Causes and Solutions for Fear and Anxiety in Shih Tzu

As dog owners, we want our furry friends to feel safe and happy at all times. Sadly, our beloved Shih Tzu pets can experience fear and anxiety, which can greatly affect their quality of life. Seeing our dogs overwhelmed with fear and anxiety can be heartbreaking, and it’s essential to understand the root causes of their distress. In this guide, we will explore the common reasons for fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu, the signs indicating that your furry friend is struggling with these issues, and practical solutions for addressing and preventing them. So, let’s dive in and help our beloved furry friends achieve emotional balance and inner peace!

Reasons for Fear and Anxiety in Shih Tzu

Reasons For Fear And Anxiety In Shih Tzu
It’s completely understandable why owners adore Shih Tzus. They’re cute, friendly, and playful. However, sometimes it’s hard to ignore the fact that like other breeds of dogs, Shih Tzus also experience fear and anxiety. Understanding the root causes behind their anxious behavior is critical to help them overcome their fears and live a happy life. Below are some common reasons why Shih Tzus may experience fear and anxiety. If your dog also shows signs of unusual behavior, such as aggression, excessive barking, or compulsive behavior, click on the relevant links to learn about how to manage them.

Past Trauma and Ill Treatment

Past Trauma and Ill Treatment can cause fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu. If a Shih Tzu has experienced past trauma or ill treatment, it can lead to a lack of trust and confidence in humans or other dogs, which can result in fear and anxiety.

Examples of past trauma and ill treatment include:

Physical AbusePhysical abuse such as hitting, kicking or mistreating can cause trauma in Shih Tzu, leading to aggressive behavior and fear of humans.
DepravationDepravation of basic needs such as food, water, or shelter can lead to an anxious and fearful Shih Tzu who is skeptical of humans and does not want to be touched or played with.
NeglectNeglect such as lack of grooming or lack of socialization can also cause trauma and anxiety in Shih Tzu. It can lead to a lack of confidence around other dogs and humans.

If your Shih Tzu is showing signs of anxiety or fear due to past trauma, it is essential to provide them with extra care and patience. They need to be handled with care and should learn to trust humans again. It is best to seek professional help from a dog behaviorist who can assess the extent of the trauma and recommend a course of action for treatment.

It is also important to consider prevention before the trauma happens. By socializing your Shih Tzu from an early age and avoiding ill-treatment, you can prevent this type of behavior altogether.

If you suspect your Shih Tzu is experiencing anxiety or fear due to past trauma, you can check out dedicated articles on Shih Tzu aggression, dealing with separation anxiety, or Shih Tzu’s destructive behavior for more information.

Socialization and Lack of Exposure

Socialization plays an essential role in molding a Shih Tzu’s behavior, personality, and outlook on life. It has been observed that lack of exposure to different sounds, smells, people, and situations during the critical socialization period of 3 to 14 weeks can lead to social anxiety and fearfulness later in life. Proper socialization allows them to become confident, well-rounded, and adaptable to new environments, which can significantly reduce the risk of anxiety and phobia.

When a Shih Tzu is not socialized correctly, they may develop fear of common things, such as strange humans, new animals, or novel situations. Sometimes, a lack of socialization is due to the environment they grow up in, or it may be due to the owner’s failure to expose them to different things. For example, a Shih Tzu who spends most of their time confined to the house or backyard may not interact with a variety of people or have exposure to different scents, sights, and sounds.

If your Shih Tzu is showing signs of fear, including trembling, hiding, excessive barking or cowering, it may be time to look into socialization opportunities. Bring your Shih Tzu to the park, set up a playdate, invite friends over, or enroll them in training classes to provide them with exposure to a wide range of stimuli in a controlled environment. Well-socialized Shih Tzus are confident, friendly, and adaptable to new situations.

It is important to keep in mind that socialization is a gradual process, and it needs to be carried out with patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency. Overwhelming or forcing the dog in new situations can sometimes worsen the fear or anxiety. Offering treats, toys, and praise during socialization can be an excellent way to encourage positive associations with new experiences.

In conclusion, Socialization and Lack of Exposure is a significant factor that contributes to fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu. A well-socialized Shih Tzu can enjoy their life, feeling confident in a variety of environments. Remember that it’s never too late to start socializing your Shih Tzu; it may take some extra time and patience, but it will ultimately be beneficial for you and your furry companion in the long run. If your Shih Tzu is exhibiting fear, several therapies can be administered, as we will explain later in this article. If you want to learn more about teaching your Shih Tzu to stop barking, check out our related article: Training Your Shih Tzu to Stop Barking.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is a common issue for many dog breeds, including Shih Tzu. This occurs when a dog gets anxious to the point of destructive behavior when separated from its owner or left alone for extended periods. Shih Tzu dogs are social animals and love being around their owners or other dogs. As a result, they can experience a great deal of distress when left alone. Let’s look at some of the signs of separation anxiety and how to address them.

Signs of Separation AnxietyHow to Address Separation Anxiety
Excessive barking or howlingBehavioral training can help to desensitize the dog to your absence gradually. Start by leaving your Shih Tzu alone for a few minutes and gradually increase the time. Additionally, leaving your dog with a treat or toy-like Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter can help distract the dog and make departure easier.
Chewing and destructive behaviorDogs with separation anxiety often become destructive and start chewing or destroying household items, such as furniture or shoes. It is essential to provide a safe space for the dog to stay, such as a crate, playpen, or a small room. This can be a space the dog associates with comfort, relaxation, and rewards. You can also spray chew deterrent products on items your dog likes to chew or redirect their attention to chew toys specific for teething dogs-like this list provided here.
Potty accidents indoorsIncontinence or sudden bowel movements can be caused by separation anxiety, but it can also be due to a lack of potty training. Ensuring your dog has consistent access to the outdoors, potty pads indoors or litter boxes can help reduce accidents indoors. If you need to train your dog to use potty pads and litter boxes, here are some tips to help you.

The Bottom Line: If your Shih Tzu is experiencing separation anxiety, it’s crucial to be patient and consistent in your approach to help them feel comfortable being alone. There are many ways to address separation anxiety, such as behavior training, counter-conditioning, or medication. If separation anxiety persists after trying these methods, consulting a professional veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and medication administration may help.

Health Issues

One of the common causes of fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu can be health issues. It is important to understand that dogs cannot verbally communicate their discomfort or pain, which can lead to anxiety or fear. Here are some health issues that may cause your Shih Tzu to feel anxious or fearful:

Health IssuesSymptoms
PainLameness, yelping, reluctance to move, aggression
Hearing or Vision LossStartling easily, bumping into things, being frightened by sudden movements, confusion
Neurological DisordersTremors, seizures, restlessness, confusion
Thyroid ConditionsUnpredictable behavior, aggression, anxiety, fearfulness

If you notice any of these symptoms in your Shih Tzu, it is important to take them to the vet for a thorough examination. Once the underlying health issue is addressed, you may notice a significant improvement in your dog’s behavior and overall demeanor.

It is also important to note that some health issues can lead to behavioral problems, such as territorial or compulsive behavior. If you suspect that your Shih Tzu’s anxiety or fear is related to a behavioral issue, you may find it helpful to seek the advice of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. For more information on Shih Tzu’s behavioral issues, you can refer to our articles on territorial behavior and compulsive behavior.

Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Shih Tzu

Signs Of Fear And Anxiety In Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus are known to be loving and affectionate dogs. However, they are also prone to fear and anxiety, and this can manifest in various ways. Being able to recognize the signs of fear and anxiety in your Shih Tzu is crucial in addressing the underlying causes and keeping your furry friend healthy and happy.

Trembling and Shaking – One of the most common signs of fear or anxiety in Shih Tzus is trembling or shaking. This may be noticeable during a thunderstorm or after meeting a new person or animal. The shaking might be mild or severe, and your Shih Tzu may try to hide or seek comfort from you.

Panting and Heavy Breathing – Fear and anxiety in Shih Tzus can also lead to panting and heavy breathing. This may be accompanied by restlessness and pacing around the house, which can be distressing for both you and your furry friend.

Aggression – In some cases, fear and anxiety can lead to aggression in Shih Tzus. This can be a defensive mechanism to protect themselves from perceived danger or a response to feeling trapped or cornered.

Excessive Barking – Shih Tzus are already known to be vocal dogs, but fear and anxiety can cause excessive barking even when there is no apparent reason for it. This can be a sign of distress and discomfort.

Loss of Appetite – Fear and anxiety can also affect your Shih Tzu’s appetite. They may refuse to eat or drink, which can lead to dehydration and other health problems.

It’s important to note that these signs may not always indicate fear or anxiety, and it’s best to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. Once you’ve established that fear and anxiety are the cause of these behaviors, you can take steps to help your furry friend overcome them.

How to Address Fear and Anxiety in Shih Tzu

How To Address Fear And Anxiety In Shih Tzu
Dealing with fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu can be a perplexing experience for pet owners. However, with proper attention and care, these issues can be resolved. Here are some effective methods that can help manage the effects of fear and anxiety on your Shih Tzu’s well-being. It’s essential to identify the root cause of their behavior so that you can choose the right method to address it. Let’s take a closer look at some of the recommended techniques for dealing with fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu.

Behavioral Training

Behavioral training is one of the most effective ways to address fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu. The training involves modifying the dog’s behavior through consistent positive reinforcement. Here are some steps for implementing behavioral training in your Shih Tzu:

  • Identify the Triggers: The first step in behavioral training is to identify the triggers that cause fear and anxiety in your Shih Tzu. It could be anything from loud noises to unfamiliar people and dogs.
  • Desensitization: Once you have identified the triggers, the next step is to desensitize your Shih Tzu to them. This can be achieved by gradually exposing your dog to the trigger in a controlled environment. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, you can play recordings of thunder at a low volume and gradually increase the volume over time while giving treats and positive reinforcement.
  • Counter-Conditioning: Counter-conditioning is another technique used in behavioral training. It involves replacing the dog’s negative response with a positive one. For example, if your dog is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, you can associate it with positive experiences such as giving treats while the vacuum is turned on.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is an essential part of behavioral training. It involves rewarding your Shih Tzu for good behavior. Rewards could be anything from treats to praise and affection.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key when it comes to behavioral training. Consistently exposing your Shih Tzu to their triggers and positively reinforcing good behavior will ultimately help them overcome their fear and anxiety.
  • Professional Help: If you are struggling to address your Shih Tzu’s fear and anxiety through behavioral training, it may be best to seek the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

With consistent and patient training, your Shih Tzu can overcome their fears and live a happy, anxiety-free life.


Counter-conditioning is a type of training that can help turn a negative response or behavior into a positive one. It involves exposing the dog to the source of their fear or anxiety in a controlled and positive manner while using positive reinforcement techniques to create a positive association with the fear-inducing stimulus. This method takes time and patience, but it can be effective for reducing fear and anxiety in Shih Tzus.

To start counter-conditioning with your Shih Tzu, you should first identify the source of their fear or anxiety. For example, if they are afraid of thunderstorms, you can start by playing a recording of thunderstorms at a low volume while giving your dog treats or playing their favorite game. Gradually increase the volume while continuing to reward positive behavior. Over time, your Shih Tzu will learn to associate the sound of thunder with positive experiences, and their fear response will diminish.

Here is a table summarizing the key steps for counter-conditioning your Shih Tzu:

1Identify the source of fear or anxiety
2Controlled exposure to fear-inducing stimulus
3Positive reinforcement with treats or games
4Gradually increase exposure while continuing rewards
5Create positive association with fear-inducing stimulus

It is important to note that counter-conditioning must be done gradually and with patience. Rushing the process or exposing your Shih Tzu to too much too soon can actually make their fear and anxiety worse. If you are unsure about how to start counter-conditioning with your dog, it may be helpful to consult with a professional dog trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement techniques.

Counter-conditioning is a powerful tool for addressing fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu. With time and patience, you can help your furry friend overcome their fears and live a happier, more confident life.

Medications and Supplements

When it comes to addressing fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu, medications and supplements can be an option. It’s important to note that these should be used as a last resort or in conjunction with other forms of treatment, and should always be given under the guidance of a veterinarian. Here are some common medications and supplements that can be used:

Medication/SupplementHow it WorksPossible Side Effects
Anti-anxiety medicationWorks to reduce anxiety and fear by calming the central nervous systemDrowsiness, lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea
AntidepressantsHelps to stabilize mood and reduce anxiety symptomsDrowsiness, weight gain, decreased appetite, dry mouth
BenzodiazepinesWorks as a sedative and muscle relaxant to relieve anxiety symptomsDrowsiness, lethargy, loss of coordination, confusion
Herbal supplementsContain natural ingredients that can help to soothe anxiety symptomsCan interact negatively with prescribed medications, varies depending on supplement

While these medications and supplements can be effective in treating fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu, it’s important to weigh the potential benefits against the risks involved. Additionally, regular check-ins with a veterinarian can help to ensure that the medication or supplement is working effectively and that any side effects are monitored closely.

Prevention of Fear and Anxiety in Shih Tzu

One of the best ways to avoid fear and anxiety in your Shih Tzu is prevention. By taking specific steps early on, you can help your furry friend feel confident and comfortable in a variety of situations.

Socialization is key
One of the most important things you can do is expose your Shih Tzu to a variety of social situations as early as possible. This includes other animals, people of all ages, and different environments. By doing so, your dog will learn to be comfortable and confident around new experiences.

Positive reinforcement training
Another crucial element in preventing fear and anxiety is positive reinforcement training. This method involves rewarding good behavior with treats or affection, which encourages your Shih Tzu to repeat these positive actions. With consistent training and positive reinforcement, your dog will be more confident and less likely to experience fear or anxiety.

Regular vet checkups
Regular visits to the vet can also be important in preventing fear and anxiety. Catching health issues early can prevent your dog from experiencing unnecessary stress and anxiety. It is also essential to keep your Shih Tzu up-to-date on all necessary vaccines and medications to avoid any health complications.

Provide a safe environment
Lastly, providing a safe environment for your Shih Tzu is critical in preventing fear and anxiety. This includes ensuring your home is secure, providing a comfortable space for your dog to sleep and relax, and avoiding punishments or negative reinforcement. By providing a safe and secure environment, your Shih Tzu will feel more at ease in their surroundings.

Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu. Socialization, positive reinforcement training, regular vet checkups, and a safe environment can all contribute to a happy and confident dog. By taking these preventative measures early on, you can help your furry friend live a happy and healthy life free of fear and anxiety.


After discussing the common causes of fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu and how to address them, it is important to emphasize that every Shih Tzu is unique and may require different approaches to deal with their anxiety. Therefore, it is essential to understand your dog’s personality, their fears, and their triggers to create a personalized plan to help them overcome their anxiety.

As a dog owner, it is crucial to provide your Shih Tzu with a loving and nurturing environment to prevent and manage anxiety. Socialization, consistent training, and positive reinforcement can help your Shih Tzu develop self-confidence and a sense of security. Additionally, consulting with a professional dog behaviorist or veterinarian can provide insight and guidance on how to best address your dog’s anxiety.

It is also important to remember that medications and supplements should only be considered as a last resort after trying behavioral training and counter-conditioning techniques. These medications and supplements should only be prescribed and administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Overall, dealing with a Shih Tzu’s fear and anxiety requires patience, dedication, and understanding. By identifying the root cause of your dog’s anxiety and implementing appropriate strategies, you can help your furry companion lead a happy, healthy, and anxiety-free life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzu is a small breed of dog that originated in China. They are known for their long, silky hair, adorable flat faces, and friendly personalities.

Are Shih Tzu prone to anxiety and fear?

Yes, Shih Tzu can be prone to anxiety and fear due to a variety of reasons such as past trauma, lack of socialization, or health issues.

What are the signs of fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu?

The signs may vary, but some common signs include shaking, excessive barking, hiding, aggression, excessive licking, and destructive behavior.

What is separation anxiety in Shih Tzu?

Separation anxiety is when a Shih Tzu experiences anxiety or fear when left alone or separated from their owner. This can cause them to exhibit destructive behavior or excessive barking.

Can fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu be treated with medication?

Yes, medication can be used to treat fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu. However, it should be a last resort and preferably used in combination with behavioral training.

What is counter-conditioning in Shih Tzu behavioral training?

Counter-conditioning involves changing a Shih Tzu’s negative association with a particular situation or object into a positive one, by associating it with something else that they enjoy or find comforting.

How can I socialize my Shih Tzu to prevent fear and anxiety?

You can socialize your Shih Tzu by exposing them to new people, places, and experiences gradually and positively. Enrolling them in puppy classes or playdates with other dogs can also help.

What kind of supplements can be given to Shih Tzu to alleviate anxiety?

Supplements such as melatonin, chamomile, and L-theanine can be beneficial in alleviating anxiety in Shih Tzu. However, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian first.

Can past trauma and ill-treatment cause fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu?

Yes, past trauma and ill-treatment can cause fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu as they may develop a negative association with particular situations or objects that remind them of their past experiences.

Is it possible to prevent fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu?

While it’s not always possible to prevent fear and anxiety in Shih Tzu, you can take steps to minimize their risk by providing ample socialization, positive reinforcement training, and ensuring their health needs are met.


Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Dog Care Hacks