Shih Tzu Temperament – Understanding What Makes Him Tick

Shih Tzu dog with blue harpin sideviewTo understand the Shih Tzu temperament and personality it is helpful to look at the history of the breed.

He's Royalty, All Hail the Little Lion Dog

The Shih Tzu's original job was not simply a pet and companion but venerated being. The Chinese words, Shih Tzu Kou translate to Lion Dog.

Other breeds were termed Lion Dog (Pekingese, Lhasa Apso) due to their leonine appearance. However, Lion Dog meant more than just hair style to the Chinese royalty and Buddhists that developed the Shih Tzu.

The qualities of the lion were greatly admired and attributed to these little dogs. The Shih Tzu was pretty much considered a demi god. Indeed, if you messed with the Empress's Shih Tzu, you were killed by slow torture.

With that start, it is easy to see why the Shih Tzu is confident and dignified, with an arrogant carriage, head held high, and tail curved rakishly over his back.

Shih Tzu Behavior in Action

He loves attention… from anyone

Shih Tzu are always game for seeing new sights and making new friends. When you are out with your Shih Tzu, people will want to pet him and gush over his cuteness. The exuberant Shih Tzu will likely jump on people (learn how to stop this behavior here if it becomes a problem).

It will be challenging to tame his happy energy, but it is important to teach him to sit or stand calmly while being petted. Let the petting be the reward. When he sits or stands calmly, he gets petted. The smart Shih Tzu will get the message.

 Shih tzu dog runningHe's bursting with energy

The Shih Tzu is small (9-10 inches tall at the shoulder, 10-16 pounds), but sturdy and brimming with strength and energy. Without regular exercise, the dog is likely to become rowdy in undesirable ways. Often a half hour walk on leash and some indoor play is adequate to keep the Shih Tzu calm and fit.

He's sometimes too trusting for his own good

Shih Tzu are very trusting. Therefore, you must be careful of encounters with other dogs or people who may play rough. That credulous Shih Tzu temperament is charming and disarming.

Realize that you may have to intervene to protect your Shih Tzu when his gullibility leads him into the teeth of a grouchy big dog, or the hands of a dognapper.

He's a little stubborn… sometimes

There is some stubbornness in his character, still, many Shih Tzu are successful at obedience, rally and other competitions. This is a wonderful way for the self-confident, self-important Shih Tzu to strut his stuff.

When training the Shih Tzu, keep it positive. Use the activity as the reward!

He's a great therapy dog

The warm, out-going Shih Tzu is a natural as a therapy dog. While too small to be a helper dog for the disabled, the Shih Tzu have proved adept at comforting hospital patients, sitting with children learning to read and many other valuable therapy services.

He requires some patience with potty training

Many toy dog owners, including Shih Tzu owners, complain that house training is difficult. Shih Tzu can be opinionated, even willful. However, Shih Tzu are intelligent. Consistent positive training lets the dog know what you want of him.

Shih Tzu At Home

He's too trusting to be a good guard dog

If you like little watchdogs, the Shih Tzu is for you. However, an alert from his barking is all you will get. Don't expecting him to be guardian and protector of you or your property. Indeed, they are almost too friendly and trusting. Some Shih Tzu owners have hired pet sitters without formally introducing the sitter to the dog!

The vivacious Shih Tzu welcomes strangers into their house without hesitation. Shih Tzu temperament is alert, not with suspicion, but with an eagerness to make another friend.

Shih Tzu Friendly companyHe never want's to leave your side

A Shih Tzu is an amiable companion. He wants to be included in whatever you're doing:

  • Sitting on the couch watching TV? Make room for the Shih Tzu on your lap or right beside you. 
  • Work from home? He'll take a nap, till you're off the phone and finished typing. 
  • Then he'll follow you to the bathroom, 
  • Then to the car for that quick trip to the grocery store.

He's great with children, but be careful

Children and Shih Tzu make great playmates. Be sure that the kids are gentle, as the Shih Tzu doesn't know he's diminutive and may run headlong into the fun and be injured.

A Few Final Words on Shih Tzu Temperament

Living with a Shih Tzu is a rollicking adventure thanks to his cheerful, ready nature. He wants to be part of the family fun and enjoys being with people, other dogs and other pets.

The Shih Tzu temperament is affectionate and cavalier. He is a spunky effervescent extrovert, and with the exception of some occasional obstinance, easygoing.

The Shih Tzu of today remains an exalted delightful companion.

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