Shih Tzus are one of the most severely brachycephalic breeds of small dog. Aside from their flatter than average faces and compressed snouts compared to their bodies, another aspect of brachycephaly is they tend to have smaller litters than other dog breeds. There’s also their small size to take into account. Generally speaking smaller toy dog breeds like Shih Tzus will normally have smaller litter sizes than other dogs.
But how many puppies do Shih Tzus normally have, and what is their average litter size? Plus, do they have smaller litter sizes when it’s their first time having puppies? All of this, and more is explained below in my guide to Shih Tzu litter sizes.
Shih Tzu litter size guide
How many puppies can a Shih Tzu have? On average, Shih Tzus will have around 3 puppies in each litter usually. 3 to 4 would be the average range, however it’s not unusual for older Shih Tzus to have larger litters after their first time, with up to 5 or 6 puppies. Around 20% of Shih Tzu litters will be delivered by C-section.
Compare the Shih Tzu litter size to larger dog breeds, and the differences are quite apparent. For example, German Shepherds can have 8 puppies on average, and even medium sized dogs like Beagles will average 6 puppies in each litter.
This small litter size is one of the contributory factors towards the high price of Shih Tzu puppies. There are less to go around, making them a more desirable and in-demand puppy, therefore more expensive.
How many puppies do Shih Tzus have the first time?
The younger the Shih Tzu the more likely it is that she will have a smaller litter the first time around. As dogs get older, they tend to have subsequently larger litters.
The exact number of puppies a Shih Tzu will have at the first time will never be an exact figure, but normally it would be as low as 1 and as high as 3 or 4. More puppies that this on the first time is unusual.
Shih Tzus then tend to have their largest litter on the third or fourth time they get pregnant. After that litters tend to decrease in size again.
Important: You should not breed your Shih Tzu more than four times. Any more pregnancies than this can be bad for their health, plus mental state. You can read more about this lower down the page.
If your female Shih Tzu does have a larger litter of more than 3 or 4 puppies, then there could be some possible health complications. It’s by no means guaranteed, but larger litter sizes will sometimes mean there are underweight puppies who are weaker in the group. These runts can need help and support in getting enough milk from the mother.
Is it dangerous for a Shih Tzu to have puppies?
Earlier I mentioned how around 20% of Shih Tzus will have c-sections rather than a natural birth, and there’s a good reason for this; giving birth naturally can be dangerous for the mother and puppies in some cases.
Caesarean sections aren’t always used with Shih Tzus, but it is often advised by the vet due to the narrow hips of the mother, and the larger head sizes of the puppies. Puppies can get stuck in the birth canal, leading to possible fatal consequences for both the litter and mother. Your vet will be able to advise you on this after they have inspected the mother and the size and number of puppies she it expecting.
The average cost of a C-section for this breed can range between $500 for a planned procedure and up to $2,000 for very specialised or emergency Caesareans.
How many litters can a Shih Tzu have?
Responsible breeders won’t let their Shih Tzu have any more than 4 litters of puppies her lifetime. More pregnancies than this can put a lot of strain on the female’s body.
Shih Tzu litter sizes compared to other breeds
Now you know how many puppies a Shih Tzu can have, how does that compare to other popular dog breeds? I’ve done the research for you, with some average litter sizes shown below.
- Basset Hound: 5 puppies
- Beagle: 6 puppies
- Bernese Mountain Dog: 8 puppies
- Boston Terrier: 4 puppies
- British Bulldog: 4 puppies
- Chihuahua: 3 puppies
- Corgi: 7 puppies
- Dachshund: 3 puppies
- French Bulldog: 3 puppies
- German Shepherd Dog: 8 puppies
- Golden Retriever: 8 puppies
- Great Dane: 8 puppies
- Labrador: 7 puppies
- Miniature Schnauzer: 4 puppies
- Poodle: 5 puppies
- Pug: 5 puppies
- Rottweiler: 8 puppies
- Shih Tzu: 3 puppies
- Springer Spaniel: 7 puppies
- Yorkshire Terrier: 3 puppies
Why brachycephaly leads to smaller litter sizes
Being brachycephalic, Shih Tzus have been bred to have shortened heads, shorter noses, smaller bodies, and squashed faces. Other breeds in this category include French Bulldogs, Pugs, Chow Chows, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Bull Mastiffs, and English Toy Spaniels.
Being smaller than other breeds it means they don’t have as many puppies, but also have smaller bodies and narrower hips… meaning the capacity for larger puppy numbers is reduced, and dangers are also present during birth.
How many times a year can a Shih Tzu have puppies?
Shih Tzus should never have more than 1 litter of puppies in a 12-month period. They should only really be getting pregnant every other year too, in order to give their body time to recover.
As some will be delivered with a c-section, this will need time to heal, so anything more than this I would say is unnecessarily cruel.
If you are buying a Shih Tzu puppy from a breeder, please do ask questions such as:
- How many litters has the Shih Tzu mother had in her life so far?
- When was the last time the Shih Tzu was pregnant?
If the mother has had more than 3 or 4 litters already, please don’t buy as it will probably be a breeder just in it for the money.
How long is a Shih Tzu pregnancy?
Given some Shih Tzus will need to give birth via a c-section, it’s important to set the due date and get the procedure booked in.
How long your Shih Tzu will be pregnant for is the same as any other dog breed; an average of 63 days. If you are unsure that yours is pregnant, here are some pregnancy signs to check for:
- Does your Shih Tzu have a decreased appetite?
- Does your Shih Tzu seem tired and less active?
- Does your Shih Tzu have swollen nipples?
- Does your Shih Tzu have a swollen belly (can happen after just 14 days)?
As early as the first 20 to 30 days, a vet could feel your dog’s belly and might be able to say whether she is pregnant or not. After that the most accurate way to know she is pregnant will be an ultrasound 25 days after mating and then a blood test 5 weeks after mating.
Handy Hint: Did you know that there will be a time on the pregnancy calendar when you will actually be able to feel the puppies moving around in your pregnant dog?
Shih Tzus make for amazing and loving pets but due to their size and fragility do require a different level of care than bigger dog breeds. This is particularly relevant when they are puppies.
If you own one who is just about to have puppies, your vet should be able to tell you how many your Shih Tzu will be expecting by around the 25th day. This is the earliest point that an ultrasound can take place, letting vets count how many puppies are in the womb.
However, an ultrasound isn’t always an accurate way of showing how many puppies your Shih Tzu will be having, so should only be viewed as an estimate.
The more accurate way to tell how many puppies will be in your Shih Tzu’s litter is an x-ray exam, which can take place around day 45. Vets can then count how many skulls are in the womb.
You might also like…
I regularly write about dog breeding, with some popular articles including:
- When it’s not ok to walk your pregnant dog
- How many nipples your female dog should have – count them!
- Here’s why your Shih Tzu might have started limping on his front or back legs
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-shih-tzu-puppy-1376904/