Shih Tzus are alert and lively little watchdogs; they can be a joyful addition to any family. All dogs bark from time to time, but these cute little yappers can be quite an earful without proper training and leadership from the human pack. Usually the Shih Tzu responds well to consistent training.
Start training the moment your new Shih Tzu puppy steps in the door. If your puppy barks or whines, gently hold his muzzle closed and say, "Quiet” or a similar simple command. Release the dog's muzzle and praise if the quietness continues.
Avoid yelling when your Shih Tzu barks. If your dog is barking at a stranger and you yell “knock it off, Barkles Charley,” then your dog thinks you're barking at the stranger with him. Your yelling tends to cause more stress for your dog, according to the American Shih Tzu Club.
Teach the “speak” command. The Humane Society recommends arranging to have someone ready to knock at the door when you say, "Speak," so your dog barks. Hold a treat in front of his nose and, while he is quietly sniffing the treat, say “speak.” Give the treat when the dog barks, otherwise repeat the process with the knock.
Teach the “quiet” command after “speak” is consistent. Tell your dog to “speak” and when he barks, say “quiet”. Give the treat as soon as he stops barking.
Give your Shih Tzu individualized attention with daily walks, daily playtime and petting. Play alone does not fulfill basic walking instincts, which leads to behavior problems like barking, according to the Dog Breed Info Center website.
Remove stimuli that cause excessive barking. You might not be able to control all stimuli, but you can close the curtains, put your dog in a different room or bring your dog in the house when certain activities or noises are outside.
Ignore your Shih Tzu until he stops barking in lieu of training. Give praise and treats only when the dog is quiet. If he is trying to get your attention, turn your back to him and face him only when he stops barking, to the Humane Society suggests.
- Use a spray bottle to distract your dog from barking so you can give a treat or praise when he is quiet — even if it's only to take a breath.
- If you work full time, consider hiring a dog sitter to exercise, socialize and take your Shih Tzu for potty breaks since this decreases his urge to bark.
- If your training fails, consider help from a professional trainer. There are obedience classes your dog can attend, or some trainers meet one-on-one at your home.
- Avoid using treats as the sole reward for compliance, according to Vet Tech University. Treats won't always be available. Your Shih Tzu may comply only if treats are involved unless you vary your rewards between treats, toys, petting and praise.
- Shih Tzus are prone to small dog syndrome, which is a human-induced behavior whereby the Shih Tzu believes he leads his human pack members; in this case he may bark consistently to get what he wants, according to the Dog Breed Info Center. Firm, stable and consistent training while avoiding the desire to baby this toy breed reduces the risk of this syndrome.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.