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Sally G.
Sally G., Dog Training Consultant
Category: Dog
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Experience:  Service/assistance dog training/ behavior /obedience/Therapy dog Evaluator/AKC Evaluator
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We have had our dog for about a month, she is a seven year

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We have had our dog for about a month, she is a seven year old shih tzu previously owned by an octogenarian who could no longer care for her. I was told she purrs. She does this when we pet her. It is off putting and sounds like growling, today, she snapped at me and bit my nose. She is vocal, she will express herself through "talking" when she wants food or to out. She seems to move from happy purring to snarling though. Is she purring or growling?
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Can you tell me the position you were in when she bit your nose? Were you down on her level or did she jump up and bite you?

Where is she when she is making noise and you are petting her, on the couch , bed, chair or floor?

Doe she only make this noise when you go to pet her?

Is she allowed on furniture?

How is she if you take a bone, food, or toy away from her?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

We were waking up, she sleeps with us, our other dog had gone out with my husband and she chose to stay behind on the bed with me. I was at her level, laying beside her, face to face.


She is allowed on the furniture and she growls everywhere, possibly worse when our face come close to hers.


She is OK with food, she and the other shin tzu share bowls, moving back and forth while eating. They had one incident regarding a treat but I only heard the snarling and I didn't see the incident.



Thank you Nikki for that information. It is unlikely he is purring , it sounds like she is growling , possibly a low growl but it may be a warning growl and when you get right into her face she may likely bite as the growl did not move you away. This is typical of a fear aggressive dog when felt to be trapped and the growl does not move the intruder away. Generally to any dog a pet over the head, a stare, or to continue talking to would be seen as a challenge if they are trying to move you away. A fear aggressive dog will most likely lash out at some point. A growl is their intent to move you away from them.

Sometimes though , especially with this breed there are disc problems which cause pain and any movement toward the dog signifies pain. So that is also something to consider.

If you had trouble taking something away from her then I would think her to be possessive aggressive, but you did not indicate if you personally can take a bone or food away.

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Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your help, I believe she is growling. It was so misleading to have the previous owner indicate that she is purring.


She does let me take a treat away, I just tried it.


I had her checked by a vet when I got her, she did a thorough job and didn't find anything wrong with her back. She was concerned and spent some time on her back. She never growled for the doctor.

then it is likely a fear aggression where she wants to move you away from her. Sometimes this type of dog may take to only one person in the family that they trust or if the dog was brought up around other dogs then it is likely the bond would be mostly with other animals in the home.

I would say you were mislead or the former owner is deaf.

Sometimes you can turn this type of dog around and sometimes you can only so far and be happy with that. As humans we do try to make a dog into what we want it to be, but like humans they come with their own personality.

If she likes food you can try to teach her a trigger word which puts her mind in a different place as you approach. This can help if you use it the moment you hear her growl. Basically take a treat something special like a hot dog sliver and give the trigger word meaning you are putting a word to the treat so it can actually be the word Treat. Say 'Moki treat?' in an upbeat voice and then immediately give her the treat so she associates that word with what is coming her way. Once she has learned the trigger word try it the next time she growls and see if there is a better response. This means you have to attach a sack of hot dog slivers on your belt for a while to be sure you can back up the trigger word right away. Over time it won't be necessary to have it on you, but it would help to put a biscuit jar in each room so you can to something fairly soon or else it will lose its meaning to her.
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