Choosing the right pet for your home and family can be a trial. You want to find the perfect dog that gets along with everyone, especially your kids. Perhaps you prefer small dog breeds, like the Shih Tzu, and have wondered, are Shih Tzus good with kids?
The short answer is YES! But, let’s take it further and examine their character to see why this might be, along with some advice about living with a Shih Tzu.
Are Shih Tzus Aggressive?
In general, the Shih Tzu is regarded as being a happy, friendly, lively breed that gets along with everyone. They are not usually known to be aggressive, but some individual dogs may display an aggressive streak. This could simply be because of their character, but it could also be due to other factors that we’ll explore later.
Over the years, many dog breeds have gotten negative press because of vicious attacks, with children often being the victims. Putting aside the fact that dog owners are frequently to blame, aggressiveness in dogs is a complex subject. We need to be clear about what we mean by aggressive behavior.
Dogs communicate with us in very different ways. Much of this relies on using their tail, face, and body language.
The Shih Tzu breed, unlike most other old dog breeds, was produced as a companion dog rather than a working dog for hunting or herding. There was little need to keep any aggressiveness, and so, from its origins in Tibet (where the name means lion dog) around 600 AD right through to today, they have earned a reputation for playfulness, intelligence, gentleness, and affection.
Despite this, any dog might display what you believe to be aggressive behavior. For example, you could witness one of the following:
• Growling – a general warning sign that the dog is not happy. They can’t speak, so this is their way of saying, “no, I don’t want this to happen!”. This could be related to possessiveness over a toy, a blanket, food, etc., or perhaps because they are in pain or feeling ill and don’t want to be handled.
• Baring teeth – this is the second stage after growling, sometimes performed at the same time. It sounds nasty, and it may be a shock to you when seen in a pup that is usually very relaxed and happy. Confusingly, it may even be a sign of submission, especially when the dog turns their head away from you.
• Nipping – this trait is seen in many small dogs, and it is usually used as another type of warning. It isn’t meant to break the skin, although this can happen sometimes. This behavior is seen more in puppies rather than in adult dogs, and it is a way of establishing their place in the pack.
• Biting – when it gets to this stage, it’s fair to say that this could be seen as being aggressive. A bite is very different from a quick nip as the dog will be intentionally seeking to cause harm. Their teeth will break the skin and they may even hang on. This can be scary, even with such a small dog!
All of these are natural ways of communicating, and none of them should be classed as a sign of aggression on their own, with the possible exception of biting. However, if your dog displays any of these signs for a long period of time, then it’s likely that they have an aggressive streak or have a health problem that needs taking care of.
Either way, ignoring it will only make the problem worse!
How To Deal With The Problem
First, check your dog to see if it has any health issues. It could be in pain, so be careful when you do this. It might be a good idea to get it checked at the vet as they will be better equipped to spot the signs and provide treatment that will soon have your pooch back to normal.
Puppies will often nip at their siblings as part of playtime. If they nip too hard, the injured playmate will react with a sharp yap or even retaliate with a nip. If nipping is becoming a problem, you need to establish clear boundaries. When your puppy nips your hand, give a short, sharp “NO!” to make it understand that this is not okay. Then, ignore it completely for a few minutes, with no eye contact or interaction.
After this, act as normal. If it nips again, do the same. If it happens a third time, increase the length of time that you ignore the dog ideally by putting it in an enclosure like a playpen or behind a gate.
Shih Tzu puppies going through teething may be more inclined to nip, bite, and chew. Rather than punish them, try diverting their attention with a chew toy. It pays to be quick, moving your hand away when they nip at you. If you can do this, offer them a toy to chew on and they’ll very soon learn what’s expected of them.
Small dog syndrome is a common reason for Shih Tzu aggression. This is when a dog owner gives in to their pet’s every demand, leading them to believe that they are the leader of the pack or the alpha. If they don’t like something you are doing, they’ll let you know. They won’t like you touching certain possessions or going near their food bowl.
For the relationship to work, your dog must see you as the alpha. They crave company and will not enjoy being banished, so this is a good way of training them out of bad behavior.
In truth, training older dogs can be more of a challenge, but it is not impossible. They soon learn to make the association that good behavior is rewarded while bad behavior means punishment.
Smacking a badly behaved dog will only serve to reinforce the message that aggression works!
If you want to impress on your dog that you are the alpha, then use simple ways like not allowing them indoors first when you return home from a walk or making them obey a ‘sit’ command before you feed them. While you’re out walking, use a harness and leash and keep the dog by your side rather than letting them pull out in front of you.
Establishing a hierarchy is vital for keeping the peace in your home. Your dog has to know that he is not higher in the pack than any other family member, and this even extends to visitors.
Are Shih Tzus Good Family Pets?
As we have seen, there are no guarantees when it comes to the character and personality of any dog. However, it’s likely that if you choose a Shih Tzu, it will be a wonderful family pet!
In most cases, any sign of aggression that you see in a puppy can be trained out of them. Early training and socialization are always recommended for any breed of dog, and the same goes for Shih Tzus. So, the question remains: “Are Shih Tzus good with kids?”
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Shih Tzu is particularly affectionate towards children. Being one of the toy breeds, they don’t need a lot of space or food. And, even that long, double coat doesn’t take too much hard work! According to the AKC, they are an infrequent shedder that is regarded as hypoallergenic.
There’s some confusion about what this word means, so let’s take a moment to explain. When something is hypoallergenic, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t produce any allergens; it basically means that you are less likely to have a reaction. People are allergic to proteins in a dog’s saliva, dander (dry flakes of skin), and urine.
Dogs that don’t shed hair and dander, or lick their coats too much, will be less likely to provoke an allergic reaction, and that’s where the Shih Tzu comes in.
Daily brushing is recommended, but shouldn’t take too long because this is one very little dog. A wire brush with flexible pins will be ideal for getting right through to the skin. Comb the mustache and topknot, and wipe their eyes to keep them free from gunk that might lead to infections.
Photo from @maltipoosociety
This lap dog breed needs very little exercise; no more than a short walk every day and some playtime, indoors or out. They were bred as companion dogs that spent most of their lives inside, so they are suited to this lifestyle. Obesity can be a problem, though, so you need to make sure they do get some exercise.
Housetraining can be a lengthy and frustrating process, but with patience and perseverance, you’ll be able to get your dog used to going outside to go to the bathroom. You can begin to potty train your little lion from as young as eight months, and the closer to this age, the better. Expect the whole process to take between two to four months.
Adult Shih Tzus that haven’t been housetrained will require exactly the same type of training, but it may take longer because they will have gotten into bad habits.
Finally, they are very alert and make great watchdogs, and they’ll certainly let you know if there’s anyone hanging around outside.
Give them the care and attention they need and you’ll be rewarded with a kid-friendly family dog that makes a great companion. Are Shih Tzus good with kids? You bet they are!
Are Shih Tzus Good With Toddlers?
With the right training, yes, they are, especially when the dog and the kids are raised together.
Ideally, babies and very young children should never be left alone with any dog, and should ideally be supervised at all times. This isn’t to say that your dog is necessarily dangerous, but no matter how well you think you know them, you can never anticipate their behavior one-hundred percent of the time. Also, accidents happen!
With this in mind, it has to be said that the Shih Tzu dog is, on the whole, good with toddlers. However, there are certain things to be aware of.
Your pup will love to play, viewing children – especially toddlers – as littermates. They might be boisterous, they might nip (as we saw earlier), or they might jump up.
Once again, training will help them to understand the rules, but it is just as important for small children to be taught how to behave around dogs.
Because of its small size, there’s a chance that toddlers and young children will see this toy dog as literally being a toy! As robust as these pups are, there’s still a chance they could be injured, especially if picked up. They do enjoy cuddles, but this should be in the safety of a seated position on a sofa or an armchair, or even on the floor where there’s less risk of them being dropped.
Children should be taught from a young age that all dogs need to be respected. If they want to be left alone, then the child should learn to leave them alone. Likewise, when the dog is eating, it should be left to finish in peace. Some dogs are not keen on loud noises, which could startle them and provoke a negative reaction. And, if a child is active and energetic, the pup might figure that it is playtime, which is fine – at the right time!
Summing Up – Are Shih Tzus Good With Kids?
All things considered, these are great dogs for families with kids of all ages. They are relatively easy to look after, requiring minimal exercise, and they won’t cost a fortune in food.
They are friendly, happy, energetic, loyal, alert, and affectionate… arguably making them the best dog you could think of when it comes to kids. Early training and socialization are good ideas as this just makes your life easier and reduces the risk of any aggressiveness or bad behavior when the dog is older.
They may take some time to potty train, but it’s worth the effort. Daily grooming is a must, and you might even want to get older kids involved as this could help with bonding. It won’t be a major undertaking as these dogs are very small, but it is essential to keep their coat healthy and free from matting and tangles.
Make sure your dog knows that you are the alpha, the pack leader, right from the start, and impress this upon them if necessary if they try to push against it and challenge your authority.
Remember, your children need to be aware of how to behave around the dog and to respect its space when required. Also, any display of aggression might not be because your new pup is vicious.
It could be that they are overexcited or that they are sick or in pain, and in most cases, the problem can be overcome.
Overall, then, with the right training (for dog and child), this happy, affectionate bundle of fur is ideal for kids!