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Behavior - Multiple Dogs

Shih Tzu Behavior - Getting Along With Other Dogs, Socialization

Do you have more than 1 Shih Tzu? Or a Tzu and another dog? 
Learn how to help your Shih Tzu get along with other dogs of any breed.
Overview

Having more than 1 dog can cause some issues in the household. Most common will be: How do you train your Shih Tzu to get along with another dog?

When a new dog enters into the family, this can cause a socialization issue based in the natural instinct of a dog needing to know his or her place in the pack. It is very possible for many dogs in a home to get along just fine...with proper planning and training.
The Alpha Dog

When you have a Shih Tzu and wish to bring another dog into the home, you may imagine that you will simply have double the fun! You may picture both dogs being best friends and playing together like little brothers and sisters.
If one Shih Tzu is so cute, then 2 or more would be heaven! Right? Usually, but not always...

Many dog owners are not aware that it happens; however when you bring a Shih Tzu into your home, that dog goes through a process of figuring out who is the "Alpha Dog". What does this mean? Dogs have a natural instinct for everyone in the "pack" to play a role. There must a dominant leader and there must be subordinates. Your Shih Tzu's "pack" is his or her human family. Your words and your actions show your dog who is in charge...in other words, who is the "Alpha Dog".

The majority of Shih Tzu behavior problems occur because a dog is not clearly shown that their human family member is the "Alpha Dog" or "leader". If a dog gets mixed messages or if a dog is inadvertently led to believe that they are the "Alpha Dog", this will cause a dog to think and act as if they are the head of the household and that is when behavior issues, such as aggression issues, will occur.

When you have a Shih Tzu and you bring another Shih Tzu into the home, or you bring another dog breed into the home, this opens up the question of "Who is Alpha Dog?". Your Shih Tzu will then need to figure out how this new dog affects the household.

Your Shih Tzu will begin to think "Is this other dog now in charge?" "Am I still in charge" "Do I need to fight to hold my place as Alpha Dog?" For your Shih Tzu to get along with another dog, clear boundaries must be shown and both dogs must be trained to understand how you expect them to behave. 
Boundaries

Most likely you have been following the rules for your 1st dog in giving your Shih Tzu his or her own places. All dogs should have a designated area to eat. This should be in a quiet corner of a room where no one will bother them and they should always know where they can expect to find water and food. Your dog should also have his own places to retreat to: a comfortable dog bed or other area where he can go when they wish to rest or get a break from any noise or distractions. 

What should happen when you want your Shih Tzu to get along with another dog? Make sure that each dog has their own separate boundaries. While it is envisioned as cute to have both dogs eating side by side or sleeping right next to each other, unless 2 dogs decide that they are comfortable with that, they must have their own areas.

For your Shih Tzu to get along with another dog, be sure to give your 2nd dog their own eating area. This can be in the same room as your 1st dog. However, each dog has their own invisible boundary that they will not want crossed as they eat and drink. If the dog food and water is placed too close together, the dogs will have a tendency to fight for what they consider to be their territory. If you see any aggressive behavior during feeding time, this means that you should put the dog food further apart.

Each dog should have their own dog bed or resting area. This is especially important if you have an older dog and a one of a younger age in the house together. Your older dog will want their own private area to retreat to when the younger dog is wearing them out. Again, this can be in the same room, but in separate corners of that room. When you have dogs with a big age difference, it may be best to choose separate rooms. 

Each dog should also have their own set of dog toys. It is best if these are kept in separate baskets in separate areas. The dogs may fight to claim a certain dog toy; however this will be discussed below in the next section.

This does not mean that your dogs will not interact or play with each other! This simply allows each of them to have their own boundaries for what is most important to them.
Who is in Charge?

When you have a Shih Tzu and another dog, there will be a process of the dogs trying to figure out who is in charge (in other words, who is the Alpha Dog"). This becomes slightly complicated. You, as the dogs' owner, are the true Alpha Dog. You must show that you are the leader of both dogs. This is done by properly training your dogs to listen to you and take commands. You are the leader of the "family pack".

Aside from that, in a smaller socialization circle, the dogs themselves with need to know which dog is in charge of the "canine pack".

Most of the time, the dogs will be able to decide this among themselves. It is not always the dog of larger size that is the boss. Most of the time, it is the older dog that will be the leader. It is perfectly fine for 1 dog to be the leader and this does not mean that your Shih Tzu cannot be friends with another dog.

How do you know which dog is the leader? It will be the dog that goes out of the door first when you call for them to take a walk. It will be the dog that heads into the kitchen first when it is dinnertime. 

It is completely natural for the older dog to discipline the younger dog. It is not acceptable if strong aggression is shown and the younger dog is injured. However, for the home to run smoothly, you should allow the older dog to "put the younger dog in his place" as long as there is no aggression. For example, an older dog may push the younger dog away if he gets too close to his toys.

Once you notice who is acting as the "Alpha Dog", you can help both dogs get along better. How? When dogs do not understand their place, it is very stressful for them. The pressure of trying to maintain their role as leader is hard work! You can help by giving the leading dog his food first. When you are giving out treats, give a dog treat to the "Alpha Dog" first. Doing this each day, will help the dogs understand which role they play and will make them happier dogs.
Equal Love

The dog that is not "Alpha Dog" is just as important as your other dog. It is natural for 1 dog to be the leader, but this does not mean that the leader receives more love or attention. Both dogs should be treated equally. The leader may begin eating first, but this is a role play between dogs. They should still both get the same amount of love, attention and care from you, the true "Alpha Dog".
More Information

To learn exact introduction techniques, how to stop jealousy & fighting between pets and much more information, learn about our Book (available in both print & eBook).
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