Why Is My Shih Tzu So Aggressive?

A shih tzu making an aggressive face.

You wouldn’t think that a cute little dog such as a shih tzu could have an aggressive side to its character and for most of the time you would be right. There is, however, a small percentage that do develop an aggressive streak, the severity of which can vary. If you do have an aggressive shih tzu it is essential that you take action to correct this bad behaviour before his aggression causes injury to himself, other dogs or people. It is important not to make the mistake of thinking everything will be okay if you just carry on and work around his aggression.

Then, why is my shih tzu so aggressive?

Shih tzu aggression can manifest itself from several causes, which I will go into in a moment but the honest answer to “Why is my shih tzu so aggressive?” is, despite the immediate reason for the anger, in most cases, albeit in all probability inadvertently, it is you, the owner, or the previous owners if you have a rescue or adopted shih tzu, who shoulders the burden of blame.

“How can this be?”, I hear you ask. Well, quite frankly, by loving your baby a little too much. If you act on your instinct and cuddle and pet your shih tzu when he has behaved inappropriately you are in fact, in his mind, endorsing his behaviour to the extent that he will think this is the right way to behave. The situation is worsened if you then also allow his good behaviour to pass by unrewarded. This needs to be turned on its head, you need to think like a dog, ignore your shih tzu when he behaves badly and make a fuss over him when he behaves well.

The leader of the pack

Which brings us on to the most common cause of shih tzu aggression – small dog syndrome, a condition brought about if the owner of a shih tzu, or any of the small breed dogs, gives in to his dog’s demands all of the time. This pandering gives the dog delusions of grandeur and he thinks he is leader of the pack, the pack being all of the humans in the home including his owner.

While your shih tzu is under the spell of small dog syndrome he may react with aggression to any attempt, however benignly intended, to approach him or try and handle him or, worse still try to grab his toy or food, all of which he will see as an attempt to usurp his assumed position of pack leader. This aggression can be anything from a growl to a nip to a ferocious bite drawing blood.

Why Is My Shih Tzu So Aggressive?
Courtesy of Isselee Dreamstime ID:14762428

Small dog syndrome needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand. All human members of the household and any visitors need to assert themselves as higher ranking pack members above that of the shih tzu. You as the owner have to demonstrate to your shih tzu that it is you that is pack leader and not he; your shih tzu must accept this.

A shih tzu will only become even more aggressive if you try to punish him by shouting at him or hitting him; this is not the correct course of action, it will just teach him that aggression is the right way. Any misbehaving such as aggressive barking, jumping at or on people or climbing up on any furniture needs to be punished in a calm and collected manner with a period of isolation, if possible, in a separate room or gated off area where the shih tzu can see that he is being ignored. After a few minutes or when he calms down he should be let back into the mainstream. This process has to be repeated every time aggressive behaviour is demonstrated. Eventually he will learn that his aggressive ways and misapprehensions are not getting him what he wants and as long as his good behaviour is consistently rewarded he will choose the more tranquil and friendly way of existence.

Perhaps your shih tzu’s aggression is not the result of small dog syndrome. It could be due to other causes.

Too much surplus energy 

Aggression can come out from the frustration and boredom of not having enough exercise. All of his pent up energy has to be released somehow. If this is true for your shih tzu then the obvious answer is to take him out more. A young shih tzu needs at least two walks a day of a minimum length of twenty minutes, preferably one walk early in the morning and the other just before dusk. See my post “How Often Should You Walk a Shih Tzu” for more detailed information.

Problem puppy mouthing 

Charlie being cute, any aggression trained out of him at the puppy stage.

When your shih tzu is at the puppy stage he has an instinct to play with his litter siblings by holding mouthing and nipping contests, nature’s way of preparing him for possible real future conflicts. When he is taken away from his litter then you become his sparring partner. If this mouthing and nipping continues into adulthood, at around fourteen months, this behaviour can escalate into full scale biting that is severe enough to draw blood.

The remedy for this behaviour, you will be glad to know, is quite simple. It doesn’t involve shouting commands at your dog or holding his muzzle closed as suggested by some trainers but is much more effective. This method goes along with what I have said earlier about not treating aggression with aggression and ignoring bad behaviour. For this to work your shih tzu must be wearing his harness with lead attached. When he begins to mouth you, turn your back on him and step on his lead so that he cannot move and remains isolated behind you. After a couple of minutes or so when he has calmed down, let him go. If he starts mouthing again, repeat the process. Pretty soon he’ll realize that his mouthing behaviour will only end up with him being on his own, something no shih tzu wants to be, and he’ll stop doing it. Make his good behaviour a pleasurable experience for him by rewarding him with petting, stroking and cuddling, perhaps a treat as well. It will remain in his mind: “mouthing = bad times, behaving = good times”.

This method can also be employed to treat small dog syndrome instead of placing him in isolation. As with all training, this method is easier to administer at the puppy stage but can also be drummed into older dogs with a little more persistence on your part.

You can read more on this in my article on “How To Stop A Shih Tzu Puppy From Biting“.

Possessive aggression 

Your shih tzu may be aggressive because he is possessive over his territory, toys, bedding, food or all of these. Possessive aggression is easily rectified at feeding time.

Place his empty feeding bowl in front of your shih tzu and then put in a by hand a few morsels of his favourite food, making sure your clenched hand is in front of his nose before releasing the payload. As he finishes the first handful food, place in the bowl a second handful, pushing your shih tzu out of the way if necessary. When he is used to you doing this, add the next handful while there are still one or two morsels left in the dish, again pushing him out of the way if necessary. Then progress to actually taking out those one or two morsels as you add the contents of your hand. These actions will convince your shih tzu that you and your hand can be trusted near his bowl and that you are always going to give him more than you take away. He will no longer growl or snap at you when you approach him or his food bowl. He should now trust you near his possessions but if he still doesn’t you can use a similar strategy to put this right.

It is important to address shih tzu aggression.
Courtesy of Swapan Banik Dreamstime ID: 115899360

Aggression in rescue shih tzu 

If you have a rescue shih tzu he may show aggression out of fear caused by a past where he was abused or had a traumatic experience. Dogs with such a history can, in certain situations, feel trapped or cornered which causes them to panic and lash out in an attempt to escape. Whatever happened in the past is etched into their minds so severely that the only thing the owners can do themselves is to avoid the situations that trigger the aggressive behaviour. To actually make any headway into reducing the aggression displayed by such dogs is to enlist the help of a dog behavioural specialist. When consulting such a specialist it helps to provide as much information about the dog’s past as you can.

Shih tzu aggression from medical conditions 

If your shih tzu has no history of aggression but has now suddenly started becoming irritable and aggressive then this could be due to an underlying health problem that is causing pain and distress, in which case you will need to consult with your veterinary surgeon. Older dogs may become aggressive due to the distress caused by losing their hearing or vision; all you can do is to help them through this trauma with love and care the best you can.

The bottom line on shih tzu aggression 

To sum up, if your shih tzu is showing aggressive traits you need to do something about it as soon as possible preferably while he is still a puppy; if he is older you will have to work harder. Failure to take action could have serious consequences. Decide what is causing the aggression and apply the appropriate remedial action. With persistence and application you can both beat the problem.

I hope you have found this information useful. Please leave a comment or use our contact us form if you have any shih tzu related questions you would like to discuss.

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66 thoughts on “Why Is My Shih Tzu So Aggressive?

  1. Hiii!!

    I have a 4 year old shih tzu and he was never neutered. Hes never shown signs of aggression besides gently growls. However hes bit my friend 3 times recently whenever she tried to play with him. I punish him by telling him to go in the corner and he listened then comes back and kisses her after a couple minutes making it seem like he’s self aware. I don’t know if this is because im also a female and he feels the need to always want to protect me even when there is no sign of a threat because he hasn’t been neutered. I don’t know how to correct this behavior and im starting to feel like I don’t deserve to have him because he’s not the problem its the owner…

    Please help. I love my shih tzu to death and I try to stop loving on him soo much. I just don’t know what im doing wrong.


    1. Hello Adila,

      Thank you for your query.

      I think that rather than trying to protect you, your shih tzu is displaying this aggressive behavior because he sees your friend as a newcomer to the pack and he is trying to maintain his status as second-in-command to you. He doesn’t want your friend moving him down one place.

      You are very nearly punishing him correctly by telling him to go to the corner. At the first sign of aggression, tell your shih tzu “No!” in a firm but calm voice. If he then stops, he has obeyed your command and you need do nothing else. However, if he continues to show aggression, then send him to his corner. You may like to place a baby gate or similar barricade across so that he cannot escape, but not so high that he cannot see you.

      Leave your shih tzu in this corner for up to ten minutes. During this time you and anyone else around must totally ignore him. This simulates being banished from the pack, something no shih tzu wants. Let him out before ten minutes is up. After this amount of time, he will probably start making himself comfortable and forget why he is there. Of course, if you let him out and he tries to bite your friend again, you can put him back for another ten minutes.

      Hopefully, after a few such time-outs, your shih tzu will associate his punishment with his crime and the biting will stop.

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

      1. Hi,

        thank you so much for responding.

        Do you think his signs of aggression has anything to do with him not being neutered?

        He’s been acting on the defense every since his last attack and i’ve never seen him like this. He sometimes growls at me when I find him hiding in a corner and I try to pet him/ call him.

        I’ve punished him by putting him in the corner but a lot of times he doesn’t want to leave after 10 min…. Is this normal?


        Thank you..

        1. There may be people that disagree, but I don’t think his aggression has any connection with him not being neutered. He may not want to leave his corner perhaps because he considers it his safe place rather than a naughty corner. Try assigning a new area as his punishment area to see if this makes a difference.

          Shih Tzu Steve.

  2. Hello, omg I just read so much helpful tips, but i have a concern my shihpoo Kael tend to be aggressive only with my husband , every time my husband get close to me or on the way to the bedroom he jump toward him and bite him, my husband cant go to bed without me grabbing the dog and taking him to the living room.

    1. Hello Paula,

      Thank you for your query.

      I believe Kael either thinks that he is the boss or at least second-in-command to you.

      Firstly, both you and your husband need to show to Kael that it is you who are in charge and not him. I describe three easy and quick ways of achieving pack leader status in the eyes of your dog in my PDF guide “7 Steps To A Happy Shih Tzu”. This guide is free to download when you subscribe to my free newsletter.

      Click here to subscribe and receive your free PDF guide.

      Your contact details will be stored on secure servers and never passed on to any third parties. You may unsubscribe at any time and still keep the guide.

      Secondly, as you and your husband are training Kael to view yourselves as pack leaders, you also need to show him that his aggressive behavior is not acceptable. I find the best way to achieve this is the “time-out” method. You are half doing this already when you move Kael to the living room.

      What you need is a small space where you can temporarily confine Kael, but where he can still see you. Perhaps you can shut off a corner of the room with a baby gate, a piece of furniture, or some other improvised barricade.

      When Kael starts to show the signs of aggression, tell him “No!” in a firm but calm voice. If he stops, all is well as he has obeyed your command. However, if he continues to show aggression, pick him up and place him in the time-out zone. The aim of this is to simulate being banished from the pack, something no shih tzu or shihpoo wants.

      While Kael is on time-out, he must be totally ignored by you, your husband, and any other person in the house. Leave him on time-out for up to ten minutes. After ten minutes time-out will become less effective as he will start making himself comfortable and forget why he has been put there. Of course, if he continues to show aggression after you take him out, you can put him back for another ten minutes.

      After a few time-outs, Kael should understand that it is his behavior that triggers his punishment and will think twice before showing aggression in the future.

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  3. Greetings!

    We have a 4 year old Shih Tzu, Buddy, who has been in training for about 3 years (off and on due to covid recently), so he knows all obedience types of commands, etc.

    What I REALLy am struggling with, is the decision to put him back on meds, or maybe find a more suitable environment for him. He is VERY aggressive at random times towards me mostly causing bleeding and bruises that last weeks. It’s stressful and heartbreaking.

    I’ve been doing ‘resource guarding’ training with his food bowl for 2+ years now so we’ve gotten that almost under control. His aggressive attacks SEEM to be triggered by: other dogs often, treat/toy possession once in a while, and the remainder of the attacks look like he’s having a minor seizure or ‘something’ similar that triggers aggression and he literally will attack me. If I yell or try to get away, he chases after me while latching onto my skin.

    His former vet put him on meds, but I HONESTLY feel like he attacked me more often while on the meds and he seemed extra anxious to the point where he was licking/chewing holes in the drywall. I have been working from home for the last 2+ years so he definitely gets walked often and is very well cared for. (monthly grooming where he behaves; has a consistent dog sitter who he has also attacked and he has bitten her German Sheppard), etc etc etc.

    I’m seeking some guidance on next steps. Should I revisit the ‘medication’ option? I feel like I’ve TRIED IT ALL! He get a daily calming chew at night which seems to help a little, so maybe I should give it to him during the day instead of before bed???

    Thank you so much for any guidance you may have. I feel like I am at a dead-end at this point.


    1. Hello Diana,

      Thank you for your query. Please accept my apologies for this not-so-prompt reply, I have only just caught up with your message.

      I have had aggression problems with my Charlie, who is just coming up for 6-years of age. His aggression was mostly aimed at other dogs, but he has snapped at people when he felt cornered. I largely have this under control now. He no longer snaps at people and only occasionally does another dog trigger him off. Most of the time now, though, he understands to stay calm.

      I have achieved this by showing him that I am the pack leader, non-aggressively showing him when he has done wrong, and by praising him when he does something right. I am hoping that this will work for you as well. I am assuming here that as you have seen a vet that there are no underlying medical issues that could be causing Buddy’s bouts of aggression.

      You are most of the way there at showing Buddy you are the pack leader by the food bowl training. Demonstrating that you are in charge of the food is 75% of the way to being the pack leader. For the other 25%, when you go for walks make sure that it is you who passes through all of the entrances and exits to your home first, with Buddy following behind. Then walk him to heel on a short leash by your side. Never let Buddy walk in front, at least until the training is finished, and never let Buddy choose the direction of the walk. Turn around and walk the other way if he tries to pull you in one direction.

      When you approach other dogs, stay calm and hold Buddy firmly by your side until the other dog passes, however much Buddy reacts. Try to keep your reaction as minimal as possible to demonstrate that there is no danger. Should you pass another dog and Buddy also stays calm, give him plenty of praise to let him know he is doing the right thing.

      When you have Buddy at home and he shows aggression, first give him a chance by telling him “No!”. If he continues, show him that this is not acceptable by immediately putting him on time-out for up to ten minutes. Arrange a small, gated-off or blocked space in your main living area where you can confine Buddy for the time-out but where he can still see you. During the time-out, Buddy must be totally ignored by you and all household members. This includes no eye contact. Don’t leave him there for more than ten minutes as dogs tend to forget why they have been put there after this time. However, if he shows more aggression you can put him back there again for another ten minutes. While carrying out this training you may like to leave Buddy’s harness on so that you can pick him up without being bitten.

      Along with the time-out training to show Buddy when he has done wrong, you also need to let him know when he has done something to please you by lavishing him with praise and perhaps giving him a treat when he has been very good.

      Although improvements may be seen quite quickly, complete behavioral training can take a long time. For example, Charlie still gets agitated by one or two dogs, but he is still improving every time I take him out. If you are going to try my method be consistent with it and I am sure Buddy will eventually get the message. Hopefully, you will not need to put him back on the meds.

      Best wishes to you and Buddy,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  4. At the end of my rope….
    I have a 4 year old shih tzu that is loving and kind 90% of the time. When it comes to grooming (specifically his face and front paws), he becomes a monster. He had been kicked out of 3 grooming salons due to this behavior. He has what the vet referred to as the equivalent of corns on his front paws that are very painful to him (it looks like the pads are growing off his toes). When the groomer tries to cut those nails, he attacks. She has even used a muzzel and he can get out of that and attack. I got a Rx for Sileo but that doesn’t see to work as well anymore. I have tried to be kind and rewarding; mean and yelling but nothing helps.
    Recently, a new vet blamed me for poor training. I worked with him extensively when he was small. I truely believe he is in pain.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    1. Hello Wendy,

      Thank you for your query.

      The root cause of the aggression would appear to be Sileo’s paw problems. If his condition can be treated and his pain is eased, it will go a long way to solving the issue.

      It’s usually dogs such as greyhounds that suffer from corns, it is very rare in shih tzus. You mention visiting a new vet, has this new vet confirmed the diagnosis of the first vet? If, indeed, it definitely is corns, what treatment are they prescribing?

      In the meantime, have you tried grooming Sileo’s paws yourself? If you are careful not to hurt him and he trusts you enough, it’s quite a simple job. You would need to invest in a small pair of rounded-end, curved pet grooming scissors and a pair of guillotine-style pet nail clippers.

      The scissors are to trim back the hair growing between the paw pads. The rounded-ends to the blades help prevent any accidents and the curve of the blades give a good angle to get between the pads.

      Shih tzu nails have a vein running through all the way to the overgrowth, so be careful to not cut back too far. Some shih tzus have transparent nails where you can see the vein. Others have opaque nails. If this is the case with Sileo, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Just in case, it may be an idea to add styptic powder to your shopping list

      For more detailed information on trimming paws, see my post:

      Trim Shih Tzu Paws Like A Professional

      If you are worried about Sileo biting you while you are doing this, I suggest subjecting him to my simple pack leader training methods. When you are the pack leader, Sileo will be more willing to let you handle him.

      I have three simple pack leader training tips in my PDF guide “7 Steps To A Happy Shih Tzu”. It’s free to download when you subscribe to my free newsletter.

      Click here to subscribe and receive the link to download your free guide.

      Your contact details will be held on secure servers and never passed on to any third parties. You may unsubscribe at any time and still keep the free guide.

      I would also advise putting Sileo on time-out when he shows aggression. Have somewhere near you where you can put Sileo, where he can’t get out, but where he can sill see you. Something improvised with a baby gate or some rearranged furniture is fine,

      When Sileo shows aggression, place him on time-out for up to ten minutes. During this time he must be totally ignored by all household members, including no eye contact, for this treatment to work.

      As Sileo’s aggression is pain based, it may take several time-outs to have any effect, but if you persist and you can show him that you can trim his paws without hurting him, he may eventually let a professional groomer do it for him.

      Best wishes to both you and Sileo,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  5. hello gudpm.. i have an 8 months old puppy. i just want her to be potty trained and not to bite every thing she passes.

    1. Hello Glyndel,

      Thank you for your query.

      I have written posts on how to deal with both the potty training and the biting problems, Click on the links below to view them:

      Are Shih Tzu Easy To Potty Train?

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu Puppy From Biting

      You may also find some helpful tips in this more recent article:

      Shih Tzu Peeing In House – Why And What To Do

      I hope that you find enough information to help you in these articles. If not, please let me know and I’ll add to them.

      Best wishes,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  6. Hello,
    I’m hoping you can help with my Shih Tzu’s problem.
    She’s 23 months old and until 3 weeks ago lived with another family who have 5 Shih Tzu. When Willow was 12 months old she had a late miscarriage and since then became very aggressive with the other female Shih Tzus she lived with – particularly when one of them was pregnant and had her litter. The aggressiveness didn’t stop so she came to live with us and her sister. She’s shown no sign of aggression to our dog. Yesterday whilst 3 of the original puppies she lived with came to visit Willow attacked two of them. She was very vicious and the complete opposite to the loving little thing she has been with us. I would appreciate your thoughts about this and would be grateful for any possible solutions to this behaviour. Kind regards.

    1. Hello Suzie,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It’s not uncommon for a pregnant shih tzu to undergo a behavioral change. Some become more affectionate, some more aggressive. Perhaps Willow erroneously believes that her step-sisters are somehow responsible for the loss of her puppies.

      Willow has undergone much stress recently with the miscarriage and with being moved to a new home. She is probably suffering from much anxiety and confusion at this time.

      First of all, I would make sure that there isn’t an underlying health issue behind Willow’s selective bouts of aggression. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend making an appointment with the vet to give her a thorough health check-over.

      Then, whether it proves to be a health issue or not, I would do everything I can to make Willow feel more secure and confident within herself.

      These are a few things that will help with this:

        In your main living area, make a little space in one corner that Willow can call her own. In this space put her favorite bed, some of her favorite toys, plus her food and water bowls.

        Make her sit before you give her anything, such as food, treats, or new toys.

        Use positive reinforcement. Give her plenty of praise when she does something you ask her to do. If she has been exceptionally good, give her a treat also.

        Make sure that you are seen as the pack leader in Willow’s eyes.

      You can read more on these points in my PDF guide “7 Steps To A Happy Shih Tzu”. It’s free to download when you subscribe to my free newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time and still keep the guide.

      If the incidents of aggression still continue, I find time-outs a sure way of getting across to a shih tzu that this sort of behavior is wrong and, indeed, putting a stop to it.

      Find another area in a busy part of your house where you can confine Willow for a short while immediately she shows the first signs of aggression. She must be put there immediately so that she associates the punishment with the crime.

      Leave her there for up to ten minutes, any longer and she will begin to forget why she has been put there. During the time-out, Willow must be totally ignored by all household members. This includes making no eye contact.

      After a few time-outs, this should have Willow thinking, “Hey, everytime I growl I am banished from the pack. I don’t want this, so I won’t growl any more.

      I hope that you find this helpful.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  7. Hello,

    My shih tzu is going to be 4 years old in June. He is friendly all the time except when I’m in bed and my partner tries to come to bed as well. My dog then barks and jumps at him with a few times when he tried to bite him. We are desperate for some help please.

    1. Hello, Karolina.

      I apologize for taking what must seem like ages to reply to your query, particularly as it sounds so urgent. I had to take time off but now I’m back.

      A happy birthday to your shih tzu! If he is still giving you the same problem, here’s what to do,

      The reason your shih tzu attacks your partner is because he thinks he is the pack leader and as such has a responsibility to protect his pack, that is you. He sees your partner as a threat and so shows aggression towards this person.

      The solution is for you and your partner to become the pack leaders in your shih tzu’s eyes, eliminating his perceived responsibility and taking away the need for him to show aggression.

      You can quickly establish yourselves as pack leaders by following the three simple tips I explain in my PDF guide “7 Steps To A Happy Shih Tzu”. It’s free to download when you sign up for my free newsletter.

      If you haven’t done this already, use this link:

      Yes, please add me to your free newsletter list and send me my free PDF guide now!

      You can unsubscribe at any time and still keep the guide. Until you do unsubscribe, your details will be held on a secure server and never passed on to any third parties.

      I hope this works for you!

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  8. My shihtzu 7 years old has been aggressive and biting for years. Since the first time he bit me when he was about 3 for pulling bones that fell from his mouth. Today I was petting him while he was in his bed and he bit my finger worst than any bite i’ve ever got from him. It was completely random, I pet him like this all the time with no issue. He always attacks at random and I never understand why he does it. I always show him love everyday and treat him when he follows commands. There are times he’s defiant and growls or barks but he will comply after a few minutes. I don’t know what to do with him anymore todays bite really did it for me. I love my dog but I don’t know if he can change, I don’t know what to do with him anymore.

    1. Hello Castro,

      Thank you for your query.

      From what you say, it sounds as if your shih tzu thinks that he is in charge of you, rather than the other way around. To stop the biting you need to create a situation where your shih tzu accepts that you are in charge. You will also need to show, in a non-aggressive way, that his biting behavior is not acceptable.

      To find out my recommended way of putting this strategy into action, take a look immediately below this comment to my reply to Roxana, as I believe the same action will improve your situation.

      Although you shih tzu is 7-years-old, it’s never too late to start behavior training. It just might take a little longer to see results than it would for a puppy.

      I hope this helps you.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  9. Hello!I have 2 Shih Tzus.Lucky which is 2 years old and Maya which is 1 year old.Around may,last year,me and my husband decided to cut Lucky’s hair and even tho I insisted on going to a groomer,my husband said we must do it at home.We had to stop the hair cutting at half,because Lucky was calm at first,but then,he started to bite(he had little irritations which I supose were hurtfull) and he also was uncomfortable with the noise the machine made.Once he figured out we were “scared” of him when he bit us,he continued doing it until,as I said,we stopped at half.
    Now,a little backgroud.We have him since he was 6 months old almost 7 months old.Got him from a good breeder,he used to be a very loving little guy(he still is very loving),he allowed us to put a dog jacket on him in his first winter with us,he allowed us to hold him any time,to put on him a lights collar for an evening walk,but now,when we do that,he gets aggressive.Also,my husband used to play with him in a more aggressive way even tho I told him thats not the way to play.Another thing that might be,is that my husband is a bit aggressive,verbally with both me and the dogs.He never hit them because I never allowed him.
    I am very sorry for writting so much but please tell me what can I do?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hello Roxana,

      Thank you for your query.

      Your dogs are always learning from you. You are right in what you say. Your husband’s aggressive interaction with Lucky only teaches Lucky that behaving aggressively is the right way to go.

      I think that you both need to regain some overall authority over Lucky in a way that he will accept your decisions and stay calm at the same time.

      To do this you must take action on two fronts. First, you need to assert yourselves as “pack leaders”, and at the same time you must also show Lucky (and Maya, if necessary) what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

      I have written a short guide called “7 Steps To A Happy Shih Tzu”. Part of this guide includes three easy methods that will have both your dogs recognizing you as pack leader in a relatively short time. The guide is free to download in PDF format when you subscribe to my free newsletter.

      Click here to subscribe and get the link to download your free guide.

      Your details will be stored on our secure servers and will never be passed on to any third parties. You may unsubscribe at any time and still keep the guide.

      As you are working on becoming pack leader, you can also work on the behavior training.

      When Lucky tries to bite, look him in the eye and say “No, Lucky!” in a firm but calm voice. If he understands and backs off, all well and good, tell him he’s a good boy and leave it there.

      What is most likely, at the start of this training anyway, is that he won’t back off and will continue with his aggression. If this is the case, you will need to put him on “time-out”. The time-out must be immediately after the offense so that Lucky associates his punishment with his behavior.

      Have a corner of the room sectioned-off with something like a baby gate or some furniture where you can place Lucky for up to ten minutes while he cools down. To avoid being bitten when you pick him up, either leave his harness on all the time or pick him up from behind placing one hand on each flank and slightly under the belly for support.

      During the time-out Lucky must be totally ignored with no communication whatsoever from anybody, including no eye contact. The time-out should last no longer than ten minutes as Lucky will forget why he is there after this time. Of course, if you take him off of time-out and he continues to be aggressive, you can put him back for another ten minutes.

      Eventually, after a few time-outs, Lucky should realize that it is his aggression that causes his isolation. As no dog likes to be banished from the pack, which is effectively what time-out is to him, his aggression should stop.

      Along with teaching Lucky and Maya what is unacceptable behavior, you should also let them know when they get it right by rewarding good behavior with praise, a treat, their favorite toy, or any combination of the three. For example, reward them if they perform an action that you ask them to do such as sitting, coming to you when you call them, or allowing you to groom them without fuss.

      You can read more about this in my more recent post:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive.

      I hope that this answer helps.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  10. Hi, my 2 year old shih tzu has recently been growling at my children whenever they stroke him, or per him. He has also bitten my daughter who is 6 enough to draw blood. He seems to show most of his aggression towards my daughter although she is very loving and kind towards him. He isn’t neutered yet but this is an option we were told to explore as this could help calm his hormones down. Myself and wife have made the very hard decision and have agreed if he keeps showing aggression we would have to out him up for re-homing but this is the very last thing we want to do as he is part of our family and when he is loving he is very loving. However we cannot let my daughter live in fear of being bitten or growled at in her own home. Any help would be very much appreciated . Thanks in advance.

    1. Hello Tony,

      Thank you for your query.

      This is an unfortunate but common problem that many people contact me about and I’ve even had to deal with it with both of my boys.

      There is a way of tackling this that appears to work in most cases. I haven’t yet had anyone tell me otherwise.

      I don’t think neutering is necessarily the answer. There is never any guarantee that this process will alter the way your shih tzu behaves.

      Your shih tzu’s behavior is most likely to be a pack ranking issue. Your shih tzu is instinctively a pack animal and it appears that he thinks of himself as more highly ranked in the pack than your children and his aggression is him putting the other pack members, that is your children, in what he considers their place.

      There are two things that you and your children need to do.

      First, begin demonstrating to your shih tzu that all the human members of your household rank above him in the pack.

      Second, make sure that your shih tzu knows that he has done something wrong whenever he shows aggression.

      There are three easy ways to establish your higher position in the pack:

        1. Take control of feeding times. Insist that your shih tzu sits before feeding him. Also if he doesn’t come to eat when called, take the food away and do not bring it back until the next usual feeding time.

        2. This one is simple but very effective. Make sure that you walk through any entrances and exits first, with your shih tzu following behind. This is particularly crucial at the entrances and exits to your house, including garden or yard gates if you have therm.

        3. When out walking your shih tzu, have him walk to heel on a short leash by the side of you. If he tries to pull you in one direction, turn him around and walk in the opposite direction.

      Try and get all members of your household involved in this including your children as they, too, need to demonstrate their higher rank. Then the aggression should soon become a thing of the past.

      Until then, you need to teach your shih tzu that the aggression h displays is wrong.

      Whenever he growls, look him in the eye and say “No!” in a calm but firm voice. Then try and command him to “Sit!” on the floor. I expect this will take a little training, but when he does sit on command, give him some praise to reinforce the good behavior. However, if he continues to growl, snap or bite, it will be necessary to put him on time-out for five to ten minutes.

      No dog likes to be banished from the pack. Putting him in a place where he is isolated from the rest of the household and ignored by the rest of the household will, after a few time-outs, make him associate his bad behavior with his punishment and he will stop behaving that way.

      To have maximum effect, the place where you put him on time-out should be somewhere where he can still see the rest of the family and that he is being deliberately ignored. A crate, playpen or sectioned-off corner of the room is ideal. Don’t leave him on time-out for more than ten minutes as after this time he will forget why he has been put there.

      To avoid being bitten when you pick him up, you might like to keep your shih tzu in his harness all of the day while administering this training.

      For more information on becoming the pack-leader and time-outs, see my post:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

      and for information on harnesses that will help with walking to heel, take a look at:

      Dog Collars For Shih Tzus – Is A Harness Better?

      I hope that all of this information is of some help to you. If you follow these tips I am sure that your problem will be solved. A shih tzu that knows his place in the pack is a happy, content shih tzu.

      Kind regards,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

    2. Hi, I have two shih tzu – 4yrs old and 2yrs old. When I first brought home my younger shih tzu my then 2yr old fur baby has been indifferent but she never tries to bite or nip at her. She would just simply ignore her and stay away from her. She refused to play with her. Time passes and they started to fight with each other when they happened to be in the same place. I noticed that my younger shih tzu tends to be more aggressive, she’ll start growling and eventually launch – biting and nipping – on my older dog whenever she see’s that I’m petting the other dogs. There were times that I have the younger dog on my lap, and my older dog was just passing in front of us the younger dog started growling and attacked her older fur sister. This has been a daily thing and I’m getting stressed and frustrated. I love my babies so much but I don’t know what to do anymore. Pls help.

      1. Hello Cescee,

        Thank you for contacting Shihtzuandyou with your query. The good news is that, as I have overcome the exact same problem with my two boys, I can offer some advice that may help you.

        You need to show your younger dog that her aggressive behavior is not acceptable and also create situations where your two dogs interact and play together.

        This is a lot easier to do if you are firmly established as the Alpha or leader of the pack in the eyes of both of your girls. As pack leader they will both look to you to make all of the important decisions and will be more accepting of these decisions than if you go on letting your youngest believe that she is the Alpha, as appears to be the case now.

        There were three simple techniques that I used to have my two boys see me as their pack leader, which I will describe to you now.

        STEP 1: – Take control of feeding times.

        The pack leader is the one in charge of food distribution that decides who eats what and when.

        Put down your shih tzus filled food bowls at the usual feeding time, then call them to eat. If they come straight away, all well and good. If they don’t come straight away, call them again. Give them ten minutes and if they still refuse to come and eat, take the food away.

        It is then important not to put the food out again until the next feeding time. Then repeat as before even if this means that they don’t eat that day. This may sound harsh but a healthy shih tzu can safety go three days without eating. When they are hungry enough they will eat.

        Very soon they will get the idea that they eat when you decide.

        STEP 2: – Cross the threshold first.

        It is the privilege of the pack leader to enter and leave the den, your home, first. So, when going out for walkies, make sure that you go out of the door first and your shih tzus follow behind. Similarly, when you return make sure it is you who enters the house first.

        I like to keep this up for all entrances, doors and gates.

        STEP 3: – Walk to heel.

        When you are out walking your shih tzus, have them walk to heel on a short leash by your side. If they try to pull you in one direction, turn around and walk in the opposite direction.

        Keep practicing these three steps and you will soon be the undisputed pack leader. It will then be easier to correct bad behavior and to encourage the desired behavior.

        The instance your younger shih tzu growls at the older one, look her in the eye and say “No!” in a firm but calm voice. If she doesn’t stop, put her on time-out for up to ten minutes maximum. The time-out is best done in your main living area.

        Section off part of the room with something like a crate, baby gate or pieces of furniture, anything that allows your shih tzu to be confined but where she can still see you.

        It is then important to totally ignore her, including no eye contact, no matter how much fuss she makes. All other members of your household must ignore her also.

        After a few time-outs she will associate her aggressive behavior with her punishment and more likely than not stop doing it. No shih tzu likes to be banished from the pack. Ten minutes is the maximum for a time-out as your shih tzu will forget why she is there after this amount of time.

        Compliment the time-out punishments by praising your dogs when either of them behaves in a particular way that you want them to. For exceptionally good behavior you may also like to include a treat with the reward.

        To help your dogs become more friendly with each other, try involving them with games and training where they can interact with each other.

        This can be something like chasing a ball or a frisbee over the park or, for example, training them to sit before giving each of them a treat. Without knowing your dogs it’s difficult for me to recommend a specific activity.

        Give it some time. When I first introduced Charlie to Bruno, Bruno gave me a look as is to say “What have you brought him into our house for?”, and for some time Charlie had jealousy aggression towards Bruno in just the same way as your youngest to your eldest. Now, if for some reason they are parted for any length of time, they miss each other like crazy.

        I hope that this helps you.

        For further information on becoming pack leader, see my more recent post:

        How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

        I also have written a piece about harnesses where you can find out about harnesses that prevent pulling when out for walks:

        Dog Collars For Shih Tzus – Is A Harness Better?

        Shih Tzu Steve.

  11. Hi,
    My mother and I adopted an abandoned shih tzu, Panda, when our neighbors left him behind when they moved. He is 16 years old, and now blind. We have had him now for 6 years and although his behavior has improved since initially adopting him (he was kennel aggressive, food aggressive, toy aggressive, and had severe separation issues) we seem to have worked through most. He is still alittle aggressive when it comes to mealtime (barking until his bowl is placed on the floor). The only issue was haven’t been able to correct is his rampant aggression for seemingly no apparent reason. Last night, I was sitting on my sofa with my other two dogs (a Boston/Pit mix and a Cha-weenie) all quiet, watching TV. Panda, jumped onto the sofa, walked over to where I was sitting with my other two dogs, and without warning jumped on the Cha-weenie snarling and snapping at her. Thankfully, my Boston/Pit mix de-escalated the issue, by pushing herself at Panda, and used her body weight to push him from the sofa, polishing it all off with a short snap of her teeth in his direction. My Boston/Pit mix is very protective of the Cha-weenie, as she has raised her since she was very young. She, Boston/Pit, is a trained therapy dog and has never reacted like that until last night. I have tried for years to get Panda to a point where he would be a healthy, happy dog, and although I have had a few victories I still cannot seem to get him past his jealous streak when it comes to the other dogs. What can I do?

    1. Hello Jaclyn,

      Thank you for your query.

      First let me say that I admire your kindness and patience in adopting Panda giving him as happy a life as possible in his senior years.

      I used to have a jealousy aggression problem with my younger shih tzu, Charlie when I paid any attention to my older shih tzu, Bruno. If I would be sitting, petting Bruno, Charlie would jump up and snarl at Bruno.Or, worse, if I would be sitting, petting Charlie and Bruno dared to approach me, Charlie would aggressively try and chase him off.

      I managed to put an end to this by putting Charlie on time out whenever he showed any aggression. I would tell him “No!” In a calm but firm voice, pick him up from behind so that he couldn’t bite me, and put him in isolation for five to ten minutes.

      If you want to try this with Panda, it has to be done as soon as he shows aggression so that he associates his bad behavior with his isolation. It’s best not to leave him on his own for more than ten minutes as after that he will forget why he is there.

      I get a lot of queries about shih tzu aggression, so I have written another article an the subject aimed at preventing such behavior:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

      Here you can read more about the time out method, plus you may find some more tips that could possibly help with Panda’s behavior.

      If you find that none of this works for Panda you may need to consult a behavioral specialist who will look at Panda’s individual case and come up with a tailored solution. Your vet may be able to recommend one to you.

      I hope this is of some help.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  12. Hi Steve, I have a 5 year old Shih Tzu(only dog in the house) who i’ve had since he was a puppy and he has always been out and met other dogs and has been with my parents labradors all day everyday for the past two years when i’ve been at work and is totally fine with them, but whenever we go out for a walk and he see’s another dog he just starts growling and aggressively barking and pulling to try to get to the other dog(s), in fact just yesterday he was on the driveway saw another dog(husky) bolted and started aggressively barking and trying to nip him (luckily the owners were understanding). I’m at my whits ends to be honest and always dread when we see another dog, praying he hasn’t spotted them. Do you have any tips? Many thanks Gemma

    1. Hello Gemma,

      Thank you for contacting Shihtzuandyou with your query.

      I have a similar problem with my almost 5-year-old, Charlie. He had a few issues, mainly with him thinking he was higher up in the pack than he actually is. These issues have all been resolved now apart from his aggression with other dogs. I am working on this every time I take him out and things are improving well. I think that by the time his 5th birthday comes this November, I will have fully trained this aggression out of him. I will now pass on the methods I am using on to you.

      First of all, I recommend the use of a harness that has a D-ring positioned in front of the chest for attaching the leash. With the leash attached in front of the chest, you have much more control over your shih tzu. He won’t be able to pull you, you can easily control the direction of the walk and you can prevent him jumping up when he becomes excited by the other dogs.

      I have very recently written a report on harnesses. You can read it by clicking on the link below:

      Dog Collars For Shih Tzus – Is A Harness Better?

      With Charlie, I know the root of his aggression is because he is scared of the other dogs. I believe it is the same for your shih tzu. When faced with a situation where he is frightened, the natural instinct is “fight or flight”. That is he protects himself by either confronting the cause of his fear or by running away.

      What you need to do is to train this fear out of your shih tzu. You have to demonstrate that you are the one in charge and you decide whether a confrontation is necessary or not. Like me, you probably like to give your shih tzu a degree of freedom of movement while you are out walking. For this training, you will need a short leash or at least one that you can make short when there are other dogs about. If your dog has favorite treats, it may be an idea to take a few with you on walks for a little positive reinforcement when he behaves in the desired manner.

      When you see another dog approaching, bring your shih tzu to heel by your side on the short leash and keep him there. When there is still just a greater distance between your dog and the other dog than the distance where your shih tzu usually starts to react, turn around and walk away from the other dog. If your shih tzu reacts, hold him down by the leash attached to the front of his harness, stand between your dog and the other dog, blocking your dog’s line of view. At the same time, try to calm him down and reassure him that there is nothing to worry about. It is also important that you remain calm at all times to help with this reassurance. If your dog calms down, or if he didn’t react at all in the first place, give him a treat.

      This may take a few tries, but when your dog can walk away from another dog like that without reacting at all, it’s time to move on to the next stage. That is that when the other dog approaches, you and your shih tzu cross to the other side of the road, or at least a few feet away if that’s not possible, and carry on walking past the other dog. Again, your shih tzu needs to be to heel and any bad reactions are treated in the same way as before.

      When your shih tzu becomes used to this, you can start to work on gradually over time reducing the distance between your shih tzu and the other dog when they pass. Eventually, your shih tzu will end up not being scared of other dogs and should be more sociable.

      This process can take weeks or, as with myself and Charlie, it could take months. As long as you are consistent, there is no reason for it not to work eventually.

      If you need any more information, due to popular demand I have written another article on shih tzu aggression which delves deeper into this important issue:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

      I hope all of this is of help to you and your shih tzu.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

      1. Hi, i have a shitzu boy, he is 6 years old and has been biting a lot of family members including myself and my wife. do you have any ideas on what i can do to stop this?

        thank you

        1. Hello Sel,

          Thank you for your query.

          This sounds like a classic case of your shih tzu thinking he is the leader of the pack, and he thinks he is doing the right thing by putting everyone else in their place. What you need to do is to show that you and your wife are the leaders of the pack and that every other human in the household ranks above him also.

          I have received so many emails and comments on this same subject that I have written a complete article addressing this problem. You can find this article by clicking on the link below:

          How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

          If you follow the guidelines in this article, you should soon see a much friendlier, more approachable shih tzu.

          I hope this helps,

          Shih Tzu Steve.

  13. My Shitzu Louie is 15 months old. He has free run of the house when I’m at work during the day. He has 4 kitty siblings to keep him company and a collie pit mix dog but she has to be crated during the day. She is crate trained for a couple years now.
    Anyway, 1. when I get home from work my Louie runs around comes right over rolls over on his back and I rub him and tell him how much I missed him but he does this growling thing when I am rubbing him. I’m not sure if I’m hurting him or he’s acting out.
    And 2. he’s started snapping at my cats if my husband and I give them attention over him.
    3. Then when my husband tries to come wake me in the morning he pats me lightly Louie will jump up on the bed and get on top of me and snap and growl at my husband. I have tried reassuring Louie by telling him it’s ok and rubbing him it’s gotten a little better but still happens.
    4. And when we feed him he jumps at any other animal that even comes near his food while he’s eating which I don’t understand as we have always made sure he’s safe while eating because he’s on a very particular diet. So I’m not sure why or how to fix the food aggression towards the others.
    So he is exhibiting the different aggressive behaviors at different times and not sure how to help or fix them.

    1. Hello Christine,

      Thank you for your query.

      With regards to point no.1, my Bruno likes a tummy rub and he sometimes makes a growling noise but it’s a happy growling noise that I’ve always taken as a sign of contentment. I think that if you were hurting or upsetting Louie by rubbing his tummy, he would let you know by snapping at you.

      For point no.2, this is obviously jealousy. I used to get a similar reaction from my Charlie if I paid any attention to Bruno. I have solved this problem by putting Charlie on time-out every time he reacted in this way. It only took a few time-outs and he doesn’t do it anymore. I am sure the same will work for you with Louie.

      For point 3, I believe that Louie, in his mind, is protecting you. Either he thinks he is the pack leader or he thinks that you are. Whichever it is, he sees your husband as lower down in the pack than he is. It is important that your husband and all other humans in your household demonstrate that they are higher up in the pack hierarchy than Louie. I have written a second article on shih tzu aggression that addresses this. You can read this by clicking the link below:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

      Among the tips about asserting your position as pack leader in this article you will find how to take control at feeding times. From what you say in point 4, Louie thinks he is in charge of food distribution at the moment.

      I hope that this helps.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  14. Our shih tzu will get something he should not have when we try to take it away he bites us to draw blood he was a year old when we adopted him he’s 2 now.we have tried to give him treats for exchange sometimes he goes for it other times not help !!!we love him very much

    1. Hello Carolyn,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I used to have this problem with both of my boys. The good news is that there is a solution. Neither of my boys dare to bite me now. They might express their disapproval with a dirty look if I take something away from them, but they won’t bite me.

      I do have a particular exercise that you can try, which I’ll come to in a minute. First let me say that the key to stopping this is to assert yourself as the pack leader. To solve dog problems you have to think like a dog, and in the dog world the pack leader decides who eats what and when, and the rest of the pack accept this.

      You can find a few simple, non-aggressive actions that you can take to ensure that you are seen as pack leader in your shih tzu’s eyes in my more recent post on shih tzu aggression. Just click on the link below to view it:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

      Now for that exercise I promised. This gets your shih tzu used to having your hands close to his face when he is feeding.

      At feeding time, call him but don’t put the food in his bowl just yet but have it to hand. You really need kibble or finely chopped food for this.

      Place the empty bowl in the usual feeding place and, if you can, make him sit. Put one piece or chunk of food into his bowl and invite him to come and eat it.

      As he is eating the one morsel, drop in another. As he is eating the second one drop in another. Continue with this a few times then start dropping in two or three morsels at a time. Let him get to the last one and drop in another two or three.

      Work your way up until you are dropping in a small handful of food. He should now be getting used to your hand being close by as he is eating. Drop in another small handful, only this time as he starts to eat it, take two or three morsels away from the bowl. Be careful, and get ready to move your hand away quickly if it all goes wrong.

      If he does try to bite you, take the whole bowl away and that is meal over until the next feeding time. If he doesn’t try to bite you, continue putting in small handfuls of food and taking away two or three morsels each time until the meal is finished.

      Whatever his reaction is the first time, continue doing this for at least one meal per day for a few days. The theory is that pretty soon your hand being around his face when he is feeding will not bother him at all.

      This, together with the pack leader exercises detailed in my “How To Stop A Shih Tzu Being Aggressive” post, I think will solve your problem.

      I hope that this is of some help.

      Kind regards,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  15. Hi I got an 8 week old shih tzu just over a week ago. The first few days he was very timid but the more he settles in the note aggressive he is getting. But it’s only at certain times of the day. It’s as if he is bi polar one minute he is laying at your feet licking you, then he seems to have little angry episodes where he’ll start barking, growling, lunging and trying to bite myself or my husband just whoever is in his path totally unprovoked. If I say no he barks more, I’ve tried time out, he cried but then when he comes back in he starts doing the same thing again. I really don’t know what to do, it’s really upsetting me as I love dogs and have wanted a puppy for so long but just can’t cope with these constant attacks. He will fight to the death for peoples laces and ripped my pj bottoms the other day as he just wouldn’t let go. Then about an hour later he will calm down and not have any interest in laces or pjs it’s like a totally different dog. Any advice would be very much appreciated as I just don’t know what to do

    1. Hello, Lisa.

      Thank you for contacting Shihtzuandyou.

      Because I had been receiving many comments from owners whose shih tzu have aggressive behavior problems in varying degrees and forms, I wrote another post dealing with the situation generally which you can read by clicking on this link:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

      Please pay particular attention to the section on becoming pack leader. I think that is essential for you and your husband to become pack leaders.

      You also need to make it clear the difference between good behavior and bad behavior. Reinforce good behavior with rewards of praise and small treats. You say time out doesn’t work, so try instead just turning your back on your shih tzu and ignoring him completely when he misbehaves.

      I think that your shih tzu is stressed out by moving into his new home. I’m guessing that he was okay at first because he didn’t know he wasn’t going back to his previous home.

      I suggest setting up a corner of the living area that is his space. A space he can call his own where he will feel safe and secure.

      Place his bed, toys, food and water and, if he uses them, puppy-pads in this area.

      You can also restore his confidence by taking 20 to 30 minutes each day to teach him some basic commands such as “sit”, “stay”, “come” and “lie down”. This will also help reinforce your pack leader position.

      My How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive post includes a link to TrainPetDog at the end. They can email you some free training tips.

      I hope that this helps and your shih tzu is better behaved soon.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  16. Thank you, I am definitely going to try the time out sessions when my 15 month old shih tzu attacks my husband just for standing up from the sofa. He’s a lovely little dog who loves everybody and everybody loves him but if he’s dozing and my husband moves a muscle to stand up, he attacks him and bites him. He doesn’t do it with anyone else in the family. I think my husband has been too soft with him since he was a puppy.

    1. Hello, Anne.

      Thank you for your comments.

      I empathize with your husband, as it is instinctive not to want to discipline such a cute little dog. I was the same but when one of my grandchildren was nipped on the nose I decided that I had to take some action and find out what I could do to make sure it didn’t happen again.

      From the feedback I have been receiving from people who have contacted Shihtzuandyou, the time out method of behavioral control seems to be working quite well in nearly all cases. It works well with my boys, too. So, yes, give it a try with your shih tzu and help save your husband from further teeth marks!

      I hope the behavioral training goes well for you,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

      1. I have a 13 week shih tzu that has become aggressive. Today, he attacked my 1 year old’s foot because she walked too close to his bone. I have tried asserting myself and I don’t believe he would bite me but a one year old cannot do that. I have done time out as well and he continuously barks. It takes a couple hours before he is wore out. Any suggestions? I cannot have him biting my babies.

        1. Hello Krystal,

          Thank you for comment, I hope that I can help you.

          I have had this problem with both of my boys, on separate occasions they have snapped at three of my granddaughters, nipping them on the nose as a warning to back off. I totally agree with you, this cannot be allowed to happen.

          I trained this behavior out of my two by using the time out method, and now they are totally relaxed with the children around. I think that you should carry on trying this method for bad behavior but don’t leave him in isolation for more than ten minutes, After this time dogs forget that they are being punished. By all means, though, if he misbehaves again after letting him out, put him back again.

          Your shih tzu is at an age where he is trying to find his place in the pack and it is important that he is shown that he comes below all of the humans in the household. It would also help to teach him a few basic commands.

          I go into this in more detail in my more recent post:

          How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive

          I hope that you will find some information that will help you there.


          Shih Tzu Steve.

  17. Hello,

    I have a 9mo Shih tzu/Pekingese mix with my partner. She is very loving and loves to cuddle and be close. If either of us go in the other room she always needs to follow. She’s always by my feet when doing dishes, and loves to “help” clean (as in always stand by us and watch what we’re doing). She loves car rides and being outside. Now since she is a very sweet puppy, she has moments (since we re-homed her over a month ago from a previous family) that she is very territorial of her area and (sometimes, now less frequently) of bones. I think we’ve mastered the bones, meaning i take it away from her and will give her positive reinforcement if she doesn’t growl, lunge, bite, etc.
    Her “spaces” are on top of our couch in which she usually lays and naps while we watch TV., and on our pillows next to her heads in our bed. (Spoiled, i know). Frequently we give her rubs when she is sleepy just because shes so cute. But once in awhile she doesn’t let us touch her and will growl (in which we back off), but more frequently she is so quick to lunch and bite and get very aggressive at either of us. We’re afraid to roll over in the middle of the night to get too close to her because she has nipped us on the face due to her aggression a few times. Sometimes we think it’s because she has a belly ache (which is just a growl warning…OK) but now we want her to know that biting at her owners is NOT OKAY at ALL. Help!

    1. Hello, Alexa.

      Thank you for your query.

      It is unusual that your puppy only becomes aggressive when you touch her sometimes. Have you had her checked by a vet just to make sure there is not any medical reason for her occasional aggression?

      Otherwise, from what you say I think that you are doing just fine with your obedience training. All that I think that you need to do is to put her on “time-out” every time she lunges at you or nips you. If you cannot pick her up to do this when she is like this, keep her harness on, perhaps with a short leash attached so that you can take her to the “time-out” area.

      Putting her in total isolation for five or ten minutes every time she behaves like this will teach her that this is not the way to behave.
      Of course, back up the “time-outs” by carrying on reinforcing the good behavior with praise and rewards.

      For further information on treating aggressive behavior, due to popular demand I have recently written a new post:

      How To Stop A Shih Tzu From Being Aggressive,

      which you might like to take a look at.

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve

  18. My Shih Tzu is about 5 years old and has become aggressive for no reason. He is very protective of my daughter and loves my ex-husband. Those are the only two people he will not try to bite. He likes me when they are not around. If they are around, he will growl at me and eventually try to bite me. He will try to bite anyone who tries to pet him. He was never this way before. What is going on with him?

    1. Hello, Vicki.

      Your problem is a little different to the last comment from Allen in that your shih tzu is much older. I think that your shih tzu sees his place in the pack as no.3 behind your ex-husband and your daughter and when he growls and tries to bite he sees danger and is trying to protect them.

      To change this behavior, when you or other people meet up with your ex-husband or daughter, the dog must be totally ignored to start with. All of the humans present need to interact with each other, saying all the “hello how are you?”s for a few minutes until the dog calms down. The people he sees as his pack leaders and who he looks to for guidance by doing this are communicating to him that there is no danger from the others present.

      After he has calmed down it may be possible for people other than your ex-husband and daughter to further reassure your shih tzu by gently stroking him. Be careful to start with though, as it may take several attempts to teach this new pattern of behavior before he understands, especially as at five years these things take a little longer to sink in.

      If, during this training, he continues to insist on growling it may be necessary for him to be placed in isolation for a few minutes to calm down. This isolation may be in a separate room or sectioned off part of a room. Either way, there must be no communication with anybody, not even eye contact. Eventually he will get the message that it is his bad behavior that is causing him to be cut off from his family.

      Remember to never use aggression as a punishment as this will only teach your shih tzu that aggression is the right way to get things done. You want exactly the opposite, so only use calm methods, such as ignoring the dog and isolating the dog if necessary, to correct bad behavior and always promote good behavior by rewarding it with petting, praise and treats.

      I hope this helps.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  19. Hello, my 11 month old shih tzu always bite everytime other people touch him including my relatives inside our home. How do i stop him from biting when people going to touch him?. Thanks

    1. Hello, Allen.

      Thank you for your question.

      Your shih tzu could be biting either because he is trying to establish himself as pack leader, or it may simply be because he is scared, or it may be a continuation of behavior he has learned during the teething process when his baby teeth were replaced by his adult teeth.

      Either way, you are right to be concerned and anxious to end the biting. There are a few things you can try that should bring an end to this behavior.

      First, it is important to remember that however much a dog becomes part of the family, he will always think like a dog and never like a human. A dog needs to know his place in the pack and if his behavior is allowed to pass unchecked he will instinctively assume that he is the pack leader. You need to assert your position as pack leader, Once you have done this you will find your shih tzu is only too eager to please you and therefore you will find it easier to control his behavior.

      I have a few effective methods of establishing myself as pack leader with my two shih tzu which I will share with you.

      The main thing is to control the food. Showing that you are in charge of supplying the food and when and what is eaten goes a long way to showing that you are in charge. Shih tzu are notoriously fussy eaters, but what you must do is give him his meals when you decide, not when he begs for it. When you fill up his feeding bowl, call him to come to eat. If he does not come straight away, take away the feeding bowl and do not put it back until the next regular feeding time. At 11 months he should be eating perhaps twice a day, but don’t worry if he misses two or three meals, he will eat when he is hungry enough. Just make sure he has an adequate supply of water at all times.

      The next thing may seem like quite a small thing, but it goes a long way in establishing yourself as pack leader. When going in or out of doorways, gates and entrances at your home with your shih tzu, at all times but especially at walking times, make sure that you go through first. The pack leader always enters and exits the den (your home) first.

      When actually out walking, make sure that your shih tzu walks alongside you, perhaps slightly behind you, and that you choose the direction of travel. If you shih tzu starts to pull, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. In time he will willingly follow you by your side.

      As I say, these are the main methods I have found effective in establishing myself as pack leader and having your dog behave how you want him to behave is much easier when you have done this. However, it’s okay to start the corrective action straight away as you start asserting yourself as pack leader.

      Dogs do not automatically know what is right and what is wrong, they have to be taught. Never use violent means to correct behavior as this only teaches the dog that violence is the right way. The most effective way that I have found of correcting bad behavior is to put the dog on time out. Dogs hate to be isolated from the rest of the pack, i.e. you and your family, so a short period of putting your shih tzu in a crate, penned off area in the room or a separate room where he is isolated but can see the family and see that he is being ignored makes it known to him that he is being punished. After a few times he will associate his bad behavior with his punishment and, hopefully, stop doing it. The amount of time you isolate your shih tzu may vary. Try five to ten minutes to start with but you may need to increase the time if he insists on continuing the bad behavior. During this period of time out there must no contact, including no eye contact, with the dog from you or anyone else in the house.

      This may sound bizarre, but when your shih tzu bites you, let out a high-pitched yelp to let him know he has hurt you, then put him on time out. The reasoning behind this is that puppies learn how hard they can play with their siblings and if they were to bite their brother or sister a little too hard, they would let them know in a similar way.

      To make the punishment for bad behavior work you must also reward your shih tzu when he behaves well and in the way that you want him to, so that he knows what good bahavior is. This reward can just be in the form of praise and petting but if he behaves exceptionally well or you are teaching him something new you can also use his favorite toys or treats as a reward.

      I hope this helps.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  20. My 2 year old Shih Tzu has become very aggressive to other dogs when I walk him. It has become very stressful and will avoid the park as there are too many dogs and am worried that he will bite. This has only started over the past 6 months or so. Prior to that I was able to take him off the lead for a run and for the most part was tolerant of most dogs. He is well behaved indoors and with people. His feeding times are routinely set.

    1. Hello, Jean.
      I have had a similar problem with my almost 4-year-old, Charlie. When we are out walking he gets scared and becomes aggressive when approaching some, but not all, dogs. I have almost eradicated this problem by taking the following actions:
      When we are walking towards another dog I keep Charlie’s lead short and make him walk by the side of me. If he starts to get excited by the presence of the other dog, I crouch down in front of him and try to block his line of sight to the other dog. At the same time I carefully grasp his harness underneath his chin to prevent him from jumping up and then try to convince him in a calming manner that nothing is wrong and that the other dog is no danger. (If you grasp the harness at the top of the neck it is much harder to prevent jumping up.)
      I have taken this action several times and it his now having some effect. Admittedly, sometimes he still breaks out into a growl, but as soon as I reassure him he calms down and, with the owner’s permission, I am able to carefully allow him to socialize with the other dog.
      Please give this a try, perhaps at first in an area where you are likely to cross paths with fewer dogs than if you walked in the park you mention. Be careful to keep your hand behind and away from your dog’s jaws as you grasp hold of his harness or collar under his chin. The theory is that your shih tzu will learn to trust your judgement as pack leader as to whether approaching dogs are friend or foe.
      I hope this goes well for you and your shih tzu and that soon you will be able to let him off the leash again.
      Best wishes,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  21. My 10 year old shih tzu has what I can describe as a personality transplant! He’s become aggressive for no reason! He won’t put his coat on his harness on let you wipe his paws! One minute he can be sat quiet and your smoothing him the next minute he is growling and snapping! He’s changed in the space of about 9 months!

    Prior to this he was the most loveable placid dog you could meet, now no one dares touch him in case he snaps at them!

    I have to say this isn’t me as his owner nor his groomer, but my close family members

    Any ideas?? Advice would be greatly received

    We are off to the vets on Thursday to seek some advice

    1. Hello Lou.
      Normally, aggressive behavior is down to either the dog thinking he is pack leader and trying to assert his position or the dog is scared of something. Taking into account your shih tzu’s age and previous good nature, I don’t think delusions of being pack leader is the problem.
      I am glad that you are taking him to see the vet as I think his recently acquired sudden changes in temperament could be a reaction to a medical condition that he wants to warn everybody to stay clear of; I think he is trying to protect himself. This is only my considered opinion, I am not a trained professional and I may be wrong.
      I am afraid that the only advice that I can give you at this time is to take your dog along to the veterinary surgery and see what they have to say. I am pretty sure that it is something that can be treated and rectified.
      Best wishes to you and your shih tzu,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

    1. Hello Anthony,
      I assume that as your shih poo is biting carpet ends that he or she is still a teething puppy. Whether this is the case or not, try calming him or her down by facing him or her and gently holding under the collar, if worn, or with the palm of your hands just under the mouth if not. At the same time give a resounding but calm “No!” to indicate that what he or she is doing is wrong. It is important that you do not come across as aggressive; in charge but not aggressive.
      You must then offer an alternative to the carpet to chew on such as a teething toy or chew toy. When your dog accepts this alternative you must also give praise to indicate that this is the way you want him or her to behave.
      I hope this helps.
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  22. Hi,
    I’m hoping you can offer some advise about our 9 month, female Shih Tzu. She’s the youngest of our four dogs, and she recently started showing jealousy in the form aggression. She gets particularly upset when one of our other dogs approach us to snuggle and if my husband and I begin to hug or kiss. When this happens, our sweet little girl turns into a mean little monster. She will growl and snap at the dog/person advancing for snuggle time. Do you have any recommendations how to make this stop?

    1. Hello Leah.
      I had a similar problem with Charlie at that age when I would pet Bruno.
      Your girl is it the age where she pushes the boundaries to find her place in the pack and if you let her go on with such behavior she will start thinking that her place in the pack is number one, so you need to teach her that what she is doing is wrong.
      My first suggestion is that when she starts to show her aggressive behavior just turn your back on her and totally ignore her. All family members must ignore her. No shih tzu likes to be alone and eventually she will learn that it is her bad behavior which is causing her isolation.
      It is equally important that after you do this and after she has been quiet for at least five minutes, that you give her some praise and petting, perhaps even a treat as well. This will reinforce her thinking that staying calm will be rewarded.
      If turning your back on her doesn’t work, try putting her on “time-out”, that is section of a part of the room where she is trapped but can still see you, other family members and the other dogs.
      Again, she must be totally ignored by all until she has been calm for at least five minutes when you can praise and reward her again.
      You will have to perform this action a few times before it sinks in and you may have to increase the interval between the calming down and the rewarding if she starts being aggressive again straight away.
      I hope that this will help.
      Best wishes,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  23. Hi our 3 year old Shih Tzu has developed very aggressive behaviour which is difficult to describe and distressing. One minute he starts growling and snarling if you approach him and will even try and bite, then in the next instance he suddenly becomes loving and cuddly again with a wagging tail. I’ve tried making him sit and wait for food, sit and wait for his lead before going for a walk. I’ve had large breeds of dogs before which didn’t show the slightest aggression even under difficult circumstances so I’m finding this hard to deal with.

    1. Hello, Greg.
      My Charlie is 3 years old too and I had a similar problem with him a few months back. Under certain circumstances, he would growl and snap at people, including me, but at other times he would be very affectionate and attention-seeking.
      I managed to stop his bad behavior by doing two things.
      First, whenever he started his angry growling I would carefully pick him up (from behind to reduce the chances of him being able to bite me) and place him on his own in a dark bathroom and close the door. Ideally, when your shih tzu does this, you should isolate him, either by gating him off somewhere nearby or by placing him in a crate, where he can see everyone. In my case, it was just more practical to place Charlie in the bathroom.
      When you have isolated your shih tzu, it is important that everyone completely ignores him. Shih tzu thrive on human company and hate being on their own. After he has been quiet for a few minutes you can set him free again.
      Repeat this every time and eventually, your shih tzu will come to associate his bad behavior with this, what is for him, unpleasant experience and stop the growling and snarling.
      Secondly, you have to make it clear to your shih tzu that any praise and attention will be given on your terms and not his.
      When he comes to you seeking attention, turn your back on him and ignore him, no matter how much he persists. Wait until he has been quiet for a few minutes, then call him over and pet and praise him. You could also bring in the “sit’ command in here before you call him over if you want.
      Try these two things. As I say, they worked for my Charlie. I appreciate that all dogs are different, so if you then still have problems let me know and I will come up with something else.
      Best wishes,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  24. I have a shih tzu poo 2years old everytime I walk him he gets aggressive and barking at everyone he was not like this ,but lately is getting so bad my husband walks him early in the morning and evening . He so loveable and sweet but always wants attention for him. Help us

    1. Hello, Catalina.
      From what you say I think that your shih tzu poo sees himself as the pack leader or Alpha and when someone is near you he becomes aggressive while trying to protect the pack, i.e. you.
      To prevent this aggression you need to establish yourself as the Alpha of the pack, that way you get to call what is the correct behavior towards other people and other dogs.
      The most important thing you can do to establish yourself as Alpha is to control feeding. Controlling the food will quickly establish you as pack leader. Try to put the main meals out at regular times, twice a day should be sufficient for a two year old.
      If, when you fill the food bowl your dog doesn’t come to eat it straight away, take it away and do not return it until the next meal time. This will demonstrate to your him that you are in charge of the feeding.
      Along with this, there are two other things you can try to speed your way to the Alpha position, both are concerned with going out for a walk.
      First, when going out through the door and also when coming back home, make sure that it is you who goes through the door first, make your dog follow behind you. In a pack situation, it is always the Alpha who crosses the threshold first.
      Secondly, when actually out walking, keep your dog by your side and slightly behind you so that you are leading the way. If he starts pulling, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. Eventually he will realize that it is you who leads the way and will walk by your side.
      Try these things and if your dog is still barking at people at least you will be in charge and in control. At the first sign of growling or barking, crouch in front, facing him and blocking his view of the person or dog that has attracted his attention. Hold him gently under the chin, by the collar if worn. Stay calm, assure him that there is nothing to worry about, and calm him down. I think you will be surprised at how well this works.
      As for the attention seeking, you may find this hard to do but when your dog seeks attention turn your back on him and ignore him until he calms down. When he has stayed calm for some minutes, heap all of the praise on him that you want to. These actions demonstrate that it is you who decides when your dog gets attention and not him.
      Dogs just need to know their place in the pack hierarchy and are more at ease and happier when they do know.
      I hope all of this proves helpful. Don’t forget to encourage further positive behavior by rewarding any positive behavior from your dog with a treat, his favorite toy or plenty of praise.
      Best wishes,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  25. My year old male shih tzu has started to not be very friendly. He takes a very long time to get used to people. He makes it hard for people to groom him if I’m not there with him. I thought about having him go to a doggy day care to see if maybe more socializing would help. Any ideas?

    1. Hello Makayla,
      Does your shih tzu get aggressively excited in front of other people and other dogs? If so there’s a simple way to calm him down. First of all, you must remain calm at all times to demonstrate to your shih tzu that there is nothing to get excited about.
      Crouching down, gently grab hold of his collar under the chin, as this is more calming than grabbing the collar at the back of the neck and it gives you more control.
      Still holding his collar under the chin, turn your back on the person or dog he is getting excited about. This demonstrates to him that if you are not worried, then there is nothing to worry about.
      So the last step is then to maneuver yourself and your shih tzu so that you are blocking his line of vision to the person or dog. You should then find that he calms down but just keep his leash on for safety’s sake.
      I do think that socializing will help him get used to being around people and dogs but I would recommend an obedience school rather than doggy day care as it is better for him to be around well behaved dogs so that he doesn’t learn any unruly behavior.
      There are also some very good professional dog walkers that can walk four or more dogs at a time and they all behave themselves under his or her control.
      I hope I have given you some good pointers here.
      All the best,
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  26. My Shih Tzu is completely out of hand sometimes. I love him to death but I don’t know how to deal with his aggression. He’s had horrible ear infections on and off for a couple years. After taking him to the vet this last time, they gave me droplets to put in his ear which is near impossible.
    When he went for a deep cleaning, he had to be sedated to the point that he needed to be asleep in order for the vet to do his job.
    Now that I need to give his droplets, he’s in defense mode when I walk by. I try to just sit on the floor and pet him or give him a sock to play with or give him a treat so he knows that I’m not after him every time I touch him. Nothing helps and I really need to use the droplets everyday so the infection doesn’t come back, it hurts him and smells like death. he’s just always ready to bite. He’s 10 years old.

    It’s not only the ears, I tried touching his chest, legs, tummy. He hates it all, but has no reason, he used to love belly rubs

    And don’t get me started on groomers, I’ve had to change the groomer probably 7 times because no one can finish their job. Sometimes I’m in there with them holding him down. I don’t even expect them to style him anymore, I just ask them to do what they can. Calming treats won’t do a thing. I’m thinking of buying snow gloves or garderer gloves so he can bite as much as he wants And know it’s not stopping me from doing his droplets.
    Any suggestions?

    1. Hello, Melody.
      I am sorry to hear about your problems with your shih tzu. I had similar problems with Bruno with ear drops and oral medication but not nearly as severe as yours seem to be. You say you have tried treats, but have you tried the click and treat method to actually train your dog to accept his ear drops? You will need a clicker or a bell or whistle, or you could say something such as “good”, any of these as long as you are consistent, plus a big bowl of small treat size pieces of whatever you shih tzu’s favorite food is. Oh, and plenty of patience!
      It’s best to do this somewhere where your dog is relaxed, perhaps his bed, favorite cushion or mat. Have the ear medication with the lid on close by, but not too close. Press the clicker and, as long as he stays relaxed, give him a treat. If he isn’t relaxed, wait until he is until you give him the treat. Repeat this several times, clicking and only giving the reward when he is relaxed. After a few times wait until he looks away before clicking. If he looks back at you when you click, he is starting to understand.
      To progress, click and then just brush your hand against his body before gently pulling it away and giving him his treat, again only when he is relaxed. Repeat the touching stage a few times, gradually increasing the contact time, before progressing to moving his ear flap slightly.
      Keep on clicking and rewarding for relaxed behavior, but each time make increased contact with his ear flap until you can successfully fold it backward, exposing his inner ear without him getting excited. Then, with the top still on the ear medication, you can move on to getting him used to feeling the nozzle of the dropper around and just inside his ear. Eventually, when this doesn’t bother him at all, take the top off of the nozzle and let him smell the medication.
      At this stage, you may have to go back a couple of steps and work your way back up to putting the nozzle in his ear again. When you do, insert the nozzle a few times before actually squirting in some gel. Reward him for that, click again and give his ear a good massage before rewarding him again. You may have to repeat the whole process for the other ear and the next few times you administer the drops, but each time should get easier and quicker until, eventually, you can just click the clicker, squeeze a few drops in his ear, massage and reward.
      I must stress that you should only reward good behavior. If the good behavior isn’t forthcoming, go back a step and try again. As I said, it will need patience on your part.
      I hope this will work for you.
      Shih Tzu Steve.

  27. My 9 mos old male shih tzu picks up and eats and/or chews everything he comes across. On his walk outside it could be leaves, wood chips, pebbles, etc. Sonetimes i can get these things out of his mouth and other times he goes after me and bites.
    He was food agressive at feeding and this was resolved with hand feeding portions at this bowl, patting his head snd telling him he was a good boy. But what do i do about this other behavior when he is eating something that could be harmful and he becomes really agressive and bites.

    1. Hello, Kathy.
      I am sorry to hear about the problems you are having with your shih tzu. There are basically two problems here, the chewing of foreign objects and the aggressive behavior.
      For the chewing, have you tried teaching the “drop it” command? When your shih tzu has picked up something he shouldn’t call his name followed by a calm but firm “drop it”. At the same time you will need to distract him with a favorite treat or toy while you then pick up the offending object. After a few times he will learn what “drop it” means.
      Also, question why he is doing this. At 9 months he should now be growing out of the experimental puppy teething phase and if you can rule out underlying health conditions it could be either attention seeking or boredom. Some extra exercise and some mental stimulation may help here. For the latter I suggest trying a chew toy that is designed to be filled with treats that your dog has to work out how to get to.
      As for the aggression and the biting, you need to firmly establish yourself as the Alpha of the pack. Luckily, you are already most of the way there as you have control over the food bowl, the key to being seen as pack leader. To further reinforce your claim, when you are passing through entrances and doorways with you shih tzu, ALWAYS make sure you go through first, even if you have to pull him back on the lead. When you are out walking, make sure he walks by your side; if he starts pulling in one direction turn around and walk the other way.
      Treat biting like any other bad behavior and isolate your dog for at least ten minutes. Place him in a crate, section off a part of the room or tread on his lead with your back turned on him. During this time it helps if he can see you, but you must totally ignore him, including no eye contact. This way he will come to associate his bad behavior with an unpleasant experience for him and, hopefully, stop doing it.
      I hope that you will find these tips useful, I would be interested to know if they work for you.

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