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Questions & Answers - Shih Tzu Advice - Shy Dog

Question: My Shih Tzu always hides when people come over to my home. She is fine with with the family, but even with neighbors or people that she has seen before, she shows extremely shy behavior and wants to hide either behind me or seems to want to climb right into me. She never barks. Any advice would be helpful. Owner: Milly Shih Tzu: Tucker

Answer: Hi Milly, not to worry, we have had many owners looking for this type of Shih Tzu advice.

When a dog is shy, it is very common for them to want to hide behind their owners. However, this is a behavioral issue that can be fixed.

Teaching your Tzu to cope with visitors is an important element to proper socialization. Once Tucker learns how to cope with these situations, you will have a much more confident, happy dog.

When our dogs hide behind us, or try to just about climb into us, our first reaction is to comfort them. It is a natural human instinct to want to protect our little fluff balls from anything that scares them.

However, when we allow them to hide and we do offer comfort, this reinforces their behavior.

In other words, when an owner show that they recognize that their Shih Tzu is afraid and they offer comfort by allowing them to hide, this is telling the dog, "You are correct to be afraid and shy, I will protect you". Therefore, the dog believes that they are correct in their fears and that their owner is appropriately protecting them.

To fix this, whenever your dog tries to hide behind you (or on you!), it is best to completely ignore your Tzu.  
(Yes, we know that this may be difficult at first, as your instinct is to give comfort). However, do keep in mind that taking these steps = helping your dog. Tucker will never learn how to cope if you do not allow him to gain self confidence.

A dog is constantly looking to their owner for cues on how to behave. Your tone of voice and your actions teach your Shih Tzu how to behave.
Shih Tzu looking shy
If you simply continue your conversation with your visitor and talk in a calm & happy tone, this will show your dog that you are calm, happy and not afraid. If you slip up and comfort your Tzu, that will teach him that he is acting correctly by being shy.

Your calm, happy demeanor will show your dog that nothing at all is wrong and that the visitor is not a threat.

Make sure to never say, "It's alright" or any such words. Also, do not pat your Tzu, as this will be seen as a gesture of comforting and protection.
However, any time that your dog does stop trying to hide, give him a quick, friendly pat, say "Good dog", give a small yummy treat (that you should have ready in your pocket as you first implement this training) and then continue on with what you were doing.

Every now and then, do give this type of positive reinforcement whenever your Shih Tzu is not hiding.

Before you know it, your dog will learn that hiding = getting no where...

you are not giving comfort therefore there is nothing to need comfort for...And that behaving normally in front of visitors = confirmation that he is behaving good & a treat.

Within a few weeks, you will not even need to give out treats any longer as you can be proud that you have helped to shape a confident, happy, well socialized dog.
See Also: Shih Tzu is Behaving Strange - The top 8 reasons for odd behavior. 
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