Do Shih Tzus Bite? The Surprising Answer

A dog bites due to circumstance and not as a result of their breed – for example, Shih Tzus may bite you in the same situation as a Pit Bull.

Since Shih Tzu’s are smaller dogs, however, there is a higher likelihood that they will feel the need to bite versus a bigger breed like a Pit Bull.


Do Shih Tzus Bite?

Shih Tzu’s can bite, but whether they do is influenced by their personality and their perception and interpretation of a situation.

When you train your dog part of their job is to give them a blueprint by which they can interpret the world around them.

Training can only do so much, however. Your dog’s personality also plays a role in its response to a situation.

Lastly, your dog’s size (and therefore breed) can also influence your dog’s perception of a situation.

For example, a small dog like a Shih Tzu is more likely to feel threatened by a larger dog than another large dog would be.

So, in this respect, breed does play a small part in whether a dog may bite, but it is not as significant a factor as your dog’s training and overall personality.


Why Dogs Bite

There is a common belief that a dog’s breed will determine whether or not it will bite, but this is not necessarily true.

Dogs bite for all types of reasons, including

  • Personality
  • Feeling threatened or afraid
  • Startle response
  • Pain
  • Being protective
  • Being possessive



A dog’s personality changes how they respond to an event, and that  personality can be influenced by multiple factors, including

  • Genetics
  • Health
  • Previous experience



One of the most significant influencing factors in whether or not a dog can respond appropriately to events is its genetics or biology.

Genetics should not be confused with a dog’s breed, it refers to specific gene mutations and influencers that determine how a dog responds to a situation – much like how humans can be “warriors” or “worriers” depending on their genetics.

If you purchase your Shih Tzu, do plenty of research on your dog’s pedigree to ensure that you get as healthy of a dog as possible!



Health is another major factor that can impact how dogs interpret the world around them.

For example, a dog that suffers from canine cognitive dysfunction may be scared and uncertain, which changes how they perceive situations around them.

Stay on top of your Shih Tzu’s health with regular vet visits!


Previous Experience

Like humans, previous experience and alter how our dogs react to different situations.

For example, a dog rescued from a situation where they are starving may be more likely to guard food and react negatively to another dog trying to take that food away.

You can help your dog by familiarizing yourself with their background when possible and contacting your vet and a behavioral trainer immediately if you notice possibly dangerous or questionable reactions!


Feeling Threatened or Afraid

One of the top reasons that dogs bite is because they feel threatened or afraid.

What a dog sees as threatening varies depending on the dog’s personality, previous experience, training, and physical characteristics like the size.

Examples of situations where a dog may feel threatened include:

  • Being backed into a corner with no route of escape.
  • Being towered over by something bigger.
  • Being confronted with an aggressor – for example, a dog baring its teeth.


Startle Response

Another reason that dogs bite is out of a startle response. Just like us, our dogs get startled, and sometimes their response to that shock is to bite.

Examples of situations where a dog may feel startled include:

  • Having a young child shout loudly in their face while sleeping.
  • Someone or something they are unaware of falling on them.
  • Being faced with a sudden loud noise.



Dogs can also bite as a response to pain – this should not be surprising because we humans also snap at those we love when we are in pain!

Examples of situations where a dog may be in pain include:

  • When recovering from surgery.
  • After suffering an injury.
  • Older pets with arthritis (particularly first thing in the morning and at the end of the day.)


Being Protective

Dogs also commonly bite when they have something to protect.

Dogs can be naturally protective of offspring, owners, and anything with which they have a close and protective relationship or anything limited in availability.

Examples of situations where a dog may be protective include:

  • A new mother with her puppies
  • A dog that has bonded strongly with its owner.
  • A dog in a situation where food is scarce.


Being Possessive

Dogs also commonly bite when being possessive. Dogs can be naturally possessive of anything with which they have an attachment.

Examples of situations where a dog may be possessive include:

  • A dog that has a bone and is afraid that someone will take it from them.
  • When a child tries to take a favorite toy from a dog.


Final Thoughts

Although Shih Tzus tend to bite (just like any other dog) based on the situation at hand and not breed, the way that that situation is interpreted can be influenced by the dog’s breed.

As your dog’s parent, it is your job to teach them how to interpret and respond to different situations so that they are much less likely to bite.

It is also your responsibility to identify any possible sources of conflict and address them immediately before they become a bigger problem.

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