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Chewing

Chewing, Biting, Gnawing, Teething Problems & Fixes

Overview

There is a very good reason why "Chewing" ranks among the top behavior issues that owners have with their dogs. It can drive a dog owner crazy! Let's discuss in detail all of the ways that a dog can have chewing issues and how to help your dog get this behavior under control.

There are 3 main reasons why a dog will chew/bite/gnaw:
  • Teething
  • Boredom
  • Aggression
Teething

This, thankfully, is a phase that all dogs will grow out of. Your Shih Tzu will begin teething at around the age of 4 months old and this will continue for a couple of months (It will seem like forever). Therefore, if you obtain a Shih Tzu puppy, you will need to deal with the issue of teething.

When a Shih Tzu is teething, they will have an uncontrollable urge to get their teeth on anything and everything. A dog will chew on carpet, cords, shoes, clothes... even you! The pain and discomfort that a puppy feels from the process of their teeth coming in causes them to seek comfort in any way that they can. Once this is understood, the answer is logical: An owner must provide their dog with as much comfort as possible in a controlled environment in order to stop destructive chewing.

This can be accomplished by giving your Shih Tzu dog toys that are designed purposefully and intently for teething purposes. Giving your dog any dog toy will not help at all. 
The toy should:
  • Be sized & shaped correctly. If the pup cannot fit parts of it into his mouth to reach his itchy gums, it won't be helpful. A proper teething toy will have tentacle-like pieces that your pup will be able to maneuver to the spots that are causing them discomfort.
  • Able to be frozen. Some chew toys are intended for being put into a freezer. Once it is very cold, this will greatly soothe a dog's teething woes.
  • Be the right texture. The firmness and material plays a role in satisfying chewing urges.
Shih tzu puppy chewing on shoe
Boredom

A Shih Tzu needs activity, interaction and a daily schedule that keeps them busy in order to be well adjusted and happy. If a dog is left alone to their own devices and it is believed that they will stay content by simply laying around the home, this is a huge misconception!

A Shih Tzu can display destructive chewing if they are not given enough stimulation. An owner must keep a daily schedule of exercise, feeding, play time, grooming and interaction. There will, of course, be many times when an owner is otherwise busy. It is those times that a dog must be shown what is appropriate chewing.

It is best to rotate dog toys. A dog will become bored seeing the same toys all of the time. 1/2 of the toys should be tucked away and 1/2 should be left out for the dog. After a week or so, they should be switched.

Dogs are most content when given toys that produce results. Toys that make noise are a good choice. Toys that produce a treat for the dog are best, especially when a dog is left alone and really needs dog toys that keep them occupied for long periods.

When a dog chews on something inappropriate, an owner should immediately stop the action, give a command, offer a replacement and give praise for appropriate behavior. For example, if your Shih Tzu begins to chew on the leg of your coffee table: Walk over to your dog and stop them from chewing, say a firm and strong "No!" and then give your dog one of their toys, offer an abundance of praise for chewing on their dog toy. 

To stop destructive chewing, in the beginning phases of training, a huge display of praise should be given, as if your dog just did the most wonderful action in the world. After several weeks, the Shih Tzu will understand which actions cause disappointment in their owner and which actions make their owner happy. Dogs have a natural instinct to please. By training your dog in this way, you are helping them to behave in a way that makes both owner and Shih Tzu happier.
Books That we Highly Recommend (on Amazon!) 
dog training book
Housebreaking a Puppy book (and great command training)
dog socialization book
Dog socialization book - A dramatic change from shy to confident
puppy chewing book
Excellent Guide to Stop Puppy Biting (and chewing, nipping and tugging)
Aggression

When a Shih Tzu has aggression issues, this can stem from neglect/abuse from a previous owner or from a lack of socialization skills. A dog may nip, growl or bite objects, other animals or people. 

In either case, a slow yet steady pace toward training the dog for appropriate behavior should begin. Dogs that have been mistreated in the past will usually have a difficult time trusting anyone. They will bite or act out as a sign of self preservation. Dogs that are not used to other dogs may act out because of territorial issues.
As with boredom and destructive chewing a dog must be shown what is proper behavior and what will not be tolerated. However, it should be noted that a dog that is not used to socializing with other dogs cannot be expected to suddenly get along with other animals. Training should be slow and steady. It is best if you have a friend, family member or other who has a well adjusted dog. With both owners keeping a close eye on the dogs, they should be introduced. Time together should be limited to 5 minutes or so. As training continues, the time should be added on.

This works best if done first in a territorial free zone. If another dog comes into your home, your Shih Tzu may show aggression in an attempt to "protect" the house, his toys and all they know. Having "play dates" with other dogs in a neutral area such as a dog park is best. If your dog becomes used to other dogs, you can begin to have meetings at your home. It will be best to keep your dog's favorite dog toys in an area where another dog cannot reach them.

If your Shih Tzu continues to show aggression despite a slow socialization training, professional dog training may be needed to retrain the dog to remain in control. 
Related:

Chewing and Licking the Paws - This can lead to raw skin, loss of coat and even open sores. Learn why a dog does this and steps you can take to resolve the issue.  
Shih Tzu Training Tips - The basics training elements for a well-trained, well-behaved dog.
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Much More Information

Looking for much more than an overview? The AllShihTzu Book (now in BOTH print & eBook) is the most comprehensive Shih Tzu care book in the world. Learn more here.
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