Shih Tzu Barking Problems by Janice Jones |Updated 07-14-2021
When Shih Tzu barking becomes a problem, there’s not always a quick fix. It can be unnerving and stressful even to the calmest Shih Tzu owner. If you are like me, we understand that barking is the language of dogs. But when the barking becomes excessive, inappropriate, or poorly timed, it can try our patience.
All small dogs bark except for one breed, the Basenji, who makes other vocalization sounds. Some breeds bark more than others. Small breed dogs are often stigmatized as being yappier than larger dogs.
Frequent barking can get annoying if we can’t figure out what our dog is trying to tell us. Shih Tzu dogs are not the worst barkers on the planet, but for some, barking becomes a daily occurrence.
According to Fetch, WebMd dogs bark for a variety of reasons including
As Shih Tzu owners, we have likely experienced at least one, if not more, of these typical reasons in our dogs.
It is natural, if not instinctual, for dogs to want to protect what they perceive as theirs. The most important “thing” in their lives is us. Their favorite person is worth fighting for. They will bark if they think someone or something is likely to harm us. Have you experienced this protective bark? Here is a typical example.
My husband must travel for work and maybe gone for days. Should he come home late from a business trip, the sound of opening doors will set up a quick alarm and unrestrained barking. Barking will continue until they realize who has entered the house. Daddy's Home and Mommy's Safe!
This is the most likely reason your Shih Tzu might bark.
Guarding their territory means assuring that no person, animal, or thing goes unnoticed. To them, the box is a new object and thus should be treated as an intruder. Shih Tzu dogs are known to be excellent watch dogs.
Fear in people is likely to evoke the fight or flight response, and this occurs in dogs as well. Before they decide to run or fight, they will bark. Fearful dogs are much more likely to bark at a perceived threat. But all dogs may bark at a situation they have never experienced before. For example, some wild turkeys once startled my dogs.
A flock of wild turkeys wandered into my back yard one day, where several of my dogs were playing. For a second, the dogs froze when they saw the turkeys. Within a couple of seconds, they began barking and finally chasing until the turkeys flew off. Whether it was fear or curiosity, I don't know, but usually, a curious dog won’t bark. Turkeys were novel intruders, and barking seemed an understandable response.
Even a friendly stranger can evoke a fearful bark, especially if the stranger looks different. According to the Dog Ownership Guide, a person in a baseball cap or baggy pants may not be a familiar sight to your dog, and his initial reaction is to bark.
This is why socialization from the day you bring your puppy home is so important. Sights smells, and sounds introduced into a young puppy’s environment will have a lasting impression.
The man in the baseball cap or baggy pants won't seem strange or scary to your adult dog if he had previously encountered such a person . Socialization is an excellent way to prevent future fears and barking.
Loneliness can be a problem for a Shih Tzu who spends considerable time at home while their owners work. Dogs are social creatures. They don't like being alone. They get bored and barking (among other behaviors) results.
If you have more than one playful Shih Tzu, barking is a natural adjunct to the happy encounter. Puppies especially are very vocal when they play. Barking, yelping, and growling are all part of the fun. By the time a puppy reaches five weeks old, they have found their voice and will exercise their vocal cords as they play with littermates. The play only gets louder as the pups grow, and by the age of 9 weeks, puppies can be heard night and day playing with their mother or siblings. Play among adult dogs is still vocal, but their sounds are different.
A happy bark, a wagging tail, and often an exuberant jump often greet dog owners all over the world. Our Shih Tzu dogs are eager to reconnect with us as soon as we arrive home, whether it has been a 10-minute trip to the store or a 10-hour shift at our job. Barking is likely to be part of the ritual.
When a dog wants something, he will do what it takes to get our attention. If you are finely tuned into your dog’s body language, you are likely to know almost immediately what he wants and can thus stop the barking. For example, a well-trained dog may stand by the door and bark when he needs to go outdoors to relieve himself. Sometimes it is not so obvious. Perhaps all he wants is your attention, and that will explain all the barking.
This type of barking is not only difficult to understand but also hard to manage. Dogs that have developed separation anxiety may bark when left alone. But, they may also bark when they think you are going to leave them.
Compulsive behavior is another type of psychological problem that may include barking. Other compulsions may consist of twirling in circles or chasing tails.
If you have more than one dog in your household, you are likely to see copy cat behavior. When one dog starts to bark, they all end up barking. You'll see this behavior in a kennel too. Dogs will naturally bark when they hear another dog bark.
There are ways to help Shih Tzu dogs reduce their barking. Before we get into those techniques, I want to touch on what doesn’t work and what may actually make matters worse.
Yelling makes matters worse. But, I’ll be the first to admit that I once thought shouting helped. As a child, my mother yelled at me, my father yelled, and even the school teachers yelled at times. Later, as a young teacher, when I couldn’t get control of a classroom, I resorted to yelling. Did it work? Not once. Luckily for me, I had a few good mentors who taught me other techniques to quiet children when they were too noisy. Surprisingly, these same techniques that worked with children also work with dogs! I’ll let you in on those tips shortly.
No physical punishments ever: Hurting your dog to make the dog stop barking may make you feel better, but it will never teach good behavior. It will make your dog fearful of you.
Never spray your dog with vinegar and water. Yes, I was told to do this by the owner of a local pet shop. AND they were serious. This is not only cruel but very dangerous, especially to Shih Tzu dogs that have prominent eyes.
Don’t use a muzzle. I don’t believe that a muzzle would fit any Shih Tzu dogs and any other brachycephalic breeds for that matter. Do not use a homemade muzzle as that is likely to cut off the air supply and kill your dog.
Never, never, never agree to debark your dog. It is considered an inhumane surgical treatment where the folds of tissue on either side of a dog’s larynx, or voice box, are removed. Dogs that undergo this procedure still bark, but the sound is very odd. There are many complications associated with the technique (Breathing difficulties, choking, constant pain).
Ask me how I know.
OK, since you asked, One last story. When we moved to Texas, we found the home of our dreams.
Beautiful with just a little work on our part.
But there was one major problem. The previous owners were being evicted due to their dogs. Not only did they have Dobermans who wanted to take your head off, but these dogs also seemed to bark night and day. They also had two small dogs that had a very odd sounding bark. Those two little dogs, as we found out later, had been debarked.
Before we get into the specific techniques, you may want to review the reasons why Shih Tzu dogs bark.
Remember, many triggers start barking, including...
Before you have completed the training steps that I am going to describe below, you may need to quiet your barking Shih Tzu and get his attention. Barking can give our dogs an adrenaline rush, according to WebMD, which makes the barking pleasant for them. You will need to get their attention and stop the barking.
As I mentioned earlier, as a young teacher, I often had difficulty with classroom management. I couldn’t get the children’s attention. You can’t teach if you can’t get kids’ attention. You can capture their attention by being quiet. Yes, I did say quiet. Surprisingly, this also works with dogs.
Being quiet is one way that gets everyone’s attention, especially if you live in a multi-dog household. But it also works with a “Shih Tzu only child.” The way you do this is by your own body language. You move towards the dog without making eye contact, then abruptly stop and look at them. They will stop barking to see what you will do next. You can also pair this with your very own “quiet hand prompt,” such as the “thumbs up signal,” and then reward with a treat.
Sometimes dogs will respond to a sound. Consider the dog whistle or other barking control devices that emit a high pitched sound that only dogs can hear. These devices work because dogs hear the sound and stop barking. Citronella-spraying collars work as long as there is a spray, but once it runs out, they will start barking again. Similarly, bark collars work by delivering a painful jolt, which can cause pain and make dogs aggressive.
We can get their attention in a much more humane way, without a bark collar, device, or dog whistle. Think metal on metal. If you tap a metal ruler or yardstick on a metal surface, the sound will get their attention. Likewise, shaking a metal can filled with coins will work as well. Both of these methods are for getting their attention. Once you have their attention, it's important to follow through with additional training.
Most experts agree that these methods will help with nuisance barking. They are not likely to help with psychological issues such as Compulsive Disorders. If you think you Shih Tzu is anxious or has compulsions, I would recommend searching for a qualified dog behavioral expert.
Teach Your Dog to Speak:
Teaching the “speak” command is merely teaching him to bark on command. Once a dog understands what the word “speak” means (i.e., bark), they can then be taught the “quiet” command. I found a video that gives you an idea of what you can do to teach the word, “Speak” and then “Quiet” by Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution.
You’ve heard it before, but it is worth repeating, a tired dog is a good dog. Allow enough time in your day for your Shih Tzu to get enough exercise. Shih Tzu dogs love taking walks. It’s good for them as well as you, but don’t expect to train for a marathon with your Tzu. They don’t have that much stamina.
A Shih Tzu's energy comes in short bursts, so capitalize on that by adding playtime into your daily routine. If you have access to a backyard or field, by all means, give them opportunities to run. Teach them to play fetch or simply chase after a stuffed toy. If you are active yourself, your dog will follow you and get some exercise that way.
Don’t permit your Shih Tzu barking problems to go on forever. Just as in humans, habits that are repeated often enough will become ingrained and become harder to break. If you have just adopted an older dog with a barking issue, get help from a trainer or behavior specialist first thing or try some of the techniques on this page.
If you have a puppy that has been vocal since the day you brought her home, you will want to tackle the problem head-on from the very beginning. Teach the puppy to “speak” and what the word “quiet means during your daily training sessions. Use the other suggestions in this article to help quiet a noisy puppy.
Most Shih Tzu will bark when someone comes to the door, but when it becomes excessive, what should you do? Shih Tzu dogs have keen hearing, as all dogs do and decent eyesight. If they can sit in front of a window and bark at everything they see, then the obvious solution is to prevent them from seeing out.
I did a little experiment one day, where I allowed my “pack” access to all the windows in the house. I have many windows low enough for a Shih Tzu to enjoy a view. They all stayed together as a pack, as they peered out the front windows. The barking was much worse that day than I had ever heard it before. I realized that they were barking at:
When I couldn’t find anything else that they might be barking at, I assumed it was birds and chipmunks near the front porch, or the deer crossing the road. What excitement for a Shih Tzu dog.
None of these events were unique. They happen every day, but the difference was that on this particular day, the dogs could sit in front of a window with an excuse to bark. Take away that excuse, and I have a pack of quiet Shih Tzu.
Some dogs frequently bark because they live in a noisy environment, where they are continuously hearing sounds. A house on a busy road or an apartment building where people are moving about will arouse even a quiet dog. A dog’s sense of hearing is better than our own in that they can hear higher-pitched sounds as well as sounds at lower decibels.
You can reduce the number of sounds your dog hears by using a white noise machine to disguise outdoor noise. A fan, radio, or TV that will do the same thing.
Not every Shih Tzu owner has the luxury of spending 24/7 with their fur-child. Most people work and must leave their dogs for extended periods. Shih Tzu dogs are social creatures and don’t fare well alone. There are some things you can do to help relieve the loneliness, boredom, and separation anxiety.
Some people love being greeted at the door with jumping and barking. Shih Tzu are so glad to see their people, and they can’t contain themselves. That’s fine as long as you don’t mind all the commotion, and neither do your guests. If it is a problem, however, there are some simple solutions.
When you arrive home, establish a routine that you do every time. For example, I might come in, take my shoes off, put my keys in my purse and place it by my desk, hang up my coat, and sort through the mail. If I’ve been shopping, my bags go on the counter to be emptied.
At the same time, I have at least 12 dogs barking, jumping, and wanting my attention. No one gets any attention until my routine as been completed. By that time, the dogs have all settled down. Their tails are still wagging, but they aren’t barking or jumping. It’s much easier to greet a calm dog than a pack of crazy barking, jumping canines. They have learned that they get attention as soon as they stop barking.
Keep homecomings calm by making your dog wait until you are ready to greet them. If their barking doesn't get your attention, you’ll be surprised that eventually, they will figure out that barking doesn’t work.
This is a tricky one because there are some barking associated with attention seeking that you don't want to ignore. For example, if your dog has been trained to bark at the door when they need to go out, this barking should not be considered a problem. Likewise, if you have a trained service dog, barking is often part of the routine.
On the other hand, if your dog barks when he feels the need for a belly rub or back scratch, you should not feel obligated to stop what you are doing to fulfill his wishes. You are not that Genie in the Bottle where his wish is your command. I'm not telling you that you can't give your dog a belly rub, but rather the decision to do so should be your own.
If you are sure that what your dog wants is well, personal, don't give in to him immediately. Do it on your terms.
Ignore the barking by turning your back on your dog. When the barking stops, allow a short period of time, and then give him that belly rub. Gradually you will want to increase the time interval between barking and being quiet. Remember that giving him plenty of attention when he is quiet will decrease the barking associated with attention-seeking.
Do remember that these dogs were once used as watchdogs (not guard dogs) and their sharp sense of hearing may be part of their reason for barking. They also have a very decent sense of sight so that stray squirrel in your yard may be all it takes for your Shih Tzu to start barking.
If you have a little watchdog on your hands, it's likely that the barking may be the result of something your dog heard. If your dog is barking and you can't figure out what he heard or saw, it's easy to quiet them but going to where they are standing and let them know you are concerned. Where there is nothing to be alarmed about, gently tell them that all so OK. If you use the same words over and over again, they will begin to understand and go back to what they were doing before sounding that alarm.
Barking is the language of dogs, but when it becomes excessive or interferes with the person/dog bond, it can have devastating results. Our Shih Tzu dogs add so much to our lives. They improve our health, give our lives meaning, and provide us with constant companionship.
Let’s give back and help them through training and understanding.
For more information, I recommend picking up a book or two on canine behavior and training. Here are three of my favorites.
Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.
Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.
She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.
When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and smart knit crocheting.