Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
One peculiar behavior that many Shih Tzu owners notice is their dog’s tendency to follow them around constantly.
I’ve decided to compile a comprehensive guide to help fellow Shih Tzu owners understand the reasons behind this behavior and how to respond to it. Let’s dive in!
Why Shih Tzus Might Be Clingy
To begin with, it’s important to understand the history of the Shih Tzu breed. This will provide context for their behavior and help us appreciate the reasons behind their attachment to their owners.
- The Shih Tzu’s royal lineage: Originating from Tibet and China, Shih Tzus were bred as companion dogs for royalty. They spent their days in the lap of luxury, living in palaces and being pampered by their noble owners.
- Bred for companionship: Unlike many other dog breeds, Shih Tzus were not bred for hunting, herding, or other specific tasks. Their primary purpose was to provide love, comfort, and companionship to their owners.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see why Shih Tzus might have a strong inclination to stick close to their owners.
5 Reasons Why Shih Tzus Follow Their Owners Around
Let’s run through the main five reasons behind this behavior. I’ll explain each one thoroughly so you can understand whether this related to your Shih Tzu or not. After I’ll run through some of the best repsonses to this kind of behavior.
1. Pack Mentality and Social Bonding
Shih Tzus, like all dogs, are pack animals. They thrive on social interactions and bond closely with their owners. Here are a few reasons why this pack mentality leads them to follow their owners:
- Establishing hierarchy: In a pack, there is a clear hierarchy, and your Shih Tzu sees you as the leader. They follow you to reinforce their position within the pack and to stay connected with their leader.
- Feeling of security: Following you around provides your Shih Tzu with a sense of security. They know that you, as their leader, will keep them safe from harm.
- Social bonding: Shih Tzus are social animals and crave interaction with their owners. Following you around is one way they can maintain that bond and feel connected to you.
Pet behavior expert Dr. Nicholas Dodman from Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine states that “the tendency of dogs to follow their owners is an expression of their social nature and a demonstration of their attachment.”
2. Separation Anxiety
One potential reason your Shih Tzu may follow you around is due to separation anxiety.
This is a common issue among dogs, and Shih Tzus, in particular, can be more prone to it.
- What is separation anxiety? Separation anxiety occurs when a dog becomes overly attached to their owner and experiences distress when separated from them. This can lead to clingy behavior, such as following you around constantly.
- Signs of separation anxiety: In addition to following you, other signs of separation anxiety in your Shih Tzu may include excessive barking or whining when you’re not around, destructive behavior, or accidents in the house.
- Addressing separation anxiety: If you suspect your Shih Tzu is suffering from separation anxiety, consult with your veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist. They can provide guidance on how to help your dog feel more secure when you’re not around. Some common strategies include crate training, providing interactive toys, or using calming aids like Adaptil.
3. Curiosity and Entertainment
Shih Tzus are curious and playful by nature. They love to explore their surroundings and are easily entertained by new sights and sounds.
This natural curiosity and desire for entertainment can contribute to their tendency to follow you around.
- Exploring their environment: Your Shih Tzu may follow you simply because they want to see what you’re doing and explore the environment with you.
- Looking for playtime: Shih Tzus love to play, and following you around could be their way of asking for some playtime or attention.
To keep your Shih Tzu’s curiosity satisfied and provide them with entertainment, make sure to engage them in regular play sessions and mental stimulation activities. This can include puzzle toys, training sessions, or simply playing fetch.
4. Reinforcement of Clingy Behavior
Sometimes, without even realizing it, we might be encouraging our Shih Tzus to follow us around.
This can happen when we inadvertently reward their clingy behavior.
- Positive reinforcement: If you give your Shih Tzu attention, treats, or praise when they follow you, they may learn to associate following you with positive outcomes. This can reinforce their behavior and make them more likely to follow you in the future.
- Breaking the habit: To break this habit, try to avoid rewarding your Shih Tzu when they follow you. Instead, reward them when they are calm and relaxed, or when they show independence by playing with their toys or resting in their bed.
5. Health Issues
In some cases, a Shih Tzu may follow their owner around due to an underlying health issue. If you notice any sudden changes in your dog’s behavior, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian.
- Pain or discomfort: If your Shih Tzu is experiencing pain or discomfort, they may seek comfort by staying close to you. This could include issues like joint pain, digestive problems, or injuries.
- Vision or hearing loss: Shih Tzus are prone to certain health issues, including vision and hearing problems. If your dog has trouble seeing or hearing, they may follow you around more closely to maintain their sense of security.
Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify any health issues early on and ensure your Shih Tzu receives the care they need.
How to Respond to Your Shih Tzu’s Clingy Behavior
While it’s natural for Shih Tzus to follow their owners around, it’s essential to maintain a healthy balance between attachment and independence.
Here are a few tips to help you respond to your Shih Tzu’s clingy behavior:
- Encourage independence: Provide your Shih Tzu with a comfortable space of their own, such as a bed or crate, where they can relax and feel secure without needing to be by your side.
- Establish a routine: A consistent daily routine can help your Shih Tzu feel more secure and reduce their need to follow you around. This should include regular feeding times, bathroom breaks, and exercise sessions.
- Socialize your Shih Tzu: Exposing your Shih Tzu to new people, dogs, and environments can help them build confidence and reduce their reliance on you. Regular visits to the dog park, puppy classes, or playdates with other dogs are excellent ways to socialize your Shih Tzu.
In conclusion, there are several reasons why Shih Tzus tend to follow their owners around, from their origins as companion dogs to their pack mentality, curiosity, and potential health issues.
Understanding these reasons and taking appropriate steps to respond to their clingy behavior can help you maintain a healthy and balanced relationship with your furry friend.