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Aggressive Shih Tzu

Dear John,

We have an aggressive Shih Tzu terrier mix which we have had for a couple of months. The people who gave him up said he was male aggressive and had bit her25 yr old son. To us he was sweet and he came right up to my husband and jumped on his lap. We had to have him! Since then he has turned into my dog, hardly gets off my lap. He is home all day with my husband as he is on disability, but will not go out for him or eat either unless he gives him treats. He has also charged at him a couple of times for no reason and nipped at him. He nipped at our son on the back of his leg as he was walking away from him, and also our grandson in the face, all of which no blood was shed and no marks were made. Still made us upset! What do we do about this behavior. He is perfect for me and I can do anything with him, except keep him calm in the car, another problem!

S.G. Mason City

Dear S.G.

what you’re describing is often the case when a dog has been led to believe that it is equal to or greater in status than some members of the household. As you’ve noted it can take a little time for a dog to get that impression and it has to do with a lot of little things rather than a few major handling errors. Some dogs it doesn’t impact but others (and Shih Tzu is one of the breeds more susceptible) it can really mess up. The good news is, with a little patience and time you can more often than not turn things around without it being overly stressful for the household or the dog.
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7 thoughts on “Aggressive Shih Tzu”

  1. marycausley

    My shitzu max has food aggressions if you give him a bone and try to take it he bites your hand what do I do to stop it

    1. Often the way trainers reply to something like this is directly. I personally find long term success is better if before you address it directly you get the dog clear on the topic of who is the teacher and who is the student. Get involved with a serious balanced trainer and give the dog a few months to get clear on hierarchy. Sometimes this alone evaporates the behaviour. More often not though the dog will have to be taught that what they’re eating is your food, because you’ve said they can. I just find success is better if you get the teacher student stuff taken care of first.


  2. Rodger Wright

    Our male Shih Tzu is now 6 months old. He was neutered at 3 months.
    We got him when he was 10 weeks old and noticed he was a little on the biting side. We are still working on that and it is better but in the past couple of months, he has become enamoured with paper products. Paper towels and napkins etc. We are very carful but every once in awhile he gets something and then he EATS it. Now that is not the problem.

    When we try to get it from him he becomes very, very aggressive. He grits his teeth and growls deeply and when we finally get a grip he aggressively tries to bite and has now several times broken the skin on myself and my wife.

    Any ideas would be helpful as we are now considering giving up to someone else.

    1. Shih Tzu is a breed with a level of popularity that has subjected it to less then careful breeding practices. They aren’t as stable as they once were. For any dog to get aggressive at such a young age, it’s a red flag. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road but you should get involved into some serious training sooner rather then later. Heads up though, I’ve found some of these guys have this hard wired into them and there’s no going back. Hopefully not the case here.


  3. Richard

    This sounds like our 6 month old Shih Tzu No problem with feeding her .the problem is when she gets something she shouldn’t have

  4. Krystal

    Hi John,
    I have an aggressive shih tzu (male, 7 years). He is fine with me and my husband but lunges, barks aggressively, and now bites butts (and holds on). Do you have dog trainers in Honolulu you can recommend?

    1. Hi Krystal,

      Thanks for writing to me about your Shih Tzu.

      I want you to know I’ve read your comment. I will try to respond in greater detail, however I have to reply to comments on my website and emails in between the activities that pay the bills and even so, I receive so many emails with great questions like your own that I am always behind.

      I’m sorry I don’t know any trainers in Honolulu.

      I may have some other suggestions that might help. The first is, if you haven’t already do a search on my website for the question you have. Start with aggression. There are hundreds of articles that I have written and you may very well find some suggestions from me or in the comments.

      The second suggestion is to send me some video. I still can’t guarantee that I’ll get back to you promptly or at all but I do give the questions that include video of the issue much higher priority for replies because I think that my reply will be far more likely to be accurate and it will be of great value for anyone else searching The Ask The Dog Guy website for answers to similar questions. I’ve included instructions below with options for sending video to me. Simply attaching a video to an email doesn’t always work due to file size but the service mentioned below can handle it simply and for free.

      Another option is to book a telephone or Skype consultation with me. If that’s of interest let me know and I will send you the details regarding what’s involved, costs and on how to go about booking if you wish.

      Lastly, buy and download my book, The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template ( It explains dog training the way dog training is supposed to be rather than the ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ and ‘Might Is Right’ methods that get so many companion dog owners and their dogs into trouble. I think it’s currently $9.99 CND which is about $7.94 U.S.


      John Wade

      How to Send a Video or Videos to Someone for Free (I’ve only personally used and Dropbox)


      Instructions for WeTransfer

      If you feel it would help, send John Wade any video or photographic examples of the issues in advance of our appointment or in relation to an email question you are sending. Photographs can be sent as email attachments. Videos are usually too large so please send to me using this simple to use, free service.

      1. Load the video onto your computer.

      2. Visit the site

      3. Click on the +Add files button

      4. Find the video file or files and add

      5. Add my email to “Friend’s email” *protected email*

      6. Add your email to “Your email”

      7. You do not need to include a message

      8. Click on “Transfer”

      The file will upload. Once it has, I will be notified by email. I will upload and once I have done so you will receive an email letting you know I have the file. If you have other questions you will find the answers here,

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