Shih Tzus are arguably one of the friendliest small dog breeds with their calm and positive disposition. That’s why it is very surprising for some dog owners when their Shih Tzus bite or behave aggressively.
Getting a Shih Tzu puppy is always an exciting experience, especially when you are welcoming them as pets for your kids. The excitement sometimes turns into sadness when your dearly beloved puppy suddenly gets his teeth on your arms or your kids’ arms and bite on it.
While the bite is not often painful, the shock and sadness following the incident are actually what we live to remember. The surprise is greater for some who never imagined that Shih Tzus could do any harm with their cute little mouth and canines.
One of the common questions many intending Shih Tzu owners have asked is whether or not Shih Tzus bite people.
Do Shih Tzus bite? Yes, Shih Tzus can bite, especially in their puppy stage, but it is not painful or harmful before they develop their permanent teeth that can cause major harm. You can easily train your Shih Tzu not to bite through behavioral training.
One important thing to note about Shih Tzus is that their bite is not necessarily a sign of aggression as this breed are mostly level headed with only very few of them have the tendency to show aggression.
Before looking into the reasons Shih Tzus bite and how to stop them from biting, it is important to first differentiate between two similar behavior ‘Nipping and Biting.’
Shih Tzu Nipping vs. Biting
Most persons mistake Nipping and Biting to be the same thing, but they are actually not the same. Knowing the difference between these two actions will help you know what to do and how to manage the issue.
Nipping refers to a quick snap of the pet’s jaw that can leave a mark on your arm. If you are quick enough, you can avoid your pet’s nip and avoid the scratch your pet’s teeth would have caused.
A Shih Tzu will often attempt to nip your arm once in a while and this action hardly ever draws blood or leaves a major effect on your skin.
Biting, on the other hand, is more fierce and aggressive and will almost always draw blood. When biting, the Shih Tzu sinks their teeth into your skin and locks it down forcefully.
Although biting is uncommon among this dog breed, on few occurrences, a Shih Tzu’s bite can puncture the skin and perpetually scare the dog owners.
Nipping Behavior of Shih Tzus
Nipping can be a bad habit for a Shih Tzu, might be as a result of health problems or even due to mistaken identity. Identifying the reason behind your pet’s action will help you address this issue.
The following are the main three reasons behind nipping of your Shih Tzu:
Uncontrolled Playful Habits
For some young Shih Tzus, nipping is actually a habit developed when playing. Most of the time, they don’t see anything wrong with it and won’t stop until you tell them. Puppies nip each other while they are playing around and they can easily assume they can do this to humans as well.
It is important to teach your Shih Tzu at a very early stage that nipping humans is not acceptable and teach them to play with you in a more appropriate manner.
While one might tend to ignore this action at the early stage, it proves to be quite dangerous. Especially as it would become more difficult and painful when their teeth become sharper.
When a Shih Tzu is not adequately trained to identify who is in charge of the home, he might display aggressive tendencies when getting his wishes known or relating with you. This is why it is very important to point out plainly who the Alphas and Beta are as soon as you bring your Shih Tzu home.
If your pet knows that the humans in the house are above him, he would treat them with respect and would not be bold enough to nip; instead, he would find other ways to express his displeasures and desires.
Sometimes when a dog is suffering one health condition or the other, it is followed by a change of mood, feelings of vulnerability, and an increasing need to be defensive.
The nipping or growing out of the blue could be a sign of a medical condition. It can be cured when the medical condition is treated and corrected.
If you notice your Shih Tzu suddenly growling or nipping, it could be a sign of a medical condition and you should get him checked out and treated.
Biting Behavior of Shih Tzus
If your Shih Tzu bites, you have to handle this issue as soon as possible, especially if there are signs of aggression alongside.
For Shih Tzu puppies, it is advisable and very possible to teach them to stop biting because they are still very much open to behavioral change. For older dogs that are already set in their ways, the case is quite different.
You would either have to seek help from a qualified dog trainer, get your pet to go through medical checks to identify a health problem that might be the cause or take the Shih Tzu away from your home.
What to Do When a Puppy Shih Tzu Bites?
The first thing you should do is to calm down and identify the possible causes. As similar to nipping, most puppies do not know that biting is wrong and they don’t do it with the intent to hurt or harm you.
Puppies that are used to biting and chewing on their fellow pups and might just assume it is okay to do that with you. That’s why training is very important as it lets your Shih Tzu know who is in charge and what is not acceptable.
Apart from the natural instinct to bite, another reason your puppy would bite is when he is teething. Just as babies look for something to place their mouths on when teething, Shih Tzus have the same need.
However, they tend to grow out of this desire to bite after their teeth develop; all you would need to do then is get them toys they can bite on and teach them to avoid biting on your hand.
Teaching your puppy that they cannot bite you when they are playing is very important. Please don’t make the mistake of allowing your puppy to bite you, whether playfully or not because it can become a bad habit.
When your pet bites you playfully or when teething, stop immediately and let him know that it is wrong; you can do this by cautioning him with a word or command; you can either say ‘NO’ firmly or say ‘NO BITE.’
When your puppy responds adequately, then you can continue playing with him after giving him a toy he can bite or chew on. Get your pet toys that are safe for them to chew on and teach them to use it when they want to bite.
Eventually, the use of toys curbs your Shih Tzu of his biting and chewing problems.
What to Do When an Adult Shih Tzu Bites?
For adult Shih Tzus, biting is not something they grow out of or change easily; biting is more complicated for adult Shih Tzus. It is difficult to discover why your Shih Tzu is biting in the first place and even more difficult to correct the habit.
Study the surrounding for any form of threat and danger: The first thing to do once you find out your adult Shih Tzu is biting is to study the environment and the current situation for any form of threat. Sometimes, your Shih Tzu might have sensed some threat, whether environmental or territorial, and might be responding negatively.
If there is no inherent threat, then it becomes important to take your Shih Tzu to the vet for observation and diagnosis as physical pain or illness could cause a Shih Tzu to bite or act aggressively.
Teach your Shih Tzu not to bite through behavioral training: Once you have ruled out health issues and inherent threat, then what remains is working on an actual behavioral change and teaching your Shih Tzu to drop the habit.
In behavioral training, you reward to encourage good behavior and ignore the unwanted behavior of your Shih Tzu. You should start by working on the dominance problem and enforce corrective measures. You can enforce ‘Time Outs’ as punishments when your adult Shih Tzu bites you for no reason.
After teaching your Shih Tzu not to bite and he still bites you, then you can enforce time out by keeping your Shih Tzu away from you for a short period of time before letting them back into your presence.
Ensure to use rewards if your Shih Tzu behaves properly and stops biting. But if they don’t stop, then you might have to take more extreme measures. Most times, however, with proper training, your Shih Tzu is bound to stop biting and become calm.
My Final Thoughts
Shih Tzus are a very calm breed that is usually not prone to aggressive acts like biting; in cases when your Shih Tzu bites, you can correct him with proper training.
When such issues persist, then you should involve your veterinarian to look into possible health challenges and treat such cases.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.