Can A Shih Tzu Be A Guard Dog

FEBRUARY 8, 2019 | WRITTEN BY MOLLY

When you hear the words "guard dog," you may get an image in your mind of a huge growling dog, showing his very sharp teeth, looking like it's a breath away from attacking.

Shih Tzu sitting in front of his human

So with that image in mind, can a Shih Tzu be a guard dog?

Given its small stature, it is highly unlikely that a Shih Tzu would be a good guard dog. However, as a watchdog, they can be very effective.

If you want a dog to simply alert you when someone is looking to get into your home uninvited, a Shih Tzu could be a good deterrent toward an intruder.

If you’re looking for a dog that will attack an intruder who is looking to harm your family or vandalize your property, you most likely won’t find that trait from this small breed.

Shih Tzu are not bred to be guard dogs.  In fact, they are bred simply to be a companion to you.

Watchdog vs. Guard Dog

The difference between a watchdog and a guard dog is pretty significant.

A watchdog keeps their eyes and ears vigilant and sounds the alarm, usually by barking, when something isn't right, like when someone comes to your door.

They usually will not attack the intruder, only alert you to their presence.

While a guard dog not only watches and alerts but also engages the intruder through either a bite or by chasing them away with the intention of a bite.

A well-trained watchdog or guard dog will also know the difference between a normal encounter from those that may pose more of a threat.

Watchdog on Duty

Rufus a Shih Tzu Rufus on watchdog duty

Shih Tzu dogs are pretty smart, and they have excellent hearing, which makes them very aware of their surroundings.

You can be train them to "alert" you to things that look and sound suspicious.

Dogs are highly sensitive and can sense when something isn't right.

That being said, our little Shih Tzu, Rufus, is the watchdog in our home and, on a small level, the guard dog too.

He vigilantly sits in his favorite spot in the window, watching what goes on outside.

If someone is approaching the steps onto our property, he will give us a heads up.

He will start with a low growl when they get close to the house as a way to warn us that there is someone outside and that he's not quite sure who they are or whether they should be permitted in yet.

Should that person approach the door, Rufus will continue to bark to let them know that they better watch out because he’s on duty and they will have to get by him before getting inside.

We simply give him the "OK" command to stop the barking, and he goes about his business.

Now, most people, when they see him barking in the window, usually aren’t too intimidated by him, mostly because of his size. They may even think “aw, how cute.”

But with Rufus, if someone comes into the house uninvited, they will find themselves being greeted by a small barking dog barreling toward them rather fiercely.

It's usually about this time that they change their minds about him being harmless and cute.  In fact, he now becomes much more intimidating to them.

He won't bite them, but he is very curious about who is entering our domain.  He will sniff around them and hold them where they stand until they have been given the stamp of approval from us.

However, Rufus is probably the exception rather than the rule of a typical Shih Tzu.

On the other hand, our boy Max has never met a stranger but on occasion will let out a couple of lazy barks when someone enters the house.

He only requires a pat on the head or a simple acknowledgement, then he'll turn away and play with his toys or even take a nap.

The Typical Temperament of a Shih Tzu

Getting inside the mind of your dog is a lot easier than you think.

They don't think like humans and will usually show you who they are and what they're like, pretty early on in your relationship with them.

In other words, they are not complicated beings to figure out.

A typical Shih Tzu is that of a calm, friendly, loyal, affectionate, and a sweet-natured little dog that is hopelessly devoted to you.

Most Shih Tzu would love nothing better than to sit in your lap and cuddle all day.

They are also a quiet breed which means you won't have a lot of unnecessary yapping.

They also have huge personalities and can be a bit on the stubborn side.

Although they are small in stature, they are very solid and sturdy dogs.

We often wonder how they squeeze all that personality into such a tiny little body.

So with all that cuteness, it’s hard not to spoil them while also letting them get away with a little bad behavior now and then.

However, it is not a good idea to let any bad behavior go unchecked for too long. A little misbehaving now can grow into a bad habit that will be harder to correct later on.

Teaching your dog to be a good watchdog takes a little more time than basic dog training.

But having already trained your dog in the fundamentals of good behavior will make it easier to extend that training into being a good watchdog.

Shih Tzu being trained with a treat

How To Train A Shih Tzu To Be a Watchdog

As mentioned above, the role of a watchdog is to simply alert you when they see or hear one of those specific things you want him to bark at, like an intruder.

So you need to train your dog to know the difference between good barking and inappropriate or excessive barking.

In the beginning, when you're teaching him when to sound the alarms, it is essential that you go to him every time he alerts you and observe the reason for his barking.

Then once you see what he's alerting on, you either give him praise or discipline.

For instance, if he is alerting you for a good reason, you will praise him with a positive word, his favorite treat, a pat on the head, or maybe all of the above to let him know it was a good alert.

A good alert may be because of a stranger on your property.

However, if he's barking at a squirrel running across the yard, this probably wouldn't be considered a real alert.

For these types of alerts, you would say to him "No" or another word you choose to use consistently for this particular training and walk away without giving a reward.

If you do not do this and do it consistently, you will encourage his barking at everything.

He will naturally repeat a behavior that brings him things that he likes and will soon realize what action doesn't get him those good things.

It will likely take a little time for your dog to understand what it is he is receiving praise and rewards for, but your Shih Tzu is smart and will eventually get it.

Don't give up. With patience, he will begin only alerting you when it's needed.

You may find that he may still bark at a random squirrel or a cat or even a family member for his own pleasure.

But it will be a different sound than when he's trying to alert you to something suspicious.

To help speed up the process of teaching him what to alert on and what not to alert on, enlist the help of friends and neighbors.

For example, if you want your dog to bark at someone peeping in your windows, ask a friend to help by looking in your window.

Then have your friend try to open the window while making some noise to draw your dogs' attention to the them.

Then when he starts barking at your friend, you reward him with praises and treats.

If you want your dog not to bark at people just walking past your home, ask your neighbors to walk past your house every few minutes.

When he barks at them, you can let your dog know that this alert is not acceptable and will not get him praise or rewards.

An alerted Shih Tzu watching to see what is going onShih Tzu on alert

Final Thoughts

Overall, remember that a Shih Tzu is not a robot. They may not even want to be a watchdog, only your companion and friend.

If your sole intent to get a dog is to guard your home or family, you may want to consider another breed.  Maybe a larger breed bred for this type of work.

But if you're heart is set on sharing your home with a Shih Tzu, with patience and consistency training them to alert you to strangers can be achieved.

But he would likely prefer to sit on your lap and cuddle.

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