shih tzu guard dog

Shih Tzu Guard Dog Potential in 2023

Ever thought of a Shih Tzu as a guard dog? Let’s take a look at their protective nature and if they can be trained to keep watch.


The Shih Tzu is a beloved breed of dog that has captured the hearts of many pet owners. With their adorable and fluffy appearance, they are often seen as lap dogs or companions for children and seniors.

However, Shih Tzus also have a rich history as guard dogs in ancient China. This article will explore the potential of Shih Tzus as protective companions and evaluate whether they are suited for this role.

Brief Overview of Shih Tzu Breed

Shih Tzus are small dogs that typically weigh between 9-16 pounds and stand about 8-11 inches tall at the shoulder. They have long, flowing hair that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling. The breed is known for their affectionate nature, loyalty to their owners, and gentle temperament with children.

The Shih Tzu originated in China over 1,000 years ago and was bred by Tibetan monks to resemble a lion, which was considered a sacred animal in Tibet. The breed was highly valued by Chinese royalty and nobility, who often kept them as lapdogs or gifts for foreign dignitaries.

Explanation of the Purpose of the Article

While Shih Tzus are not typically thought of as guard dogs in modern times, they still possess many traits that make them well-suited for this role. The purpose of this article is to explore these traits in-depth and provide guidance on whether or not a specific Shih Tzu might be suitable for protection work.

Furthermore, we will discuss important training techniques that can help you harness your dog’s natural instincts to protect you and your home while still maintaining their sweet disposition with family members and other domestic animals. Whether you’re looking to turn your Shih Tzu into a full-fledged guard dog or simply want to understand their potential, this article will provide valuable information on all aspects of Shih Tzu protection work.

The History of Shih Tzu as a Guard Dog

Shih Tzus have a long history that dates back to ancient China, where they were originally bred as guard dogs for the imperial court. They were highly valued for their ability to alert their owners of potential danger and for their affectionate nature towards humans.

The Chinese emperors and nobles often kept them as lapdogs, but also utilized them as watchful protectors. As time went on, the role of the Shih Tzu evolved from being solely a guard dog to becoming a beloved companion pet in many countries around the world.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 20th century that they were first introduced to Western societies. However, their history as protectors remains an important aspect of their breed.

It’s interesting to note that despite being bred for centuries for guarding purposes, the Shih Tzu is not recognized by most kennel clubs as an official guard dog breed due to its small size and gentle nature. Nonetheless, these dogs remain fiercely loyal and protective towards their owners.

Throughout history, Shih Tzus have played various roles in society beyond just guarding. During World War II, some soldiers kept these small dogs as mascots and companions while on duty.

Additionally, famous individuals such as Queen Elizabeth II owned these adorable pups which contributed to their popularity worldwide. While Shih Tzus may not be officially recognized by kennel clubs worldwide as true guard dogs due to their small size and gentle nature today, they have a long-standing history dating back centuries where they were highly valued for this very purpose by Chinese emperors and nobles alike.

Physical Characteristics and Temperament of Shih Tzu

Description of their small size and physical features

Shih Tzus are a small breed of dog that typically weigh between 9-16 pounds and stand at approximately 8-11 inches tall at the shoulder. They have a sturdy frame with short legs, a broad chest, and a round head. Their coat is long and flowing, often with different colors including brown, white or black.

In addition to being adorable, their small size makes them an ideal companion for apartment dwellers or those who don’t have a lot of space. One unique characteristic of the Shih Tzu is their distinct underbite.

This means that their lower teeth extend out beyond their upper teeth giving them an almost comical appearance. However, this feature can cause dental problems if not properly cared for so it’s important to maintain regular dental hygiene.

Overview of their temperament, including loyalty, protectiveness and intelligence

Shih Tzus are known for being loyal companions who love nothing more than spending time with their owners. They are affectionate dogs who thrive on human interaction making them great family pets.

Despite being small in stature, Shih Tzus have a protective nature when it comes to protecting those they care about. They will bark to alert you if they sense danger or feel threatened in any way making them good guard dogs.

In terms of intelligence, the Shih Tzu ranks high on the scale which makes them easy to train as long as training begins early on in life during puppyhood while they are still receptive. Overall, physically and emotionally the Shih Tzu is well equipped to be an excellent guard dog when properly trained.

Training a Shih Tzu to be a Guard Dog

Importance of Early Socialization and Obedience Training

For a Shih Tzu to become an effective guard dog, early socialization is crucial. This process involves exposing your dog to different environments, people, and other animals from an early age. Socialization helps your dog develop confidence when interacting with strangers or unfamiliar situations.

Obedience training is equally important in preparing your Shih Tzu for guard dog work. Basic obedience commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come” provide the foundation for more advanced protection training.

Techniques for Teaching Basic Commands Such as “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Come”

Teaching basic commands should begin as soon as possible with positive reinforcement training. Be sure to use clear communication and reward good behavior promptly with treats or praise.

To teach the command “sit,” hold a treat above your Shih Tzu’s head while saying the word “sit.” When your dog sits down, give them the treat and praise them. Repeat this exercise several times until they learn it.

To teach the command “stay,” ask your Shih Tzu to sit first, then with one hand extended in front of their face say “stay” while backing up slowly, if they follow you stop back up but if they stay there intensify praise. The command “come” can be taught by having someone hold your Shih Tzu still while you crouch down in front of them with open arms repeating “come” in a cheerful tone until they come running toward you.

Advanced Training Methods for Protection Work

Once basic obedience commands are mastered, protection training can begin. Advanced techniques include teaching your Shih Tzu how to defend you and property by barking on cue or practicing bite work using a padded sleeve or bite suit. Always seek out a professional trainer experienced in protection dog training to help you with advanced training methods.

Protection training is not for everyone and should only be done if your Shih Tzu has the right temperament and potential for it. Training a Shih Tzu to become a guard dog requires patience, persistence, and commitment.

By starting early with socialization and basic obedience commands, you’ll be setting your dog up for success in their protection training. Remember to always prioritize positive reinforcement techniques and seek professional guidance when necessary.

Evaluating a Shih Tzu’s Potential as a Protective Companion

Factors to Consider

When assessing whether a Shih Tzu is suitable for guard dog work, there are several factors to consider. These include age, health, and temperament.

Firstly, age is an important factor to consider because younger dogs may not have the necessary training and experience required for guard dog work. Additionally, older dogs may have physical limitations that can hinder their ability to perform their duties effectively.

Secondly, the health of the Shih Tzu should also be considered when evaluating its potential as a protective companion. A healthy dog will be able to withstand the rigors of protection work better than one with health issues.

It is important to ensure that your Shih Tzu receives regular check-ups from a veterinarian and that any health issues are treated promptly. The temperament of your Shih Tzu is crucial when considering its suitability for guard dog work.

The breed is known for being affectionate and loving towards their owners but can also be wary of strangers. While this trait can be useful in protection work, it is important that your Shih Tzu does not become overly aggressive or territorial towards people who pose no threat.

Determining Your Specific Shih Tzu’s Potential

To determine if your specific Shih Tzu has the potential to be an effective protective companion, it is essential first to evaluate its physical abilities and personality traits. An excellent place to start is by observing how your dog interacts with strangers and other animals.

It would help if you also looked out for characteristics such as confidence and focus when training your shih tzu in obedience commands as they are necessary qualities in an effective guard dog. Your shih tzu should exhibit good listening skills during training sessions while maintaining attention on you despite external distractions.

It would help if you also considered the compatibility between your lifestyle and the Shih Tzu’s temperament and energy levels. An active person might find a Shih Tzu with high energy levels to be an ideal match for their lifestyle, while someone who prefers a more relaxed environment may find the lower-energy Shih Tzu breed to be more suitable for them.

It is essential to keep in mind that not all Shih Tzus are cut out for protection work. If after considering all factors, you are unsure if your shih tzu has what it takes, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can help you evaluate your dog’s potential better.

Pros and Cons of Using a Shih Tzu as a Guard Dog

Advantages of Using a Shih Tzu as a Guard Dog

One significant advantage of using a Shih Tzu as a guard dog is its small size. Their compact size makes them ideal for apartment living or smaller homes where larger breeds may not have enough space. Additionally, their small size makes them less intimidating than larger breeds, which can be useful when dealing with unfamiliar people or situations.

Shih tzus also display immense loyalty towards their owners, making them fiercely protective of their human family members. They form strong bonds with people they trust and will do everything within their power to protect them from perceived dangers.

Another significant advantage of using shih tzus as guard dogs is that they are low maintenance when compared to other breeds used in protection work. The breed requires less exercise and grooming than other dogs used in guard dog roles such as German Shepherds.

Disadvantages of Using a Shih Tzu as a Guard Dog

Although there are advantages to using shih tzus as guard dogs, there are also disadvantages to consider. Their small size can also be considered a disadvantage since they cannot physically protect their owners the same way larger breeds can. Shih tzus also have a tendency to bark excessively, which can be a problem for homeowners who live in apartments or have close neighbors.

Additionally, because of their small size, they may not be taken seriously by potential intruders or threats. Shih tzus may not be suitable for all households due to their temperament.

They require extensive socialization and training from an early age to ensure they do not become overly aggressive towards strangers or other animals. While shih tzus can make excellent protective companions under the right circumstances, it is important to consider all factors carefully before deciding if this breed is suitable for your specific needs and lifestyle.

Pros and Cons of Using a Shih Tzu as a Guard Dog

Advantages: The Perfect Apartment Guard Dog

One of the main advantages of using a Shih Tzu as a guard dog is their small size, which makes them an ideal candidate for apartment living. Unlike larger breeds, they do not require much space and can be trained to stay indoors during the day.

This makes them perfect for urban living where privacy and security are major concerns. Another advantage is that Shih Tzus are low maintenance dogs that do not require extensive grooming or exercise.

They are content with short walks around the block and only need occasional baths to keep their coat shiny and healthy. As such, they are perfect for busy families who do not have much time to invest in training or exercise routines.

One of the most significant advantages of using a Shih Tzu as a guard dog is their fierce loyalty and protectiveness towards their owners. They form strong bonds with their owners and will go to great lengths to protect them from danger.

Disadvantages: Limited Physical Capabilities

While there are many advantages to using a Shih Tzu as a guard dog, there are also some disadvantages that should be considered before making any decisions. One major disadvantage is their physical limitations in terms of size and strength.

While they may have sharp teeth and claws, they simply cannot match the physical power and speed of larger breeds such as German Shepherds or Rottweilers. Additionally, while Shih Tzus have fierce loyalty towards their owners, this can sometimes lead to overprotectiveness which can become problematic if not properly addressed through training.

Another potential disadvantage is that due to their small size and cute appearance, strangers may view them more as companions rather than serious guard dogs. This could potentially lead intruders to underestimate their abilities or even attempt to steal them.


While Shih Tzus may not be the first breed that comes to mind when thinking of guard dogs, they do have many advantages that make them suitable for this role. With proper training and socialization, they can be effective in protecting their owners and homes.

However, it is important to consider their physical limitations and tendency towards overprotectiveness before making any decisions about using them as a guard dog. Ultimately, choosing the right breed for your security needs is a personal decision that should take into account your lifestyle and preferences.

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