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American vs European Shih Tzu: What’s the Difference?

The Shih Tzu is a popular breed of dog known for its adorable looks and affectionate personality. However, potential owners of a purebred shih tzu should be aware of some differences between American vs European Shih Tzu. While both breeds share many similarities, such as their loving nature and playful demeanor, some differences set them apart.

Find out the key differences between American and European Shih Tzus in this article and determine whichof these small dogs are right for you. 

american vs european shih tzu together

American vs European Shih Tzu Breed Physical Characteristics

Regarding American vs European Shih Tzu, there are some distinct differences in their physical characteristics according to the breed standard. Here, we will discuss the different breeds’ size, coat, and facial features.


One of the most noticeable differences between American and European Shih Tzu is their size. American Shih Tzu dogs are typically larger than their European counterparts, with an average height of 10-11 inches and a weight of 14-26 pounds. On the other hand, the European Shih Tzu is smaller than its american counterparts, with an average height of 7-11 inches and a weight of 10-26 pounds.

american shih tzu face


Both American and European Shih Tzu have long, silky coats, but there are some differences in their coat texture and coat color. The American Shih Tzu has a thicker coat that can be straight or slightly wavy, while European Shih Tzu has a softer and more delicate coat that is often wavy or curly. 

In terms of color, American Shih Tzu can come in various colors, including black, white, gold, and silver, while European Shih Tzu is typically solid white with small patches of color on their nose and tail.

white european shih tzu

Facial Features

Another noticeable difference between American and European Shih Tzu is their facial features. American Shih Tzu has a square-shaped head, forward-facing legs, and wide-set eyes, while European Shih Tzu has a more rounded head, shorter snout, and more closely set eyes. The American Shih Tzu has a narrower chest and shorter back, while European Shih Tzu has a longer body and shorter legs.

Overall, the physical characteristics of these different types of shih tzu are quite distinct. While American Shih Tzu is larger with a thicker coat and square-shaped head, the European Shih Tzu is smaller with a softer coat and more rounded features.

ginger european shih tzu

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European vs American Shih Tzu Temperament Differences

Regarding temperament, there are some differences between these two types of shih tzus. Let’s take a closer look at these differences below.

Personality Differences

The European Shih Tzu tends to be more affectionate and loyal to their owners. They are also more reserved and shy around strangers. On the other hand, the American Shih Tzu is more independent and can be left alone for longer periods. They are also more outgoing and friendly toward strangers.

Both breeds are known for their playful and loving nature. They make great family pets and are good with children. However, the European Shih Tzu may be a better choice for families with older children, as they can be easily overwhelmed by younger children’s energy levels.

two brown european shih tzus


Regarding trainability, the American Shih Tzu is generally easier to train than the European Shih Tzu. They are more intelligent and can learn new commands quickly. On the other hand, European Shih Tzu can be more stubborn and difficult to train. They may require more patience and consistency during training.

It is important to note that both breeds require early socialization and training. They can be prone to separation anxiety and may develop destructive behaviors if left alone for long periods. Positive reinforcement training methods work best for both breeds.

American and European Shih Tzu are great companion dogs with unique personalities.

american shih tzu on its back

American Shih Tzu or European: Health Differences

Here are some common Shih Tzu health concerns to be aware of and information about their lifespan.

Common Shih Tzu Health Issues

Like any breed, Shih Tzus can be prone to certain health problems. Some of the most common health conditions to be aware of include:

  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome: This condition affects breeds with short snouts, like the Shih Tzu. It can cause breathing difficulties and other respiratory issues.
  • Eye problems: Shih Tzus are prone to eye problems like cataracts, corneal ulcers, and dry eye.
  • Dental issues: Small breeds like Shih Tzus are more prone to dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease.
black and white shih tzu


On average, Shih Tzus have a lifespan of around 10-16 years. However, this can vary depending on several factors, including genetics, diet, and exercise. By providing your Shih Tzu with a healthy diet, much exercise, and plenty of love and attention, you can help increase their chances of living a long and healthy life. Overall, Shih Tzus are generally a healthy breed. 

white shih tzu with pink flower

Shih Tzu Grooming: European vs American

Shih Tzus are known for their long, luscious coat, which requires regular grooming to keep them healthy and looking their best. This section’ll discuss the maintenance requirements and grooming styles for American and European Shih Tzus.

Maintenance Requirements

American and European Shih Tzus require regular grooming to keep their coats healthy and free of tangles and mats. However, there are a few differences in their maintenance requirements.

American Shih Tzus typically have a shorter coat that is easier to maintain. They still require regular brushing and grooming, but not as frequently as their European counterparts. European Shih Tzus have a longer, thicker coat that requires more frequent grooming to prevent matting and tangling.

Regardless of your type of Shih Tzu, it’s important to establish a regular grooming routine early on to keep its coat healthy and looking its best.

european shih tzu

Grooming Styles

Regarding grooming styles, there are a few different options for Shih Tzus. The most common style is the “puppy cut,” which involves trimming the coat short all over the body. This kind of look is easy to maintain and keeps the Shih Tzu’s coat neat and tidy.

Another popular style is the “top knot,” which involves tying up the hair on the top of the Shih Tzu’s head in a small ponytail or bun. This style is often used for show dogs and can be achieved with the help of a small elastic band or clip.

european shih tzu on brown mat

Regardless of your grooming style, it’s important to use the right tools and techniques to avoid causing discomfort or injury to your Shih Tzu. Use a high-quality brush and comb designed for long-haired dogs, and be gentle when brushing out tangles and mats.

In summary, grooming is important in keeping your Shih Tzu healthy and looking its best. Establish a regular grooming routine, choose a style that works for you and your dog and its small size, and use the right tools and techniques to keep their coat in top condition.


In conclusion, the American and European Shih Tzu breeds have distinct differences in appearance and temperament. While the American Shih Tzu is generally more popular in the United States due to its larger and more muscular build, the European Shih Tzu is preferred in other countries for its friendliness and intelligence.

Here are some key differences between the two breeds:

American Shih TzuEuropean Shih Tzu
Larger and more muscularSmaller and more polite
Square-shaped headRound-shaped head
Forward-facing legsSlightly bowed legs
Wide-set eyesCloser-set eyes

Regarding temperament, both breeds are known for being calm and affectionate companions. However, the American Shih Tzu may be more protective of its family due to its larger size and muscular build.

Ultimately, the decision between an American or European Shih Tzu comes down to personal preference and lifestyle. Both breeds make wonderful pets and will bring their owners joy and love.

NB: Do make sure that if you are bringing a shih tzu puppy into your life only work with reputable breeders. It is critical to do your research when it comes to breeders of shih tzu puppies. Check out this article from the American Kennel Club if you’re not sure which questions to ask. And don’t dismiss the idea of a shih tzu rescue.

furry shih tzu on grass.

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