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Lisa, Certified Veterinary Technician
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16501
Experience:  CVT with a special interest in behavior modification through structure, boundaries and limitations with positive reinforcement.
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Hello! I have 5 year old Shih Tzu, and having a terrible

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I have 5 year old Shih Tzu, and having a terrible time with her being aggressive towards us (her family) and others. We got her from a breeder, and have been her only family. She is always loved and cuddled, her whole life. Sometimes, out of the blue she just snaps and attacks one of us. Yesterday she bit (a small abrasion) my wife on her cheek when she went to lean over and pet her. We are so frustrated, we dont know what to do. Other things seem to be well, she doesn't have accident in the house, eats well, is walked 5-6 times a day... To my knowledge she has never endured any significant mental or physical trauma.
We have had this issue since after the first year or so 0 but it seems to be getting worse. Also,not sure if this matters, but she has not been "fixed".
Please Help!!!
Hi there. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm happy to help you with your Shih tzu today. Just like an in person consult, I have some questions for you...

What is her name?

Has she ever been to obedience classes at all?

Is she allowed on furniture, or the bed?

Does she act this way mostly with the family, or does she act up at places like the groomer, or vet too?

Is she on any schedule?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Lisa,


Thanks for the quick reply!


No classes


NO bed or furniture - unless she is in our lap. She has slept in her crate her whole life.


It seems to be anyone, even little kids. She wags her tail and loves (or it seems) to meet new people and dogs when walking her.


Her groomers love her, they always say how well behaved she is, and that they can do anything with her.


Its a loose schedule, but i would say yes. I work from home, and my wife doesnt work so there's always someone around. She knows how to let us know when she needs to go out, or when shes hungry/thirsty etc. and we usually respond right away.

Thanks so much for the additional information Marc. I really appreciate it!

In cases of dogs who are acting up a bit in the home, the very first thing I always suggest is getting them into a basic obedience class. Not because she needs to learn how to sit and stay (although that's super nice too), but because attending these classes will build the bond between you and the dog and will elevate you into the position of top dog in the house since you'll be requesting her to do something and expecting that she follows through (I feel like this is something in the house that needs to change since she behaves so well for the groomer...if she were an aggressive dog at heart, she'd be difficult at the groomer too). It will also allow her to socialize with other people and animals in a safe, neutral environment.

Because hormones can affect how a dog behaves, I would also recommend having her spayed.

Then, because this can be a dominance issue, the next thing I'd do is start the Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) training program. In my experience, if done consistently, this type of training offers the biggest results for both dogs and owners. With NILIF, your dog will obey your commands without any sort of physical discipline or frustration. The theory is that you raise yourself in the pack heirarchy by controlling all the dogs resources.

More to the point, you're doing to decide when to give your dog her food bowl and when it goes away. You're going to control when you pet your dog, when you offer toys or treats and when you're going to play with the dog.

I like this training because it works on every dog personality. Dogs who are shy get self confidence, dogs who are easily distracted are focused and shy dogs come out of their shell. Dogs like yours, who tend to be a bit pushy will learn patience and manners.

NILIF works like this: we're going to start by essentially ignoring the dog when she demands your attention. No matter how much she tries to get your attention..whether she's pawing at you, or barking at you or even bringing you things. You should absolutely step over her and ignore her as completely as possible. Don't look at her, talk to her or even make eye contact with her. Keep in mind, you're not trying to be mean to're trying to get her to understand that she can't demand you pay attention to her when SHE wants it...with consistency, she'll figure out that you're in charge, regardless of what she thinks. As she figures this out...she will become less aggressive towards you and your family and less likely to act up towards people who are in your home.

A side note...she may act up more when you first start training her. She's going to really work hard to get you to pay attention to her when she wants you to, but I promise if you don't give in, it'll be worth it in the end.

Everyone in the house is going to have to take part in these new training rules. Make sure they know that from now on, your dog is going to have to earn anything she gets in the house. There will be no treats, no petting, no anything without the right behavior from the dog. When it's time to eat, she's got to sit and wait before you feed her. If you want to give her a little tasty treat, then make sure she earns it by performing some behavior (could be simply sitting). If you're playing with her, only continue as long as you want, then pick the toy up, put it out of reach and walk way. Consistency is the key!!

The botXXXXX XXXXXne here is that NILIF is going to establish a very clear pack hierarchy in your house with you and any other human in the house in the top spot. It's done without cruelty or physical punishment, but will get the point across. In time, your dog is going to stop doing anything that you wouldn't agree with, and that includes trying to nip anyone in the house.

This isn't an easy thing to fix...but I have no doubt that with the combination of obedience classes at a training center, getting her spayed and your NILIF training at can absolutely get her in line.

I hope this helps!!

Lisa and other Dog Training Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you so much for the great advice!

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