What is an Imperial Shih Tzu?  Often, if a breeder is selecting their dogs to achieve a smaller size (usually around 9 pounds), they will call the variety of dog Tea Cup or Imperial.

Here we will learn what breeders mean by Miniature, Toy, and Imperial dogs.

Many people have fallen in love with tiny dogs, the smaller, the better. There is a huge market for these tiny pups around the globe.

There is no official breed called the Imperial Shih Tzu. They are still classified by the major dog registries as a Shih Tzu, however if they are especially small, the breeder may dub them “Imperial.”

To appeal to the public, who have become familiar with the words Tea Cup, some breeders of Shih Tzu dogs will intentionally breed their smallest dogs, to ensure the puppies are also on the smaller side, but still within the standard weight range for the breed. This is a perfectly acceptable practice.

Other breeders opt to try and achieve even smaller puppies, while still maintaining the health of the breed. They aim for an adult weight of no more than 7-8 pounds (3.17-3.62 kg) These Shih Tzu are often called “Imperial.” While they do not fall within the conformation standards of the breed, they breed for health as well as size and are just as healthy as Shih Tzu of standard size.

Even a breeder who tries to stay within standards for the breed may have the occasional puppy who turns out smaller than they expected. Mother Nature always has the final word on the situation. Sometimes these smaller-than-intended puppies are also called “Imperial Shih Tzus”

However, it is important to remember that Shih Tzu’s should not be too small. If they are intentionally bred with a goal of an adult weight of 5 pounds or less, they can have potentially serious health issues. Shih Tzus were not designed to be that small! These puppies are destined for a host of serious issues with their health.

It’s important to remember that while the term is often used by a large number of breeders, both ethical and not, the term Imperial Shih Tzu should simply mean small. It should not mean drastically smaller than breed standard.

When used correctly, the word Miniature, Teacup, or Imperial Shih Tzu should not be a noun. They should be an adjective meaning small. Shih Tzus weighing in at less than 9 pounds does not fit the standard for the breed.

Too many people are victims of marketing ploys designed to get their money. The internet is full of websites touting their Imperial Shih Tzus, which is impressive since there is no such breed. It is merely a term used for marketing. There is no special royal bloodline or distinct breed called the Imperial Shih Tzu. Unfortunately, these terms are thrown around so often that many people believe they are a real breed, and the terms are official. Often the term is being used without care, or worse, the puppies are intentionally bred smaller than they should be, a dangerous situation for both mother and pup.

It is dangerous to intentionally breed puppies that will reach less than 5 pounds (2.26 kg). While the occasional tiny puppy will be born naturally that small, a Shih Tzu puppy that reaches just 2 or 3 pounds when full grown is not something to aim for. These dogs tend to be so tiny that even their health is fragile, and they often have numerous issues. They also tend to have much shorter life spans as well. One common problem of these super tiny dogs are liver shunts.

There are many health problems that can arise when these dogs are unethically bred to be incredibly tiny. When the breeder then breeds 2 of these already unhealthy tiny dogs, even more problems can arise. They can suffer from calcium deficiencies. Some of their vital organs may also be affected. Eventually, they often develop heart disease and/or liver failure. Shih Tzus that are too small can also have difficulty with basic needs such as eating and breathing. Their organs may be underdeveloped or unnaturally small inside of their tiny bodies. You must be very careful with them.


If you already have a Shih Tzu puppy, and it seems to be much smaller than normal, your first step should be an appointment with a good veterinarian. They can do the necessary tests to determine if there are underlying health issues. Dogs that are smaller than nature intended require special care. You will also have to carefully monitor their food intake. New foods should be introduced slowly, and much more carefully than other Shih Tzus who are merely smaller than average. If your puppy is having trouble with solid food, you may have to get a prescription puppy formula from your vet.

Dogs that are too small are often quite sensitive to temperature. They will find it difficult to adjust to a change in temperature, so you must be careful when taking them outside in the cold. Dog clothing may be more than just a fashion choice. They can also overheat easily when temperatures rise.

The bones of these tiny dogs are also quite fragile. You will have to ensure that your dog can safely avoid falling. They may need a ramp to even get on or off the furniture. Take care when socializing them with large dogs, as it is very easy for the larger dog to injure them unintentionally, even when they are friendly and just playing.

Regular checkups at a veterinarian’s office are crucial. The sooner you are aware of any health issues that may be developing, the more effectively they can be treated.