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Children & Tzu

Shih Tzu and Children


It is true that there are certain dog breeds that do better which children than some others. So, how is the Shih Tzu breed in this regard? This section is going to discuss:
  • If, in general, the Tzu does well in households with youngsters
  • How this breed normally behaves with “unknown” children
  • Tips to know when bringing a Tzu into a household with kids
  • Teething Time
  • Guidelines to help create a peaceful household that includes both a Shih Tzu and children
  • Tips regarding a Shih Tzu and a new baby.

Shih Tzu Puppies Vs Dogs, in Relation to Getting Along with Children

Before we dive into the details about how this adorable toy breed gets along with kids of various ages, we must first make the important distinction between a puppy and an adult Tzu. Puppies are physically more fragile, emotionally more vulnerable to teasing and other behaviors that a child may display and are, at this time, soaking up knowledge that will decide the success level of both house training, command training and overall, general behavior.

Therefore, if children are taught how to handle, speak to and interact with a Shih Tzu, this breed will do just fine with youngsters of any age. It will be key that any child is told of the importance of his or her actions in regard to the Tzu (or any dog for that matter). The child’s actions will have influence over many aspects.
girl holding Shih Tzu dog
It is sometimes difficult to imagine a cute little Shih Tzu being controlled by innate canine instinct. Often, when a person hears about “Alpha dogs” and instinct, one thinks more of a larger breed, perhaps one more closely resembling wolves (such as a Husky or Shepherd)… However, despite his size and despite the “cute factor”, the Shih Tzu’s personality, temperament AND, importantly, method of learning is dictated by the canine nature. Generations of breeding down in size and breeding for the qualities of “companion” have not and never will take the “dog” out of the dog!

A Shih Tzu will either think of children as his peers (the equivalent of his litter-mates) or he will consider them to be part of his “Alphas” (the humans in the house whom are his “leaders” and therefore he will listen to commands, behave well in order to receive praise, etc. ) Rarer is for a dog to perceive a child as a “Beta” (ranking lower than the canine and making for a terrible household environment in which the dog tries to rule over the child).
For a happy and peaceful household, we will want to eliminate any chance of children being seen as peers or as betas. If a Shih Tzu, shown in a loving and gentle way, learns that a child of any age is indeed an Alpha, that puppy or dog will then behave as such: He will not nip at, will not bark at, will walk beside and will gently protect, play with and respect the child.

Involving the Children with Alpha/Beta Training

As discussed above, it is recommended to take steps so that your child(ren) are seen Alphas.
How to Accomplish This - The methods of achieving this are very similar to how adult humans should approach the care of a Shih Tzu. Children who are involved in the care and training of a puppy or dog will be seen with the proper ranking. This is so important, as a Shih Tzu (or any dog) will rarely challenge ranking that has been established AND reinforced.

Children (and all of those in the household) should take turns with:

Feeding – Tzu of any age should be taught to sit before a meal is placed down. Only after the command is obeyed, the bowl should be put down and the Tzu should be given plenty of personal space to eat without being disturbed. Some kids love to watch a dog eat, for some reason they are amazed with this. However, a Shih Tzu will often feel as if his personal space is being invaded and his food is at risk for being taken away if anyone is too close at feeding time. There is no reason to add stress to feeding time; therefore, please instruct children to follow the proper feeding guidelines and then give the Tzu a bit of “alone time”.

Commands – Working together, you and your children can teach a puppy the basic commands that are the foundation for a well-trained, well-behaved dog. “Sit”, “Stay” and “Come” are 3 easy commands that a child of any age can help train. Remember to let a child know that training is not accomplished in a day or even a week…that it is a gradual process, much like a semester in school….. little pieces of information are absorbed during each “class” resulting, at the end, a dog that “receives an A”.

Entering/ Exiting- All humans, including children, should enter and exit the house first, followed by the Shih Tzu. It may seem polite to imply, “You go first, cutie pie!” to our Tzu, however it teaches a HUGE lesson. Canines, even the little Shih Tzu, struggle with seeing humans as leaders if those humans allow the dog to be first for anything important, certainly including such a significant action as “leaving the den”. 
Shih Tzu with child
Karli, 4 and 1/2 months old, with son Dylan
Photo courtesy of Kelly Isbell


Please remind children of some simple rules that will keep your Shih Tzu safe:

1) Show your child how to pick up a Shih Tzu puppy: Approach from the side, kneeling down to cradle the pup, one hand on the rump, the other gently yet firmly holding the tummy /chest area. A child should never: Run, spin, jump, swing the pup around when holding a Tzu.

2) Never point a finger at or poke at the puppy. Remind your child how tender the nose, eyes are. Teach that “tail pulling” must not be done.

3) Supervise grooming. There is no reason why a youngster cannot be part of grooming care, especially brushing the coat and helping to give baths, however please do teach the steps of proper grooming techniques. As your child grows, you will have a helper who can take over these tasks!

4) Remind children that they must never give a piece of their own food to the Shih Tzu. 
Onions, one of the most toxic foods to this breed, can be found in so many foods: Pizza, subs, you name it! While a small amount may not do much more than cause an upset stomach, for the Shih Tzu’s safely, no humans foods should be offered (other than those intentionally prepared via home cooking for your Tzu). Additionally, allowing a Tzu to have bites of your food leads to begging behavior, which can take quite a while to reverse with intense training.

5) Have your children (or any visiting children) be very aware that the Tzu is an “under-the-foot” dog, meaning that he is small and quick…. This breed can quickly go from being across the room to being underfoot, where young children can trip over or accidentally step on the dog.

Teething Time

This can be one of the most challenging times when having children and a Shih Tzu. The urge to chew (and nip and tug) can be so strong and puppies, unless taught otherwise, will not know that your child’s hand cannot be used to relieve discomfort to his/her gums and erupting teeth.

Do let youngsters know that the pup is going through a difficult phase. During this time, it may be best to keep your Tzu puppy in a gated off area…Not isolated from the family, yet enclosed so that chewing is kept toys. Do offer lots of chew toys…and ice cubes, either plain or flavored, can be of great help.

'Unknown' Children

This breed can be: active, protective and curious. These 3 personality traits can cause a Tzu take the approach of a child with some caution, which can lead to barking or jumping on the child. The best approach to take so that a Tzu behaves well with not only children outside of the home, but strangers, other dogs and all situations, is to take time to offer Socialization Training. You may want to check out the AllShihTzu book, now in both print & eBook, which offers a great 20 page chapter on this subject.

A Baby

This breed can be a bit jealous when it comes to new members entering the household and when that new member is one that everyone “ohhs” and “ahhs” over, jealousy can be at its peak. 

It can help to make changes before the due date. Arranging furniture, setting up the nursery, placing baby’s toys (walkers, etc.) in a particular area and training your dog that chewing, etc. is a “no-no”. Two elements that seem to affect many dogs in regard to this change are: Noises and scents. For this reason, it can help to sprinkle baby powder onto a baby blanket and rub the powder in…Then place this in a room that your dog often rests in, such as the living room, so that your Tzu can become accustomed to the fragrance.

Additionally, many expectant owners have found that desensitization training via the use of CD’s that play babies’ cries has worked well. You can read more about this and 23 other behavior issues in our book:
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