Silky Tzu

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Silky Tzu

The Silky Tzu is a hybrid bred dog that combines the placid nature of the Shih Tzu with the Australian Silky Terrier’s sense of adventure. The result is a small, compact dog that is both affectionate and inquisitive. The Silky Tzu is a friendly fellow, but can be prone to barking and indeed snoring!

Their small size means they do well in an apartment provided they are taken for regular walks. But their size does make them vulnerable to accident injury from rough play. This means their human companions should be older children or adults, rather than toddlers. With their cute looks and cuddly nature, the Silky Tzu is a great canine companion for moderately active people who like a dog that enjoys being constantly in their company.

About & History

The Silky Tzu is part of the new trend for mixing two different breeds of purebred dog together. Their short history is of disseminated breeders deciding to out-breed, and as such, no-one person can be credited with their evolution. However, both parent breeds have distinct histories, so let’s take a brief look at those.

The Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is an ancient dog breed hailing from China. Tibetan Monks are credited with founding the breed by crossing the Lhasa Apso with the Pekingese. The result was a dog fit for royalty. Indeed, the Dalai Lama is fabled with giving a pair of Shih Tzus to the Empress Tzu-Hsi. She was so enamoured with the dogs that they lived in their own palace.

The Shih Tzu was so highly prized by the Chinese that for a long time they refused to sell or give any away of these dogs to foreigners. Part of the reason for this devotion was the gentle, loving nature of this breed whose main purpose was to be a companion.

The Australian Silky Terrier

This is in contrast to the Silky Terrier who came from working stock and retain the prey drive of their terrier ancestors. Also known by some as the Australian Silky Terrier, the breed developed in 19th century Australia from dogs brought over from England. Indeed, if the Silky Terrier reminds you of the Yorkshire Terrier, it's no surprise the latter was the foundation stock for the Silky. Other breeds that went to make up the Silky include the Cairn Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Dandie Dinmont.

If the Shih Tzu is a lapdog, then the Silky Terrier is an action hero. They love to be active, have a strong adventurous streak, and an even stronger prey drive.


A hybrid dog usually takes characteristics from both parents and blends them together. However, the nature of genetic inheritance also means that some pups may take more strongly after one parent than the other. Thus, there is no guarantee as to how a young puppy will look when adult.

The typical Silky Tzu is a small, toy sized dog. Since both parents have long coats, it’s a certainty they too will have long hair with shaggy, cute looks. They have drop ear flaps, also endowed with long fur. Their head is a blend of the Shih Tzu’s flatness and the perky snout of the Silky Terrier.

They have well-proportioned body and legs, which are neither too short nor too long. This is topped off with a happy tail with a tendency to curve over their back. The most common colours include Black & Tan, Cream & Tan, Red, Brown, and White.

Character & Temperament

The Silky Tzu’s character makes them a great choice as a family dog for moderately active households. The laidback loyalty of the Shih Tzu blends with the independent spirit of the Australian Silky to make a keen but cuddly canine.

One point to be aware of is that the Silky Terrier has a strong prey drive. If this shows through in the Silky Tzu, then they may chase other fur-family members, such as cats or rabbits.

The Silky Terrier side of the family tree will want to alert you to a stranger’s presence by barking, whilst the Shih Tzu is more likely to roll over for a belly rub. The result is the Silky Tzu is no guard dog, but will woof when the mood takes them. A lovely aspect of the Silky Tzu’s character is their sense of fun and love of play. They make cheery companions that are gentle and friendly with children.


The Silky Tzu should respond well to reward-based training methods that are applied with patience and consistency. The parent breeds both have their own trainability issues, such as the Shih Tzu’s reputation for being hard to toilet train, and the Silky Terrier’s strong sense of independence. However, the Silky Tzu does love to please, so with the right encouragement, their owner will succeed in the end.


As a hybrid breed there are no statistics that accurately reflect the Silky Tzu’s tendency to disease. However, the parent breeds do have certain hereditary issues, so it’s logical to extend these to their off-spring.

Legge Perthes Disease

Legge-Perthe’s Disease affects the development of the hip joint in a growing dog. The blood supply to the head of the thigh bone shuts down too quickly. This starves the growing bone of nutrients, causing it to weaken and crumble.

The resulting hip joint is misshapen and grates with each step. This leads to inflammation and pain, which can be disabling for the young dog. Surgery is almost always needed in order to remodel the hip joint.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

BOAS is strongly linked to the Shih Tzu with their flat face. This is associated with a raft of other anatomical problems, such as a long soft palate, overly large tongue, and big tonsils, which block the back of the throat making it difficult to breath. To a certain extent the longer snout of the Silky Terrier helps reduce this risk, but sadly, doesn’t remove it altogether.

Disc Disease

Slipped discs are both painful and potentially serious. If the disc ruptures and material is pushed up into the spinal cord, this can lead to paralysis.

Tracheal Collapse

The trachea or windpipe allows inspired air to reach the lungs. The trachea is made up of a series of cartilage rings that articulate together to give it flexibility. Unfortunately, sometimes those cartilage rings aren’t rigid enough, and can collapse or can even be sucked flat as the dog breathes in.

Just like putting a foot on a hosepipe, a collapsed trachea is too narrow to allow anything to pass through it. This leads to severe shortness of breath, and in the worst cases, fainting episodes. The problem can be corrected with implants or stents, but the surgery is specialised and comes with a costly price tag to match.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Silky Tzu requires regular daily walks, but doesn’t need to go great distances or for a long time. Their need is for mental stimulation and to be sociable with other dogs, rather than have a rollicking good run. However, ignore taking a Silky Tzu out regularly at your own peril. They will grow bored and this readily leads to unwanted behaviours, such as chewing, digging or barking.


Those long locks need daily brushing and even trips to the parlour to keep them trimmed. It’s best to get the dog accustomed to being combed and brushed from a young puppy, so they don’t begrudge any tugging once old enough to object.

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