Shih Tzu Behavior Problems – How To Conquer Them

Shih Tzu Behavior Problems That Must Be Addressed

Shit tzu behavior problems.
ID: 52337263 © Azaliya | Dreamstime

If you were not yet aware, shih tzu are generally happy, friendly, well behaved, playful and fun loving companion dogs that will always have the odd moment of stubbornness no matter how well you train them. However, if brought up the wrong way, shih tzu behavior problems can develop that can lead to serious issues with family, friends, strangers, other dogs and other animals that, in a worse case scenario, could result in a shih tzu being impounded or even destroyed.

All of these bad behavior problems, aggression, growling, nipping, biting, excessive barking and inappropriate urination and excretion, can be easily trained out of your shih tzu using a few simple techniques, which I will go into shortly.

First of all, I think it is important to understand why a shih tzu, as I say usually such a happy and friendly dog, would behave in such a bad way.

All dogs are instinctively pack animals with traces of wolf, their ancestors, in their DNA. Every pack has its leader, the alpha, who, historically, was the one who controlled the food distribution for the whole pack. He would have his share first, then, and only then, would the rest of the pack be invited to join in.

If a shih tzu is behaving inappropriately on a regular basis, 99 times out of 100 it is going to be because he thinks he is the alpha and the rest of the family, including the owner, is his pack. This is sometimes referred to as “small dog syndrome”. Why? I don’t know as it can happen to larger breeds as well.

The key, then, to solving shih tzu behavior problems is for the owner to establish his or herself as the alpha of the pack. The way to do this is to control the food and feeding times. There are one or two other things you can do to back up your claim to be leader but controlling the food is the main one.

Feeding Time

A shih tzu having his food taken away from him.
ID: 165189872 © chaoss | Depositphotos

Firstly, always have your meals before feeding your shih tzu. However much he sits there and begs, however much he stares at you with those eyes, you must completely ignore him. In time he will realize there is nothing to gain from begging.

When you have finished eating, place your dog’s bowl with his meal in it on the spot you have designated as his eating area. If he eats his meal then and there, all well and good.

It may happen, though, that he will try to regain control of the feeding terms and conditions. Your shih tzu, to show you he is in control will leave the food where it is and come back to it when he is ready. He may even take scraps a piece at a time to a place of his choosing to eat it or hide it for later.

If this does happen, give him a moment and if he does not eat his food, take it away and do not return it until the next scheduled feeding time. This must be done every time he refuses to eat his food straight away, even if it means your shih tzu goes without eating for two, three, or even four days, though it is unlikely to go on for that long. As long as he has access to adequate supplies of fresh water he will survive.

It won’t take your shih tzu long to understand that the only way he is going to be fed is to trust you to make the meal time and food decisions and will begin to relinquish his claim for leadership and recognize you as the pack alpha.

For more information on feeding your shih tzu, have a look at my posts “How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?” and “Best Dog Food For A Shih Tzu? – Find Out Here”.

Attention Seeking

A shih tzu seeking attention.
ID: 78645594 © adogslifephoto | Depositphotos

There are other actions you can be taking in your battle for pack supremacy before, during and after the feeding time training. This one is going to be just as hard for you to cope with emotionally perhaps as the feeding time training. Whenever your shih tzu begs, jumps up at you or starts barking, whining or crying for your attention or a treat you must totally ignore him, turning you back and avoiding eye contact.

It sounds cruel but look on it as a building block towards your shih tzu’s complete happiness. All attention and treat giving must be on your terms. Eventually your shih tzu will give up and go and sit or lie down, probably with that sulky expression on his face. After he has been calm for around five minutes, reward him with a treat and some petting. Always encourage good behavior by rewarding it. Your shih tzu will learn that making a fuss will not gain him anything whereas good behavior will.

First Across The Threshold

When leaving or entering the den it is the privilege of the alpha to go through the entrance first. So, when leaving with your shih tzu to go for a walk and when you come back, make sure it is you that goes through the door first and make your shih tzu follow behind you. Do this for all doorways and entrances when accompanied by your shih tzu. It sounds like a small thing but it is a big help in getting the message across that you are the alpha.

Walk On By

When you are actually out walking with your shih tzu do not let him walk in front of you. Make him walk by the side of you or, if anything, slightly behind you. Until he will do this willingly you will need to keep him on a short leash. Make it clear that you decide the direction and where to walk. If he starts pulling on the leash turn around and walk in the opposite direction. Do this every time he pulls and with practice he will realize that his place is by your side and will actually follow you around on a slacker leash without pulling.

Further information on walking your shih tzu can be found in my post, “How Often Should You Walk A Shih Tzu?”.

You Are In Charge

Practice all four of these methods simultaneously and your shih tzu will come to respect you as the alpha and therefore you are the one that makes all of the decisions for the pack. You become the one that decides when to eat, when to play, when to be aggressive and when to be scared. This, in turn, means a happier, well behaved dog that does not bark excessively or growl at, nip or bite people, children, other dogs or other animals.

Another benefit of establishing yourself as the alpha is that it will become easier to teach your shih tzu basic commands such as sit, stay and come as his mission in life will be to please you and do what you want him to do.

My Inspiration

A child playing with a shih tzu.
ID: 16042859 © pressmaster | Depositphotos

I was inspired to write this post after reading on social media of shih tzu owners whose dogs have growled at and nipped their children or grandchildren. This is done by dogs who consider themselves as pack leader putting what they consider to be a subordinate in their place after doing something they disapprove of, like touching their underbelly uninvited or overwhelming them. The nip is instinctive, something they would do to another dog in their litter that they considered to be out of turn. It is intended as a warning to back off and very rarely breaks the skin.

Establishing yourself as the alpha will go a long way to preventing incidents as serious as this occurring, perhaps eliminating the chance altogether. Since practicing these techniques with my two shih tzu I have become a lot more relaxed when they are around children.

Further Training

These techniques will go a long way to ensuring that you and your shih tzu will have a long and happy relationship together but if you want more help than you can find more free shih tzu specific training tips from the professionals at TrainPetDog. Click here for further information under no obligation.

Disclaimer: The above paragraph contains an affiliate link. Clicking on it will take you away from to the website where you will find details of how you can sign up for further free shih tzu specific training tips. If you then choose to go on and purchase anything that has to offer, will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Any commissions received will help towards the running costs of and help keep this website pop-up and banner ad free.

I hope this post has been helpful for you. If you have any thoughts or questions relating to shih tzu behavior or about shih tzu in general, please leave a comment or contact us.

Enjoy training your dog and bye for now.

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2 thoughts on “Shih Tzu Behavior Problems – How To Conquer Them

  1. I have a 5 year old black Zuchon he is very loving but when it’s time for bed he will attack me really viciously,cant understand why

    1. Hello, Ann.
      Let me first apologize for not replying to your comment within 24 hours. I have only just noticed it as I was deleting my mountain of spam comments.
      Does your Zuchon just get aggressive out of nothing, or are you physically trying to put him to bed when he becomes this way?
      Whatever the answer is to that question, try reading my recent post “How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive”.
      I hope that you can find the answers to your problem there.
      Best Wishes,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

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