Shih Tzu Litters: Uncovering the Surprising Number of Puppies!

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Shih Tzus are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world and for good reason. They are affectionate and playful dogs that make great family pets.

No surprise then that this question gets bounced around quite often: How many puppies can a Shih Tzu have?

A Shih Tzu has 3 to 4 puppies in a litter on average. This is especially so for their first 2 litters, and this number often increases to 5 or 6 in subsequent litters. Each Shih Tzu is different though and is influenced by factors such as age and health.

In this post, I will cover everything from the average Shih Tzu litter size to the factors that contribute to it as well as give you some tips on what to do during a Shih Tzu pregnancy.

By the end of this post, you will have all the information you need to know about this beautiful dog and its puppies!

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how many puppies can a shih tzu have in one litter

How Many Puppies Can a Shih Tzu Have in One Litter?

The average litter size for Shih Tzus is two to four puppies, and this number often goes up to 5 in the third and fourth litters.

(Some have asked: How many puppies in Shih Tzu’s first pregnancy? The average number of puppies it will have is still the same, although it is more commonly observed that it will be on the smaller end)

The precise number cannot be predicted, but given that they are a small dog breed, you can assume that they will have fewer puppies than the typical large breed, such as a Great Dane.

Breeding lines can also affect the size of the litter; some lines have a tendency to have bigger litters than others.

Owners of Shih Tzus who are thinking about breeding them should discuss the expected size of the litter with a vet or breeder.

The number of puppies in a litter will also depend on many other factors, which I discuss in more detail in the sections below.


How Many Healthy Litters Can a Shih Tzu Have in Their Lifetime?

In theory, Shih Tzus do not experience menopause and will carry on reproducing until they die.

Like other dogs, they experience two heat cycles a year, and each cycle lasts between six and eight months.

Just because they can mate twice a year does not mean they should.

Shih Tzus should never be bred more than four to six times in their lifetime and should never be mated more than once a year.

This is to guarantee that it can be spayed and continue to live a good life after retirement.

Another point to note is the fact that there are countries that legally limit the number of times a dog can be bred in its lifetime, and that number is usually 4 to 6 times.

In the US, the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not accept registrations for dams that are bred over the age of 12 and under 8 months, and sires that are over the age of 12 and under 7 months.

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What Determines the Number of Shih Tzu Puppies in a Litter?

In this section, we’ll discuss the key factors that determine the number of Shih Tzu puppies in a litter.

1. Age of the dam

In general, as a dam matures, the size of the litter shrinks.

Once your Shih Tzu breeds again after the first two litters, you should plan to have one or two extra puppies since, oddly enough, the first couple of litters are often smaller than the succeeding litters.

I should also mention that breeding a dog after the age of seven or eight is not advised because it is too late to have puppies and may result in health problems for both the mother and the puppies.

If possible, you should stop breeding your dog long before that and have it spayed, as this will improve its health in general.

2. Age of the sire

The father of your Shih Tzu’s litter will also have an impact on the litter size, albeit less so than the mother.

Even if the female is exceptionally productive, there may be fewer puppies in each litter because a dog’s sperm quality begins to drop at the age of 5 to 6.

Occasionally, breeders have to rely on artificial insemination to aid in breeding older males, which is why it is better to only breed them when they are younger.

3. Health of the mom

Your Shih Tzu’s health must be your primary priority if you plan to breed it.

The simple truth is that a weak or sickly mother will give birth to an unfit puppy.

Therefore, monitoring the mother’s weight while she is pregnant is one of the most crucial things to do if you decide to breed your dog.

For instance, if the mother is overweight, she can have joint problems and, like a human mother, make labor and delivery more difficult.

In order to prevent obesity, which will cause unnecessary problems, avoid overfeeding your dog.

A healthy and balanced diet that is easily digestible and palatable would work best for an expecting dog.

Additionally, it should be emphasized that the duration between litters must be sufficient to provide your girl time to heal (hence no breeding in consecutive heat cycles).

4. Size of dog

Being a small breed, the Shih Tzu is not physically capable to have a big litter of puppies.

I don’t just mean heavier in terms of weight when I say that; I also mean larger in terms of build.

Even dogs belonging to the same breed might vary in size.

Generally speaking, Shih Tzus with larger frames may have slightly larger litter sizes, though this would only be a minor factor given how little difference there is between their sizes.

A typical-sized Shih Tzu has a litter of three puppies, though on rare occasions this number can reach seven or eight.

5. Litter in which mom was born

The level of fertility in your Shih Tzu has a thing or two to do with the litter it was born in.

If she was born into a large litter herself, she will likely have a larger first litter.

On the other side, you may generally anticipate that your girl will have a small first litter if she was born in a small litter herself.

6. Type of breeding

Actually, it would be preferable to save this topic for a different essay given how easily it could become complicated.

But for now, just understand that the quantity and quality of puppies can also be significantly impacted by the reproduction process.

For instance, a litter’s quality may suffer if inbreeding is too extreme.

Not only are litter sizes smaller, but the puppies’ health will also be impacted by shorter lifespans and a higher chance of developing genetic defects.

These problems are more likely to occur as the relationships between the dogs get closer.

Linebreeding, on the other hand, aims to maintain sufficient genetic diversity while preserving the best genes from a bloodline, making it frequently a safer method of dog breeding.

7. Time of breeding

It is said that a dam is more likely to have a larger litter size the closer she is to ovulation.

This is defined as the period after the estrogen period when the Luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any studies supporting this theory, so at this point, I would say this factor is probably not that significant.

At What Age Can You Breed a Shih Tzu?

Although Shih Tzus can technically begin reproducing once they reach their first heat cycle, this is usually a bad idea and avoided.

It is common to have the first heat cycle when it reaches 6 months old, which is way too young to start breeding a dog.

Thus, it is advisable to wait until your dog is at least in her second heat cycle as this will give her enough time to mature sexually and gain weight and size.

The majority of ethical breeders will in fact wait until a dog is 2 years old before breeding them because by then they will have undergone all necessary medical examinations.

What Age Do Shih Tzus Go in Heat?

Most female Shih Tzus go through their first heat cycle between the ages of 6 and 8 months.

If your girl hasn’t gone through her first heat cycle by the time she is 15 months old, speak with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

A useful rule of thumb is that it will go into heat at about the same age that its mother did.

How Do You Know if Your Shih Tzu is in Heat?

Bloody discharge, receptivity to male dogs, agitated behavior, and many other symptoms can be signs of a dog in heat.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Discharge from the vulva
  • Receptive to male dogs
  • Change in appetite
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Agitated, anxious, or aggressive behavior
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Holding its tail close to the body

How Often Do Shih Tzus Go Into Heat?

A Shih Tzu will go into heat once every 6 to 8 months, but this can vary depending on each individual dog.

While some dogs’ cycles could be a little bit longer or shorter than others, you should be keeping track of when they happen.

Consult your veterinarian to determine whether there is anything that could be causing your dog’s variable seasons.

There is often more time between seasons as dogs get older (but can still get pregnant).

How Long Does a Shih Tzu Stay in Heat?

When a dog is said to be in heat, we are usually referring to the estrus phase of the heat cycle, and that’s the time when they actually see “action”.

The entire cycle is as follows, and it is during the estrus period when a dog will show all the signs discussed above:

  • Phase 1: Proestrus (~7 to 10 days)
  • Phase 2: Estrus (~5 to 14 days)
  • Phase 3: Diestrus (~10 to 140 days)
  • Phase 4: Anestrus (~6 months)

How to Tell if My Shih Tzu is Pregnant?

Here are the most common signs that your Shih Tzu is pregnant:

  • Nipples enlarged
  • Increased hunger
  • Irritability (may have a short temper)
  • Decrease in activity and energy levels
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weight gain
  • Starts nesting
  • Seeks more attention

When you notice all of these happening, and about 25 days have passed since mating, you should bring your girl to the vet for an ultrasound or a blood test to determine if it’s pregnant.

How Long is a Shih Tzu Pregnant for?

How Long is a Shih Tzu Pregnant for?

Dogs, no matter the breed, are usually pregnant for 56-64 days, or about 2 months.

There won’t be many, if any, obvious indicators of pregnancy in the first two weeks in your dog as the changes are currently taking place internally within the uterus.

However, your Shih Tzu will soon start to lose hair around the breasts, develop larger, darker nipples, and develop darker nipples at around 3 weeks of pregnancy.

How Many Times Can a Shih Tzu Get Pregnant in a Year?

How Many Times Can a Shih Tzu Get Pregnant in a Year?

Shih Tzus, like many other dogs, go through a reproductive cycle that can result in pregnancy, and since this cycle typically happens twice a year, it means a Shih Tzu could potentially become pregnant twice a year.

However, you must understand that breeding a dog too frequently can be harmful to its health and well-being.

By doing so, it can lead to various health issues, such as an increased risk of infections in the uterus (pyometra), reduced fertility, and a higher chance of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

As a result, it’s recommended that dogs be allowed to breed no more than once a year.

This approach helps to ensure the health and safety of both the mother and her offspring.

How Do I Know When My Shih Tzu Dog is About to Give Birth?

It is good to be aware that dogs usually give birth around 2 months (55 to 64 days) after getting pregnant so that you can prepare for it.

As the time draws nearer, there will be a number of telltale signs that your dog might be whelping soon.

  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Not eating much
  • Digging and scratching
  • Lethargy
  • Start producing milk
  • Spending more time in her “nest”
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Straining
  • Drop in body temperature

Care Tips for a Pregnant Shih Tzu

Pregnant Shih Tzus can be a joyous occasion, but they also require some extra care.

It is important to keep your Shih Tzu healthy and happy during pregnancy.

This will help them stay comfortable and make sure that they have a smooth delivery.

Here are some tips:

Regular checkups

You need to schedule regular checkups with your vet, especially in the last 3 weeks of pregnancy, or if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior.

This will help make sure that everything is going as it should be during pregnancy and birth.

Balanced diet

During pregnancy, your Shih Tzu really needs to have a balanced diet and you have to make it as palatable and easily digestible as possible.

This means that she should get plenty of protein (chicken is a good choice), and some fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals.

You can also supplement the diet with calcium tablets or other supplements if you want to be extra careful about making sure your dog gets everything she needs during this time.

Quiet environment

If this is your dog’s first litter, it’s extremely important to ensure she has a tranquil environment.

Keeping her calm will assist to avoid problems both for the puppies and during labor.

If you know there will be loud noises, such as fireworks or other people in the house, keep your Shih Tzu inside and away from those times so she won’t be startled by the commotion.


Although pregnant dogs shouldn’t exercise vigorously, they can benefit from lots of attention, moderate play, and frequent short walks.

You shouldn’t overstimulate a pregnant dog, but you also shouldn’t let her become too inactive.

During the last three weeks of pregnancy, it is essential that a pregnant dog be kept separate from other dogs and animals; therefore, allow her to get some light exercise indoors during this time rather than taking her outside.

One more thing: Do not be rough with them at this time!

Should You Breed Shih Tzus?

If you’re thinking about breeding Shih Tzus, there are a few things you should know.

The first thing is that breeding Shih Tzus is a very serious business—and not just because of the historical importance of this particular breed and the way it has impacted Western culture since then.

Breeding Shih Tzus is also serious because it can have huge effects on the health of your dog.

For example, if you’re not careful about which dogs you mate with together, you could end up with puppies who suffer from a variety of genetic disorders like cataracts or hip dysplasia.

These conditions can cause pain and discomfort for your dog, so it’s important to do your research before deciding whether or not to breed Shih Tzus.

In addition to this issue with genetic disorders, another thing to keep in mind is that breeding Shih Tzus can be expensive—you’ll need money for food and supplies as well as vet bills for vaccinations and exams during pregnancy.

If you don’t have enough money set aside for these expenses before getting started with breeding Shih Tzus, then it might not be worth doing at all!

For dog owners who want to have more members in their family, adopting a dog will make more sense. You get a new dog, and your dog gets a new family!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a Shih Tzu have 11 puppies?

It is very unlikely that a Shih Tzu can have 11 puppies in one litter. The average litter size for Shih Tzus is 3 to 4 puppies, sometimes going up to five or six. A litter of 11 puppies is considered large even for larger breeds like Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.

What is the best age to breed a Shih Tzu?

The ideal age for a Shih Tzu to become pregnant is above 2 years old because this gives them time to develop, reach adult size, and reach sexual maturity. They would have already undergone all required medical examinations to determine whether they are healthy enough to breed by this point.

How many litters should a Shih Tzu have?

Theoretically speaking, a Shih Tzu is able to have 2 litters in a year, but this is not advisable at all. The reason is to allow your dog to have time to recover from giving birth and cause its body undue stress.

How many times can a Shih Tzu have babies?

A Shih Tzu does not undergo menopause, so it can have babies throughout its life after the first heat cycle. However, they should not be bred excessively and breeding should stop at the age of 7 or 8 to ensure it still gets a quality and healthy life.

Can a 7 year old Shih Tzu have puppies?

Yes, a 7-year-old Shih Tzu can have puppies, but it is not recommended. Breeding at this age can increase the risk of health complications for both the mother and the puppies. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian before breeding any dog, especially one that is older.

In Conclusion: How Many Puppies Can a Shih Tzu Have?

I’ve covered a lot of ground here, so hopefully, you feel more knowledgeable about breeding Shih Tzus and how many puppies they can have.

If you’re not sure whether you should breed them, think about adopting one from a shelter or rescue group instead.

There are lots of them that really need our help, home, and love.

Check out the litter sizes of other dog breeds here.

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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