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Shih Tzu personality traits/aggression

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I am new to this forum. I have a 3 year old shih tzu named Sadie.

I found a lost Shih Tzu several years ago and we all fell in love with him and finally his owner posted signs about lost dog and we returned him.

We bought Sadie the same day. She was 7 weeks old.

I got 3 books on Shih Tzu before I bought her, but they do not accurately describe the personality traits or answer other specific questions about the breed.

I have always had Labradors and have 4 at the moment. Labs are easy. Loving, dependable, obedient, could not be made to bite me.

Sadie, my shih tzu, on the other hand, is a definite hand full. She can be very sweet and loving and she can be a tazmanian devil. (my son says the spawn of satan).

She has food aggression. Do not pull her hair ( this means brushing), do not wake her when she is tired, do not touch her tail. She will attack and bite. She sounds like a tazmainian devil when she gets into one of her rages.

She thinks she is the little princess, I think she is a little shi*. Don't get me wrong, we do love her, but I cannot imagine that anyone else would want to deal with her. They would probably have her put to sleep.

She was supposed to be my dog, but she is my husbands dog and she lets me know it. If I call her to put her out to potty, she may run, jump in my husbands lap, raise her lips in warning and start to growl at me. I do not let her get away with it, she goes out anyway, but to keep her from biting when she gets like this you have to grab her by the nap of the neck and then put your hand under her to lift her or she will totally try to eat you up.

If she is eating no one can go near her or she will attack and bite. If you drop a piece of food, she will drop down on top of it as if to keep some one from taking it. If you move after dropping it she will try to attack and bite you, not just me, but anyone.

I have tried a number of things. Time out in her house (pet cage and no she is not normally kept there, and has free roam of the house), I have scolded, paddled her with a newspaper-she does not care and gets even more aggressive with this and will attack newspaper and still tries to bite. I watched the dog wisperer and have flipped her on her back and put my fingers in her throat (like a dog that shows another dog that he is boss)when she gets into one of her rages, this will calm her down and stop her aggression for the moment.

When she gets in one of her moods, she can make one of my labs shake all over, one gets the heck out of her way, and one totally ignores her. They wanted to bite here when she was little and after I reprimanded them they do not touch her. Their punishment for her is to ignore her and not play with her, but they show no aggresion to her.

I have seen Sadie bite their ears when they come in the house. Once she sailed off the chair onto the back of one lab, like a cat jumping on her prey. She was not playing, but mad because they came into the house.

Do I have the only shih tzu like this?

Suggestions for getting rid of her aggresion and dominace, and incouraging her sweet loving moods instead.

Also, I think I would like another shih tzu, if I have a good chance of getting a non aggresive one. Is this personality trait an unusual shih tzu trait?

If I breed my female do you think this personality trait will be inherited?

I bought my shih tzu from a place reccommended by my vet, because they said pups from there were healthy and buyers had not had any problems with them. The breeder guaranteed their health for one year.

I just found out that she came from the famous Virginia puppy mill in the recent news. I suspect her aggresion may have been learned from her mother, because they were kept in small cages with other mothers and pups on both sides. (I saw pictures of the place). The dogs there were cared for and in good health, but lived in small cages.

Thanks for your opinions, suggestions and advice.


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Louise, I talked to the vet about her behavior and she suggested I try the pill to calm her down. I used the lowest dose, since she said I could increase it. I do not think we have any specialist i


Hi and Welcome to the family. :) I have 3 tzus and I have none of the problems that you've described w/Sadie. Now don't get me wrong they are not perfect little angels 24/7. :thumb: They do growl and bite at eachother during play but other than that they get along w/eachother and people too.

My Choco did have a fear of men, not his daddy thankfully. I just kept introducing him to male family members and friends and making a point to get him out and about, he's 99.9% over his fear.

I know a couple of our members have used the NILF training method. Here's a link if you would like to read more about it.


Honestly I agree that her aggression is coming from the horrible conditions that she was in. She's soo lucky to have all of you. I would say if she's "attacking" your other furbabies then adding a new tzu to your home would result in the same behavior, not that this behavoir can't be corrected. I just don't have any advice here because I haven't experienced it.

I look forward to seeing you around the board and would love to see pics of Sadie and your other furkids. :)

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I guess she feels the need to be in charge. I like The Dog Whisperer shows, but if you do not do the training daily and all the time, it will not help. Do you know what NILF training is? It is VERY easy and all positive. I do not use negative training.

NILF is Nothing in Life is Free. You go out of the door first, they sit and wait and you say "OK>" I always do this. The door belongs to me. YOU have to claim the couch, etc as yours. Let your furkid on the couch only if you want and if they sit first. The sit is like saying "Please."

Breafast and dinner is a good time to train. Tell your baby to sit and stay while you place the plate down for her. Then say "OK." She may then eat. Give a treat after something is done first, sit, lie down, etc.

Teaching tricks and obedience is the most important thing. Going to classes. This helps you become the leader. They want us to lead. Just like kids need boundries. They feel safe and cared for.

It is never too late to learn tricks. Trudy does many many tricks. Plays a little piano, rings a bell, dance, sit, stay, come, says "Hello" in her own voice. SO many. She loves to learn and get treats and praise.

I hope this helps. She really needs to be trained and you all and she will then be happy. Good luck!

Here is a little video of her doing a couple tricks. My little bird LOVES the piano, you can hear her.


Edited by Sally
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Wow sounds like you have your hands full! I have 7 Tzu babies and out of that 7 only 1 has ever given me any aggression problems. Her name is Pebbles. When she reached social maturity about 6 months ago, she started attacking my other dogs one by one. They all submitted to her until she got to YaYa. YaYa did not back down. She would turn and fight with everything she had. I took a few nasty bites trying to seperate the two. For a time they both had to wear a harness just to make it easier and safer to seperate them. I have no doubt that if left to battle it out one of my dogs would lose their life. After much research into interdog aggression I found the NILIF method of training. After working with just Pebbles for 2 days the turn around was unbelievable. There was still work to be done but the changes were very noticable. I've been using this method with all 7 now and they all have much better manners and fully realize who is in charge. Pebbles and YaYa will probably always have some issues with each other but instead of seeking each other out to battle they try to avoid each other. Your Sadie could probably benefit greatly from NILIF. If you do use it remember that all family members have to participate. Also punishment is not very effective in treating aggression and in some instances can make it worse. Calm, positive reinforcement teaches discipline. NILIF is really a very simple concept. You control all the resources and the dog must work to get them. Good luck! :)


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Geeze, I don't know what to suggest to you. Have a talk with your vet maybe?

None of my tzu have ever been aggresive like that. I really have no advice to offer you at all.

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I will start by saying you're not alone. I rescued a 2 year old, male Shih Tzu about seven months ago. He was picked up by a couple on there way back from a road trip to Illinois. Well they couldn't keep him so they brought him to the rescue I work for and I felt horrible. They explained to me that he was found on a very busy street with matted hair all the way to the skin over his entire body. When I got him he had been hacked away at and was now bald. And they weren't nice about it either it was a kind of it had to come off even if it hurts. So he's very sensitive about his entire body. Which doesn't help me out. :)

After doing a little research he had a microchip and I found out he had been a stray two other times, so this made three. The people at the rescue guessed this time was a dump. His owners didn't bother to fill the info out on the microchip so I said with the h*ll with it He's mine. So I took it upon myself to get him neutered, utd on shots. His feet were inbeded with burrs and to this day he will go after me if I touch his feet. Even though I had them all taken out and I've very careful he doesn't get anything in there again. He hasn't in seven months and he still fight me. So I have tot ake him to have his nails clipped every three weeks.

Now that I've had him this long and have worked with him for seven months he's much better. He lives just like the big dogs and gets trained just like them. He now knows wait, sit, down, roll over, up, no, leave it, come, lets go, and eat. He came to me not knowing a thing.

I think a lot of it has to do with trust. Has she been like this for the whole three years you've had her? If so you need to start from scratch and let her know she's not the princess. There is a line between a loving and well kept dog and a spoiled, mean dog. She has taken over and pretty much put you in the dog house and that is a huge no no.

Little things like jumping on your husbands lap and baring her teeth. Your husband should set her back on the floor and tell her no. She's not aloud on the couch if she does that. She doesn't get rewarded for doing something bad.

Have you thought about hand feeding her; I know it sounds horrifying, but it's about trust remember. If she learns to take food from your hand she will learn to trust that you're not going to take her food. It seems more than anything food is hers no matter what it is.

I think your first step is going to be getting a trainer and not one that you go to in a group. You need a hands on trainer that will work with you and answer any question you have. They aren't running around spending your time training other dogs. No matter the size of dog they all need training. As I said above Teddie is treated like the rest of the pack including an 80, 30, and 56 pound dog. But he does sleep in my bed, he goes for car rides with me, he gets treats and goes with me when I dog sit.

If I let Teddie get away with everything he did he would also be a devil dog. And while I sympathize with him for his background there is no excuse for the way he acts sometimes. And he gets put in place.

Sure I've been bit, I do get frustrated, other family members have been bit, but it's always been corrected.

I think you're going to have to be willing to put in much needed work to correct her behavior. It's only going to get worse if it's not corrected now.

And I do agree on the putting to sleep part in a way that is. I've said it many times about Teddie because if I hadn't taken him he would have gone to the city shelter aka the kill shelter her and I know for a fact thy wouldn't have put up with this. There is no way he would have been adoptable, but after the work that has been put in strangers come up and pet him and tell me I'm so lucky. My elderly nieghbor want him to come and visit her. He sat in her lap for about 30 minutes in our front yard and even though she's never had a dog she loved him. And with all of his problems he would have went straight to the big room.

I wish you the best of luck with Sadie! And btw welcome to the forum. :D

And here are before and after pictures of Teedie. He is a completely different dog inside and out.




Mid way through recovery:





I want to say it is possible; you're just going to have to work. It's taken me seven months to get this far and there is no way I'm stopping. It's always worth a try.

Edited by TeddieXRuxpin
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Welcome to the forum. I'm new as well.

When I read you post a thought of Shelby my 3 year old shih-tzu. when she reached about 4 months she started in with showing aggression. Some nights I actually cried thinking I must have the only evil tzu puppy in the world! I started really focussing on her training and after months (years even) of work she has changed completely. Now not only dose she know more tricks then any other dog I know, but she has figured out that people are in charge. No more aggression at all. In fact you can do anything with her.

Don't give up! these are great dogs if they once they figure out they are not in charge!

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:D Welcome to a great forum with lots of information and friendly people. Sounds like you really have your hands full with Sadie. I pretty much agree with everything that everybody has said. I don't have a problem like yours. But i think with some consistency and training you can change your little one to be the loving pet you want. Hope to see you around the board and keep us updated as to Sadie's progress. :)

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Wow, difficult. The only things that jumped out at me is your husband needs to participate by not allowing the behavior and I hope you don't introduce another Shih Tzy until you get the behavior corrected. I agree with what others have said.

Good luck!

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No words of wisdom here, Just wanted to say welcome to the board and good luck with Sadie. It sounds like you have gotten some really good advice so far from everyone. Hope it works keep us informed on your progress. :)

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I guess if you have never had that kind of problem, it is hard to comprehend.

Welcome & I'm glad mine aren't that way !

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I want to welcome you to a great board with lots of great people! My name is Jodie and I have a doberman, Zeus and my one little tzu, Kirby. I've never had any problems with Kirby and agression except for once when he peed in my bed and then ran into his cage and when I reached in to get him he bit me. I guess I can't blame him, I had him cornered. That's the only time he's shown any agression. I don't have any advice for you but it sounds like you've already gotten some great advice from others. Keep us updated on your progress with Sadie and good luck, it sounds as if you really have your hands full with her. Again, welcome to the board.

Sally- Trudy playing the piano is way too cute!! I loved watching that video of her!!!!!!!!! :jumping:

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I too have some issues with Franklin. He is 7 and part Lhasa/Tzu. It is not quite as bad as what you decribe with Sadie but he does have food agrression issues. Lucklily, my dogs have worked it out themselves and they have established some rules between the 3 of them. I have also worked with my daughter about never touching the dogs when they eat, not petting them when they are sleeping (other than the Boxer :jumping:. She hates it when Cruiser or Sassy jump on her bed in the morning and lick her face to wake her up - so she should not wake them.

I ususally get a warning growl or lip curl from Franklin when he is upset and after 7 years I have figured out what sets him off. I am making him sound vicious, but really he is 98% lovable ( and 2% satan-like).

Good luck!

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Thanks for all the advice. I will try your suggestions and keep working with her.

I enjoyed Trudy's video and her cute tricks.

Any suggestions about grooming her? I am thinking about getting a cat muzzel so she can not bite me while I am brushing her. Do you think this will make her worse, or more likely give up biting if she can not bite with muzzle on?

I could cut her hair short, but I do not think that would make any difference to her, she would probably react the same way about getting her hair cut.

She was a sweetie today, untill I tried to brush her.

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I tried a muzzle in the begining w/Eve and it did make it worse, it didn't take her long either to figure out that she could get out of it.

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Just got through giving the Tasmanian Devil a bath. She was a sweetie all day untill then.

She is just coming out of a heat cycle and had a major shed, and it took me 2 days to remove all the loose hair, before I could bathe her. That is why she was so mad before we started her bath.

I have eight bite marks from the last 2 days. I have not given in to her. I hoped she would eventually give up and accept the grooming. I started brushing her at 7 weeks when I got her, because I read you should get them use to it.

I had a friend who had a dog she had to put to sleep to have him groomed. I could not understand how such a little dog had to be put to sleep to get a trim and brushed. This must be my payback for thinking my friend let the dog rule her.

The problem is I am just as head strong as she is. I won't give up and she won't give in and accept grooming is a part of shih tzu life.

Anyone have grooming suggestions and how to get her over it, or will this improve as I practice the techniques suggested in the beginning of this post?

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It seems like you maybe thinking of breeding her which is probably why you haven't had her spayed yet, but, IMHO I don't think she'd be a good dog to breed. She'd probably be very aggressive towards anyone who wanted to handle her puppies or she might even be mean and aggressive towards her very own puppies, so, with this in mind maybe you should consider spaying her. I have heard of dogs who were aggressive prior to being "fixed" and then after the procedure they did a complete 360. So maybe considering her behavior and the environment she came from you shouldn't breed her and you should just wait and if things calm down you can bring another little girl into the house who comes from a better breeder and has a better nature to her and you can breed her. I can assure you that aggressive tzus are rare so once you get sadie calmed down and consider bringing in another tzu your chances of getting another aggressive tzu are slim to none.

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  • 4 months later...

Hello Everyone,

I have not been able to get my password to work, so I have been lurking for awhile as a guest.

Today when I finally got back on the introduction box came up and since I wanted to tell about Sadie's progress and lack thereof, I thought this post would be a refresher as well as re-introduction in the first part of this post.

I have made one milestone and we are still working on others. I have changed her aggression when I feed her. Since I used to put her food in her crate she would enter before I could get my hand in there with the dish and would lunge at my hand growling and snapping trying to bite me. She was not bright enough to realize her food was not in there yet and I could not get it in because of her trying to bite me. We fought about it for a solid week or two. Sometimes I would grab her by the nap of the neck and hold her back (she would be growling and snapping the whole time) untill I put the food in her house. When she started to get a little better and would hesitate before running in and I asked her to wait, then I started not giving her the food unless she waited on her own before going in. One night I took her food back to the kitchen 5 times before I gave it to her. Now if I say "Do you want to eat?"
She goes and gets in my husband's lap and patiently waits untill I put her food in her house and then call her over. I was the only one to feed her during this time.

Her latest episode occurred last week. My husband was holding her and thought he felt a tick on her neck. While trying to hold her still she got angry and bit him. When he pushed her to the floor she went after his feet.

I had to go rescue him. Then I made her go in her crate and made her stay there the rest of the day. (I never lock her in her crate, she only eats and drinks water there). At the end of the day I went to let her out and as she came through the door, I said do you think you can behave now? She turned, went back in her house and laid down. Just as if the thought, if I have to behave, I just as soon stay in my house. So I locked her door back.

When she finally came out and went to get in my husband's lap he would not have any thing to do with her. She moped and layed around for 2 days until he forgave her. We later discovered she had an ear infection, and I think husband may have bumped her ear when getting the tick, and yes, I know that is no excuse for her behavior.

When we went to the vet, every one ooed and aaaaed about how cute she was. I said she is cute, but she is mean as the devil. I know they thought I was lying. She sat there in my lap as close to me as she could get trembling. She has only been to the vet twice before so I do not know why she was afraid.

Anyway she has been sweet as sugar since the incident now for about a week.

Someone asked me why I keep her. I chose her as my dog and she is my responsibility. Except for her moods she can be very sweet and loving. She is funny and intertaining and sometimes sweet as sugar. If I got rid of her I know she would be put to sleep.

I know this is a long post, but I when I took her to the vet, she said if I didn't tell her she was shih tzu, she would have said she was Lhasa Apso or at least a mix. And she said the way I described her attitude that is Lhasa Apso and they required a firm hand since the tend to be dominate.

When I look at her she looks shih tzu to me, but maybe her nose is a tad long.

We are nearing the end of my story.

I got a new puppy. Shih Tzu I hope. The first one was registered and that was no guarantee of a good temperment and possible even a shih tzu.

Anyway, I asked the lady 500 questions about her dogs. (note:Sadie, the subject of this post came from Pauleys Pups). When I apologized about asking so many questions, she said that was OK and she had one other lady that did the same thing. Said she got a shih tsu from Pauleys Pups and it was so agressive and bit her so bad she had to have it put to sleep. (I never mention my dog came from Pauleys Pups, because I feared she would not let me have my new baby.) The really strange think is that Pauleys Pups is more than 130 miles from me.

Now I know it is in Sadies genetics. I had just decided to never breed her and that is why I decided to get a new pup.

Now I know you are probably worried about my new baby. Sadie has shown no agression and has been very sweet.

They will be watched closely and I got a large playpen for the new baby when I am not close by.

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Oh my, you do have your hands full and even fuller with a new furbaby. First, I want to applaud you for accepting the responsiblity of ownership as it was your choice. So many would have ended the situation long ago. You are a hero in my book. Now, I do agree with hand feeding. If she begins to realize she will not eat without you, she may start to come around from that alone. If you offer a few kibbles as if they were treats, with a FLAT hand and let her take them, just continue to do that until her meal is gone. Forget feeding in the crate, she needs to begin to trust you. If she snarls or begins to snap, don't let her eat. She will begin to get wise that to eat, she needs to be pleasant. Another suggestion is to get the book called A Dog in Hand, by George Gates, DVM. He gives the theory similar to The Dog Whisper that dogs want to be controlled. Do this by handling them with PURPOSE. I started both of mine as puppies but you can do it later too, just a bit more cautiously. You intentionally "pin" them to where they have to give in and the respect and trust will develop. I think it is a good read and I feel certain that if you still have questions or are fearful, give him a call. I will be glad to give you his number and if you tell him I recommended the book (he has been my vet - until recently - although he doesn't know that I changed - I think he would talk to you about it. It all makes sense and even talks about autistic children needing to be "secure" and parents that hold them tightly actually calm the child. He also talks about cows (unfortunately those going to slaughter) but how they put them through pen troughs that are so tight they can barely get through, yet this calms them. I saw a lot of results when I began doing this, even though mine were not agressive, they sure know whos boss and show me respect. Let me know if you read the book and what you think and above all.....BEST of luck. You found a great spot and even if we don't or can't give you the best advice, we are all here to SUPPORT you. Gosh, I have a million quesiton, like, does she accept treats from you willingly....if so, she will eat the kibble from your hand with no problem which will gain you tons of respect after a pretty short time. again good luck.

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Play with their feet from day 1, rub massage stroke. Run a brush or comb thru their hair as much as possible. Most HATE grooming because it is always pulling and hurting. So use the backside of the comb or brush and just let them feel it.

Watch Ceasar on The Dog Whisperer. I don't entirely agree, but its food for thought.

Dogs like children require discipline and direction.

My .02 worth.

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Here's a link to the NILF (nothing in life is free) method of training. I know a few members who have used this successfully. I'm trying it out w/my two boys too. It's a work in progress and consistancy at least for us is key not to mention alot of patience. :bdaycake:


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NLIF. The thing you have to remember is that YOU are the boss...your husband is the boss...the dogs are below you in pack status. I have trained dogs by NLIF for decades and have never had an aggression issue because the first time any of them tried anything was the LAST time: they understood immediately that I - the alpha - would not stand for it.

I am still working on this with my DH, who never owned a dog until we married. He's a complete pushover, but he's improving.

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FairyTail Josette

I just wanted to welcome you back to the forum. :D for the update. I, too, admire your patience and perservence. Sadie does sound like a little doll, she's just been bred from some people that didn't care to better the breed, not Sadie's fault.
I have a Maltese, Cody, that's from a backyard breeder. He can be a aggressive with me from time to time. I know in my heart it's from his genetics. He's had a few other behavior issues, again, from his genetics/breeding the vet has told me. Also, they remember EVERYTHING, so, if any abuse went on when they were very young, with the breeder, they remember it. I feel bad for little Sadie, she's not been given a fair shake at life.
I think others have given you terrific advice and you are doing a WONDERFUL job with her!
Congrat's on your new baby! I'm very happy for you! We just got Josey last fall, and I tried to do a lot more research this time around, and it paid off with a happy go lucky, healthy little girl.
Hang in there. Can't wait to see some pics. :(

P.S. I think Sadie will pleasantly surprise you with the new pup. If not, you'll work it out. :bdaycake:

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Hello Nancy, glad you're back. I'm so excited you got a new pup. I hope things work out well with the new addition. Only thing I would watch is Sadie teaching the new little one bad manners. Yanna has taught all three of my tzus to bark excessively whenever someone walks through our front door. Makes for a good alarm, but, aside from that it's pretty annoying. I have faith that your new little girl will not be so aggressive. I have honestly read books that say aggressiveness in Shih Tzu is rare and NOT a desifed personality trait. Since you do not plan on breeding Sadie like I said before you may want to consider getting her spayed. It's good for them health wise and it will make it easier if you don't have two dogs going into heat, which, can be quite a mess. Check out this link for a low cost spay certificate that you can use at a vet near you that has signed up to accept these certificates.


Oh and BTW we all love pics here so when you get a chance we'd all love to see pics of Sadie and her new sister.

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YOu can see my new baby at WWW.mollymoppers.com.

When you get to the site, click on the nursery. My baby is female number one.

She looks black and white, but she has some brown highlights in her black.
I hope she will keep some of the blocks of color, but Sadie was a brindly when i got her, but now she varies from cream in summer and light gold in winter.

They called here gold and white, but mother looks a light gray color.

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