Understanding Your Shih Tzu’s Body Language

If understanding your Shih Tzu’s vocalizations is hard, understanding his body  language is much more difficult. Unlike animals, humans aren’t wired to gain a lot of information from the way a dog tilts his head or the way he lowers his body to the ground. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Experts have interpreted some of dogs’ body language, so the only thing you should do is to read up on it to understand how your pet communicates.

Ready to begin? To help you get started, we’ve listed some of the emotions that your Shih Tzu feels and how he usually expresses them:


This is one of the most difficult things to pinpoint since Shih Tzus often express stress by doing “basic” dog activities like yawning, scratching themselves, and licking their nose. The key here is to observe your Shih Tzu and see if his behavior is out of place. For instance, if he’s surrounded by little children and he starts to yawn even though he’s had enough sleep, it might be a sign that he’s getting stressed by the attention he receives from the kids. If he’s in a new environment and he licks his nose repeatedly, he might be telling you that he’s getting anxious.



Many Shih Tzus are friendly dogs and will express it in several ways. Your Shih Tzu may start out by wagging his tail, then proceed to lower his front legs with his tongue out. He might also curve his body while licking your hand or face.



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In the video, we see a Shih Tzu puppy and an older Shih Tzu who are obviously playing with each other. But, if we look closer, we’ll see that the puppy pants and often dances on her front legs as she pushes off the bigger dog. This series of behavior often indicates that a Shih Tzu is happy and/or excited. Another way Shih Tzus express happiness is by bowing down in front of you then hopping up on your legs, often accompanied by a wagging tail, an exposed tongue, and a “dance” with their paws. It’s their way of saying “Hello! I’m happy to see you!”



Like other dogs, Shih Tzus can easily detect danger and/or changes in their environment. You’ll know that your Shih Tzu is alert and listening for something if he stands up straight with his tail erect, his ears leaning forward, and his eyes wide open. If he becomes suspicious about something, he’ll retain the same posture but his body will lean forward slightly.


Shih Tzus typically go through two stages of aggressiveness. The first stage is a sort of warning to dogs or other people who threaten their sense of safety, and it involves a bowed back, a wrinkled nose, and parted lips to expose their teeth. If the threat doesn’t go away, or if they’re not assured by their owners that there’s no danger, they can lean forward while standing up to their fullest possible height to look tall. They’ll also growl and expose their entire teeth.


Understanding your Shih Tzu’s body language is crucial to having a good relationship with him. It’s also important in preventing accidents and ensuring that your pet — as well as the people and animals he interacts with — stay safe and sound.


  1. Dianne
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