Shih Tzu - Training The Shy Or Fearful Shih Tzu

Published: 25th November 2005
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With shih tzu as with people, some shih tzu and shih tzu puppies are naturally more bold and daring than others. When you watch a group of shih tzu puppies play, it will quickly become apparent which ones are bold and which ones are shy. Some of the shih tzu puppies will hang back at the edge of the pack, perhaps fearful of angering the stronger shih tzu, while others will jump right into the fray and start jostling for control.

Working with a shy shih tzu puppy or shih tzu dog, or one that is fearful, presents its own special challenges. Of course bold, forceful shih tzu present challenges of their own, especially with control and leadership issues. Every type of shih tzu puppy or shih tzu dog has its own unique personality, and its own unique training challenges as a result.

One important reason to build confidence in a fearful shih tzu is to prevent biting. High fear dogs often become biters to deal with their fear of new situations, and this type of fear response can be dangerous for you and your shih tzu. It is important to teach the shih tzu puppy or shih tzu dog that new situations and new people are nothing to fear, and that they are not out to hurt him.

Signs of fear in both shih tzu puppies and shih tzu dogs include being afraid of strangers, being leery of new situations, and avoiding certain people or objects. A fearful shih tzu puppy or shih tzu dog may also snap or bite, especially when cornered.

If you recognize signs of fear in your shih tzu or shih tzu puppy, it is important to act quickly. Fear responses can quickly become ingrained in a dog, and once those fear memories are planted they can be difficult to erase. Properly socializing a young shih tzu puppy is essential to making sure your shih tzu is not fearful, and will not become a fear biter. Many shih tzu puppies are raised as only shih tzu, but even these shih tzu puppies should be given the opportunity to play with other shih tzu puppies, and with well socialized older shih tzu and friendly cats as well. The more novel situations the shih tzu puppy encounters when he is young, the better he will be able to adapt to new situations as an adult shih tzu.

Adapting to new and changing situations is a vital life skill that every shih tzu puppy must learn. As you know, the world is constantly changing and adapting, and it is vital that both you and your four legged companion learn to take these changes in stride.

It is important for owners to not inadvertently reinforce or reward shy or fearful behaviors. For instance, when a shih tzu puppy or shih tzu dog shows fear, by whining, crying or hiding, it is only natural for the owner to go over and reassure the shih tzu. This type of reassurance, however, can be misinterpreted by the animal as a sign of approval from the pack leader.

When the shih tzu dog or shih tzu puppy displays fearful or shy behavior, the best strategy is simply to ignore him. The shih tzu must be able to learn on his own that there is nothing to fear. If left alone, a shih tzu will often start to explore the fearful object on his own, thereby learning that the initial fear reaction was mistaken. The owner must allow the shih tzu to explore things on his own, and not try to coddle or over protect him.

Another reason for fear reactions, particularly in older shih tzu, is past abuse or lack of proper socialization as shih tzu puppies. The window for good shih tzu puppy socialization is relatively short, and once this window has closed it can be difficult to teach a shih tzu dog how to socialize with dogs and other animals. Likewise, a shih tzu that has been abused probably has all sorts of negative associations, and it is up to a patient owner to work with the shih tzu to replace those fear reactions with more appropriate responses.

When working with an older fearful shih tzu, it is important not to try to rush the socialization and fear abatement process. It is best to simply allow the shih tzu to explore things on his own, even if it means he spends a lot of time hiding from the perceived monster. Trying to force the shih tzu to confront the things he fears will do more harm than good.

It is also important to address already ingrained fear based behaviors, such as biting, snapping and growling, whether they result from past abuse, a lack of socialization or a combination of factors. If the shih tzu is frightened and reacts defensively to strangers, it is important to introduce him slowly. It is important to correct these potentially dangerous behaviors, however, and teach the shih tzu that fear is no excuse for growling, snapping or biting. The best way to do this is to immediately reprimand and correct the shih tzu when he bites, snaps or growls at anyone.

The shih tzu should be generously rewarded the minute it stops displaying aggressive behavior. If you do find yourself having to reprimand your shih tzu for displaying aggressive behaviors, it probably means you have tried to move him along too quickly. It is important to avoid threatening situations as much as possible until the shih tzu has built up the confidence it takes to deal with those situations. If you think you have moved too fast, take a few steps back and let the shih tzu regain his confidence.

Connie Limon is a shih tzu breeder. She publishes a FREE weekly newsletter. A professional newsletter with a focus upon health and wellness for you and your pets. Discounts are offered to subscribers. Sign up at:

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