Shih Tzu’s are a breed of dog with a long, varied history. They are considered to be the smallest and oldest of the historic Tibetan holy breeds, and have for centuries been companions of royalty and more common folk alike. They are a wonderfully temperate, small breed which make excellent companions when well trained. Biting and chewing can be an issue with Shih’s, and is a problem that needs to be addressed promptly.
The first step in curbing a Shih Tzu’s biting problem is to determine the cause of the biting. If your Shih is a puppy, it is most likely that the puppy is biting as a learning phase. Puppies naturally chew and bite on each other to establish dominance and rank within a pack, and if there are no other dogs to chew on, the puppy will chew on human family members. Teething is also an issue which causes puppies to bite, and is something that most of them grow out of. If your Shih Tzu starts biting as an older dog, then a complete vet checkup should be done. It is always possible with any behavioral issue that there is a physical cause for the issue. Your vet will be able to determine if the biting is in response to pain your Shih is feeling.
Puppy biting is the easiest, and most common, type of biting to identify and stop. Puppies are mouthy by nature, and addressing that biting problem when it first begins can stop the irritation before it becomes a bad habit. Puppies most often bite while attempting to play, so curbing this behavior is important. If your puppy mouths or otherwise bites you while playing, the first thing to do is stop playing with the puppy. Continuing to let the puppy bites you shows the puppy that it is ok to play rough like that, which it is not. Remove whatever the puppy is biting on (whatever body part the puppy has) and firmly tell the puppy “No Bite” or another command of your choice. When the puppy stops biting you, immediately reward your pup with a treat or toy, whichever your pup enjoys. Sturdy toys work well for curbing biting issues, as they offer the pup something that is ok for them to chew on. Repeat this removal/reward system until the pup’s biting problem ceases. This method also works well for adult Shih’s who still bite while playing, although it may take an adult dog longer to learn, as the behavior has been happening for a longer period with an adult.
If your puppy is biting because they are teething, it is an issue they typically outgrow when they’re adult teeth come in. It can be a problem, however, if that biting is transferred to humans. You should have a few chew-resistant toys available for your teething puppy to play with during this time. When the puppy begins to chew on you, or something else that is off limits, remove the “bad” item and replace it with a toy that your puppy can associate with being acceptable to chew on. Each time the pup chews on a bad item, immediately removing it and rewarding them with a good chew item should eliminate the poor biting and chewing behavior.
Adult dogs that begin biting pose more of an issue than puppies, as it is harder to determine why an older dog is biting. here can be many physical issues for biting, and making sure your Shih is free of pain before re-training is vital. Once your vet has determined that your dog is not in pain, you can begin to correct the biting issue. Many small breed adult dogs bite because they are territorial over certain spaces or people. This can be a dominance problem that can be difficult to correct. “Time out” is a concept that works well for this type of biting. Be sure you have a sturdy collar and 6 foot lead on for this type of training, as it makes it much easier to handle your dog. When your Shih bites or snaps for this reason, removing them from the area they have an issue with is important. Tell the dog “No Bite” and move the dog to a chosen quiet area (bathrooms or kitchens with little activity work well) and leave the dog there for a short period. Once the time out is over, allow them back to the area in question. If the dog’s biting continues, repeat this process until it stops. Reward the dog when it is calm and shows no signs of aggression or nipping.