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Are Shih Tzus Aggressive? Breed Temperament Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Portrait of a short-cut shit-zu puppy

If you are considering a Shih Tzu as a new pet, you may think it’s impossible for this adorable cutie to have an aggressive bone in its body. In fact, they are known for their affectionate and lovable personalities and make great family companions.

Shih Tzus are not known to be aggressive. However, every dog is unique and may display various behaviors depending on its history. Aggression may also be triggered in certain situations. It’s important to understand the cause and signs of aggression, as well as how to prevent aggressive behavior so that your Shih Tzu can stay safe.

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Are Shih Tzus an Aggressive Breed?

Shih Tzus are known for their cheerful and loving personalities. They are vibrant and friendly and typically get along well with people of all ages, as well as other dogs. Although their name means “little lion,” the dog is unlikely to be aggressive, and while they are not known for being aggressive dogs, every rule has an exception.

Individual dogs may exhibit aggressive behavior, which is usually the result of insufficient training or socialization as puppies. Early socialization can be a preventative measure for aggression. Dogs should not be aggressively played with, and physical punishment is never acceptable. Jumping on people and chasing children or joggers should also be prohibited from the beginning.

Depending on the circumstances, aggression, fear, and defensive behavior may be normal responses for some dogs. Dogs that have been abused, not cared for, or severely punished also show signs of aggression. Furthermore, unsuitable living conditions, being threatened or scared by another aggressive dog, exclusion from human contact, and being teased by children all play a role in aggression.

Bea-Tzu Dog Breed Info
Image Credit: 12122, Pixabay

What Are the Signs of Aggression in a Shih Tzu?

Aggression in dogs is usually perceived as a dog that bites or one that you may fear will attack. However, aggression takes many forms, and some dogs will only exhibit mild aggressive behavior.

Aggression can occur in any breed without warning. Even the sweetest and most delightful dog can become aggressive in certain circumstances. A fearful body posture and facial expression can be indications of aggressive behavior. Some dogs exhibit these signs when they are cornered, feel helpless, or are triggered.

If your Shih Tzu displays defensive aggression, signs may include a lowered head, a withdrawn body, and a low tail facing down.

Signs of offensive aggression may consist of the following:
  • Growling and snarling
  • Head and tail up
  • Frozen stance
  • Direct stare
  • Snapping

Your Shih Tzu may show signs of aggression if it is scared. If your dog is scared, it will most likely try to defend itself. These tiny dogs are not intimidating, and their only means of defense may be to bark, growl, and sometimes nip or bite. Your dog may be trying to establish dominance, especially if it feels threatened by another dog.

Dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain, and if they’re feeling vulnerable or ill, your Shih Tzu may be more prone to aggression.

What Should I Do if My Shih Tzu Suddenly Becomes Aggressive?

If your Shih Tzu becomes aggressive, try to diffuse the situation. You may need to provide a distraction or remove your dog from the situation to avoid injury and diffuse the trigger that may encourage aggressive behavior.

Suppose your Shih Tzu exhibits signs of aggression frequently, regardless of its training. In that case, it’s best to consult your veterinarian or a professional trainer specializing in dog behavior to determine the root cause of your dog’s aggression.

The goal of all treatment is to keep humans, other animals, and the dog safe. To help the dog overcome its fear, desensitization and relaxation techniques are used.

Shih Tzu
Image Credit: rachnelson, Pixabay

How Can I Keep My Shih Tzu Feel Safe and Avoid Aggressive Behavior?

When dogs are anxious or afraid, their top priority is to regain their sense of safety. Here are some ways you can help your Shih Tzu develop a sense of security and help avoid aggressive behavior.

  • Socializing your dog at an early age is critical, and it’s also important to keep exposing it to people and dogs throughout its lifetime.
  • Desensitizing your dog to anything it appears to be afraid of can help it handle fearful situations.
  • Your puppy needs to know that you are the top dog, so asserting your dominance is essential.
  • Avoid punishing your dog. There are numerous methods for reducing unwanted behaviors without frightening or injuring your dog.
  • Use chew toys to teach your puppy that your hands are not for nipping.
  • Because dogs are aware of our emotions, keeping a calm and confident demeanor is essential.
  • Stand up for your dog in a threatening situation to help it feel safe.
  • Avoid overprotecting your dog. A protective owner can go too far in trying to protect their pet and can trigger or contribute to the dog’s anxiety.

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Shih Tzu temperaments are typically playful, gentle, affectionate, and not generally aggressive. Aggression can occur in any dog for many reasons, and they can display different types of aggression, from mild to severe. If your Shih Tzu becomes aggressive, removing them from the environment may be easier, but if it becomes overly aggressive, it may be helpful to contact your vet or a behavioral specialist. Once you’ve determined the cause of your dog’s unwanted behavior, you can devise an effective and appropriate plan for dealing with it.

Featured Image Credit: Elena Rozhenok, Shutterstock

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