Do Shih Tzu Have A Good Temperament? Characteristics That Shape Your Dogs Personality

By Everything Shih Tzu July 3, 2022

The Shih Tzu is a one-of-a-kind breed; with its long flowing coats, floppy ears, and smiling eyes, the Shih Tzu is a go-to option for many people looking for a smaller dog with a good disposition.

Tan and white Shih Tzu with a good temperament looking into camera

Shih Tzu are known for their friendly, affectionate, and outgoing temperaments. Shih Tzu are very social dogs and generally get along well with all family members, including the non-human furry kind, and rarely will this easygoing pup be aggressive.

If you've been thinking about getting this companion pup, you may be asking yourself if their personality is the right fit for you.

You may have kids you need to consider, or you might be a first-time dog owner looking to get a smaller breed.

Whatever the reason, find everything you need to know about the temperament of a Shih Tzu below. 

What Kind of Temperament Does a Shih Tzu Have?

Their name might translate to "little lion," but don't let that fool you. Shih Tzu is known for its outgoing, friendly, and affectionate personality.

In fact, during their days in China, the Shih Tzu was specifically bred to be companions to their human counterparts.

Nobles would carry them around in their robes, and their primary function was to do nothing but keep their owners' company.

Other character traits most common to the Shih Tzu breed are:

  • Intelligent
  • Alert
  • Loyal
  • Happy
  • Playful
  • Quirky
  • Unique
  • Friendly
  • Calm
  • Lively

Shih Tzu Temperament with Other Pets

The Shih Tzu is typically a good family dog but tends to attach to one person, so if you're looking for a dog who picks favorites, they are an excellent choice!

If you have other dogs or animals and are worried that a Shih Tzu won't get along with them, don't be.

This breed is known for being very tolerant of other animals.

One concern a dog owner may have is the ability for their dogs to get along with their pet cat. While many dogs are not good around cats, the Shih Tzu tends to do well with them.

Whether a cat or another dog, ensure that you supervise them and not leave them alone anytime you introduce your animal to your new Shih Tzu.

Even if your animals are usually gentle, the first meeting can be nerve-racking for them.

Are Shih Tzu Good Around Children?

Smiling blonde-haired little girl holding a light tan and white Shih Tzu

Probably one of the most important deciding factors when it comes to getting a pet is their compatibility with children.

For the most part, Shih Tzus are known to be good with people of all different ages. However, you must remember that any dog, regardless of what they are known for, can be a bad fit for your household.

It is less about the dog's temperament and more about how you as a parent are introducing your dogs to your children.

If you are thinking about getting a Shih Tzu in the near future and have children, it may be a good idea for you to start talking to them about the responsibilities of owning a pet.

Here are some tips you can utilize to help build the relationship between your Shih Tzu and child:

  • Teach your children that dogs are living creatures that must be taken care of.
  • In their first meeting, allow your dog to go to your child first.
  • Make sure that when your child does not tower over your Shih Tzu, instead let them get on their level.
  • Do not leave your child unsupervised during their first meeting with the dog.
  • When your child is petting your Shih Tzu, ensure they are being gentle and not rough.

Educating your child on the proper ways of treating and handling a dog can ensure that your dog's transition into your home goes smoothly.

Learn more about building the relationship between Shih Tzu and Kids here

Can A Shih Tzu Have a Bad Attitude?

While Shih Tzu are generally happy and playful with people and other animals, any dog can have a bad day or show aggression.

Dogs may become aggressive for several reasons and could stem from being in pain and someone touching them where it hurts or from being abused by a child or bullied by a neighborhood dog.

Or, they may have picked up on some of their human companion personality traits.

A study from Michigan State University suggested that dogs and their owners' personalities often mirror each other and that owners with fearful and negative traits tended to have a more anxious or aggressive dogs.

Whatever the cause, knowing the reason for their bad attitude is a step in fixing the issue.

The severity of aggression varies from dog to dog, but no matter how mild or extreme a pup's aggressive behavior is, it needs correcting as soon as possible.

If your normally sweet Shih Tzu is showing signs of aggressive, read our article on how to stop aggression before it gets out of hand.

How Aging Effects a Shih Tzu's Personality

You might have concerns about a Shih Tzu's temperament when it comes to adopting an older Shih Tzu, or maybe you know a Shih Tzu and feel like their behavior has been gradually changing.

According to the Dog Aging Project, it is common for a dog's behavior to change as they age, and there could be several reasons for this shift in personality.

A disorder that could change your Shih Tzu's temperament as they age is Cognitive dysfunction disorder.

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects an aging dog's cognitive functioning. CDS degenerates a dog's brain and causes senile behavior, most equivalent to Alzheimer's in humans.

The likelihood of your dog developing CDS increases with age; that's why it's important for you to watch out for the signs of CDS.

If any or a combination of the following symptoms are present in your aging Shih Tzu, make sure you visit your veterinarian to receive an evaluation.

Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs

  • Increased barking or howling
  • Pacing
  • Not recognizing their humans or other animals
  • Anxiety
  • Wandering around aimlessly
  • Interacting less with their owners
  • Lack of interest in socializing or playing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Disorientation

Anxiety is another common effect of aging that can affect your Shih Tzu's temperament, whether this is brought on by CDS or other aging factors.

As dogs get older, not only do their bodies change, but their emotions do as well.

Dogs can experience increased irritability and fear of people or other animals.

In addition, they experience sensitivities due to losing their sense of smell, sight, or hearing. All of these factors can cause them to experience anxiety.

Many breeds, including Shih Tzu's, can develop separation anxiety as they age.

Common symptoms of separation anxiety are chewing and destroying things in your home, using the bathroom in the house, and barking or howling when you leave them alone.

They can also start behaving skittish or even panicked around others when you leave the room.

Aging dogs are also prone to developing mobility issues and arthritis, which can also contribute to a change in their temperament.

If you see your aging Shih Tzu's behavior begin to change due to any of these, getting them in to see a vet and starting a treatment plan will be the best course of action to slow down or possibly stop these behavioral changes.

Final Thoughts

Learning about the temperament of a Shih Tzu is a great step toward deciding if a Shih Tzu is the right fit for you and your family.

They are known as a loving breed that is loyal and friendly but remember, any dog can have behavioral problems depending on its environment.

If you have children, make sure you are starting the conversation on how pets deserve to be treated and teach them how to interact with their new friends.

In addition, Shih Tzu can experience a change in behavior as they get older. This can be brought on by cognitive dysfunction disorder or other age-related conditions such as anxiety or physical ailments like arthritis and a decrease in mobility.

These conditions can cause an adverse change in their temperament that should be evaluated by your Shih Tzu's veterinarian.

Although these traits are common among aging dogs, this does not necessarily mean this will happen to your dog. Don't let this deter you if you dream of owning a Shih Tzu.

The Shih Tzu can be a great companion for you and your family, and with time and thorough research, you'll find the right pup to bring into your home.

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