12 Most Common Shih Tzu behavior problems – How To Fix Them

Canine Care by Feroz
Update On: Feb 14, 2023
Common Shih Tzu behavioral problems

Are you puzzled by your Shih Tzu’s misbehaviors, or just bewildered about why they happen in the first place? While all dogs are individuals, there are some common behavioral problems that many Shih Tzus experience. Here, we’ll explore the 12 most common Shih Tzu behavior problems and provide strategies to help your pup overcome them.

1. Barking too much

Barking too much

Constant barking can be a costly problem for pet owners, as it causes noise pollution in their neighborhood and can even lead to penalties or fines. Not to mention, excessive barking can disrupt the harmony in your home and cause distress to both you and your pup. To prevent this problem from becoming unmanageable, it’s important to address it quickly.

Some causes of the extensive barking

  • Fear with something
  • Pain and Discomfort
  • Alerting you of strangers
  • Excitement or playfulness
  • Dark environments
  • Loud noises
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Thunder and lightning
  • Seeking attention
  • Movements at night
  • Boredom and Confusion

Common causes of excessive barking include separation anxiety, lack of exercise, attention-seeking behavior, boredom, and confusion. For example, if your pup isn’t getting enough exercise every day, he may be more prone to bark than a pup who gets plenty of physical activity. Likewise, if your Shih Tzu is feeling neglected or ignored, he may start barking to try and capture the attention of his beloved pet parent. Understanding what triggers this unwanted behavior can help you find the root cause and tackle it effectively.

How to solve Excessive Barking

  • Training: Behavioral training can help you and your pup feel more in control of the situation. Use positive reinforcement to teach him commands like “stop,” “quiet,” or “hush” so he knows when it’s time for a break from barking.
  • Physical and mental stimulation: Create a daily structure for your pup that involves plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation.
  • Ignoring Barks: Simply ignore the bark, paying it no attention whatsoever. This will teach your pet that barking doesn’t lead to anything and eventually they may stop altogether.
  • Introducing object of fear: Introducing the pup to the object or situation it is fearful of. Start by exposing it from a distance, then grooming and petting the pup while they are near the stimulus.
  • Proper socialization: It is vital that it receives adequate socialization starting at an early age. This will help it learn how to respond to different situations such as strangers or other animals and better manage its bark.

Lastly, make sure your pup is getting enough attention; spending quality time together and providing lots of love and cuddles will help ensure his emotional well-being and reduce the anxiousness that causes excessive barking.

2. Chewing

Shih tzu chewing

Chewing on inappropriate items is a problem because it can cause damage to items in your home, such as furniture or shoes. Chewing can also be dangerous for a Shih Tzu if they chew on objects containing small parts or harmful materials, such as cords or batteries. Additionally, chewing can destroy human belongings and result in the financial costs of replacing those possessions.

Some causes of Chewing

  • Boredom
  • Teething
  • Anxiety
  • Gain your attention
  • Frustration and Depression
  • Trauma
  • Teething pain
  • Hunger
  • Excess energy
  • Curiosity

It’s important to identify why your pup is chewing and provide her with appropriate chew toys as a solution. This will help satisfy her urge and ensure she remains safe by avoiding items that could be potentially dangerous for them.

Dealing with Destructive Chewing

  • Chewing toys: Invest in some high-quality chewing toys. These should be chewy but durable and give your pup an appropriate outlet for their natural instinct to chew. Offer multiple toys, so they don’t become bored with any single item, and rotate them often to add variety to the mix.
  • Mental stimulation: Provide them with mental stimulation. Try engaging them in activities such as obedience or agility training, hide-and-seek games, puzzle toys, snuffle mats, etc. to keep their minds active.
  • Spray the furniture: Purchase a pet-safe spray that can be applied to surfaces that you don’t want your pup to chew on, such as the legs of a chair or the armrest of a couch, for instance. Additionally, using deterrents like bitter apple spray or giving your pup their own toys to chew and play with instead may help curb the urge to chew on less desirable items.
  • Exercise your dog: Keeping your pup physically active and providing them with opportunities to explore will help to drain their energy and reduce any unnecessary chewing. Try taking your dog on long walks and playing fun games that keep them moving for hours each day!

Additionally, ensuring they get enough mental stimulation through puzzle toys or active training classes can also deter excessive chewing behavior. It’s also important to set rules and boundaries for unacceptable chewing in your home and make sure you are consistent with enforcing these rules. Providing an immovable object like a toy box or crate that your pup will see as their safe space may also help reduce the chance of unnecessary destruction!

3. Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety in shih tzu

Separation anxiety is one of the most common issues seen in Shih Tzu. When left alone without enough mental stimulation and exercise, this breed can easily become bored and frustrated which may lead to exhibiting such behaviors. It’s important to create a routine that includes enough physical activity, keep mentally stimulating activities available to prevent boredom, and provide plenty of affection when you are home so your pup gets used to being left alone.

Symptoms may include:

  • Excessive barking and whining
  • Growling and pawing
  • Agitation
  • chewing on furniture
  • Elimination indoors
  • Trying to escape
  • Urinating indoors

It’s important to stay consistent and reward your pup for responding positively when you leave the house. Gradually increase the periods of time when you’re away and reward your pup for being calm and accepting of your departure.

How to solve Separation Anxiety?

  • Reward for good manners: Get him used to being left alone. Start by leaving the house for a few minutes or even seconds at first, and then gradually increase the time away. Come back, and reward your pup with positive reinforcement such as treats.
  • Bring a second puppy: Having another pet can greatly benefit your pet’s mental health, giving them someone to play and bond with when you’re away. This can significantly reduce their anxiety levels as they have something to distract themselves with and help keep them from feeling lonely.
  • Multiple Toys: Provide mental stimulation in the form of puzzle toys or interactive dog games which will help keep your pup entertained while you are away.
  • Exercise: Exercise is also key for calming anxious energy so try to incorporate plenty of physical activity into their daily routine.
  • Training: It is important to start the training process gradually and not rush it. Begin by teaching your dog commands such as sit, stay, lay down, etc., then move on to longer periods of time away from them. As they get more comfortable over time, you can increase the duration and distance of the separations.

With patience, consistency, and lots of love, your canine pal should be able to learn how to cope better when you have to leave the house without getting too distressed!

4. Aggression

One of the most common Shih Tzu behavior issues is aggression directed toward other animals. If your pup exhibits aggressive behaviors toward other animals, whether it’s barking or growling, you may need to address the underlying anxiety that could be causing this reaction. To combat anxious behaviors, contact a certified animal behavior specialist and incorporate training techniques that involve positive reinforcement.

You should carefully watch your Shih Tzu for signs of aggression, such as lunging and snarling. Make sure to stay in control and don’t show any aggressive behavior yourself. Your pup will be very attuned to your emotional state and if you show aggression, it could be interpreted as permission by your pet.

Dealing with an Aggressive Shih Tzu

  • Rewards: Remain consistent with rewards and discipline, as this helps them learn more quickly. Try redirecting their focus by providing them with toys or rewarding positive behaviors.
  • Early socialization: One of the best ways to deal with an aggressive Shih Tzu is to provide it with early socialization. It is important for a Shih Tzu to be exposed to different people and situations in order for it to learn how to respond in a calm and friendly manner.
  • Train your dog: Train your dog including teaching them how to play in a gentle manner and discouraging rough behaviors or overly forceful play or biting.
  • Stop playing aggression: Intervene if their playtime becomes too rough and boisterous. This means quickly stopping your dog from engaging in behavior that is unacceptable and taking them away from the situation, even for just a moment.

Analyzing your pup’s behaviors in specific situations to pinpoint the root cause of the aggression. Once you have identified and addressed any underlying issues, begin implementing basic training techniques such as positive reinforcement. With practice, patience, and consistent instruction, your pup can learn how to handle themselves better around other animals in a more gentle manner.

5. Difficult to house train

Difficult to house train a shih tzu

Training a Shih Tzu can be quite difficult due to the fact that they can be stubborn and strong-willed. They often do not respond well to traditional methods of training, such as repeated corrections or heavy-handed discipline. Additionally, Shih Tzus are sensitive animals who can become easily distracted and will quickly lose interest in what you’re trying to teach them. As a result, they may display behavior problems such as barking, digging, and chewing – all of which can be avoided with the right training techniques.

How to fix the ‘Difficult to train’ problem?

  • Proper training: Training of Shih Tzu, firm consistency, and loving reward should be employed. Pay attention to the signals of boredom or disobedience to prevent any problems from arising.
  • Consistency and patience: When training a Shih Tzu, the most important qualities to have are consistency and patience. It is essential to be consistent with commands and rewards while being patient as your pup learns and grows.
  • Providing positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to train a difficult-to-train Shih Tzu. This can include awarding treats, verbal praise, and physical affection when the desired behaviors are shown.
  • Setting rules and boundaries consistently: Establishing rules and boundaries for your Shih Tzu is key to creating an environment where they can thrive. By setting limits early and consistently and offering positive reinforcement, you can help create a calm and balanced home while avoiding frustrations on both sides.
  • Plenty of exercises: Exercising is an important part of proper Shih Tzu care. Not only does exercise help burn off energy, but it is also important for their physical and mental health. Regular daily exercise can help prevent other behavior problems in Shih Tzus and make them easier to manage.
  • Avoiding punishment: It is important to ensure that punishments or shouting are avoided when disciplining them. Instead, positive reinforcement through rewards and affirmative praise should be used if you wish to instill proper behavior in your pet.
  • Crate training: Crate training is an effective technique to help manage difficult-to-train Shih Tzu behaviors. The crate should serve as a safe, familiar place for your pup while reinforcing positive behaviors through rewards-based teaching. It can also be used to help eliminate undesirable behaviors, such as excessive barking or destructive chewing.

With guidance, patience, and consistency, positive reinforcement, crate training can be an effective tool for helping you train your Shih Tzu.

6. Chasing after people

Shih Tzu Chasing after people

Common behavior problems in Shih Tzus include chasing after people, other animals or vehicles. This can be a dangerous habit for the pup and should be addressed promptly by owners. Proper training techniques should be used to prevent or stop any chasing behaviors. Positive reinforcement techniques are recommended to teach a Shih Tzu that chasing is unacceptable behavior.

In most cases, it’s important to begin by slowly desensitizing your dog to the stimuli that lead them to chase and then teaching them commands like “stop” or “leave it” in order to get them out of high-chase mode. It is also important to provide plenty of exercises and mental stimulation regularly to keep them calm and relaxed when they are around potential triggers.

Fixing chasing problems

  • Keep your pup on a leash: To prevent chasing after people, keep your pup on a leash when out of the home and make sure that you are actively reinforcing positive behaviors such as sitting and staying instead of chasing. This will help to redirect your pup’s attention away from people/animals they feel compelled to follow and onto something more productive.
  • Training: Training your Shih Tzu involves teaching them basic obedience commands, providing appropriate socialization opportunities, and giving them consistent rewards for good behavior. Incorporating positive reinforcement techniques and avoiding punishment are key components of successful training.
  • Proper socialization: Exposing your pup to different people and environments helps them build confidence and trust, which can reduce their desire to chase after anyone they come across. Be sure that through the socialization process, you are consistently setting firm boundaries when necessary and reinforcing acceptable behaviors with positive reinforcement.
  • Behavioral exercises: It is important to begin training them right away. Start by employing positive reinforcement techniques whenever they demonstrate the desired behavior. Additionally, you should give your pup plenty of mental stimulation with activities like puzzles and playing fetch.
  • Train to be calm around other animals: To help fix Shih Tzu’s behavioral issues such as chasing after other animals, it is important to train the dog to remain calm when around other animals. This process starts with providing the animal with positive reinforcement while around other creatures and consistent reward-based training to encourage them to stay composed at all times.
  • Train to come to you when you call: Using treats and rewards as incentives, practice calling the Shih Tzu to your side when it appears to be chasing something else so that it learns to associate coming back when being called with getting rewarded.

Finally, teaching them proper commands and providing positive reinforcement when they obey can help curb the chasing behavior over time.

7. Excitability and Hyperactivity

Excitability and Hyperactivity in shih tzu

When it comes to Shih Tzu behavior issues, excitability and hyperactivity can be tricky to manage. These behaviors can stem from the trait of wanting to please their owners, which is especially common between puppies and owners. Over-excitement and hyperactivity can result in ignoring commands or exhibiting destructive behaviors, so it’s important to establish an appropriate level of excitement with your puppy through consistent reinforcement techniques.

Symptoms of Excitability and Hyperactivity

  • Ignoring commands
  • Barking excessively
  • Chewing on objects
  • Tail-chasing or obsessive grooming.
  • Jump up on people

Solving Excitability and Hyperactivity

Excitability and hyperactivity can be difficult to manage in Shih Tzu, but there are a few things you can do to help.

  • Training: Training is an important part of managing excitability and hyperactivity in Shih Tzu. Training can help to teach the dog how to respond appropriately to different situations and commands, as well as help them learn how to focus their energy in a positive way.
  • Consistency: Establish a set routine for walking, feeding, and playing with your pet so that he understands what is expected of him and becomes more settled.
  • Physical exercise: Try using supervised play or physical exercise to help him tire out before obedience training begins.
  • Playing with toys: Playing with fun toys can be a great way to help reduce excitability and hyperactivity in Shih Tzu. Toys that are interactive, such as puzzle toys or treat dispensers, can help keep your pup occupied and distracted from their overactive behavior.

Additionally, providing your pup with plenty of exercises and mental stimulation throughout the day can help to tire them out and reduce their energy levels.

8. Growling and Howling

Growling and Howling in shih tzu

Growling and howling are common issues among Shih Tzus, and when they become problematic behavior it is important to address the issue quickly. Finding ways to reduce these behaviors can help your pet maintain a calm and relaxed demeanor. This can include providing mental stimulation, proper socialization, exercise, or changes to the environment around them.

Growling and howling in a Shih Tzu can be signs of distress and require immediate attention. Common causes of this behavior include:

  • Stress
  • Hunger
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Poor socialization
  • Illness

Owners should take appropriate steps to address the issue, such as investigating the source of stress or providing additional training to build their dog’s confidence. By resolving the underlying causes, you can help your Shih Tzu regain its positive behavior patterns.

How to solve growling and howling issues?

Many Shih Tzu owners are familiar with the issues of growling and howling, which can be behavior problems for the breed. To fix this issue, it is important to identify the underlying causes of the behavior first. It could be a sign of stress or anxiety, so it is important to investigate any potential triggers such as loud noises, visitors in the home, etc. Once these root causes are identified, they can then be addressed through 

  • Positive reinforcement: This includes giving reward-based treats when they display appropriate behaviors, talking to them in a calm and encouraging way, providing lots of physical and mental stimulation, giving consistent correctional feedback, and lots of affection and playtime when they’re displaying good behavior.
  • Playtime and mental stimulation: Engaging in positive activities like obedience training will redirect your dog’s energy into more appropriate behaviors. Additionally, plenty of physical activities like walking and running can help to tire out your pup and keep them entertained.
  • Early Socializing: Socializing your Shih Tzu as early as possible is key to preventing and fixing behavior problems like growling and howling. Exposing your pup to various people and other animals, including in different environments, can help them learn rules for acceptable behavior with humans and other animals.
  • Eliminating fear: This may include providing positive reinforcement during activities like going to the vet or on walks and taking precautions to minimize stressors such as loud sounds or rough handling. It can also help to provide routine, consistent care for Shih Tzus.
  • Don’t punish or abuse: Try to establish yourself as the alpha of your pup using positive reinforcement. Use lots of praise and treats when your pup exhibits appropriate behaviors, rather than punishing them for their misbehavior. Instilling discipline without physical punishment is key to resolving this behavioral issue.
  • Daily routine: This can help to prevent behavioral problems like growling and howling. Incorporating daily playtime, walks, training sessions, and interactive toys into your lifestyle will help keep your Shih Tzu physically and mentally strong.

Additionally, positive reinforcement for proper behavior is key for reversing problem behaviors such as excessive growling or howling.

9. Refuse to Eat

Shih Tzu behavioral problems Refuse to Eat

Refusing to eat is a common issue in Shih Tzu dogs due to their picky nature. As they are unable to communicate what they like or dislike, they may choose not to have any bites of food that they don’t like. This can be quite frustrating for pet owners and should be addressed if it persists.

Some causes of Refuse to Eat

  • Dental pain or digestive issues.
  • Health problems like allergies, intolerance, and sensitivity to certain foods.
  • Preventative dietary changes.
  • Indicate boredom with current food options
  • Inability to access or consume food at certain times.

How to fix the ‘Refuse to Eat’ problem

  • Try something new: Discontinue their current meals and offer something new. Try offering a variety of different flavors in order to entice them, as sometimes just having the same taste all the time can be unappealing. Be patient and keep trying until you find something they love!
  • Find and fix health conditions: Schedule an appointment with a veterinarian immediately. This will help rule out any underlying health issues that could be causing the appetite loss, and ensure that your pet receives the care and treatment they need to return to their normal eating habits.
  • Adequate portion sizes: Make sure that you are providing them with adequate portion sizes. Not to overfeed and ensure that the food you give is appropriate for the breed and their age.
  • Feeding environment: You may also want to create a special feeding environment like providing them with toys or treats while they are eating. Through trial and error, you should be able to find something that your Shih Tzu likes and is willing to eat.

With patience and consistency, you can help your Shih Tzu become more eager to enjoy meals!

10. Digging

This is a common behavior issue among Shih Tzu dogs and should be addressed quickly to avoid any further complications. As owners of Shih Tzu, it is important to take steps to address this problem including providing proper training and finding ways to redirect the dog’s energy into more acceptable activities.

Fixing Problems Related to Digging

  • Exercise and mental stimulation: Ensure that your pet has proper exercise and mental stimulation to prevent them from getting overly bored.
  • Block off areas: Preventing further damage may be as easy as putting up a barrier in the yard. Placing an obstruction such as a fence or board in areas where your pup likes to dig can help discourage them from digging there and redirect their attention elsewhere.
  • Digging area: Provide your pup with a designated “digging area” where he/she can dig without causing damage. 
  • Positive reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats or verbal praise when you catch them engaging in appropriate digging behavior.

By identifying the underlying cause of the digging behavior and taking proactive measures, pet parents can help ensure their Shih Tzu stops digging and lives happily and healthily.

11. Begging you for anything

Shih Tzu Begging you

When it comes to Shih Tzu behavior problems, one of the most common is begging. This bad habit can be difficult to alter once it’s become a part of their routine. It’s important to remember that if your Shih Tzu has begun begging for food, it’s never too late to fix the problem. Ignoring the pet’s pleas and not sharing food with them can help discourage this behavior, as well as stop any digestive issues and weight gain caused by the wrong kinds of food.

How to fix this issue

  • Strict rules: Establish house rules with your Shih Tzu so that they understand what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Ignoring: Don’t give them any attention – no eye contact, no talking to them, and no touching or petting. When they are begging, act like they aren’t even in the room. This will help tell your dog that its begging behavior is not welcome.
  • Provide an alternative: If they are asking for food, provide an alternative like a game of fetch or let them run around outside. This will help keep their behavior in check and also help get rid of any bad habits they may have picked up!
  • Feed while you eat: One way to fix Shih Tzu behavioral problems such as excessive begging is to feed your pet during the same mealtime as you. If you can incorporate feeding your dog into your daily routine, this will help discourage begging for food and encourage more appropriate behaviors.
  • Positive reinforcement: Providing positive reinforcement through rewards of treats or pets when it performs the desired behavior will help strengthen the desired behavior instead of the undesired begging. This can also be used in combination with correcting and ignoring improper behaviors like begging.
  • Reward: Reward good behaviors with verbal praise or treats so that your dog understands what behavior you want them to display.

12. Crying

The Shih Tzu is a playful and friendly breed, but it can develop behavioral issues due to improper training or emotional distress. Crying is sometimes an indication of discomfort or anxiety in these dogs, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, such as separation anxiety, health problems, or a lack of exercise and stimulation. In order to address the source of the problem, owners must first identify why their Shih Tzu is crying so they can take appropriate steps to help them.

The common cause of these problems

  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Hunger
  • Health problems
  • Fear
  • Need for love or attention
  • Allergic reactions
  • Lack of exercise and stimulation

How to solve this issue?

If you’re dealing with Shih Tzu behavior problems like excessive crying, there are several things you can do to help fix the issue.

  • Daily routine: Consistency is important, so establishing and maintaining a routine of meals, walks, and potty breaks can help to ensure that basic needs are being met appropriately. If these needs are not being adequately taken care of, it can lead to behavioral issues like whining or barking for attention.
  • Keep them busy: Offer plenty of mind-stimulating activities such as puzzle toys and training sessions that help keep the Shih Tzu focused on something else instead of crying or other undesirable behaviors.
  • Give them a good environment: This may involve setting routines with clear expectations, limiting or avoiding situations that cause excitement or stress, and engaging in activities like walks and play sessions to help your dog stay relaxed. Additionally, taking the time to consistently train your pet can go a long way in curbing nuisance behaviors such as whining and crying.
  • Use brain stimulation: To fix behavior problems in Shih Tzus such as excessive crying, brain stimulation can be used. Through mental exercises like providing puzzles and games to tackle, the dog will have less time to devote to its destructive habits. By adding extra stimulation into the dog’s day, owners can help mitigate behavior issues involving stress, fear, and anxiety.
  • Add a second pet: By having another Shih Tzu around, your original pet will have a companion to socialize with. This can also help keep their minds active so they are not bored or lonely which can cause them to act out in undesirable ways. Additionally, it can provide more outlets for exercise and play so that any potential misbehavior may be avoided.
  • Provide durable toys: These can be chewed on and handled for extended periods of time, keeping your Shih Tzu occupied during times of loneliness and boredom. Durable chew toys can also help with anxiety and stress, reducing their urge to cry out in distress. Make sure to buy animal-safe and non-toxic options for your pup’s safety.

It is also important to make sure that you are giving your Shih Tzu enough exercise to allow them to release excess energy throughout the day, which can prevent them from expressing their pent-up frustrations through excessive vocalization.

Common Shih Tzu behavior problems, such as aggression, barking, and separation anxiety, can negatively affect the lifespan of a Shih Tzu if not addressed. It is important to deal with these issues early on to ensure a happy and healthy life for your pup. For more advice on how to tackle these issues, read our other article on Shih Tzu lifespan.

Final words

Shih Tzus are generally sweet, loyal, and affectionate dogs who love to snuggle and spend time with their owners. But, as with all breeds, they can develop behavior problems if not trained properly. To avoid such issues, it’s important to start training your Shih Tzu from a young age. Training should be based on positive reinforcement and rewards – this means providing treats or praise when they do something right, instead of punishment for bad behavior. Consistency is also key when it comes to fixing any kind of misbehavior in a Shih Tzu; setting boundaries and holding the puppy accountable is the first step toward addressing any misbehavior.

If your Shih Tzu is exhibiting any concerning behavior problems, it’s important to reach out to a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can help you identify the root cause of the issue and provide guidance on how to best address it. Your veterinarian may also recommend supplements or medications that could help improve your dog’s behavior depending on the nature of the problem.

We have another article that covers Shih Tzu breed overall information. Consider reading that for more information.

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