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Shih Tzu Behavior: 6 Common Issues with Expert Training Advice

Lauren Lee - Writer for DailyTails
By Lauren Lee
Davor Štefanović - Editor for DailyTails
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Updated April 24, 2023.

Shih Tzu lying and barking, exhibiting a common behavior that can become an issue down the line

If you have a Shih Tzu, you are familiar with this tiny breed's big personality. Shih Tzus are lively, friendly dogs with upbeat, happy temperaments. They tend to get along well with people of all ages and other dogs and pets of different species.

However, like many small breeds, Shih Tzus can display behavioral issues if the owners allow or unknowingly encourage them. Whether you already have a Shih Tzu or are thinking of adding one to your family, continue reading to learn about the most common breed behavior problems and how you can nip them in the bud!

Here are some of the most common behavior issues of Shih Tzus, as well as what you can do to train your dog and minimize these problem behaviors.

6 Common Shih Tzu Behavior Problems

  • Separation Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Eating Issues
  • Crying and Whining
  • Potty Training Problems
  • Excessive Barking

1. Separation Anxiety

A Shih Tzu waiting for their owner outdoors - anxious about being left alone

Separation anxiety is common among Shih Tzus, partly because they are naturally very social, warm companion dogs who love being in the presence of their owners and require significant personal attention. If your Shih Tzu is used to being constantly in your presence, they may become agitated or frightened when you're not around.

Signs of separation anxiety in Shih Tzus:

  • Constantly following you
  • Destructive chewing
  • Inappropriate defecation and urination

Training Tips

Train your pet not to follow you around the home by working on arrival and departure routines. Constantly following you is often a sign of separation anxiety. Remain calm. When you arrive home, ignore your dog for a few minutes and then pet and talk to them calmly.

Chewing is normal for dogs. However, it becomes a problem when your dog chews on items that are not meant for chewing. Boredom, excess energy, and anxiety are common reasons for destructive chewing. Encourage appropriate chewing by providing plenty of fun toys and healthy chews to entertain your dog.

If you're out of the house for eight hours a day, consider hiring a dog sitter or see if a friend or relative can come over during the day to walk your Shih Tzu, allow for a bathroom break, and provide relief from the isolation.

2. Aggression

Shih Tzus display aggression by snarling, growling, lunging, and biting. This is quite common among the breed since most Shih Tzu owners tolerate or encourage it. What may start as play aggressiveness can develop gradually, leading to serious problems if not controlled. Aggression can also stem from insufficient socialization and improper training when your dog is a young puppy.

Training Tips

Begin by playing with your dog gently and make safe dog toys part of playtime. Begin socializing your dog at an early age. If you plan play dates with other dogs, do so with well-behaved dogs who can teach your pup appropriate behavior. Always stop your Shih Tzu from playing when they cross the line into aggressive play. Additionally, use positive reinforcement to teach them to comply with your commands. Once they master those, challenge them by teaching them some tricks.

3. Eating Issues

Shih Tzu eating the right amount of food to prevent eating disorders

Shih Tzus are known for begging for food, and their cute expressions are difficult to ignore. However, owners who share food with their dogs encourage this behavior. Eating the wrong foods can also lead to digestive issues, weight gain, and diarrhea, so it's best to avoiding the temptation to share human food.

Additionally, Shih Tzus tend to be picky eaters. They know what they like, and if they don't like a food, they might take only a few bites or just refuse to eat it.

Training Tips

The best way to discourage poor behavior is not to support it in the early stages. Avoid looking at your dog or talking to them when they're begging. If necessary, move your dog to another room while you're eating. Stick to a meal schedule and portion quantity that's effective. If there's a food that your dog enjoys, continue giving it to them.

4. Crying and Whining

Because Shih Tzus are bred as companion animals, they dislike being alone. Unfortunately, they will likely scream or weep when left alone for a long time.

Shih Tzus can also cry because of the following:

  • Stress
  • Hunger
  • Tension
  • Boredom
  • Separation anxiety

Training Tips

You can help minimize these triggers by creating and sticking to a daily routine. Do your best to create a stress-free environment for your Shih Tzu. They may want more of your attention, in which case provide more physical contact. To prevent boredom, ensure your Shih Tzu has plenty of brain-stimulating activities and toys.

5. Potty Training Problems

A Shih Tzu being toilet trained on a diaper

Shih Tzus have small bladders. Additionally, they are prone to anxiety and tend to urinate and excrete inappropriately when they are anxious which can make house training challenging. For successful potty training, begin house training as soon as you bring your Shih Tsu home. Puppies as young as 8 weeks old are ready to start potty training, and with proper house training and positive reinforcement, you can have your dog fully trained in 2 to 4 months.

Training Tips

Train consistently. Create a daily routine that works for you and your dog. Never shout at your dog after a mistake; this will only cause stress. Remember to reward the positive behaviors you want to continue.

6. Excessive Barking

The Shih Tzu breed is prone to barking and can be particularly loud. The main reasons a Shih Tzu will bark are:

  • To get your attention
  • As a warning to keep others away
  • As an alert (if they sense danger
  • Distress, such as loneliness, boredom, physical or emotional trouble

Although excessive barking can be irritating and disruptive, the good news is it's manageable.

Training Tips

As mentioned throughout this article, early socialization is key to avoiding many of Shih Tzu's common fears and subsequent behavior issues. Bring your dog around the object of its fear that causes the barking. Stay calm. This indicates to your dog that the barking does not cause you to tense up. Your dog's barking will cease as you move away from the trigger. Reward the quiet behavior with a treat and praise, such as "good dog!"

Mastering Shih Tzu Manners

Of course, these are just a few hurdles you'll face with a new dog or puppy in the family. Puppies are adorable, mischievous, and known for getting into trouble. Occasionally they eat things they shouldn't and get sick or injured. If you're worried about covering your new canine companion's vet bills, purchasing a pet insurance plan can help protect your dog's future health and your peace of mind.

Lemonade Pet Insurance

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