I have a 6 year-old Shih Tzu who has been with me since he was a puppy. He usually gets on with other dogs, although he is not very interested in playing with them. I recently adopted a female cross-breed and made sure that I chose a dog which can live with another one. She is very social and friendly. However, the two dogs do not get along and especially my Shih Tzu, who does not seem happy sharing the house with her. It has now been a month and the situation has deteriorated. I am unable to feed them at the same time and my Shih Tzu has become very protective of me around her. I have also heard that Shih Tzus do not like sharing their house. I don’t want to return her back to the shelter and she is such a sweet and affectionate dog. Is there any chance I can get them to like each other?
Let me first debunk the myth surrounding the breed of Shih Tzus and around any other breed, for that matter. Dogs are naturally social animals and can have absolutely no problem living together. This is certainly not a breed issue. Rather, it is how you have introduced the two dogs together and importantly, how you have managed their relationship since that time.
A common mistake people make when introducing a new dog to the home is by just tossing them together with current dogs in the hope that they will get along. This may sometimes be successful, but as you can see, sometimes it is not.
Your home has been the existing territory of your Shih Tzu and it is natural that he has become aggressive to defend what is his own. Depending on the new dog’s energy, they may become completely submissive and fearful, or else they may fight back.
Ideally, the dogs should have been introduced in a neutral territory and should have taken a long walk together first. In this way, you are allowing dogs to bond on the walk and in a neutral territory.
Is it too late now? Not really, dogs live in the moment and they can easily move on. You first need to understand why your Shih Tzu allegedly does not like the other dog. It is perhaps because you have not set rules for your dogs. Remember, your Shih Tzu is exhibiting this behaviour because he is in charge, not you. Instead of you setting the rules and boundaries, he has to defend what is his. His reaction is completely natural and you need to step up and lead both of them, so they don’t feel the need for such competitive behaviour.
My first advice is to regularly walk them together, side by side and next to you, rather than in front of you. This exercise helps bonding and it will lower their energy and the impulse to fight. Isolation is the worst thing you can do, while supervised socialisation is key to achieving a balanced relationship.
You also need to remember that even the most balanced dogs sometimes fight, but they move on quickly and so should you. Attempt to redirect their attention and break their fight calmly, instead of screaming at them.
The key to resolving this situation lies with you and your projection of positive energy. Dogs will follow you. The moment you feel that you have become in charge of the relationship through exhibiting leadership skills, by not favouring one of the dogs, by not feeling sorry after a fight and finally, by mastering the walk, the impossible will become possible and you will enjoy a beautiful relationship between your dogs in a quiet home.