her first heat cycle and be capable of reproducing between 4 and 7 months old. However, it is recommended that you wait until your Shih Tzu is around 2 years old before breeding her for the first time.
Grooming Your Shih Tzu
Male and female Shih Tzus have the same high maintenance grooming needs. Their long, sheen hair needs brushing daily to avoid tangles. Since they’re prone to oily skin, you should also bathe them once a week with a gentle shampoo to keep them fresh. We recommend using Colloidal Oatmeal Shampoo by Hepper. It features all natural ingredients and is free from soaps and sulfates, which can over-dry your pup’s coat and make it oily or lackluster. The aloe conditions their fur, keeping it shiny and nourished, and the cucumber scent leaves them smelling fresh throughout the week.
You might have guessed, this is our own product – but we love it so much we just have to share it, and hope you get to own one too!
Which Gender Is Right for You?
Like any creature, an individual Shih Tzu’s personality tells you more about them than any stereotypical description. In general, though, males will probably get along better with other pets than females, who are likely to become jealous if other female dogs are present. Males may also be a little easier to train, but both genders have a reputation for not being the most obedient. Early training and socialization are the key to a successful transition when adopting any animal, and they’re definitely vital for your Shih Tzu to thrive. Both genders are considered relatively healthy. Males have a slightly higher risk of urinary stones, so talk to your vet for tips on how to keep your dog’s urinary system in top shape. With proper care, you can hope for anywhere from 10-18 years with your male or female Shih Tzu, who will likely become your best friend.