Shih Tzus & Barking Issues: 9 Ways To Make It Better


I know shih tzus as a kind of toy dog breed, and so I naturally assumed that they would be yappy little pups, but lately I wondered if that is actually true that they might bark a lot. I did some research to find out the answer.

Shih Tzus are often prone to barking a lot when triggered to, whether at people walking past the window or other dogs walking toward them. They will often bark when a visitor arrives at your front door. Barking while travelling in a car can also be an issue with this breed. 

However, these issues can be somewhat eased by consistent training and ensuring that your Shih Tzu has a calm environment. 

Are Shih Tzus Natural Barkers?

Shih Tzus are small and energetic dogs that can be prone to barking at strangers, dogs and other distractions. This is a natural inherent tendency of the Shih Tzu breed, so it will be important that you teach it from a young age to stop barking. 

While every individual dog is different, if you are planning on introducing a Shih Tzu to your family, be aware that it is possible you will have to deal with the issue of excessive barking.

In this case, it is important to start training your puppy as soon as you bring him home.

How To Stop Your Shih Tzu From Barking

Shih Tzus are usually a lively and energetic breed, despite their small size. They can be a great addition to your family, but they are a breed that tends to bark a lot, although usually not for no reason.

Often, they will bark at your neighbours or people or dogs passing your house. This can often become frustrating and embarrassing but there are things that you can do to ease this issue. 

Make sure to properly train and lead your puppy from a young age, otherwise, you could be met with issues as it gets older. An adult dog is much harder to train than an eager puppy.

Shih Tzus are usually dogs that respond well to consistent training and teaching, as I’ve written more about on this website.

1. Choosing a Shih Tzu Puppy

When you choose your puppy, make sure to get it from a registered breeder. Pay attention that your puppy doesn’t show aggression and does not bark at you when you see it for the first time.

A calm dog that does not bark is a positive sign of good things to come. 

2. Start Training Early 

Start your training as soon as you bring your new Shih Tzu puppy home. If he starts to bark or whine on his first day there, gently hold his mouth closed and say “no” or “quiet.”

Release and reward your puppy if he continues to stay quiet. Make sure to continue this consistently until your puppy stops barking regularly. 

3. Never Shout At Your Dog

Always avoid shouting at your dog when he barks. If your dog barks at a stranger and you shout too, your dog may think that you are barking at the stranger alongside him. If you shout, your dog will also become more stressed and likely to associate seeing a neighbour negatively walk past your house. 

If he starts to bark, ignore it. Only give your Shih Tzu treats and praise when he is quiet. If he tries to get your attention by barking, turn your back to him and only turn back toward him when he stops barking. 

4. Teach A Command

In the same way that you teach your dog a command to be quiet, teach him a command to bark too.

Have a friend or family member knock on your front door and say “speak” to your dog so that he barks. Hover a treat in front of his nose and as he sniffs the treat, say the command. Give him the treat when he barks and continue repeating this process. 

Make sure to teach the command to be quiet alongside the command to bark. Tell him to bark and then when he barks tell him to be quiet and offer him a treat if he does so. 

5. Avoid Boredom

Make sure to give your Shih Tzu individual attention by taking him on walks every day, playing with him and stroking him regularly. If you just play with your puppy and never take him on walks, he may become frustrated. This can lead to behavioural issues such as excessive barking. 

Make sure to keep your puppy stimulated so that he doesn’t become bored and resort to barking. 

6. Use A Harness And Lead When Walking 

  • When you are walking your Shih Tzu, make sure to have him on a harness and retractable lead so that you can keep him at a heel position. This will help you to keep your dog right next to you in case he becomes aggressive toward other dogs. 
  • When you are starting to train your dog, take him on walks in areas that do not have too many distractions. Too many stimuli can make it difficult to teach your Shih Tzu not to bark and learn new commands.
  • As soon as they begin to learn not to bark at other dogs and some other outdoor stimuli, you can start walking in a busier area. 
  • Don’t tense up or respond when your dog barks as you are out barking. Show him that barking doesn’t elicit any response from you at all.
  • By showing him the trigger or distraction does not bother you at all, he will begin to learn that he does not have to become stressed by it either. Keep your dog on the harness at a heel position to keep him moving quickly past distractions. 
  • As you move past the distraction, your dog will normally stop barking. The goal in this part of training is to reward him for quiet behaviour, whether or not they have done anything.
  • Once the barking stops, slow down but do not stop walking and reward your dog with a treat for being quiet. 
  • Continue your walk and whenever your dog isn’t barking, randomly give him a treat and praise as explained above.

As time goes on, as you continue to ignore your dog’s barking he will usually start to learn that he should stop barking if he wants a treat. When you think that your Shih Tzu is starting to learn this, take him on a busier route. 

7. Give Your Puppy A Calm Space

When possible try to remove any things that can cause excessive barking. While you will not be able to remove everything that may cause your dog to bark, reducing the number of stimuli can help.

Close the curtains, bring your dog inside during the day or put your Shih Tzu in another room. 

8. Barking While Driving

If your Shih Tzu is prone to barking while you are driving, it may be helpful to install a crate into your car and put your dog into it while you travel.

A crate can help to avoid your dog from becoming over-stimulated by passing cars. Catch your dog in the act of barking and address it calmly but firmly. Proper and consistent training should help to ease the issue. 

9. Barking At Strangers

Some dogs can have a fear of strangers which result in them barking when you have visitors at your house. However, this can cause many difficulties and become frustrating, especially if you have visitors over a lot. 

Teaching your Shih Tzu to be quiet when strangers are around is so important. Start early to ensure you have no issues as he becomes older.

Look out for any signs of fear or anxiety such as shaking or whining when strangers are around. They may become fearful or territorial when strangers arrive at your house. 

Try to stay relaxed and calm your Shih Tzu down by stroking him and using some calming and patient words. You can also try distracting him with some food. However, make sure that you combine this with consistent training. 

Use the quiet command that you have already taught your Shih Tzu if he starts to bark at strangers. Try to exercise your dog before you have visitors around. Take him on a long walk or let him run after his ball in the park to use up any frustrated energy.

The more worn out your dog is when a visitor arrives, the less likely he will be to bark at them when they arrive at the door and ring the doorbell.

Conclusion: Why Do Shih Tzus Bark?

While many reasons can cause a Shih Tzu to bark, some include inherent breed characteristics. He may start barking to try and get your attention, he wants you to look at him or play with him. He might even bark if he senses danger or as a warning. 

It is common for Shih Tzus to bark at other dogs when they are on walks. According to All Shih Tzu, they might also bark at other animals such as cats (although they can get along pretty well with them), squirrels and birds. Shih Tzus can also become aggressive and lunge at other dogs or smaller animals.

Shih Tzus are notoriously difficult to train because they are bred to be proud companions, and it can be hard to break down their inherent characteristics. They can tend to be barky and sometimes aggressive and will always try to guard your home. 

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