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Agressive Shih Tzu
shaanaya posted:
So I have a male 5 year old shih tzu and I had some problems with his agression towards other people. When he was about 1 year old I left him with my parents to go away to college after I graduated I returned home. Within 1 year of returning home he has bit my nephew, mother, boyfriend, cousin, uncle and I don't know what else to do. Oh he had a slipped disc July 2010 and now has an year infection. What do you suggest I do to stop this. I try to socialize him but he growls and barks at every visitor
Rohvannyn responded:
Hm... interesting. First, if he isn't neutered, get that done. The testosterone can lead to aggression. Then, make sure he doesn't have any medical issues. He could be a 'fear biter' because of a painful experience due to the slipped disc. Other than that, perhaps some intensive training, such as with an obedience trainer... all this costs money though.

There are a lot of resources available about agression online, and much depends on figuring out the root cause of the biting. Does he act frightened? Is he trying to establish dominance? Does he bite hard, or just nips? What circumstances is he comfortable in? The ear infection could even be causing it... maybe it hurts when people pet him and he doesn't want that to happen again.

In any case, the best thing to do (if you can) is to get a vet involved to rule out physical causes, and for advice on behavior modification.
Bonnie Beaver, BS, DVM, MS responded:
You certainly do have a problem dog. Shih tzu dogs, especially males, are know for aggression. They tend to want things their way and are not afraid to use aggression to get it. Socialization for dogs occurs during the first few months of life so that will not help now.

Because you now know that he will bite, you are "on notice" to protect people from him. That can mean putting him in a different room when people come over, and don't "encourage" him to be friendly if he is showing the slightest sign of not wanting someone around. Unfortunately, at 5 years of age, he has learned what he can do to get his way and it is extremely difficult to unlearn that lesson.

Because there are many different kinds of aggression, you can see a board certified veterinary behaviorist if there is one in your area ( ) for help at minimizing the extent of the problem, but it is more a matter of protecting people from him than "curing" the behavior. Sorry.
wigglypups responded:
Hi, I agree with the first poster. You should have your dog neutered. And the ear infection and slipped disc would make any dog snap/bite out of fear and pain. Then you have to figure out WHY your dog is biting people. Is he protecting you? Does he bite you, as well, or just strangers? You should talk to a trainer that uses positive reinforcement techniques only. "Alpha dog" training can actually make aggression worse. I have successfully trained aggressive dogs to become much less afraid and more friendly (using positive training techniques only). It takes time and a lot of work, but your dog can become much kinder. You may want to consult a vet about putting your dog on an anti-anxiety medication like prozac while he begins the training. Your dog may never be 100% friendly, but I think he definitely can be reformed. I'm sorry, but I disagree with the vet that says you would just be minimizing the damage. If you work with the right vet and the right trainer, your dog can become much more comfortable and more social. Yes, he won't be "cured". But he will be less likely to bite.
lbferguson replied to wigglypups's response:
I too agree with both wigglypups and Rohvannyn and disagree with Dr.Beaver's conclusion. The two of you (posters) made some very important points and therefore, some excellent arguments as to why the shih tsu is displaying agression. Pain is one very plausible reason, and is jealousy and playing the role of the Protector. What transpired at your folks' house while you were away at college for what I assume would be, four years? Clearly, between that ages of 1 and 5, "something" transpired. What did your parents say about this behavior since they both were with your dog for those 'college years?"
lornaloves replied to lbferguson's response:
I have a lhasa/bichon whos's now 4 yrs.old. She also likes to nip at people she doesn't know or even my neices and nephews if they get to close to her. I definately DO NOT agree with the vet. I don't know why they always say that they are hopeless and are to old to train. I HATE that! I've been watching Cesar Millan's "The Dog Whisperer" for a couple of years now and I love his approach. He believe's that no dog is ever to old to be trained or helped. My dog is actually getting better because I will not let her get away with things. It's usually the owners or the people around the dog that need the help. I really agree with what Ibferguson said. Somthing must have happened while u were away at college. Find out what went on during that time and decide that u are the leader of the pack and take control of your dog. They need leadership from you. Never punish the dog. Just use discipline. Try watching some of Cesar Millan and u might learn somthing. I sure did.. Hope that helps.
CookieMac427 replied to Rohvannyn's response:
I also have a Shih Tzu who is a biter. Outside on a walk he doesn't care if people are out there, as long as they don't try to pet him. He'll bite. At home if he is sleeping and you accidently touch him or startle him, he'll bite.
If he just doesn't want you to touch him, he'll growl and if you ignore that, he'll bite. These are not nips, these are hard nasty bites that draw blood. I got him when he was barely a year old from a shelter. He came from a home with little kids that evidently pounced on this dog whenever they could and he is acting defensively. I have him four years and have not been able to stop this behavior. Other than this he is a good dog. Good luck to you. If you figure out how to correct him, I'd love to know about it.


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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