The Shih Tzu originated in China at least 1,000 years ago and was the pet of royalty and the ruling class for most of that millennium. With its silky, flowing coat, this toy breed retains the air of its noble lineage. The name of the dog translates to "lion," and this breed has a look to match. Despite the arrogant look, these affectionate little dogs have outgoing personalities, tend to like everyone, including strangers and children, and are well-suited for owners looking for a small, companionable, indoor dog. This sweet-natured dog's behavioral problems generally are caused by the owner.
Shih Tzus have a reputation for chewing inappropriate items in the home that goes beyond that of other breeds. Puppies of all breeds will chew when they are teething, but in most cases the behavior will cease once the puppy outgrows that stage. Shih Tzus left on their own will chew beyond the teething stages for a variety of reasons, with boredom topping the list. Your dog was born to be a companion animal. If you can't be a companion to your Shih Tzu most of the time, having another dog in the home may help with loneliness and boredom, as will providing a variety of safe chew toys in different shapes, sizes and textures for your Shih Tzu to play with. Shih Tzus often are anxious dogs, and this anxiety also can lead to inappropriate chewing. Consider seeking the services of a professional veterinary behaviorist if you believe this is a problem.
Although they are known for their affectionate personalities and friendliness to everyone, Shih Tzus, like other small-breed dogs, can develop a tendency to nip and even bite if they are not properly socialized. Cute little dogs develop bossy nipping and biting behaviors more often than large dogs do largely because their owners do not assert the leadership they should. If your Shih Tzu nips you or other people, analyze the cause. Shih Tzus are known for resource guarding. They may bite if they are disturbed while eating or chewing a bone or toy. They also may nip or bite out of fear of strangers. Like any large dog, a small dog must be properly socialized with strangers and other animals from young puppy on, must receive proper training, and must know the human is always in charge. It is far easier to never let this problem start than it is to try to cure it when it has become a habit.
Training and Exercise
Shih Tzus need daily exercise to help prevent development of behavioral problems. These little dogs, ranging in size from 9 to 16 pounds, can be trained to respond to basic obedience commands like "Come," "Down," "Sit" and "Quiet." Use food rewards and positive praise for this small breed; never use choke collars or negative training methods, because these little dogs are delicate. When walking and training your dog on leash, use a harness to prevent problems with the dog's trachea, which can collapse under pressure from a collar.
Make activities fun, and use them as a way to encourage your Shih Tzu while you train them. This little dog can easily become exhausted, so keep activities short, and spread practice with your dog throughout the day. Games such as hide-and-seek help to reinforce skills such as "Find" and "Fetch," while also giving your dog the exercise a Shih Tzu needs. If you notice your Shih Tzu panting, end the activity and play again later. During hot, humid weather or very cold conditions, exercise your dog mostly indoors to prevent breathing problems. These little dogs do not do well in the heat, and should never be left out in extreme temperatures.
Your Shih Tzu may develop a taste for the contents of a kitty litter box or droppings found outdoors. Many dogs exhibit this behavior, called coprophagy, to some degree, possibly because the droppings contain undigested foods. The behavior is noted more in Shih Tzus and other small breeds than in large breeds, but that could be because the little dogs are indoors more, and their owners are with them more when they are outdoors. The behavior usually does not continue beyond puppyhood. Puppies may copy the behavior of their mother, who will instinctively keep the puppies and their environment clean in this manner, especially while the puppies are still nursing. To prevent the behavior, put the kitty litter box up high, where you cat can reach it but your dog can't. Keep your yard clean of droppings, and keep an eye on your dog's activities when you are out walking with your Shih Tzu. Consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about this behavior.
Some Shih Tzus are affected by hereditary diseases, including intervertebral disc disease, which affects their spines, and patellar luxation, which affects the knees. To help prevent the disabilities that can eventually be caused by these problems, it is a good idea to train your dog not to jump onto and off of your furniture. If you wish to allow your Shih Tzu on the furniture, build some easy form of access that doesn't require jumping, or buy pet stairs, which are available in pet supply stores.