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All The Shih Tzu Colors Explained (With Pictures!)

shih tzu standing on grass

Shih Tzus are beautiful, charming little dogs first bred to live in Tibetan palaces. Whilst their original owners might have been royalty, these stunning dogs are now popular with families across the country.

In fact, they’re a great choice if you live in an apartment too. These cute, hairy little dogs get on really well with children, and other pets, and are very affectionate. Their endearing, cheeky personalities are enough to win anyone over.

But did you know, there’s something else that attracts pup parents to this breed? All the Shih Tzu colors. And there are quite a few. 

Here they all are!

The Ideal Shih Tzu Owner

Before we get on to all the colors, it’s important to check whether a Shih Tzu would be the best choice of breed for you. Luckily, these versatile dogs fit in with many different lifestyles. They’re a great choice of dog for those living in apartments and could make a wonderful pet for an elderly person. 

Shih Tzus are very kind and funny dogs that love to cuddle. They need lots of attention, but that usually comes in the form of sitting and watching TV with them. They benefit from getting fresh air outside and going for little walks, but they can get a lot of their exercise from chasing a ball inside. 

Anyone who is thinking about getting an adorable Shih Tzu needs to know that they can have demanding grooming needs. Usually, Shih Tzus have a long, flowing coat or they can have it trimmed in a puppy cut.

Dogs with a longer coat will need to be brushed daily to keep the coat from getting matted. You also need to tie their head hair up into a (very cute) top knot to stop it from irritating their eyes. Don’t forget to brush their mustache too!

For those wanting a slightly easier life, we recommend having them trimmed regularly. You won’t need to groom them nearly as much.

Official Shih Tzu Colors According to the American Kennel Club

Shih Tzus are different from any other breed – not just because they’re tiny, cute, and regal. The kennel clubs also seem to be pretty aligned when it comes to coat colors. Trust us, that doesn’t always happen, just look at the accepted Belgian Malinois colors.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) says: all (Shih Tzu colors) are permissible and to be considered equally. So, yeah, there are quite a few of them to get through!

Black

Even though black is usually a dominant gene amongst many dog breeds, it’s not a very common color for Shih Tzus. For the pup to be considered a black Shih Tzu, it must not have any gray, brown, blue, or gold on its body. Even if it’s just a couple of hairs on the face.

Black Shih Tzus will always have black eye rims, paw pads, nose, and dark eyes. Some may have some white patches and their coat color may turn gray or silver as they age.

It’s important to research a breeder carefully. Black Shih Tzus are rare, and many owners wanting a black pup can easily be fooled by dark patches of other colors on an otherwise black coat. They may also be the result of unethical breeding, which is always important to avoid.

Black and White

black and white shih tzu

Black and white Shih Tzus are one of my favorite Shih Tzu colors. They’re especially cute when they have a puppy trim! Like other black and white dogs on this list, the patterns will be unique to your little pooch. They may also change over time. For instance, a black and white Shih Tzu may become gray or silver with age.

Blue

Blue dogs are becoming increasingly popular. You can probably tell why. This stunning coat color is amazing on any breed, and the Shih Tzu is no exception.

Although it’s possible for a blue Shih Tzu puppy to have the iconic coat, the ‘blue’ actually refers to its eye rim, nose, and paw pad color. These will have a slight lavender color to them, which identifies the dog as blue. 

Blue and White

As with black and white Shih Tzus, blue and white dogs will have a unique pattern. It may be just one patch of white or they may have a couple all over their body.

The blue parts of a blue and white Shih Tzu can be so dark it looks black or even a lighter, steel-gray color. Just like blue Shih Tzus, it will have blue skin (paw pads, nose, eye rims). Some blue and white pups also have lighter-colored eyes.

Brindle

Brindle is a particularly beautiful coat color on any breed. We especially love it on long-haired Shih Tzu dogs. Also known as ‘tiger stripes’, brindle is one of the most unique Shih Tzu coat patterns. Many pups with these markings will have a gold or tan base color, with black or dark brown stripes. Although this can vary a lot.

It’s perfectly possible for Shih Tzu puppies to be born with brindle coats and for them to change as they get older. The colors may fade or change altogether. Some dogs may also have very fine stripes which can make it hard to know for sure if they’re brindle.

Brindle and White 

Brindle and white Shih Tzus are also beautiful. The majority of their coat will be a stunning brindle pattern but they will also have white patches. These are often on the chest. The coat of a white and brindle Shih Tzu may change over time.

Gold

gold shih tzu 1
Credits: @ourwildtzus on Instagram

Even though Shih Tzus were bred to be around Emperors and lots of wealth, gold is one of the rarest Shih Tzu colors.

If you’re lucky enough to find a breeder with a gold Shih Tzu puppy then you’ll be getting a truly beautiful dog. Many of these stunning pups have an almost red or orange glow to them and it’s more common to find gold on multi or particolored pups.

Gold and White

This is another wonderful color for your Shih Tzu’s coat. A puppy with this coat coloring may have a more intense gold color which fades as they grow older. They may also look more yellowish and have white markings across their chest.

Liver

If you’re looking for a healthy and accepted liver dog breed, then the liver Shih Tzu could be perfect for you. In many breeds, liver is considered disqualifiable or undesirable because of the health risks associated. But not with the Shih Tzu! Actually, these chocolate-colored dogs are very sought-after and very cute!

The gorgeous liver color is caused when the black pigment (eumelanin) is diluted by the B locus. This is a recessive gene, which means the puppy needs to inherit it from both parents for it to have a chocolate/liver coat.

As with blue Shih Tzus, the term ‘liver’ really refers to the color of their skin and not necessarily the coat color. The exact color of the coat may differ from dark chocolate to a much lighter one.

Liver and White

These stunning dogs have a liver base coat with white markings. They may be on their chest, underbody, or paws.

As with liver Shih Tzus, the actual liver color can vary quite a lot. It may also fade as they get older. They’ll still have liver skin color and might have light-colored eyes.

Red

Red is stunning in any breed, especially when it’s a rich color like that of the Irish Setter. It’s a standard color for a Shih Tzu and relatively common. For the Shih Tzu breed to be considered red, they must have a black nose, eye rims, and paw pads. If the pup has a brown or paler nose, it will be considered a liver pooch, rather than a red one.

Patches of black are accepted on a red, as is a black mask. White, however, would mean it’s considered a white and red dog. It’s possible for a puppy to be born with a very dark coat (that even looks black) but that they grow to have a red color. So if you’re after a red Shih Tzu, you might want to wait a while to be sure.

Red and White

Red and white dogs are beautiful. Regardless of whether they have a deep mahogany color (a personal favorite) or a lighter, gingery coat, the white perfectly contrasts. Like other Shih Tzu colors, the white can be larger patches or a couple of smaller ones.

Silver

silver shih tzu 1

It’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a silver and a pure white Shih Tzu. Silver pups usually have a silvery/gray sheen to their coats, but it can be difficult. Just like white dogs, they’ll also have black noses, eye rims, and paw pads. Dogs with pink skin may be albino, which is an undesired color. 

Fully silver dogs are quite unusual but they do exist. It’s much more common for silver Shih Tzus to have tan markings or gold, white, or black hairs on their body.

Silver and White

As we said, silver and white Shih Tzus are more common than fully silver pups. If these beautiful dogs have long coats, it can be even more difficult to tell the difference. You may find that a silver and white Shih Tzu gets darker hairs as they grow older.

Non-Standard Shih Tzu Colors According to the American Kennel Club

Whilst all colors are recognized by the AKC, some of them are considered not to be standard. Some are solid colors, and others will have markings or multi colors which are not considered to be standard. 

Black White and Silver

It might sometimes be difficult to distinguish the silver patches from the white and these pups often end up looking like black and white dogs.

Silver Gold and White

Again, these super cute dogs may look like gold and white pups if the silver markings are that distinguishable. You may, however, be able to identify the silver sheen which goes beautifully with gold!

White

Pure white dogs are often very popular but they’re not as common as other Shih Tzu colors. You might not believe it, but white Shih Tzus actually get their coat color from the red and yellow pigment that’s heavily diluted by the piebald gene.

This gene is recessive which means both parents will need to carry it – but even then a white puppy isn’t 100% guaranteed. For a pooch to be considered a fully white dog, they need to have black paw pads, eye rims, and a black nose. Even if they have a fully white coat but have a brown nose, they’ll be considered liver rather than white!

As with silver and white dogs, you need to make sure they’re not an albino pup which is a likely reason for disqualification from a kennel club. 

Black Gold and Silver

Black gold and silver dogs are fairly uncommon. They look a lot like black gold and white pups, which you’ll be able to find more easily. It can be difficult to distinguish the silver hairs on a Shih Tzus coat with these markings, and they may become grayer with time.

Black Gold and White

Black gold and white is the most common coat color for tri-colored Shih Tzus. It is, however, difficult for even experienced Shih Tzu owners to know whether a black, gold, and white dog is really just that or a black-and-gold dog with white markings. No one said dog genetics was going to be easy!

Other Shih Tzu Colors and Patterns

When it comes to the Shih Tzu dog breed, the AKC allows white, tan, and black markings and also a black mask. There are a couple of other colors that don’t appear on the list which exist.

Lavender or Isabella

Lavender is one of the most popular colors for all dog breeds that can have this amazing coat. It’s so unique and gets so much attention. This purple/gray color comes from the MLPG gene which is the same one that causes the blue coat color. However, to get a lavender Shih Tzu, the gene dilutes the brown color, and a blue coat comes from a diluted black color.

Although it’s not a listed color, you can expect to pay quite a lot for a lavender dog. They’re unique and gorgeous and that means they’re popular!

Shawl or Collar

This wonderful coat pattern is when a dog has a white mark around its neck, a little like a shawl or collar. It can be complete or partial. For dogs with more than one solid coat color, it can be difficult to distinguish the shawl pattern.

Blaze

A blaze is a white strip of fur that runs up the middle of the face, usually between the eyes.

Flare

A flare is very similar to a blaze except it widens as it gets to the forehead.

Tuxedo

Most people associate this coat pattern with the Boston Terrier but it’s also possible in a Shih Tzu. These dogs will have a large white patch on their chest and possibly some on their toes too. The rest of them, including their front legs, will be black which looks a lot like a tuxedo.

Saddle

As you might imagine from the name, a saddle marking is a patch of darker fur over the back of the dog – exactly where a saddle would go!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Most Common Shih Tzu Color?

There’s no ‘most common’ Shih Tzu color, although it’s fair to say that single-colored dogs are much rarer than those with multiple colors. Black and gold with white markings is a common combination, as are others.

What Is The Rarest Shih Tzu Color?

The rarest Shih Tzu color is all black. That’s because even dogs that appear all black (which you may see) actually have some other colors on them (which might not be easily recognizable). Solid white Shih Tzus are also considered rare.

Are Blue Shih Tzus Actually Blue?

Unfortunately no. Blue dogs aren’t actually blue. Like other breeds that can have this coat color, blue Shih Tzus have a beautiful gray coat that can sometimes have a blue sheen. It’s particularly stunning when the dog has blue eyes too!

A blue Shih Tzu should be healthy but it’s important to research breeders carefully. Blue is a very popular color for dogs but it’s not always allowed or recommended for breeds. For some other breeds, it’s not actually possible so be wary of breeders saying otherwise!

Do Shih Tzus Change Color?

Yes, it’s perfectly common for Shih Tzus to change color. Many puppies will be born with a different coat color to the one they end up with, although it won’t be crazily different. That means that a red Shih Tzu could develop a lighter, golden coat as it grows up, but it won’t suddenly grow black. Similarly, you might notice lighter-colored hairs on a dark pup as they grow up. These beautiful changes are part of the joy of owning a dog!

How Much Does a Shih Tzu Cost?

There are a lot of factors that will affect the price of your Shih Tzu. The main one is the number of breeders in your area. Some states in America have a lot of breeders which will naturally drive the price down. Others, where there aren’t so many breeders, will have more demand and they’ll be able to charge more for their puppies.

Another is the color. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay more for blue and liver Shih Tzus because of their popularity. More common colors, such as tri-colored pups, should be cheaper.

In general, however, a Shih Tzu puppy should cost you anywhere between $700 and $3,000.

Be wary of very cheap dogs, regardless of the breed. Whilst we always recommend checking at your local pound first, a cheap puppy from a breeder could be a sign of a puppy farm. Always ensure your breeder is credible and trustworthy so you know your dog was treated well and bred from healthy dogs.

Final Thoughts

Adopting a dog is a big privilege and it’s also so much fun. Whilst color is important, there are lots of other things to think about too. Luckily, when it comes to Shih Tzu colors there are lots of stunning ones to choose from and they’re all acknowledged by the AKC.

Some of the rarer and more popular colors will cost more than others and it’s important to get your pup from an accredited breeder. 

Regardless of the color of your dog, Shih Tzus are amazing, fun little dogs. They’re charming and affectionate, and make the perfect canine companion for kids. 

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