Understanding Aggression in Shih Tzu

As much as we love our furry friends, there may come a time when they display aggressive behavior that surprises or even scares us. This is especially true for Shih Tzu owners, as their adorable appearance and playful personality may trick us into thinking that they are incapable of aggression. However, aggression in Shih Tzus is not uncommon, and it can stem from various causes such as fear, insecurity, territorial or protective instincts, and even pain or illness. If you’re a Shih Tzu owner who’s struggling with their pet’s aggressive behavior, fear not! In this article, we will delve into the root causes of aggression in Shih Tzus and provide you with practical tips on how to prevent and deal with it.

What Causes Aggression in Shih Tzu?

What Causes Aggression In Shih Tzu?
Aggression can be a troublesome behavior in Shih Tzus, but what causes it? Understanding the root of this behavior is crucial in addressing and preventing it. There are several reasons why a Shih Tzu might demonstrate aggression, ranging from fear and insecurity to territorial or protective instincts. Additionally, pain or illness can also cause aggression in dogs. Identifying the cause of aggression is the first step in addressing the behavior. In this section, we will dive deeper into the various causes of aggression in Shih Tzus. For more information on addressing other troublesome behaviors in Shih Tzus, check out our article on dealing with separation anxiety in Shih Tzus.

Fear and Insecurity

Fear and insecurity can be a major cause of aggression in Shih Tzu. These dogs may become fearful and insecure due to past traumatic experiences, lack of socialization, or genetics. When a Shih Tzu is afraid and does not feel safe, they may become aggressive as a way to protect themselves.

Signs of fear and insecurity in Shih Tzu include:

  • Barking or growling at strangers or other dogs
  • Trying to run away or hide in unfamiliar situations
  • Biting or nipping when touched or approached unexpectedly
  • Shaking or trembling in certain situations
  • Urinating or defecating in the house or other inappropriate places

It is important for Shih Tzu owners to understand that punishment and yelling will not help alleviate their dog’s fear and insecurity. Instead, it is important to work on building their dog’s confidence through positive reinforcement and training.

To address fear and insecurity in Shih Tzu, there are a few tips to follow:

  • Socialization: Socialization is an important aspect of dog training and can help Shih Tzu get used to new situations, people, and other dogs. Start socialization early in life and continue throughout their life whenever possible.
  • Obedience Training: Obedience training teaches Shih Tzu how to behave in certain situations and can help to build their confidence. A well-trained dog is less likely to become aggressive in a stressful situation.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a training technique that rewards good behavior with treats, praise or toys. This technique is effective in increasing good behavior and building a stronger bond between a Shih Tzu and their owner.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Knowing what triggers fear and insecurity in Shih Tzu can help to avoid situations where they may become aggressive. For example, if a Shih Tzu is afraid of other dogs, it may be best to avoid the dog park or other areas where there are a lot of dogs.

If a Shih Tzu exhibits aggressive behavior due to fear and insecurity, it is important to seek professional help. A veterinarian or professional dog trainer can evaluate the dog’s behavior and provide guidance on how to help alleviate their fear and insecurity.

Read more about Shih Tzu’s fear and anxiety causes and how to address them in this article.

Territorial Instincts

Shih Tzu is a breed known for their territorial instincts. They have a natural tendency to protect their home and their family, including their food, toys, and other possessions. This can lead to aggressive behavior towards strangers or other animals who they perceive as a threat to their territory. In order to prevent territorial aggression from becoming a problem, it’s important to understand the signs and triggers of such behavior, as well as the steps you can take to curb it.

Signs of Territorial Aggression

Shih Tzu dogs may display a variety of behaviors when they feel their territory is being threatened, including:

👉 Growling👉 Barking
👉 Lunging👉 Snapping
👉 Showing teeth👉 Aggressive posturing

If you notice these behaviors in your Shih Tzu, it’s important to address the issue right away to prevent it from escalating.

Triggers of Territorial Aggression in Shih Tzu

Territorial aggression in Shih Tzu can be triggered by a variety of things, including new people or animals in the home, unusual noises or smells, or even changes in routine. It’s important to identify your dog’s specific triggers and work to desensitize them to such situations gradually.

Preventing Territorial Aggression in Shih Tzu

Preventing territorial aggression in Shih Tzu requires a combination of socialization, training, and positive reinforcement. Socializing your dog from a young age can help them become more comfortable with new people and animals in their home. Additionally, training your dog to respond to basic commands such as sit, stay, and come can help you control their behavior in potentially stressful situations. Positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise can also be an effective way to encourage good behavior and discourage aggressive behavior.

If you’re dealing with severe territorial aggression in your Shih Tzu, seeking professional help from a certified dog behaviorist may be necessary. They can assess your dog’s behavior and develop a personalized training plan to address the issue.

Understanding and managing territorial instincts in Shih Tzu is crucial for the safety and well-being of both the dog and its family. By following the tips and techniques above, you can help prevent territorial aggression from becoming a problem and create a happy and harmonious home for you and your furry friend. If you want to learn more about managing your Shih Tzu’s behavior, check out this article on managing possessiveness over food and toys.

Protective Instincts

Shih Tzu dogs are known for being affectionate and loyal companions. They are also known for their strong protective instincts towards their family, home, and belongings. Protective instincts can be attributed to their breeding as guard dogs in ancient China. However, if not trained properly, these protective instincts can lead to aggression and unwanted behavior.

Understanding Protective Instincts in Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu dogs are very protective of their family, especially the ones they perceive as their pack leaders. When they feel that their pack leader or family is in danger, they will instinctively protect them. This behavior is normal for a Shih Tzu, but it can sometimes become a problem if the dog perceives a threat where there is none, leading to aggressive behavior.

Protective instincts can also be triggered by territorial behavior. If a Shih Tzu feels that their territory is being invaded, they will react aggressively to protect it. This can be a problem if the dog perceives everything outside their home as their territory, leading to aggression towards strangers, other pets, or even the household members who are not considered part of their pack.

Preventing and Managing Aggressive Behavior Due to Protective Instincts

To prevent and manage aggressive behavior due to protective instincts, socialization and obedience training are crucial. Introducing the Shih Tzu to different people, animals, and environments at an early age can help them understand that not everyone or everything is a threat. Additionally, obedience training can teach the dog to differentiate real danger from non-threatening situations.

Positive reinforcement techniques can also be used to encourage good behavior and discourage aggression. Praising the dog for their calm and non-aggressive behavior can reinforce the idea that aggression is not rewarded. On the other hand, punishing the dog for aggressive behavior can only make the problem worse.

Avoiding triggers can also help prevent aggressive behavior due to protective instincts. For example, keeping the dog away from strangers or other animals can prevent them from feeling threatened and reacting aggressively.

To sum it up, Shih Tzu dogs have strong protective instincts that can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior. Proper socialization, obedience training, positive reinforcement, and avoiding triggers can help prevent and manage aggression due to protective instincts. It is important to note that professional help should be sought if the aggression persists, as it may be a sign of an underlying issue.

Pain or Illness

Shih Tzu, like humans, can also become aggressive due to physical pain or illness. It’s important to note that when dogs are in pain, they become more irritable and prone to aggressive behavior. Owners should be extra cautious when handling a Shih Tzu that is sick or injured as it may feel threatened and become aggressive, even towards its owner or other people.

Some signs of aggression due to pain or illness include growling, biting, and snapping when touched or moved. The Shih Tzu might also hide, act lethargic, or favor a specific body part. If your Shih Tzu is exhibiting these signs, it’s recommended to take them to the veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

It’s important to know that dogs are also prone to cognitive dysfunction as they age, leading to confusion, disorientation, and behavior changes such as aggression. Regular visits to the veterinarian are important to address these health issues and provide the proper treatment and care for your furry friend.

In order to prevent aggression due to pain or illness, owners should make sure their dog’s medical needs are met, and they are taken care of properly. Proper diet, exercise, and rest are essential to keep your furry friend happy and healthy. Adequate exercise can help with pain management and reduce stress levels, which in turn can help prevent aggression.

It’s important to note that not all aggression in Shih Tzu is caused by physical pain or illness. Other triggers such as fear, insecurity, territorial and protectiveness instincts, can all contribute to its aggressive behavior. It’s important to identify the specific trigger causing aggression in your Shih Tzu to properly address the issue.

Always be observant of your Shih Tzu’s behavior and take note if it displays any signs of pain or illness. Regular visits to the veterinarian are essential as dogs cannot directly communicate when they are in pain. Prompt attention and accurate care of your Shih Tzu’s health needs can prevent aggression from developing due to pain and illness.

CLICK HERE to learn about training your Shih Tzu to stop barking.

How to Prevent Aggression in Shih Tzu

How To Prevent Aggression In Shih Tzu
Preventing aggression in Shih Tzu is crucial for the well-being of your furry friend as well as your family and community. Although aggression in dogs is a natural behavior, it can be prevented with proper socialization and training. It is important to understand that aggression in Shih Tzu can be caused by various factors such as fear, insecurity, territorial instincts, protective instincts, pain or illness. By focusing on positive reinforcement and avoiding triggers, you can help your Shih Tzu become a more well-adjusted and relaxed member of the family. In this section, we will look at some effective ways to prevent aggression in Shih Tzu through socialization, obedience training, positive reinforcement, and avoiding triggers. Stay with us to discover some practical tips that can help you prevent aggression in your Shih Tzu. Don’t forget to read about territorial behavior that is common among Shih Tzu.


Socialization is a crucial aspect in preventing aggression in Shih Tzu. It involves exposing the dog to different people, animals, and environments. This way, the dog learns to be comfortable around unfamiliar things, reducing their likelihood of displaying aggressive behavior. Early socialization is key to molding a Shih Tzu’s behavior as they are more receptive to learning during their puppyhood.

When socializing your Shih Tzu, start by introducing them to people that they are likely to interact with frequently, such as family members and close friends. Gradually introduce them to new people, taking note of their reactions. If your dog seems uncomfortable or uneasy, don’t force anything. Instead, take things slowly and let them adjust at their own pace.

Introducing your Shih Tzu to other animals is also essential. This helps them learn to coexist peacefully with other pets in the home or when out and about. Start with exposing them to one animal at a time and in a controlled environment. Gradually increase the number of animals and the level of intensity of the interaction as your Shih Tzu becomes more comfortable.

Exposing your Shih Tzu to different environments is also crucial in socialization. This helps them learn to cope with different situations, sounds, and sights. Take your Shih Tzu for walks in the park, on busy streets, and even on car rides. This helps them learn to adjust and feel comfortable in different settings.

Remember, socialization is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. Continuous exposure to different people, animals, and environments helps reinforce what they have learned, and it helps prevent regression of behavior.

Internal Link: If your Shih Tzu displays destructive behavior, check out our article on how to deal with it.

Obedience Training

One effective way to prevent aggression in Shih Tzu is through obedience training. By training your furry friend to follow basic commands, you can establish yourself as the pack leader and teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable. Obedience training can help improve your dog’s socialization skills and overall confidence.

Here are some obedience training tips for Shih Tzu owners:

  • Consistency is key – make sure everyone in the household is using the same commands and rewarding good behavior consistently.
  • Start with basic commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “come” before moving on to more advanced training.
  • Use positive reinforcement – reward your dog with treats, praise or playtime when they follow commands correctly.
  • Be patient and persistent – it may take some time for your Shih Tzu to fully understand and obey commands, but consistency and patience will help them learn.
  • Consider enrolling your Shih Tzu in a formal obedience training class or seek guidance from a professional trainer.

It’s important to note that positive obedience training should not involve punishment or harsh physical correction. This can lead to fear or aggression in Shih Tzu dogs. Instead, focus on reinforcing positive behavior through positive reinforcement.

If your Shih Tzu is experiencing aggression towards you or other dogs, it’s important to seek help from a professional trainer or behaviorist. Obedience training alone may not solve more complex behavioral problems such as compulsive behavior or excessive attention-seeking.

To learn more about addressing specific behavioral issues in Shih Tzu dogs, visit our articles on excessive attention-seeking, biting, and compulsive behavior.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective method for curbing aggression in Shih Tzus by encouraging good behavior through rewards. As the name suggests, this approach involves reinforcing behavior that you want to see repeated, rather than punishing behavior that you want to stop.

Types of Positive Reinforcement

Verbal PraiseGiving verbal praise, such as saying “Good boy/girl!” or “Well done!” reinforces positive behavior.
TreatsA small, regular treat can be given to reward good behavior, such as sitting on command.
PlaytimePlaytime with toys is another effective reward, especially for Shih Tzus who love to play.
Physical AffectionHugs, cuddles, and petting can also be good rewards for a Shih Tzu after good behavior.

Using Positive Reinforcement

When using positive reinforcement, it’s important to give the reward immediately after the desired behavior is performed, so that your Shih Tzu clearly understands which behavior is being rewarded. Consistency is also important, so that the Shih Tzu knows what to expect and what is expected of them.

It’s also important not to overuse treats, toys or playtime as a reward, as this can lead to unintentional weight gain for your pet. One way to avoid this is by using verbal praise and physical affection as the primary forms of positive reinforcement, and only using treats and playtime occasionally.

By consistently using positive reinforcement and rewarding good behavior, you can effectively curb aggression in your Shih Tzu, while also building a stronger bond with them. This approach encourages good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior, which will lead to a more positive and happy environment for both you and your pet.

If you suspect your Shih Tzu’s aggression is due to compulsive behavior, please see our article on Shih Tzu Compulsive Behavior for more information.

Avoiding Triggers

It’s important to recognize what may trigger your Shih Tzu’s aggressive behavior and to avoid those triggers whenever possible. This can help prevent agitated behavior from escalating into full-blown aggression.

Here are some possible triggers to consider avoiding:

  • Overstimulation: Too much stimulation, whether it be loud noises, rough play, or too much attention, can lead to heightened arousal and aggression in Shih Tzu. It’s important to limit the amount of stimulation your dog receives to prevent overexcitement.
  • Food and resources: Shih Tzu can be possessive of their food, toys, and other resources. To prevent any aggressive behavior related to these items, make sure to keep a close eye on your dog during mealtime and when they’re playing with their toys. Additionally, it’s important to set clear boundaries and teach your dog that it’s not okay to guard resources from you or other family members.
  • Tiredness and illness: Like humans, dogs can become irritable when they’re not feeling well. Make sure your dog is getting enough rest and is up to date on all of their health check-ups to prevent any medical issues that could contribute to aggressive behavior.
  • Unfamiliar situations: New people, places, and experiences can be stressful for dogs and may trigger aggressive behavior. To prevent this, make sure to socialize your Shih Tzu with new things gradually and in a positive way. This can help reduce fear and anxiety related to new situations.

By avoiding potential triggers and creating a calm and structured environment for your Shih Tzu, you can help prevent aggressive behavior from occurring. Remember, consistency is key when it comes to managing your dog’s behavior.

Dealing with Aggression in Shih Tzu

Aggression in Shih Tzu can sometimes be difficult to manage, and it’s important for pet owners to understand how to confront it. Unfortunately, there are certain situations where well-meaning pet owners may unwittingly encourage aggressive behaviour in their dogs. When aggression does occur, it’s essential to identify the signs and find ways to de-escalate the situation. In this section, we’ll explore some techniques for dealing with aggression in Shih Tzu and highlight the importance of seeking professional help when necessary.

Identifying Signs of Aggression

Being able to identify signs of aggression in your Shih Tzu is crucial in addressing the issue. Some common signs of aggression in Shih Tzu include:

Signs of AggressionDescription
Growling/BarkingYour Shih Tzu may growl or bark excessively, particularly when approached or in a particular situation.
Snapping/LungingYour Shih Tzu may suddenly lunge or snap at someone without any obvious reason.
BitingYour Shih Tzu may bite as a form of defensive or protective action, particularly when it perceives a threat to its territory or family.
Stiff Body LanguageYour Shih Tzu may assume a stiff and rigid body posture, particularly when it feels threatened, anxious or fearful.
Pinned Ears/TailYour Shih Tzu may pin back its ears or tail as a warning signal to indicate its discomfort, fear, or aggression.
Dilated PupilsYour Shih Tzu may have enlarged pupils in response to fear, anxiety, or aggression.

It is important to note that these signs of aggression may not always be obvious or explicit, and they may vary depending on the individual dog and the situation. Understanding these signs and how they manifest in your Shih Tzu can help you intervene and prevent aggressive behavior before it escalates into a more serious problem.

De-escalation Techniques

When dealing with aggression in Shih Tzu, de-escalation techniques are a key part of diffusing potential aggression and calming the dog down. These techniques are meant to help soothe them and avoid any escalation of the situation. Here are some de-escalation techniques to consider:

  • Remove the Trigger: Removing the trigger that is causing the aggression is the first step. This could mean getting the attention of the dog with a loud noise, such as clapping, or removing them from the situation.
  • Stay Calm: It is essential to stay calm when encountering an aggressive Shih Tzu. Dogs can sense when a person is nervous, and it can escalate the situation further. By remaining calm, you can help reduce the dog’s anxiety and prevent further aggression.
  • Keep Your Distance: Giving the dog some space can help them calm down. Be sure to give them enough room to move around and avoid any potential threats, but don’t give them too much space that they can harm themselves or others.
  • Use Body Language: Dogs communicate through body language, and you can use this to your advantage. Try to avoid direct eye contact, as this can be seen as a threat. Instead, turn your body slightly away from them and lower your head a bit.
  • Redirect the Attention: If the Shih Tzu is showing signs of aggression, redirect their attention to something positive. Give them a treat or a toy or ask them to perform a simple command, such as “sit” or “stay.” This can help take their mind off the trigger and calm them down.
  • Avoid Punishment: Punishing a dog for being aggressive can actually make the situation worse. Avoid hitting or yelling at them, as this can increase anxiety and aggression. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and working to prevent future aggression.

Remember that every dog is different, and it may take some trial and error to find the de-escalation techniques that work best for your Shih Tzu. But with patience and consistency, you can help prevent and manage aggression in your furry friend.

Seeking Professional Help

If you’ve tried all the tips and tricks and still can’t seem to curb your Shih Tzu’s aggression, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are some options:

  • Veterinarian: Your Shih Tzu’s aggression may be caused by an underlying medical condition or pain. A veterinarian can rule out any physical issues and may even be able to prescribe medication to ease your pup’s aggression.
  • Professional dog trainer: Sometimes, obedience training from an experienced trainer can help curb aggression. Look for a trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement methods and has experience working with Shih Tzus.
  • Canine behaviorist: A behaviorist can help pinpoint the root cause of your Shih Tzu’s aggression and create a personalized plan to address it. They often work in conjunction with a veterinarian to ensure a comprehensive approach.
  • Animal behavior clinic: If your Shih Tzu’s aggression is particularly severe, an animal behavior clinic may be a good option. These clinics offer intensive treatment programs and can provide long-term support to help manage your pup’s aggression.

Remember that seeking professional help is not a sign of failure as a pet parent. In fact, it shows a willingness to do what’s best for your furry friend and keep them safe and happy.


In conclusion, it is important to understand that aggression in Shih Tzus can stem from a variety of factors such as fear, territorial instincts, protective instincts, or pain and illness. As such, it’s crucial for pet owners to understand the underlying causes of their Shih Tzu’s aggression and take appropriate steps to prevent or manage it.

Preventative measures such as socialization, obedience training, and positive reinforcement can go a long way in curbing aggressive behavior in Shih Tzus. Additionally, avoiding triggers or situations that may lead to aggression can also help keep the peace at home.

If your Shih Tzu does display signs of aggression, it’s important to identify them early and utilize de-escalation techniques such as distraction or time-outs. Seeking professional help from a veterinarian or dog behaviorist may also be necessary in severe cases.

Remember that aggression in Shih Tzus is a serious issue that can potentially harm both the dog and their human family members. By taking proactive steps to prevent and manage aggression, pet owners can ensure a happy and healthy relationship with their beloved furry friend.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can aggression in Shih Tzu be prevented?

Yes, aggression in Shih Tzu can be prevented through socialization, obedience training, positive reinforcement, and avoiding triggers.

2. What are some common triggers of aggression in Shih Tzu?

Some common triggers of aggression in Shih Tzu include fear, perceived threat to their territory or family, and pain or illness.

3. Is aggression in Shih Tzu a sign of a bad temperament?

No, aggression in Shih Tzu is not necessarily a sign of a bad temperament. It could be due to fear, insecurity or other issues that can be addressed with proper training and care.

4. Can aggression in Shih Tzu be caused by genetic factors?

There is no clear evidence that aggression in Shih Tzu is caused by genetic factors, although aggression can sometimes be seen in certain bloodlines. However, proper training and care can greatly decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

5. Can neutering or spaying help prevent aggression in Shih Tzu?

While neutering or spaying may alleviate hormonal influences that can contribute to aggression, it is not a guaranteed solution for preventing aggressive behavior in Shih Tzu.

6. Can using punishment or forceful methods help stop aggression in Shih Tzu?

No, using punishment or forceful methods can actually worsen aggression in Shih Tzu and should be avoided. Positive reinforcement and behavior modification techniques are recommended instead.

7. Can medication be used to treat aggression in Shih Tzu?

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to treat underlying medical conditions that can influence aggressive behavior in Shih Tzu. However, medication should be used under the guidance of a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

8. How long does it take to train a Shih Tzu to not be aggressive?

The length of time it takes to train a Shih Tzu to not be aggressive varies depending on the dog’s age, temperament, and responsiveness to training. Consistent and patient training is key.

9. Can Shih Tzu be trained to be good with children?

Yes, Shih Tzu can be trained to be good with children through proper socialization and obedience training. However, direct supervision should still be exercised when children and dogs are together.

10. Should I rehome my Shih Tzu if it shows signs of aggression?

Rehoming should be considered only as a last resort, after all other options such as proper training and care have been exhausted. Aggression in Shih Tzu can often be resolved with proper management and training.


Matthew Farthing

Matthew Farthing

Сontributing author at DogCareHacks, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Dog Care Hacks