Understanding your shih tzu

1 Mar

Some days I wish I could speak dog language and talk to my shih tzu Osi. It would give me a chance to ask him why he always runs away with my socks or why he always pees on every single stop sign, pole and fence. The other day he bolted after a squirrel 20 metres away, dragging me with him, only to end up barking at the animal for 10 minutes while it hanged out in the tree. My boots were muddy and wet from the puddles we ran through and I now had to give Osi a longer bath because of the chase.

But knowing the wish will never come true, a better solution is to understand dog language rather than speak it.  According to American Humane, dogs primarily communicate using their body instead of their mouths. To show happiness, shih tzus will usually wag their tail or roll over. To show playfulness, shih tzus will stick their rear end up in the air and push their front down while wagging their tail. Osi tends to do this while barking at me to get me to play with him. He will also grab a toy and drop it at my feet to give me the message.

From head to toe, shih tzus will communicate with you using their whole body. Beginning from their face, when a shih tzu enlarges his/her eyes, it could mean he/she feels threatened or frightened. Dogs who shrink their eyes could be in pain or feel stressed.

With their mouth, shih tzus can communicate happiness or aggression. Osi tends to communicate fatigue by leaving his mouth open after a long walk or uneasiness when he licks his mouth persistently. Other mouth communications include a slightly opened mouth to show relaxation or a closed mouth with lips slightly pulled back at the corners to mean submission or fear. If your shih tzu is showing teeth, most of the time it is a sign of aggression, however, some dogs show submission by displaying their front teeth.

Even though, Osi likes to send messages through his face, most of the time he will make his point with his whole body. A frightened shih tzu will try to make his body look small by lowering his body and putting his tail down. Assertive dogs will try to make themselves larger by standing erect and sometimes on their toes. He/she will be leaning forward to intimidate the other dog.

A shih tzu’s actions can also tell you what he/she is trying to say.  If your shih tzu tries to mount another dog, he/she might be asserting dominance. Very rarely does mounting have to do with sexual appetite. Whenever Osi stood on top of another male dog, I always wondered if he was confused about his sexuality, but in reality, he wanted to show authority over the other dog.

Although Osi and I will never be able to communicate in English with each other, understanding his language will help tremendously. After just a bit of research, I found out that Osi likes to steal my socks because of the texture and scent and he likes to pee on everything to mark his territory. As for why he chases squirrels, it’s in a dog’s DNA to chase after small rodents.

Some more fun facts about dog language:

  • Shih tzus with their ears pointed back and their head low with eyes averted could mean he/she is afraid
  • Shih tzus who lift their paws may be saying he/she wants attention
  • If a dog’s ears are pricked up or his/her body is tense, your shih tzu is alert and attentive.

Source 1: American Humane, Understanding dog body language, http://www.americanhumane.org/assets/pdfs/animals/pa-dog-posturespdf.pdf

Source 2: ASPCA, Canine body language, http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/canine-body-language

Source 3: Matthew Hoffman, Reading your dog’s body language, Dogs the Ultimate Care Guide


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