Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
If your Shih Tzu is looking anxious all the time it can be both worrying and confusing. I know, how you feel, my pups have been through the same.
You’ll want to know the causes behind the anxiety and nervouseness, as well as how to help your Shih Tzu into a calmer state.
In this article, I’ll dive deep into understanding why Shih Tzus might be anxious and provide some practical tips to help them feel more at ease.
4 Most Common Causes of Stress & Anxiety In Shih Tzus
There are several reasons why your Shih Tzu might be feeling anxious. It’s essential to understand the root cause of their anxiety so that you can address it effectively. Some common reasons include:
Shih Tzus are known to form deep attachments with their owners, which can sometimes lead to separation anxiety when left alone for extended periods.
This breed, in particular, is more susceptible to this form of anxiety. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), separation anxiety is a distressing condition for dogs, leading to behaviors such as excessive barking, whining, or even destructive tendencies.
The thought of being separated from their beloved owner can be overwhelming for them, causing severe stress and nervousness.
Fear and Phobias
Just like humans, Shih Tzus can develop fears or phobias.
These can be triggered by a variety of stimuli, from loud noises like thunderstorms and fireworks to new environments, unfamiliar faces, or sudden changes in their routine.
These triggers can set off an anxiety response in your Shih Tzu, making them visibly distressed and uncomfortable. Recognizing and understanding these triggers is a critical step in helping your dog manage their anxiety.
This is a very common cause of anxiety in our little friends so
Past trauma can leave a deep-seated impact on your Shih Tzu, leading to anxiety.
If your dog has been through any form of abuse, neglect, or has been rehomed multiple times, they could be carrying the emotional scars from those experiences.
These traumatic events can make them more anxious, especially in situations that remind them of their past. Helping a traumatized Shih Tzu involves a lot of patience, gentle care, and consistent positive reinforcement to help them regain trust and feel safe.
Anxiety, like many traits in dogs, can be inherited. Some Shih Tzus might be genetically predisposed to anxiety, meaning if their parents or close relatives displayed signs of anxiety, your Shih Tzu might also be more susceptible.
Genetic predisposition can’t be changed, but understanding that your Shih Tzu may be naturally more nervous or anxious can help you approach their behavior with empathy and patience.
This knowledge can guide you towards the right methods to help them manage their anxiety and lead a happier life.
Signs of Anxiety in Shih Tzus
Knowing the signs of anxiety in your Shih Tzu is crucial for early intervention and effective treatment.
➡️ Here are some common signs that your Shih Tzu might be anxious:
- Excessive barking or whining
- Pacing or restlessness
- Panting or drooling
- Trembling or shaking
- Hiding or avoiding people
- Destructive behaviors (chewing, scratching, digging)
- Accidents in the house (even when house-trained)
- Changes in appetite
- Aggression or fear towards new people or situations
Keep in mind that these signs can also be indicative of other issues, such as medical problems or pain.
This is why it’s advised to consult your vet if you notice your Shih Tzu to be behaving unusually.
How to Help Your Anxious Shih Tzu
Recognizing your Shih Tzu’s anxiety is the first step in helping them. The next step involves taking practical actions to soothe their distress and improve their quality of life.
There are many ways to do this, but in most cases it will mean addressing the root cause first before attempting other lifestyle tactics.
Take a look at the tips below and this should give owners a good insight into what makes a good routine that a Shih Tzu will love. After that, anxious behavior would be highly unlikely unless it’s being caused by some kind of external trigger (outside environmental noises, for example).
➡️ Here are some detailed strategies to consider:
Establish a Good Routine ✅
Shih Tzus, like all dogs, find comfort in predictability. Establishing a regular routine can provide a sense of security, helping to reduce anxiety.
- Feeding times: Set specific times for meals each day. This consistency can provide a structure that your Shih Tzu can rely on.
- Exercise: Regular walks or play sessions at the same times daily can help your Shih Tzu anticipate these activities and reduce anxiety.
- Sleeping schedule: A consistent bedtime can help regulate your Shih Tzu’s internal clock, contributing to reduced anxiety and better sleep.
Provide Enough Exercise ✅
Physical activity is a great stress reliever for dogs. A Shih Tzu with pent-up energy may become anxious, so regular exercise is crucial.
- Daily walks: A brisk walk once or twice a day can help your Shih Tzu burn off energy and reduce anxiety.
- Playtime: Engage your Shih Tzu in games that stimulate their mind and body. Puzzle toys or fetch can be excellent choices.
Use Positive Reinforcement ✅
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in managing your Shih Tzu’s anxiety. Rewarding them for calm behavior can build their confidence.
- Praise and treats: When your Shih Tzu successfully navigates a situation that usually triggers anxiety, reward them with praise or a favorite treat.
- Extra attention: Show your Shih Tzu extra love and attention when they’re calm and composed. This attention can reinforce their positive behavior.
Create a Safe Space ✅
A designated safe space in your home can provide a refuge for your Shih Tzu when they’re feeling anxious.
- Quiet corner or room: Choose a spot that’s quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Equip this space with a comfortable bed and some of their favorite toys.
- Crate: If your Shih Tzu is crate trained, their crate can serve as a safe haven. Make it cozy with blankets and toys to make it more appealing.
Consider Anxiety-Reducing Products ✅
There are several products on the market specifically designed to help dogs cope with anxiety.
- Calming treats and supplements: These often contain natural ingredients like chamomile and tryptophan that can have a soothing effect. PetMD provides a list of recommended calming treats.
- Pressure wraps: Pressure wraps or anxiety vests apply gentle, constant pressure to your dog’s body, providing a calming effect similar to swaddling a baby.
- Pheromone diffusers: These products release a synthetic version of the dog-appeasing pheromone, which can help soothe anxious dogs.
Proritize Training and Socialization ✅
Proper training and socialization can help your Shih Tzu build confidence and reduce anxiety.
- Obedience training: Basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” can provide a sense of order and security for your Shih Tzu.
- Socialization: Gradual exposure to various people, environments, and other animals can help your Shih Tzu become more comfortable in different situations.
Remember, what works best will depend on your Shih Tzu’s unique needs. It’s always beneficial to consult with a professional dog trainer or a certified animal behaviorist to create a personalized plan for your Shih Tzu.
Seek Professional Help When Needed ✅
While the aforementioned strategies are effective for managing mild to moderate anxiety, there may be times when you need to seek professional help. If your Shih Tzu’s anxiety is severe or is significantly disrupting their life, it’s time to consult with a veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist.
- Veterinary consultation: Your vet can help you rule out any medical issues that might be contributing to your Shih Tzu’s anxiety. They may also suggest medications or other therapies to help manage anxiety if necessary.
- Certified animal behaviorist: These professionals can provide a tailored behavior modification plan to address your Shih Tzu’s specific anxieties. They can also guide you on how to implement this plan effectively.
While managing an anxious Shih Tzu can be challenging, remember that your patience, understanding, and consistency can make a world of difference. With time and the right strategies, you can help your furry friend feel safer, happier, and more relaxed.
When to Consult a Professional
While the above strategies can be effective in managing mild to moderate anxiety, there are times when it’s necessary to seek professional help.
➡️ If your Shih Tzu’s anxiety is severe, disruptive to their daily life, or if they’re displaying aggressive behavior, it’s time to consult with a veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist.
Your vet can rule out any potential medical issues contributing to your Shih Tzu’s anxiety and may suggest medications to help manage it. A certified animal behaviorist can provide a customized behavior modification plan to address your Shih Tzu’s specific anxieties.
Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one Shih Tzu may not work for another. With patience, consistency, and love, you can help your anxious Shih Tzu lead a happier, more relaxed life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals, like those at The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, for more guidance and support.
Shih Tzus are loving, friendly, and often anxious dogs. Their anxiety can stem from various sources, but understanding the reasons behind their stress can guide you in helping them.
By recognizing the signs of anxiety, employing strategies to alleviate their stress, and seeking professional help when needed, you can provide the best care for your anxious Shih Tzu. It’s a journey, but your furry friend is worth every step.