Teacup and miniature dogs are one of the most popular dog sizes that people go for when getting a new pet, especially for the apartment-dwellers.
But do they always match their owners’ lifestyle? And the Shih Tzu dog breed is one of those purebreds that has a smaller version.
Love the Shih Tzu but want one that could fit in a tiny teacup? Then you might be considering a miniature Shih Tzu. If so, here’s what you should know about this teeny little “lion dog.”
Table of Contents
Origin: What is an Imperial Shih Tzu?
The original Shih Tzus came from China and were owned by Chinese royalty. They were likely created by breeding with Tibetan breeds like the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese.
They came to the United States and other areas in the early 20th century.
It isn’t exactly clear when the miniature size was first bred, but they first started popping up in recent decades as tiny dogs gained popularity.
Teacup Shih Tzus aren’t considered a separate dog breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) or the American Shih Tzu Club.
Instead, they are considered dogs that are smaller than the AKC standard. So while the Teacup Shih Tzu may technically be the same dog and can be registered, they don’t ideally conform to the club’s breed standard.
No matter what they’re called, whether it’s Imperial, Teacup, or Miniature, they all mean the same thing. That is, they are simply smaller versions of a Shih Tzu.
What does an Imperial Shih Tzu look like?
Imperial Shih Tzus should look in all ways like a smaller version of the full-sized dog.
They have a long, silky coat that requires daily grooming or frequent haircuts. They have a proportional head with a short nose and a balanced neck.
The topline is level, and the shoulders are well-angled. The legs are straight. In the rear, the legs should be muscular and straight.
Height and weight: How big do teacup Shih Tzu dogs get?
While the standard Shih Tzu stands at 8 to 11 inches (20 to 28 cm) at the shoulder and weighs 9 to 16 pounds (4 to 7 kg), miniature Shih Tzus are only 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) tall and weigh 2 to 8 pounds (0.9 to 4 kg) when fully grown.
They can be similar in size to a Chihuahua, a Maltese, or a Yorkie.
Besides their size, they should be the same as a normal-sized Shih Tzu, which is already considered a toy breed.
However, you might run into dogs that are smaller because of dwarfism. These dogs will have long bodies with short legs.
Because of their tiny size, they do best in a house or apartment. This isn’t a dog that wants to be hanging out outdoors all day and running around on a farm.
They will also require some special care because of their size, but we’ll get into that in a minute.
All about that amazing coat
Shih Tzus have a long, flowing double coat that’s dense, thick, and can either be straight or slightly wavy.
Some Shih Tzu parents leave their pet’s hair long, while others choose to cut it in many different styles to make grooming easier.
Don’t miss: Shih Tzu haircuts
Shih Tzus come in a ton of coat colors and patterns, including black, blue, brindle, gold, liver, red, silver, white, or any combination of those.
We have an entire article dedicated to helping you learn more about their incredible coats.
Want to get an idea of what they look like when they’re young? Check out this video of an adorable teacup Shih Tzu puppy:
Do Teacup Shih Tzus have a different temperament?
Teacup Shih Tzus and standard Shih Tzus should have similar personalities. Just because one is smaller, that doesn’t mean its qualities should be dramatically different.
Toy Shih Tzus are known for being incredibly loving, affectionate, and friendly. Their goal in life is to be with you at all times.
They’re also confident and assertive, which can sometimes come across as stubborn. If this dog wants something, they will let you know. And if they don’t want to do something, you can run into trouble!
This often becomes a problem with housebreaking. Some Shih Tzu owners say that they run into trouble getting their dogs to go potty outdoors, sometimes, so you’ll need to pay extra attention to potty training.
This can be especially true of extremely small dogs, who can feel nervous or threatened when heading outside because of their small size.
The Shih Tzu is also charming, intelligent, and happy. In other words, they make an exceptional pet for just about anyone who wants a loyal, constant companion.
Families, kids, single people, elderly couples, and more will be happy with this dog, no matter the size.
Just remember that children should be taught to play carefully with tiny dogs.
They also get along well with other dogs and pets, provided you introduce them carefully.
The downside to their affectionate nature is that they can be prone to separation anxiety. They get stressed out when they can’t be with their humans.
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety may urinate or defecate in the house, chew on things, bark, pace, or whine.
You’ll need to be consistent, patient, and calm during training to help your pet get over this. While teaching her, rewards and praises will bring out great results, like a well-behaved pooch!
How do you take care of a Teacup Shih Tzu?
Teacup Shih Tzus are high maintenance dogs when it comes to taking care of that glorious coat. They can also have a sensitivity to heat and cold, as is the case with many tiny dogs.
That means you’ll need to protect your pups during extreme weather. Fortunately, they aren’t high maintenance otherwise.
Exercising your Teacup Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus have a lot of energy. They like to play, explore, and run around. But because they’re tiny, they can get most of their exercise just running around the house.
You can take them on a walk for 20 minutes or so a day to keep them happy and healthy. Or just toss the ball in the backyard with them for a while.
Grooming is usually the biggest challenge with caring for miniature Shih Tzus. They need to be brushed at least once a day if you want to keep their long coat looking good.
If that sounds like too much trouble, consider trimming your dog’s hair short. We have a guide that explains the many different Shih Tzu haircuts so that you can make your pup look the cutest without all the daily trouble.
That does mean that you’ll need to take them to the groomer every 6 to 8 weeks, though, or you’ll need to learn to cut their hair yourself.
Teacup Shih Tzus shed, though they aren’t heavy shedders despite all that glamorous hair. They will drop their hair around the home, though, so be prepared for that. They just won’t be dropping a ton.
You may want to head to Amazon or your local pet store to invest in some brushes and other tools like toothbrushes (mainly because these smaller dogs can have issues with their teeth) and some shampoo.
With that said, you should bathe your dog once every few weeks and brush their teeth daily.
Feeding your Miniature Shih Tzu
How much you feed your dog depends on their size. A dog with an average activity level needs about 30 calories per day per pound. So a 5-pound dog needs 150 calories per day, preferably spread between two meals.
Look for high-quality food made for toy dogs that has a healthy protein as the first ingredient. Avoid foods that have lots of cheap fillers like corn or soy.
Are Teacup Shih Tzus healthy?
When dogs are bred to be smaller than they normally are, they can have a range of health issues ranging from uncomfortable, like misaligned teeth, to deadly.
The smaller a dog is, the more likely they are to have problems.
For instance, an eight-pound Shih Tzu is probably going to have typical health problems. But a three-pound dog will very likely have one or more illnesses.
That’s because it is dangerous to breed dogs under five pounds intentionally. Most responsible breeders will refuse to breed a dog that is too small.
Exceptionally tiny dogs will likely have a shorter lifespan. The Shih Tzu breed averages a lifespan of about 10-16 years, but an extremely small dog will probably have a shorter life.
They may also have breathing concerns (brachycephaly) because of their flat face, eating problems, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or issues with their bones or organs.
These kinds of issues can dramatically impact your dog’s day-to-day life. For instance, a dog with hypoglycemia needs to be carefully watched.
If they have a crash, you’ll need to wipe their gums with some sugar syrup to revive them.
Dogs with breathing problems must be protected from overheating and over-exerting themselves.
Here are some of the other issues that the miniature Shih Tzu can suffer from:
- Back Problems
- Fragile Bones
- Eye Problems
- Liver shunts
- Patellar luxation
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
How much is a Teacup Shih Tzu puppy?
Imperial Shih Tzu puppies can cost more than their standard counterparts, which is part of the reason that breeders can exploit these tiny dogs.
You should expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for a well-bred dog from a responsible breeder.
Beware of exceptional cheap dogs. They might not be from a responsible breeder.
You might be wondering, “what do I do if I already purchased a Shih Tzu puppy that is far under the breed standard size?” If that happens, contact the breeder and discuss the situation.
Teacup Shih Tzu Breeders
When shopping for a small Shih Tzu, it’s essential to be careful! It’s difficult to find responsible breeders intentionally breeding miniature dogs.
That’s not to say that you can’t find a responsible, ethical breeder.
Some breeders may be aiming for standard-sized dogs, but mother nature might decide that one or two pups are just going to be naturally smaller (these puppies are sometimes called runts).
Once you find a good breeder and you take your dog home, have it examined by a veterinarian right away. A good breeder will encourage you to do this and will be willing to take the dog back if there are any issues.
A good breeder will also be happy to let you meet the parents, answer any questions you have, and show you health certifications.
They will want you to keep in touch if you have any issues and they’ll be willing to take the dog back, no questions asked, if you can’t keep it.
When you get your new puppy home, be sure to socialize them and start training right away to ensure that your dog is well-behaved and adjusted.
Teacup Shih Tzu Rescue
It’s also smart to consider adopting a miniature Shih Tzu. There are many dogs out there needing a home, and if you adopt an older dog, you have a better chance of knowing what health problems it might have.
Shih Tzu Rescue, Inc helps connect dogs needing a home with people who want to adopt them.
Who should get a Teacup Shih Tzu dog?
So what’s the bottom line? Should you get a teacup Shih Tzu? Who could say no to that adorable baby face, after all? Just keep in mind that you need to be careful when selecting a dog.
Not all toy Shih Tzus are healthy dogs, and you don’t want to struggle with devastating health issues or watch your poor pup suffer.
On the bright side, if you find a good breeder or adopt a healthy pup, you can have a sweet, friendly, loyal, brave companion by your side.