8 Types of Shih Tzu [All You Need to Know]

Shih Tzus have existed for quite a long time compared to other breeds. During that time, it eventually branched into different types. Now, there are eight types that you should know. These varieties have different characteristics that set them apart from each other. If you plan on taking a Shih Tzu pup home, you may want to learn which type is best for you.

The term Shih Tzu roughly translates as “little lion.” However, reality states that this breed shows no fierceness at all. Instead, it boasts of its adorable appearance and personality.

If you’re here, it’s likely that you already decided on a Shih Tzu but want to know more about the options you can get.

It’s essential to learn the vital things that set one type apart from the rest. This way, you can ensure getting the most out of your preference.

Further, it will help you ensure you’re getting the best option available out there.

Types and varieties of Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus have been around for quite a long time already. By their breed name, you’ll know that its origin is China. As I said earlier, the name may suggest fierce and strong. However, these dogs come as cute and adorable buddies that’ll make you happy at home.

Since they are around for some time, this breed branched and had some changes and branched out into a few types. In general, the main aspects that set them apart from the other are usually appearance and size.

Read also about types of other breeds:

Here is our in-depth take on each of the eight types of Shih Tzus to help you in understanding and choosing.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Teacup Shih Tzu

teacup shih tzu

The Teacup Shih Tzu earned its name for being small. Although we can say that this breed is tiny among other dogs, the teacups are the tiny ones of the bunch.

According to some guides, this type of Shih Tzu remains small due to some manipulation. The thing is, this kind of information won’t usually come from sellers.

The Teacup Shih Tzu is prone to health concerns. Thus, people who want such should understand the risks involved.

They are prone because they usually are products of breeding two runts of the litter. The genetically manipulated breeds end up with health problems.

Of course, if you want to get a teacup, the breeder would disclose such things to you. Moreover, they would give you everything you need to know about taking care of your pet.

At the same time, you can always count on the breeders to guide you in taking care of your pet.

Setting health aside, these dogs are the same as other Shih Tzus when it comes to attitude. They are jolly and a great companion for anyone in the family.

Generally, we can sum up these unique attributes of Teacup Shih Tzus:

  • Health – Prone to Health Issues
  • Size – the smallest among Shih Tzus
  • Care – Extreme Caution is necessary.

Learn more about Teacup Shih Tzu.

Black Shih Tzu

black shih tzu

Another type you can consider is the Black Shih Tzu. Among the other kinds, these are the rarest.

Of course, you can see Shih Tzus with a touch of black in their fur. However, it’s rare to see the ones with solid black color.

Even those with solid color usually have some secondary color beneath. Often, the coat has an offset of a secondary color.

Black Shih Tzus always has black parts such as its nose, eye rims, lips, and even its paw pads.

Be mindful, though. While the blackness may be pure, it may still fade, and it’s not uncommon for black puppies.

Thus, if you’re getting a black pup, you don’t need to worry if your pet changes color to a silver coat.

One other thing about Black Shih Tzus is that prolonged exposure to the sun may affect its color. Such incidents usually happen during summer, when the sun is at its strongest.

If you plan on getting this pup and you’re more of the black color, avoiding exposure to the sun is your best bet.

Generally, we can sum up the unique traits of this Shih Tzu into the following:

  • Color – Rare – Solid Black on all parts
  • Health – Not much issue, though the color may change
  • Care – Regular grooming to maintain the color

Learn more about Black Shih Tzu.

Imperial Shih Tzu

imperial shih tzu

People often take the Imperial Shih Tzu as a purebred. However, the National Kennel Club doesn’t consider it as such.

For this reason, the term “Imperial” is more of a flattering depiction of the opposite. Thus, this kind of Shih Tzu is an impure breed, considered a smaller version of the purebred.

If you would put the Imperial and the purebred side by side, you can tell the difference between the two. The pure ones are more prominent, while the Imperial Shih Tzu is the smaller one.

According to the NKC, the acceptable height of purebreds are 10 to 11 inches. Its weight should be at an average of 7 pounds.

In creating the Imperial pup, breeders often pick the runt of the litter as the parents. Thus, most offspring often end up with genetic defects.

Generally, we can notice the Imperial Shih Tzu by the following traits that set them apart:

  • Size – Smaller than Purebred Shih Tzus
  • Health – Prone to genetic defects
  • Care – Requires extreme caution and care.

Learn more about Imperial Shih Tzu.

Brown Shih Tzu

brown shih tzu

The Brown Shih Tzu, by its name, comes in brown color. Thus, this kind is usually known as chocolate colored.

Some of the Brown Shih Tzus have a solid brown color. In most cases, these have a liver color. Still, that shading comes from the skin pigmentation, and it’s not exactly coming from the coat.

The Liver-colored ones have that shading in the eye rims, lips, nose, and paw pads. It may extend from a light brown, with sometimes pink tinting up until dark brown.

If you plan on getting a Brown Shih Tzu, don’t mistake it for a brown coat. This kind of pup comes with the color of the skin and not the coat itself.

If you plan on getting this pup, don’t expect the color to remain the same. Even if your puppy has a solid brown coat, it may change as time passes. In most cases, the fur turns lighter in the shade.

Setting the color aside, the usual thing that happens is that it turns to a dark brown stain as it matures.

For this reason, you shouldn’t expect that your pet will have the same color as it ages through time.

We can sum up the unique traits of Brown Shih Tzu with the following:

  • Color – Solid Brown Color (due to skin and not the coat)
  • Health – Not prone to health issues much
  • Care – Still needs proper care and maintenance.

Learn more about Brown Shih Tzu.

Brindle Shih Tzu

brindle shih tzu

Many people consider the Brindle Shih Tzu as one of the most beautiful kinds of this breed. 

The Brindle is a term that comes from its beautiful coat, usually one base color with streaks of another. Such a mixture creates seemingly beautiful and multi-colored tones.

The term brindle does not refer to a color. It means a reminiscent of many colors, pointing out more into the pattern instead.

Nevertheless, AKC officially recognized the Brindle Shih Tzu. Thus, when you hear the term, it’s more of a reference to the color than the pattern.

For this reason, brindles can refer to coats that feature black, gray, brown, and other shades. More often than not, Shih Tzu owners find it difficult to determine whether their pup is a brindle or not.

The brindle coat can vary just like the patterning effect does. For some dogs, the pattern can be heavy or light. 

In some cases, the effect can be tighter, with the stripes closer together. On the other hand, the patterns are quite loose for the others. 

For some, the Brindle may appear in certain spots, such as the head or the back.

Generally, we can sum up the traits that set Brindles apart from the others through the following:

  • Color – Multi-colored, with streaks or patterns of different colors
  • Appearance – Most beautiful of all kinds

Learn more about Brindle Shih Tzu.

American Shih Tzu

american shih tzu

The American Shih Tzu is a purebred as recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969. Its physical attributes include a small chest with high and forward-facing legs. 

It also has frontal shoulders and a short neck. Its head has a square-shape with a small but broad set of eyes.

Another purebred is the European Shih Tzu, which is a bit similar to the American.

In general, we can notice an American Shih Tzu with the following characteristics that set it apart from others:

  • Breed – Purebred
  • Head – Square-shaped with a short neck
  • Eyes – Small but wide

Learn more about the American Shih Tzu.

European Shih Tzu

european shih tzu

The European Shih Tzu is also a purebred. The United Kingdom Kennel Club acknowledged this kind in 1946.

Both the American and European Shih Tzus are purebreds. However, they differ a bit when it comes to physical appearance.

The European have a wider stance with front legs bent back a little bit. Instead of a square, this kind has a round head and a long neck. Moreover, it has large eyes and a broad chest.

Generally, we can sum up the European Shih Tzu into the following characteristics:

  • Breed – Purebred
  • Head – Round Head with a long neck
  • Eyes – Large Eyes

Learn more about European Shih Tzu.

Blue-eyed Shih Tzu

blue eyed shih tzu

The Blue-eyed Shih Tzu, from its name, has blue eyes, which is quite rare. Such a type usually happens when it lacks the color gene for black.

The blue eyes result from a dilute pigmentation, giving the pup that unique color that sets it apart from its breed. Remember, though. The color blue in the eyes has nothing to do with the coat. 

For this reason, it’s not a matter of the coat but genes when it comes to having blue eyes.

To have blue eyes, you need to observe the pup’s nose and muzzle. If you heard the terms liver or blue, they would pertain to the skin’s pigmentation and not the coat.

If you plan on getting blue-eyed, you should understand that it’s prone to risks more than a regular pup. The standard color of a Shih Tzu’s eyes and the nose is a solid black. 

Thus, a lighter color like blue is a sign of a weak gene. Further, it is even a fault in the genes.

Blue-eyed pups often have dark brown or gray noses, lips, eye rims, and paw pads.

In specific lighting scenarios, the gray gives out the blue hue. Thus, it is how these pups earned the blue in their names.

While the blue-eyed Shih Tzus can have any color in its coat, gray is the most common. Note, however, that having a gray jacket doesn’t mean it will have blue eyes.

If you prefer a blue-eyed pup, it would be best to check the nose instead of the coat.

Generally, we can sum up the characters that set the Blue-eyed Shih Tzu apart from the others:

  • Eyes – Blue (or has shades of blue)
  • Nose – has a color gray or dark brown.
  • Health – may have genetic defects.
  • Care – extreme care

Learn more about the Blue-eyed Shih Tzu.

In general:

The eight types of Shih Tzus come from one of the same breed – the Shih Tzu. Thus, the traits and personalities are similar. 

The main aspects that set them apart from each other are their appearance and health.\

For this reason, you can’t go wrong with any of the Shih Tzus when it comes to attitude and personality—choosing which of the eight types is more of a preference in appearance.

Now, if you already have one, let’s find out what kind of Shih Tzu it is.

How do I identify my Shih Tzu?

If you own a Shih Tzu, it may fall into one or more of the eight types. Here are some steps to determine which type your pet is.

The first thing is to ask your breeder or the pet store from where you get your pup. 

If it comes from a breeder or a store, you can ask the history and the type since they know your puppy’s origin.

Moreover, they would know who the parents are, and they’ll know what kind of Shih Tzu your pup is.

Another thing is to check the types according to the traits above. You can put the list together and cross out the kind that doesn’t match your pet.

With the guide above, you can narrow down the results until you determine what kind of Shih Tzu your pet is.

What is a Shih Tzu Princess type?

A Shih Tzu Princess Type Shih Tzu is a term people refer to as either an Imperial or Teacup.

There’s no such thing as Princess type. It’s just a term that pet shops use to sell their teacups and Imperial Shih Tzus.

By its name, these pups usually have genetic defects and are prone to health issues. Thus, the princess means it needs extreme caution and care.

If you’re someone who can’t offer much care for pets, getting either an imperial or teacup isn’t ideal. 

Of course, these pups are adorable and cute due to their tiny size. Since they are small, their organs are small to the extent that they can frequently have health issues.

Is a Shih Tzu a purebred?

Some Shih Tzu, like the American and European, are purebreds. The other types are usually the same. However, other Shih Tzus go below the standard breed qualifications.

To understand better, you should look at Shih Tzu as a breed that has many types. Despite the differences between those varieties, they remain the same breed.

The only difference why American and European Types are purebreds is that they’re the ones that pass the Kennel Clubs’ standards.

Other types remain the same, Shih Tzu. They lack a bit in the standard to be a purebred.

What is the best color for Shih Tzu?

There’s no exact way of telling which is the best color for Shih Tzus. The reason is that it depends on the preference of the one who gets it.

Some people take the solid black or brown colors as the best. However, others think that the Brindle, which is a mixture of colors, earns that honor.

Choosing the best color depends on what color you prefer the most.

Thus, you must understand what your preferences are before choosing a pup. This way, you can filter out all your options and arrive at the puppy of your choice.

What is the rarest color Shih Tzu?

When it comes to the rarest color of Shih Tzu, that will be the pup with a solid black. 

A solid black Shih Tzu is quite rare. Moreover, even if it’s a solid black, there is usually a white marking somewhere.

Still, a Shih Tzu can have solid black color. These pups have black pigmented noses, eyelids, and even paw pads.

What is the best type of Shih Tzu?

The best type of Shih Tzu lies in the owner that will take the pup home. 

For instance, some Shih Tzu types need more care and attention, so it’s for those willing to give more care and attention. 

Other types are more on personal preference. As I said earlier, the main difference in kinds is more of choice in appearance.

The cute and rare ones like the teacup, imperial, and blue-eyed Shih Tzus are the litter’s runts’ products. Thus, these types are prone to health issues, and they need more care than others.

Thus, if you prefer these pups with a unique appearance and size, you should understand the risks that follow.

The rest of the Shih Tzu types all have the same health requirements. Thus, you can’t go wrong with any of these in terms of health.

All Shih Tzus have that lively, friendly, and adorable character that you’ll enjoy when it comes to personality. 

All Shih Tzus are great companions, no matter what the type. For this reason, choosing any of these cute pups won’t be that much when it comes to personality.

In the end, it all depends on a matter of your taste. As you can see, all types of Shih Tzu overload with the cute and adorable appearance and personality that makes them excellent pets.


Shih Tzus have been around for quite some time, and it results in having different types. All Shih Tzu pups may fall around the eight types stated above.

These types vary mostly in appearance and health. Thus, choosing which type is usually a matter of preference in such aspects.

The thing about these kinds is that they are all Shih Tzus. Thus, they all have that wonderful and adorable trait that makes a great companion.

For this reason, you can’t go wrong in choosing any of the Shih Tzus out there. 

As long as you take good care of the pets properly, you’ll get rewarded with a joyful and adorable companion

Continue Reading and Enjoy Other Interesting Articles in Our Dog Section and Dog Breeders Section.

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