The Shih Tzu is a very beautiful and delicate-looking small dog breed from the Kennel Club’s utility dog grouping, although many dog lovers assume that this is a toy dog breed thanks to their reputation for being excellent lapdogs!
The exotic Shih Tzu breed is very well established here in the UK, and dogs of the breed have been popular here for many decades, and are often one of the first breeds people consider when seeking a new small dog to join their families.
Most of us know of at least one Shih Tzu living in the local area that we see out walking, or perhaps you own a Shih Tzu and already love the breed, or are considering buying one. There are certainly no shortage of Shih Tzu dogs in the UK and puppy buyers rarely have to look too hard to find one for sale locally – but how popular is the breed really?
As the biggest and best pet classifieds and advice website in the UK, Pets4Homes holds unique insights into the popularity of all of the dog breeds advertised here, and how their numbers and advertised prices rise or fall over time.
In this article, we’ll share some insights on the popularity of the Shih Tzu breed within the UK, and look at how the breed’s advert numbers have fluctuated over the course of the last couple of years.
Is the Shih Tzu becoming less popular in the UK? Read on to find out.
The Shih Tzu is a small pedigree dog breed from the Kennel Club’s utility group, with an average height of just 20-28cm tall, and a weight range between 4 and 7.25kg.
Shih Tzus are brachycephalic dogs, which means that their muzzles are rather shorter than the norm, which results in the flattened faces of dogs of the breed that help to make them so instantly identifiable. Dogs of the breed have delicate, petite faces and soulful eyes, and they are popular companions and lapdogs for people of all sorts, and from all walks of life.
It is perhaps the Shih Tzu coat that is the breed’s most distinctive feature, and the Shih Tzu’s natural coat grows very long, often reaching all the way to the floor and incorporating long hair on the head and face too, which is often tied up out of the way to allow the dog to see out!
Whilst the long Shih Tzu coat is one of the breed’s most defining features and looks very beautiful when properly cared for, this is a very high maintenance coat to look after. Shih Tzus with a full coat need a significant amount of brushing and grooming to keep it in good condition, requiring daily brushing and combing and regular baths too.
This means that longhaired Shih Tzu owners need to groom their dogs more or less every day, and usually have a good relationship with their local dog grooming parlour too.
However, many shih Tzu owners prefer to have their dog’s coats trimmed or even clipped to make it easier to manage and ensure that the dog can see out from under their fringes, and so a lot of the Shih Tzus you see out and about in the dog park may have a more practical, shorter coat as a result.
There are a large number of personality traits of Shih Tzus that ensure they are very versatile pets, and a good choice for many different types of owners. The breed is generally good with children, and whilst caring for their coats can be onerous, they aren’t particularly heavy shedders.
Shih Tzus don’t need masses of exercise to keep them happy, and they are relatively easy to train to follow basic commands.
They also tend to be fairly healthy as a whole, with an average lifespan of around 10-16 years, and with many dogs reaching their mid to late teens in good health. However, there are a number of hereditary health conditions that can be found across the wider breed population, including hip dysplasia, eye problems, and issues relating to the breed’s brachycephalic faces, such as BOAS or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome.
Whilst the Shih Tzu is not one of the brachycephalic dog breeds that are most commonly associated with very flattened faces or that are commonly deliberately bred to display exaggerated facial features, dogs of the breed whose muzzles are even shorter than the norm have a higher risk of developing BOAS or other issues relating to the shape of their faces.
This is a complex congenital condition resulting from the shortened muzzles of some flat-faced dogs, and which may require a costly corrective surgery to enable the dog to simply breathe normally. Even after surgery, such dogs are usually limited to some extent in terms of how far they can exert themselves when exercising, and how able they are to tolerate hot weather.
This is something that all potential Shih Tzu buyers should bear in mind before committing to purchasing a dog of the breed, and particularly, if you intend to breed Shih Tzus yourself.
Shih Tzus have been popular in the UK for many decades, and they have been established in large numbers within the UK for a very long time too. The Shih Tzu’s small size makes them a viable choice of pet for people who might not be able to accommodate a larger dog breed, and the fact that they aren’t particularly challenging in terms of their exercise requirements help in this respect too, as they will be quite happy with a more sedentary lifestyle with a couple of moderate walks per day.
Because the breed is petite and has a lot to recommend them, interest in and demand for Shih Tzus in the UK tends to be consistently high too – but the breed has actually dropped in popularity compared to some others over the last few years based on Pets4Homes data, as we will explain in more detail in the following sections.
So, how popular is the Shih Tzu in the UK at the moment?
As the UK’s largest and most popular pet classifieds site and advice portal, Pets4Homes is in a unique position in terms of its ability to identify trends in the popularity of all of the dog breeds we accept advertisements for.
We collate anonymous statistics on every individual dog breed showcased here each year in terms of the numbers of adverts placed, the price bands that different breeds sell for, and how the numbers and prices of each dog breed fluctuate year to year.
Currently, the Shih Tzu is the 9th most popular dog breed in the UK overall, based on data and statistics collated here on Pets4Homes.
As you can see, the number of non-pedigree Shih Tzus offered for sale in 2018 far outweighs the number of Kennel Club registered pedigrees, which is quite unusual. Most dog breeds in the UK that are eligible for Kennel Club registration see more pedigree dogs advertised each year than non-pedigrees, and so having over four times as many non-pedigrees as pedigrees for sale within the course of a year is quite notable.
This indicates that the pedigree status of the dog is less important for most Shih Tzu owners than it is for most other dog breeds, and this is certainly one of the most popular pet dog breeds in the UK, regardless of the status of each individual dog.
Non-pedigree Shih Tzus do of course tend to cost rather less than pedigrees to buy as well, which is always a factor when it comes to picking a dog. For many people looking for a good pet and companion, whether or not they have pedigree paperwork doesn’t factor into the equation – they just wish to buy a healthy dog with a nice personality.
The fact that many more breeders offer non-pedigree Shih Tzus for sale than specialise in producing pedigree lines also helps to direct puppy buyer choices to an extent too. If finding a pedigree dog of the breed is a challenge and may mean joining a waiting list or travelling some distance from home to view litters, many people with no strong views either way will choose a non-pedigree that ticks all of the right boxes.
Based on information from all of the Shih Tzu adverts placed on Pets4Homes during 2018, we’ve collated information on the average sale prices charged for Shih Tzus in the UK at present.
To do this, we collated information from every single Shih Tzu and Shi Tzu litter offered for sale here on Pets4Homes in 2018, and then discounted dogs offered with no price stated, a price of over £100, or a price of over £8,000 to ensure that incomplete, inaccurate or anomalous information supplied by sellers does not skew the true picture of the current state of play.
This is a fairly competitive price for a popular and in-demand dog breed, even one at the smaller end of the size spectrum. The fact that Shih Tzus are much more economical to buy than many other small dog breeds (like the Pomeranian, for example, which commanded average prices of £1,069 per dog during 2018) certainly helps to keep the Shih Tzu near to the top of the popularity rankings.
However, a high sale price is not necessarily a limiting factor when it comes to a dog breed reaching great heights of popularity, and the French bulldog is a good example of this. The French bulldog is the most popular – and populous – dog breed in the UK bar none, and yet dogs of the breed attract an average advertised price of £1,272 per dog.
These examples serve to indicate that a low average price per dog does not necessarily mean that they will be in great demand, and neither does a high average sale price automatically limit demand either.
However, everyone has a price ceiling in terms of how much they are willing or able to pay for a new dog, which places many popular small dog breeds well outside of the reach of many people who might otherwise like to own one.
The fact that Shih Tzus are comparatively competitive to buy certainly has a part to play in demand for them, but to what extent is something that can only be answered by individuals who have chosen or discounted the breed, on a personal basis.
The advertised prices for pedigree versus non-pedigree Shih Tzus have a notable gap between them too, and we’ll outline the split below.
This is quite a big difference in price between pedigree and non-pedigree Shih Tzus for sale – over £250 difference per dog – and choosing a pedigree Shih Tzu costs over 50% more to buy than picking a non-pedigree dog of the same breed.
This price gap may help to explain why non-pedigree Shih Tzus are more common within the UK than pedigrees, as the price of pedigree dogs of the breed is well within the average range for other small pedigree dog breeds of most types, other than the most expensive ones like the Frenchie and the Pomeranian.
5,737 individual Shih Tzu dogs and litters offered for sale in any one year (2018) is of course a large figure, and represents a significant population of dogs.
This helps to make the Shih Tzu the 9th most popular dog breed in the UK at the moment – but how does this compare to previous years based on Pets4Homes advert statistics?
Well, in 2017 the Shih Tzu was the 6th most popular dog breed in the UK, and so they fell three whole places in the overall ranking within the course of just one year, which is quite a notable difference as the list of the UK’s top ten dog breeds tends to be fairly stable year on year with only minor fluctuations in position.
In 2016, the Shih Tzu was the 5th most popular dog breed in the UK, falling one spot between 2016-2017 too.
Taking a deeper dive into how Shih Tzu advert numbers have fluctuated over the last few years, we’ve drawn up comparisons for the breed’s numbers based on total figures, and then pedigree and non-pedigree figures individually.
Here are the total number of Shih Tzu adverts placed each year from 2016-2018:
Here are the figures for pedigree Shih Tzu advert numbers during the same period of time:
And the figures for non-pedigree Shih Tzus during the same period:
As you can see, the total number of Shih Tzus offered for sale on Pets4Homes has been falling year on year during the time period covered, with a drop of almost 300 adverts for dogs for sale between 2016-2017, and a further 157 fewer adverts for dogs of the breed between 2017-2018. This drop is also reflected individually in the numbers of both pedigree and non-pedigree ads for dogs of the breed.
However, given the still-large size of the Shih Tzu population based on advert numbers, a drop of almost 300 and then just over 150 new dogs/litters advertised over the course of three years isn’t really a major fluctuation in numbers in the same way that it would be in breeds that are less populous.
That said, the Shih Tzu’s population numbers have certainly dropped a fraction in the last three years, although the difference in numbers between each year doesn’t really explain why the breed dropped three places in the overall popularity rankings between 2017-2018 as a result of a drop in numbers of just 157 dogs during the same period.
The breed’s fall from 5th place to 6th between 2016-2017 is more reasonable given the 287 fewer dogs advertised in 2017 and the one place drop in ranking – but the reason behind the breed’s pattern of falling down the popularity list in the last three years probably has more to do with the competition than it does the Shih Tzu breed itself.
Whilst Shih Tzu advert numbers have dropped a little in the last three years, as mentioned, this hasn’t really made a big dent in the number of Shih Tzus for sale in the greater scheme of things, and this is a breed with a fairly stable population that doesn’t tend to increase or decrease by a large amount year to year.
However, some of the other dog breeds and types in the top 10 list of breeds ranked by popularity have undergone huge population increases during the same period of time – like the French bulldog, which rocketed from a total of 1,2481 ads for dogs offered for sale in 2016 to 22,172 in 2018. Almost 10,000 more adverts in 2018 compared to just two years prior is a massive increase in numbers, and one that occurred in a very short period of time.
The English bulldog, another dog breed in the UK top ten and one that moved up a place in the ranking between 2017 and 2018 is another example of a breed whose numbers have gone up a lot in a short period of time, from a total of 5,420 ads in 2016 to 8,288 in 2018.
Whilst this spike is not quite as sharp as the French bulldog figures, it is again a very big difference – much more so than the variance of just a few hundred dogs fewer seen in the Shih Tzu population during the same period of time.
All of this means that there is not a fully accurate answer to the question of whether or not the Shih Tzu is falling in popularity in the UK. Whilst you could not strictly argue against this being the case given the fall in rankings and slight drop in the number of adverts placed each year, the main reason behind the drop in the Shih Tzu’s rankings has less to do with the number of dogs of the Shih Tzu breed itself bred each year, and more to do with the increasing population numbers of other breeds that have superseded the Shih Tzu in the ranking as a result.
This does of course also mean that whilst the number of Shih Tzus in the UK in total hasn’t changed a lot, some other dog breeds have become much more populous – and ergo, we see may more of them around.
This means that we probably see as many, or almost as many Shih Tzus today as we have done in recent previous years, but that they may stand out more or be more memorable when we do, given the rising numbers of other competing breeds.
So, how is the fall in the Shih Tzu’s ranking in the top ten list and the rise of other breed populations growing in their place affecting Shih Tzu prices? Let’s look at the figures.
The average prices for pedigree Shih Tzus only during the same period is as follows:
The average prices for non-pedigree Shih Tzus during the same period is as follows:
As you can see from the above figures, Shih Tzu prices in general and individually for both non-pedigree and pedigree dogs of the breed separately have all actually risen slightly between 2016 and 2018.
Across non-pedigree examples of dogs of the breed, the incremental increases each year are relatively minor – particularly between 2017 and 2018 – and can likely be explained away by inflation in the main part.
However, pedigree dogs of the breed have jumped up in price rather more significantly during the same period of time, rising £87 between 2016-2017, and a further £86 between 2017-2018.
These price increases may well correlate to the slightly smaller number of dogs of the breed being produced in the last couple of years, which means that if demand remains consistent, the supply of available dogs to meet it is a little lower.
The vagaries of supply and demand do of course dictate prices more than any other individual factor – if almost nobody wants to buy a certain dog breed, they won’t be very costly to buy, whereas a breed that has 10 buyers waiting for every available puppy will be priced accordingly.
Looking solely at the hard data, it would be accurate to say that the Shih Tzu breed as a whole has become a little less populous in the UK within the last few years, although not significantly so.
However, the Shih Tzu has also fallen four places in the ranking from 5th to 9th, which is a big drop when you take into account the short timescale. However, this can be explained more accurately by the growth in numbers of competing breeds than it can by a meaningful fall in demand for Shih Tzus themselves, or the number of dogs of the breed around.
In terms of Shih Tzu pricing, the breed has increased slightly in terms of price averages during the last three years, particularly for pedigree dogs of the breed, which are much fewer in numbers than non-pedigrees. This likely reflects their relative rarity compared to their non-pedigree relatives.
Non-pedigree Shih Tzus have also increased in price during the same period of time, although at a less dramatic rate.