Shih Tzu's are a breed with a long, varied history. They are considered to be the smallest and oldest of the historic Tibetan holy breeds, and for centuries, they have been companions of royalty and regular people alike. This type of dog doesn't thrive on chasing, digging, and hunting. They're generally happy just laying on your lap while you watch TV. Overall, they're wonderfully temperate and playful pups, which makes them excellent companions. Unfortunately, like all dogs, Shih Tzus can develop a biting habit if not properly trained.
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If you're wondering how to stop a Shih Tzu from biting, you need to first understand why some dogs bite in the first place. Some Shih Tzus bite because they're teething, sometimes because they're playing, sometimes because they're bored, and sometimes because they may have a problem with aggression (this is particularly the case for reactive rescue dogs who've suffered abuse, have issues with anxiety, or haven't been properly socialized).
So, how do you train your dog to stop biting you? There are some general methods, but it depends on the cause. If your dog starts biting as an adult, always follow up with a vet checkup. There could be a physical cause and biting is a pain response.
Shih Tzu play-biting
Biting is a normal part of play and exploration for most pups, but generally, this type of biting isn't hard enough to break the skin. It's important to learn your dog's body language. Dogs that are play-biting will look relaxed, while dogs that are aggressive will look stiff and may even show their teeth.
If it's clear your dog is play-biting, it's important to teach them bite inhibition. In other words, you're teaching your pup which types of bites hurt human skin and which types of bites don't. This is something they learn by socializing with other dogs, but humans can teach them too.
Stop a Shih Tzu from biting
Start by playing with your dog and letting him lick and mouth your hands. Play until he gets riled up enough to bite a little bit harder. Then:
- Yelp in a loud, high-pitched voice that startles him.
- Let your hand go limp and mimic being hurt.
- If that doesn't work, yell a stern, "No bite!"
- Make sure to praise your puppy when he stops biting and starts licking.
Per the ASPCA, you should do this no more than three times within a 15-minute period. If yelping doesn't work, you can try a time-out, which works better for adult dogs and older puppies. After trying the above method, escalate to:
- Ignoring your dog for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Getting up and moving away if he continues to try to play.
- Briefly leaving the room if he is ignoring your cues.
Make sure to return to play after the time-out and keep playing until he bites again, then repeat the steps. Once he's a champ at bite inhibition, you can repeat the above for gentler bites, and, eventually, curb your dog from biting altogether.
Shih Tzu teething
Shih Tzus may also bite when they teethe, so you can freeze special chew toys or give your dog ice cubes to chew on to help dull some of the pain. This behavior generally stops when teething stops, but how long do Shih Tzu's teethe? It should take about 10 months for all their adult teeth to come in.
During this time, avoid chew toys like rawhide, which can become a choking hazard, or bones that can splinter into sharp pieces that they may swallow.
Aggressive Shih Tzus and biting
The worst type of biting is a bite that comes from a place of aggression. If your dog exhibits this kind of behavior, you should first take him to a vet to rule out physical pain. If pain isn't the cause, you should consult a professional like a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACBV), or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). Make sure the professional has a track record of successfully treating aggression since this isn't a requirement for CPDT certification.