If you can start to train your Shih Tzu from an early age, biting should never really be a problem. However, whilst Shih Tzus tend to have good temperaments, as puppies they use their mouths to learn and will bite anything in sight. If it’s not curbed, it could problematic for the remainder of their life.
In this guide I will explain how you can overcome Shih Tzu puppy biting problems, despite the challenges involved.
The training methods are all ones I’ve used with my own dog as a puppy. He has never been an aggressive biter, but he would nip a lot as a puppy. Unfortunately, a lot of the biting was down to me, as I would do rough play with him and almost encourage the nipping.
But, as my puppy got older, those playful nips started to hurt.
Please do take all my tips in, as I believe it to be the most detailed solution you will find for stopping a Shih Tzu biting that you see anywhere on the Internet.
But first, why do Shih Tzus bite you?
Why Shih Tzus bite (what’s normal and what’s not)
Most Shih Tzus will show some fear or aggression at some point in their lives. Most will let you know they are scared with a little bark, letting you know to keep away.
If you don’t keep your distance, the barks can turn into a growl, with their little (but sharp) teeth showing. If you continue to advance and upset them, the growl can then become a snap and possible bite.
Most Shih Tzus will bite you with a little nip when scared, and hopefully won’t cut you. But, with an older and more aggressive Shih Tzu, that bite could be very painful, particularly to young children.
Do Shih Tzus bite a lot?
When Shih Tzu are puppies, they do tend to do a lot of biting. Most of the time it’s all about playing and teething, and most will grow out of the behavior.
Why Shih Tzu puppies bite?
The teething phase is when you will notice your Shih Tzu puppy biting the most. Some Shih Tzus will also bite a bit too enthusiastically when they are playing with you. This is a hangover from their days with their siblings where mouth play would have been used.
You need to draw the line between biting and playing. As mentioned earlier, I would play with my own puppy and he would go for my hands with his teeth. I turned this into a game, which then became an issue as I had to train him out of it as he got older.
Shih Tzu puppies can also bite as a way of showing their dominance over you (and guests in your home). Yes, that’s right, these little bundles of fun might think they are the ones in charge of your relationship, so it’s up to you to put that right.
Whatever the reason is for your Shih Tzu puppy biting, it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. If not, you will have problems with your adult Shih Tzu thinking that biting is acceptable.
An adult Shih Tzu that bites is a problem
If your Shih Tzu continues to bite as an adult and hasn’t grown out of the nipping, you need to train them to stop. Also, if your Shih Tzu suddenly starts biting for no obvious reason please go to the vet immediately – it could be the sign of a new illness or injury.
How to stop your Shih Tzu puppy from biting
Here are different ways that really work if you need to know how you can stop a Shih Tzu from biting as a puppy.
1. Squeal like a puppy (bite inhibition)
When you see puppies playing together in their litter, they will let out a tiny squealing sound when bitten by sibling. The puppy that bit will hear the squeal and then tends to back off.
As Shih Tzu owners we can imitate this behavior!
If your Shih Tzu puppy bites you and gives you a nip, make a high-pitched squeal sound. You can also use a firm command, like “no”, or “stop”.
This bite inhibition method is used by expert dog trainers and works because the puppy thinks you’ve been hurt after being bitten.
Some Shih Tzu puppies won’t like this, because it’s a bit like being told off. You might find your puppy seeks re-assurance and comfort, but the key is to not give it. Instead, ignore them for a few moments, for example; turn your back to them.
This might sound mean but if you want your Shih Tzu to stop biting it can work very well. The quicker you begin using this technique the sooner your Shih Tzu will biting you and your family.
2. Don’t smack your Shih Tzu puppy who bites
Dogs don’t understand physical punishment, and it never works. All it will do is make your dog scared and could lead to more biting out of fear.
3. Don’t react to biting by playing back
If you want your Shih Tzu puppy to stop biting you, don’t react back to them when they nip. I made this mistake with my own puppy, as would push him away playfully, but that just encouraged the biting more.
I think it’s because you are mirroring the fun back to them and reacting in a playful way. They will want more of the play, so will bite back again.
4. Use chew toys instead of your hands
When puppies are young, it can be fun to use your hands when playing with them, and a little nip here and there probably won’t hurt you. But you are training them into thinking your hands are fair game.
Instead you should use chew toys for this type of play. If you can focus their attention onto a toy and not your hands, they will learn that fingers and hands are not there to be bitten.
It’s all about positive association.
There’s a great chew toy on Amazon I let my puppy play with when we started training him not to bite. You can also see the prices by clicking the photo below.
5. Teach your Shih Tzu to accept your hands near their mouth
This leads onto having to teach your Shih Tzu puppy that it’s ok to have your hands near their mouth without biting at them. It’s something they need to accept, and will also help with the points later in this guide.
Puppies will often eat things they should not do, so you will need to hook stuff out of their mouth. You will also need to check the health of their teeth and gums.
You won’t be able to do this if your Shih Tzu won’t stop biting your hands anytime you attempt a check or intervention.
One of the best ways you can train a Shih Tzu puppy to not bite your fingers in their mouth is to use a treat or snack. Let them see it, and then use your fingers to pop it into their mouth and out again.
Over time, they should get comfortable letting you put fingers in their mouth without biting back.
6. Train your Shih Tzu puppy to not bite over food
One of the most common times a Shih Tzu puppy will bite is when food is in the equation. Puppies tend to be very overprotective of food, which they learned when in the litter as they had to fight for nutrition.
Unfortunately, it will be behavior that can extend to occur over their food bowl.
If your Shih Tzu is showing food aggression, then you need to train the puppy to learn you are in charge and can pick their bowl up and put it back down at any time – with no aggression from the dog.
What you do is put a bowl in front of your Shih Tzu then quickly remove it again. If your Shih Tzu doesn’t react with a bite attempt, praise them vocally and reward with a treat.
If you do get a growl and bite, give them a firm “no” command and keep hold of the bowl.
Repeat the process until you get the response that you want… the end game is your Shih Tzu viewing you as the dominant alpha who controls the food source and doesn’t get bitten.
Handy Hint: Here are the best foods for Shih Tzus at various stages in their life.
7. Put a thumb under the puppy’s tongue and a finger under the chin
With persistent biting you could try this tip. It seems to be quite cruel, and admittedly I’ve never tried it, but it is used by some dog trainers so could be a fall-back tactic.
Dog trainers tell you to do the loud squeal when the Shih Tzu puppy bites you then quickly place your thumb in their mouth, pressing it underneath their tongue. You can then put a finger under the chin.
Hold this position for 10 seconds if you can, but not hard enough to hurt the puppy.
The Shih Tzu will not like it, and it could mean they stop biting you and will learn for next time.
8. Wear gloves with a nasty tasting substance
Another Shih Tzu bite prevention tip I’ve seen online on a dog trainer website was to use gloves that have a foul-tasting substance on.
Dog trainers use bitter spray (see on Amazon), and puppies soon learn that bites won’t taste good so should stop the aggressive behavior.
9. Let your Shih Tzu know you are in charge
Older Shih Tzus that bite will often do it to try to exert dominance over their owner. They can also bite due to jealousy, or when you tell them to do something like get off your chair or bed.
Handy Hint: I’ve written an in-depth explanation to why dogs like to steal your seat when you get up.
You need to train your Shih Tzu to realize you are the pack leader and the dominant one. Alphas like us owners, should not be bitten by pack members lower down the chain.
Being assertive will help, but often simply rewarding good behavior is enough to get a dog to bend to your will.
10. Socialise your Shih Tzu puppy with other dogs
Puppies will learn from each other and older dogs. That’s why it’s so important to socialize your Shih Tzu with other dogs from a young age. It will help them learn to understand what’s acceptable and what’s not.
We often look after puppies for our friends. Our friends will often say what a positive impact they see in their young pups after spending a day in the company of our now older dog. And that can include not as much biting.
There’s another thing here too; they will also tire each other out. This means your puppy hopefully won’t have the energy to bite you!
11. Expose your puppy to loud noises and fearful situations
As well as socialization, it’s also important to expose your Shih Tzu puppy to situatons that can spark fear and aggression such as vehicles, children, and busy public places.
The sooner they can get used to things like this, the sooner they should learn not to bite out of fear.
12. Always supervise your puppy when young children are present
A Shih Tzu that bites a child is a massive problem.
In most case the bite won’t be serious. But it’s still enough of a risk to make sure you supervise younger kids during Shih Tzu play and at all times.
Kids can easily be knocked over by an excitable Shih Tzu, and I’ve seen puppies try to go for ears and faces when they are over-excited.
When to get help with your Shih Tzu’s biting problem
If even after using all these training methods to stop a Shih Tzu biting, you still have problem behavior, do contact a professional vet.
They can very quickly tell you if it’s simply mouthing to do with teething, or something more behavioral or health-based that needs to be addressed.
There are also specialist animal behaviourists who can help with biting and fear aggression in Shih Tzus. If you are in the United States you can find help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist on the CAAB website (d=for UK readers take a look at the RSPCA website).
Something to consider though is how long your Shih Tzu could be teething for. It can last up until they are 8 months of age, so biting and chewing things is to be expected during this phase.
The dangers of a dog bite
Adult Shih Tzus that start biting can be dangerous. Whilst they are a small breed, people can get ill from infections. For example, around half of all dog bites will infect the person with bacteria, possibly leading to illness.
“A dog’s front teeth will grab and compress your tissue, and their smaller teeth can also tear your skin. The result is an open, jagged wound. If the wound becomes infected, it is often severe. The No. 1 concern with these bites is infection. You may need hospitalization and require intravenous antibiotics. You should always see a primary care provider if you’re bitten.” Dr Sayles of the Cleveland Clinic.
What do so when bitten by a Shih Tzu
If you get bitten by a Shih Tzu and it leaves a bleeding wound rather than just an abrasion, take the following steps:
- Press down on the bite wound. This might mean that blood comes out, but that is good as it might help bacteria to come away from the wound.
- Use clean water and a mild soup to clean the bite wound.
- Use a clean cloth to press down on the bite wound again as this will help to slow and stop any bleeding.
- If you have it, apply antibiotic cream to the dog bite wound and then dress it with a new or sterile bandage.
- If serious, contact a health professional for advice.
To conclude, some of the quickest ways you can stop a Shih Tzu from biting is to make sure you use positive and negative affirmations. In other words, you praise the good, and discourage the bad.
Whichever method you try to use, and can be a combination, just make sure that you are consistent when training your Shih Tzu puppy to not bite. Tell your friends and family to use the same methods too if they have contact with the puppy.
Ultimately, unless you a clear and obvious to your Shih Tzu, the puppy will not understand that his biting behavior is a bad thing.
You need to take the role of the pack leader.
You might also like…
I regularly write about Shih Tzu related issues, some of which you can explore below.
Image in header licensed from Storyblocks.com.