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Pekingese vs Shih Tzu: Differences Explained (With Pictures)

Cheryl Regan

By Cheryl Regan

Pekingese vs Shih Tzu

Deciding between a Pekingese and a Shih Tzu can seem like an impossible task, how do you choose between two equally adorable breeds? Well, it comes down to personal preferences and suitability.

Both breeds originate from ancient China, where they were kept as loyal companions to emperors and their households. To the untrained eye, they could be easily mistaken for one another, but there are subtle differences between the two breeds.

In this article, we’ll break down the differences between Pekingese and Shih Tzu, so you can decide which of these fluffy companions would be the right one for you.

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Visual Differences

Pekingese vs Shih Tzu side by side

At a Glance

  • Average height (adult): 6–9 inches
  • Average weight (adult): Up to 14 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–14 years
  • Exercise: 40 minutes per day
  • Grooming needs: High maintenance
  • Family-friendly: Moderately
  • Other pet-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Intelligentstubborn, playful, challenging to train
Shih Tzu
  • Average height (adult): 9–10.5 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 9–16 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–18 years
  • Exercise: 40–60 minutes per day
  • Grooming needs: High maintenance
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Eager to please, sometimes stubborn

divider 9Pekingese Overview

Image Credit: Gianmarco Ferraro, Pxhere

Also known as Pekes, Pekingese are tiny, fluffy toy dogs that are full of affection and loyalty. Long ago bred to accompany the imperial family of China, they remain loyal to their humans, often trailing after them.


Pekingese are loving, friendly, and intelligent dogs. They’re playful, too, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always do what you want. Pekingese can be stubborn, which can make them a challenge to train. That said, with patience and persistence, they will learn.

These little companions get very attached to their humans, making them prone to separation anxiety if they are left alone. Their nature makes them ideal for homes where someone will always be around.


Pekingese are easy to take care of. They require little food compared to larger or more active dogs, and very little daily exercise.

One of the stunning signature features of a Peke is its beautiful coat. But to remain beautiful, their coat requires regular brushing and upkeep. Pet parents will need to brush their dog’s fur around once a week—or more for active dogs—and shampoo them once a month.


Like all breeds, Pekingese are prone to some health problems, including:

  • Elongated soft palate
  • Patellar luxation
  • Stenotic nares
  • Corneal abrasions
  • Skin fold dermatitis

Pekes have a lot of fur and a thick coat, which means they are prone to heatstroke. They also have a short snout that can put them at risk of breathing difficulties. It’s important to always provide them with plenty of water and check on their breathing during exercise—which shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes in one session.

two pekingese
Image Credit: Karen Arnold, Pixabay

Suitable for:

If you want a Pekingese as your companion, it doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment or a mansion—they’ll be happy either way, just as long as you’re not planning on leaving them alone for too long. Pekes are ideal for anybody who’s at home most of the time.

Teenagers and older children should get along with Pekes just fine, but these dogs won’t tolerate roughhousing, so they’re probably not suitable for homes with toddlers and small children who may poke and prod without realizing it.

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Shih Tzu Overview

female Shih Tzu standing on an ice
Image Credit: Tatiana Gasich, Shutterstock

These fluffy dogs are slightly larger than Pekingese. Their faces appear more round, and their snout is a little more prominent. Shih Tzus have long facial hair that can be grown so it hangs down in front of them.

Shih Tzus were bred by crossing Pekingese and Lhasa Apso ancestors, so it’s not surprising that they’re so similar to Pekingese.


Shih Tzus are known for being loving and happy little dogs. They have a friendly personality that only grows as they get to know someone, until eventually, they’re quite content following their humans from room to room.

Shih Tzus are the epitome of lap dogs. They’ll jump at the chance to curl up on your lap or right beside you as soon as the opportunity comes up. That said, these “little lions” are pretty laid back, so an adult dog should do alright on its own for 4–6 hours per day.

Although Shih Tzus can be stubborn, they also love to please their humans. Training can be challenging, but the good news is that they do respond well to positive reinforcement.


Shih Tzus are generally easy to take care of. They require little space, and only around one hour of exercise each day—split over two 20–30-minute sessions.

When it comes to their coat, Shih Tzus with long hair will need regular—maybe even daily—brushing. They’ll need bathing once or twice per month.

If you keep its coat short, you may be able to get away with brushing your Shih Tzu once every three or four days.


As with Pekingese, Shih Tzus have a luxurious double coat to keep them snug and warm. This means that although they do well in colder weather, Shih Tzus overheat quickly. Pet parents should make sure to let them rest in the shade and supply their dogs with plenty of water to prevent heat stroke.

Shih Tzus are prone to some health issues, including:

  • Eye problems (including Epiphora)
  • Patellar luxation
  • Otitis Externa
  • Breathing difficulties
shih tzu with cone paws
Image Credit: Ihar Halavach, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

Shih Tzus will make a great pet for anyone looking for a small companion that they can shower with affection and cuddles. If you’re looking for an active dog, then you probably don’t want a Shih Tzu. But if you’re happy to go for a couple of half-hour strolls, while spending the rest of the day cuddling indoors, a Shih Tzu may be your perfect future companion.

Shih Tzus are generally happy to accept all members of the family, including kids and other furry family members. Their affectionate and gentle nature makes them perfect for families, but they can be equally content with just one human to love.

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Conclusion: Which Breed Is Right for You?

Pekingese and Shih Tzu are two adorable dog breeds with tiny bodies and huge personalities. Pekingese are a little bit smaller in size than Shih Tzus, and they generally have a slightly shorter lifespan.

Both dog breeds are friendly and affectionate by nature, but they can also be a little stubborn. Families with young children might be better off with a Shih Tzu, while Pekingese would be safer with older children and adults.

When it comes to leaving your dog unattended, both breeds prefer constant companionship. That said, a Shih Tzu will generally be able to handle being left alone for up to six hours, while Pekingese are more prone to separation anxiety.

Maintenance-wise, both breeds need regular brushing and bathing. Shih Tzus—especially those with long fur—will need almost daily brushing. Both Pekes and Shih Tzus only need a small amount of exercise each day, with Pekes needing even less than Shih Tzus. Neither breed does well in hot environments.

Choosing between these two equally adorable breeds is no easy task, but hopefully, this article has given you a better idea of which breed suits your lifestyle the best.

Featured Image Credit: (L) T.Den_Team, Shutterstock | (R) Dienni Portinanni, Unsplash

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