All About The Shih Tzu Temperament

Displaying the shih tzu temperament.
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The Shih Tzu Temperament

The shih tzu is a small dog that packs in a lot of a character. It must have one of the best character to size ratios of all dogs. You may have a mental picture of the shih tzu temperament being a stubborn one; well, there is some truth in that, even the best trained shih tzu can have their moments when they pretend not to hear you or when they dig their paws into the ground and refuse to budge. Largely, though, they are loveable, loyal and affectionate companion dogs that will stay by your side, watch out for you and follow you around everywhere if you treat them right.

The Compact Pack Leader

Unless you show them otherwise, they will try to assume the role of pack leader, or alpha, in your household. Sometimes this is referred to as “small dog syndrome” but, personally, I don’t think that the size of the dog has anything to do with it. All dogs are pack animals and it is only natural for any dog to vie to be at the top of the hierarchy of his pack. This desire is more apparent in independent-minded breeds such as the shih tzu.

The shih tzu is easily trained out of thinking he is the alpha. This is just as well as it is essential for the owner to assume this role. Any dog will leave all decisions to the alpha; food, when to go out, where to walk, when to play and, most importantly, when to be aggressive. For example, young children, especially those in the household born after the shih tzu became a family member, are particularly at risk from a shih tzu that thinks he is the alpha, as a young child may, in all innocence, act in a way that the shih tzu thinks is a challenge to his leadership, resulting in a stern growl and a nip on the child as a warning to back off. This nip would be just strong enough to break the soft skin of  an infant. As long as the owner has established his or herself as alpha this won’t happen.

For another example of what can happen with the alpha syndrome is if a shih tzu thinks he is the leader in a household containing more than one dog, he may assume the role of protector and become aggressive towards other dogs when out and about. Again, training the shih tzu to believe that the owner is pack leader is the remedy that will prevent this from happening.

I’ve painted a bit of a dark picture here, I’m just giving you examples of the worst case scenarios of what could happen with an untrained dog. Generally, shih tzu are peaceful, friendly, good with children and strangers and almost never vicious. But do establish yourself as alpha should you own or are going to own a shih tzu. You can find out more about this in my post “How To Stop A Shih Tzu Puppy From Biting”.

A cute shih tzu puppy.
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Not Barking Mad

Shih tzu do not bark very much compared to some other small breed dogs. The only times a shih tzu might bark continuously are to warn you of possible intruders, warn other dogs away or when you leave if he has separation anxiety. All of these can be trained out of them, though you may want to keep your biological intruder alarm.

However, they will develop a vocabulary of different barks for various occasions. There will be a “going out” bark, a “feed me” bark, a “need a pee” bark, a “play with me” bark, an “I want attention” bark and several more. If you own a shih tzu for a while you will know what I mean. You will come to understand what the different barks mean.

Playful Pal

When a shih tzu is not out walking or at home eating, sleeping or resting, he is likely to be in a playful mood and will let you know, either by staring at you, using his “play with me” bark, or both, that he wants you to join in. This may involve throwing his favourite ball or toy for him to chase, playing a game of tug with his rope toy or tug toy, or just rubbing his tummy. He will let you know that he wants tummy rubbed by lying next to you flat on his back with his legs in tha air.

Or he may provide his own entertainment by running around the home in an apparently frenzied and random manner, jumping on and off of furniture. My opinion is that these energetic outbursts are actually quite controlled as nothing ever seems to get broken and there are never any injuries to people or dog.

As described in “How Often Should You Walk A Shih Tzu?”, a shih tzu will only be getting exercise through walks of twenty minutes to one hour per day. So any further exercise a shih tzu can get through play will be of great benefit to his health and well being as well as using up any excess energy he may have. If you have a backyard he will enjoy being let loose around there.

A shih tzu puppy in the backyard.
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It’s Your Call

Although these are the stereotypical traits of the average shih tzu, each shih tzu is different with his own distinctively individual character. The basic building blocks of his character are there at birth, but how that character develops depends upon his surroundings, the way he is treated and his upbringing. This is where the responsibility of the owner lies, to provide the correct training, socialization and guidance a shih tzu puppy, or on occasions adult, needs to develop into a healthy, happy and loving dog that is at ease with other people, children, other dogs and other pets.

A shih tzu puppy with a ball.
ID: 2039005 stevebonk | Depositphotos

If you are thinking of owning a shih tzu puppy I urge you to give him or her the best possible start in life. Take a look at my post “Crate Training A Shih Tzu Puppy – Cruel Or Kind?”. When the time comes for me to find a companion for Charlie, this post describes the method I will use to train the new puppy for the first year or so. I believe it is the most reliable way to develop the aforementioned healthy, happy and loving dog with efficient house training thrown in.

There is also a free shih tzu training course that I recommend that is delivered by my friends at TrainPetDog. If you would like to read more details about this, click here.

By clicking the link you will be taken to TrainPetDog.com where you will, under no obligation, be given details of how to sign up for their free shih tzu training course email series. If you then decided to make a purchase, Shihtzuandyou.com would receive a commission at no extra cost to you. This commission will help with the running costs of this website and to keep it pop-up and banner ad free.

If you have any thoughts or questions related to shih tzu or this website, please leave a comment or contact us. I will endeavour to give you an answer within 24 hours.

See you soon.

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