Jack Tzu

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Jack Tzu
jeffreyw / Flickr.com

A small hybrid dog that has resulted from crossing the Jack Russell Terrier with the Shih Tzu, the Jack Tzu will generally have a loyal and loving nature with a bit of a mischievous streak! More energetic and full on than their Shih Tzu parent but not as spirited as a Terrier, many see the personality of the Jack Tzu as a good compromise between the two opposing characters of the parent breeds.

Jack Tzus are small dogs with compact, muscular bodies. When looking at them, the first thing that stands out is their dark brown, intelligent eyes, which seem to be able to communicate their emotions. Their fur is usually dense and straight and may grow to be quite long. It can often give them a shaggy and unkempt appearance, which only serves to make them that bit more loveable.

About & History

Though the Jack Russell Terrier and the Shih Tzu are both popular pet dogs that are small in size, the similarities pretty much end there. These two breeds have distinctly different personalities, so mixing them together to create the Jack Tzu has resulted in a new dog breed that can have a variable personality and appearance. It is thought that the Jack Tzu originated in America, perhaps a couple of decades ago.

The Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is sometimes lovingly referred to as the Jack Russell ‘Terror’ because they can have a big and feisty personality. Though these dogs originated within England in the 1800s from the Fox Terrier, the Jack Russell was soon exported to Australia where the breed was further developed.

Traditionally bred to be ratters and to hunt foxes and rabbits, the Jack Russell was never a lapdog and would have had to work for its supper. This resulted in a tenacious breed with a strong character. As these dogs are extremely energetic and intelligent, they are frequently kept on farms and as working dogs.

The Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu hails from Tibet and is a diminutive lap dog that is sometimes referred to as ‘The Lion Dog’ and is a truly ancient breed that is roughly 3,000 years old. Dog enthusiasts may already have guessed that the Shih Tzu is thought to have originated from similar Oriental breeds, including the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese, as they look very similar.

The elevated position once held by the Shih Tzu within both the ancient Tibetan and ancient Chinese societies is irrefutable with the breed featuring in many painting and sculptures of the time. It wasn’t until the mid 1900s that the Shih Tzu began making its way west and its popularity has surged since then, with breed fanciers admiring their loving and loyal personalities.


The physical appearance of the Jack Tzu can vary tremendously from individual to individual, with some having the more snub-nosed, bug-eyed Shih Tzu face and others inheriting the longer muzzle of the Jack Russell. Their skull is somewhat flat on the top and they have ears that either hang to the side of their face or drop down to the front. Their eyes are dark brown and curious while they have a small, black nose. Most will have the longer limbs and leaner body of the Terrier and a body that is more in proportion than that of the Shih Tzu. They are robustly built and have muscular hind limbs.

A fully-grown Jack Tzu will weigh from 6kg to 10kg and will measure between 24cm and 30cm at the withers. The fur of the Jack Tzu may be quite short and wiry or longer and silkier, depending on who they take after more. It is never curly and is often quite thick. There are a wide range of possible fur colours, including: Solid Black, Cream, White & Brown, White & Red or White & Black.

Character & Temperament

Typically a charismatic little chap, the Jack Tzu is sparky and energetic. Open and friendly with both family members and strangers, these sociable dogs enjoy being around people and love to get attention when out on their walks. Though it is common for the Jack Tzu to dedicate themselves to one owner in particular (usually the one they spend most time with), they will form special bonds with all of the people within the home.

Households with children are a good match for this cheeky dog who loves to play and gets on very well with people of all ages as long as they have been introduced to them from a young age and the kids are taught how to treat them gently and with respect.

Most Jack Tzus make excellent watch dogs and will yap loudly at the first sign of a new arrival at the home. They are intensely alert and can even wake up from a deep sleep to react to someone who has not yet even rang the doorbell! Though they may bark loudly, they are unlikely to be hostile to a new guest and the chances are they will greet them warmly once their owner indicates to them that there is no threat.


Highly intelligent and quick to learn, the Jack Tzu can be a real pleasure to train. However, some can possess a stubborn streak and they can tire quickly of repetitive sessions. Training is most successful when it is fun and there are lots of rewards involved for the dog.

Once they have mastered the basic cues, many Jack Tzus can do well in canine activities, such as agility and obedience. When coupled with the right trainer, these guys have lots of potential.


Cross breeding pedigree dogs can be a good way of making the canine population healthier, which is especially true when breeding the brachycephalic (snub-nosed) Shih Tzu with the longer-nosed Jack Russell. However, as pups can inherit genes from either parent, there is no guarantee that breed-related illnesses will be bred out (particularly in the first few generations).

Patellar Luxation

Kneecap dislocation in dogs is relatively common and occurs most often in smaller breeds. As the kneecap moves in and out of place, arthritis will set in overtime and lead to local pain and mobility issues. Surgery is usually the preferred treatment option as it can cure the problem and prevent long-term complications.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (VDD)

If the Jack Tzu inherits the longer back of their Shih Tzu parent they will be more prone to IVDD. Owners can potentially reduce the risk of this disease occurring by keeping their dogs slim, avoiding big jumps and using a harness rather than a neck lead.

Periodontal Disease

As a rule of thumb, the smaller a dog’s mouth, the more likely they are to develop periodontal disease, which can consist of gingivitis (inflamed gums) and a build-up of calculus on the teeth, as well as bad breath and localised infections.

This can be prevented by good oral hygiene, which should include daily tooth brushing and the use of enzymatic cleaners. Feeding a dry kibble rather than a soft, wet food can also help to maintain teeth in good condition as a dog ages.

Otitis Externa

The pendulous ears of the Jack Tzu can create a moist and humid ear canal that is the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to grow and thrive. Keeping ears clean and dry can go a long way to preventing recurring infections.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Shih Tzu is a low energy, chilled-out lap dog while the Jack Russell is a slightly bonkers, active breed that comes from working stock. Where the Jack Tzu’s energy levels will fall is highly dependent on which genes they inherit and even those from the same litter may end up having quite different exercise needs.

Most are suited to small homes and do not necessarily need access to a garden but should be brought on several 30-minute walks each day to keep their mind engaged and their body active. They also relish any opportunity to participate in games, particularly those that involve using their brain and tennis balls!


Most Jack Tzus require brushing about twice a week to prevent mats from occurring. Their ears should be checked regularly and many will need fortnightly ear cleaning to prevent waxy build up and reduce the risk of ear infections developing. The Jack Tzu can shed a moderate amount and is certainly not a hypoallergenic breed.

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