Are Shih Tzus Smart? It All Depends On What Smart Means…

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If you have a Shih Tzu then you already know what sweet-loving little dogs they are. But what about their intelligence level? Some studies show they’re not very smart based on the criteria used, but in other ways they definitely are. It just depends on how you define smart. So, are Shih Tzus smart? Let’s find out…

Are Shih Tzus Smart or Dumb

A study was done in 1994 by Stanley Coren. 

He based his conclusions on whether a dog was smart or dumb on a couple of things.

1. How many times you need to repeat a command for the dog to learn it.

2. Whether or not the dog will get the command on the first try.

Well, Shih Tzus didn’t rank very well. This won’t surprise you if you have one.

Out of 138 dog breeds, Shih Tzus came in at a dismal 128.


But that’s not the whole story, and honestly, Coren’s criteria don’t cover the full spectrum of smart and dumb.

Something the study didn’t take into consideration was, what exactly the breed was bred for.

Shih Tzus are not working dogs.

They don’t round up cattle.

They don’t work with the police.

They don’t even chase and kill foxes, badgers, and other things such as rats like West Highland Terriers.


Shih Tzus were bred to be companions, and they do that very well.

Of any toy breed, most would say that a Shih Tzu’s personality makes it perfect for lap dog status.

Their ability to know what their owner wants or is thinking or how they are feeling makes Shih Tzus one of the most popular breeds out there.

And…it makes them pretty darn smart.

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What is the IQ of a Shih Tzu

There are lots of ways to determine IQ.

One that I like and that I feel most people can relate to is to compare a Shih Tzu to a person.

It has been shown that a Shih Tzu has about the same level of intelligence as a two to two and a half-year-old child.

And an IQ of around 70.

Honestly, that’s not bad.

It has also been reported that a Shih Tzu can learn around 160 words. 

I know that my Shih Tzus knows a lot of words.

Such as:

Bed (his bed)

Big Bed (meaning my bed)


Left / right (when we go for a walk I will tell them to turn left or right)

Not to mention a lot more.

I’d like to say that both of my Shih Tzus are good at commands as well, but I was never very good at teaching them, and with that typical Shih Tzu stubborn streak, they didn’t really want to learn.

What Is The Average IQ of a Dog – In General

While Shih Tzus aren’t on the high end of IQs for dogs, they aren’t doing all that bad.

In general, the average IQ of all dogs is around 100.

The top dogs can learn up to 250 words.

And yes, dogs, including Shih Tzus can learn some arithmetic.

In that area, dogs can have the IQ level of a 3 to 4-year-old child.

Not to mention, Shih Tzus can count up to four.

So, all in all, dogs are smarter than you might think.

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My Shih Tzu is So Smart

You might be sitting there thinking that your Shih Tzu is really smart no matter what any researcher might say, and you’re right.

Shih Tzus have a high level of emotional intelligence.

Because they were bred to be companions, they can tune into your emotions and feelings more so than other dogs.

They know when you are sad or upset and they act on that information.

If you have ever had your Shih Tzu come curl up next to you and hop in your lap when you’ve had a bad day or you are emotionally upset, then you have witnessed this yourself.

Another way a Shih Tzu dog shows its intelligence is how they protect you

Sure, they aren’t big enough to fight off an attacker or someone breaking into your home, but chances are, no one will be able to break in without you getting a loud warning.

I always felt that I never have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night to find someone standing over my bed.

As soon as an intruder tried to break in, my Shih Tzu would let me know.

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How To Make Your Shih Tzu Smarter

There are ways you can improve your Shih Tzu’s intelligence level.

These include:

1. Teach your Shih Tzu new tricks on a regular basis.

2. Reward smart behavior with treats.

3. Provide them toys where they have to figure out how to get the treat or reward.

4. Start training as soon as you bring your new Shih Tzu home whether it is a puppy or older dog.

5. Make sure you expose your Shih Tzu, especially as a puppy, to new situations, places, and people.

You might also enjoy:

What Should I Know About Shih Tzu Dogs Before I Decide to Get One?

Do Shih Tzus Bark a Lot?

Do Shih Tzus Make Good Pets

Shih Tzus make great pets. They are loyal and friendly and want nothing more than to be with you or make you happy.

Yes, the Shih Tzu temperament can be a little stubborn, but with a little positive reinforcement on your end, you can train them and bring out their intelligence.

You’ll then soon realize that while the Shih Tzu might not be considered a smart dog breed, they will be plenty smart for you and that they make great companion animals.

You might also enjoy:

Should I Leave the Collar On My Shih Tzu All Day?

What is it Like Owning a Shih Tzu?

To Sum it All Up:

While it’s true that Shih-Tzus might not rank up there with some hurting dogs or police dogs they do have their own intelligence. They know how to make you feel better. They know when you need love, and they know how to see you through a bad time in your life. If that’s not smart I don’t know what it is.

purebred Shih Tzu in front of white background laying down

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