How a Shih Tzu communicates

Posted by: Kathy  /  Category: How to care for your Shih-Tzu puppy

As stated above, a bark is not a bark.  Barking varies greatly, according to what your dog is trying to “say”.

This section is not only addressing barking, there are many other noises that a dog makes.  Any vocal noises that your Shih Tzu makes will be a distinct method of communicating.

Vocal noises from your Tzu will include:

  • Barking
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Whining
  • Whimpering
  • Moaning
  • Yelping
  • Whispering
  • Panting


The tone of these noises is quite telling also.

Barking in a low tone – This is a dog’s way of warning of danger or a change in the environment.  A low toned bark will be produced if the dog is trying to say “There is a stranger within seeing distance”.  A dog will also bark in a low tone if there is a change. Some Shih Tzus are very sensitive and will bark if they hear a car door close, an sudden wind that blows a tree to move, etc.

Barking with a higher tone – This is a dog’s way of getting your attention.  Your Shih Tzu will be trying to say “I need to go outside’ or “Please pay attention to me”.

Howling – An actual howl will be the sound of a dog communicating to another dog.  Dogs can sense other dogs, even if you cannot see them yourself.  If a dog sits outside and howls, they are communicating to another dog.

Growling – This is a warning.  That bark that told you about a stranger within seeing distance will turn into a growl if that person enter too close to what your dog considers to be their territory and they feel threatened.  A growl is a distinct type of vocalization, used to warn people or other dogs to leave.  If the body in lowered into a pre-striking position, the growl is then saying “ I will resort to biting you if I must” .   A dog who is growling often also includes “tooth snapping” noises.  The tooth snapping is the dog’s way of saying “ I have teeth and I will use them!”

Whining – This is a dog’s vocalization of being in emotional distress.  In other words, your Shih Tzu is sad.  When a dog whines, they are saying “I don’t want to be alone”.  Whining can also indicate that a dog is in pain, this would be in conjunction with wanting to lay alone or not wanting others near.

Whimpering – This is similar to whining.   A puppy will usually whimper and an adult will whine.  This means that the dog is in distress.  They are sad, hurting or lonely.

Moaning – While a human may moan if they have a tummy ache, a dog will usually have a low tone moan when they are feeling happy.  A dog  will most often moan if they are having their tummy rubbed, having their ears touched or another spot on their body that is ticklish

Yelping – This is a clear and immediate sign that a dog has been injured.   A yelp from a dog is let out the instant that dog feels pain.  If your Shih Tzu jumps and hurts their leg or steps on a thorn, you will hear a yelp.  An owner must immediately look for the reason of the yelp.  Many dogs will yelp and then within a minute, the pain will be gone.  For example, if they stepped on something sharp, but it did not give them a splinter or cut the paw.  However, any yelp should be investigated. .

Whispering – Yes, a Shih Tzu can whisper and if your dog whispers you know what this sounds like!  Some Shih Tzus are not barkers. They make more of a whisper noise.  Some owners even explain this to sound rather like “singing” if they dog whispers for a while. This is your dog  showing happiness and communicating in their own way.  Consider yourself lucky if your Tzu whispers, you will not have to train them for barking issues!

Panting – A dog pants to cool themselves off when exercising.  However, panting is also done when a Shih Tzu needs to relax.  When a dog  is stressed, they may pant as a method to calm themselves down.

Scent communication

There are many ways in which dogs use scent to communicate to other dogs.

Pheromones is a chemical communication that is used by both males and females. These Pheromones are in their urine, feces, saliva and anal glands.

A female in heat will urinate repeatedly to notify any dogs nearby that she is indeed in heat.

A male dog will urinate cocking his leg as high as he can to send chemical messages, letting any female dogs know where he is.

Dogs can obtain a lot of information about the health of one another, the emotional state of another dog, whether a dog is male or female and they differentiate individuals by their anal smells.

When a female has puppies she will lick them with her saliva that each puppy what her emotional, physical is.

Body Language

Eyes – A dog who wants to show that they are dominant to another will stare down another dog.  A submissive dog will avoid eye contact.   This is an important element if you have more than 1 dog.  There eye movements will help you determine which dog is the Alpha dog, an important part of having multiple dogs get along.

Let’s now look at emotions and what your Shih Tzu will do to show them:

Being Calm: Your dog’s ears, tail and body will be relaxed.  Their forehead will be smooth and their mouth will be open slightly.

On Alert: When your Shih Tzu is trying to listen for something, is on guard or is trying to determine if there is a danger, they will show a state of alertness by having the tail erect, the body will be stiff and leaning forward slightly, the eyes will be very open and the ears will be forward.

Submissiveness:
When your Shih Tzu is saying “You’re the boss” to another dog or to you…they will be lying down, the tummy, chest and neck will be exposed, their ears will be lowers, your Shih Tzu’s eyes may be slightly closed and they may lick their lips.

Afraid: When a Shih Tzu is afraid of another person or a situation, their body will tell you.  The dog’s ears may go back and lay flat on the head, the lips may be curled, the tail will go between the dog’s legs or the tail by be wagging very fast and short (this means that while afraid, the dog is ready to bite if necessary).  They may also crouch down.
Hellos and Greetings: When your Shih Tzu is not feeling threatened and wants to say “Hello!”, they will bow down, expose their tongue, lick,  have a sort of ‘dance” with their front paws and often wag their tail quickly.

Aggression Stage 1:
When in the 1st stage of aggression a dog will bow out their back, their tail will be straight and very still, their lips may part to expose their teeth, their nose may wrinkle, the ears will point slightly forward and eyes will be very wide open.  The dog may also walk very slowly.

Aggression Stage 2:
If the threat is not eliminated or the dog is not shown that there is no threat, aggression may increase to the next stage.  They will begin to growl with full teeth exposed.  The growling will become deeper and deeper in tone.  The more confident a dog is, that they can “handle and defeat” a threat, the deeper their growl will be.  The dog will lean forward, they will stand to the fullest height possible, the forehead skin will wrinkle, usually so much that direct lines will show that run to the eyes and nose. The nose of the dog may wrinkle, as well.

Excitement and Extreme Happiness:
Your dog will pant, dance with their front legs, bow down, the dog may turn and spin,   2 or more dogs will push off of each other, a high toned bark may be given.  If the dog begins to run, the back of the dog will be arched with the hind legs drawn a bit under the body and the tail will be pressed between the dog’s legs.

To Summarize

Wouldn’t it be fun to have conversations with dogs!  The important element to remember is that if you take time to distinguish body language and vocal noises, you will see that your Shih Tzu has a lot to tell you!

Don’t forget to become an AllShihTzu Member, so that you may receive reminders when we add a new topic here & also be able to suggest a subject for us to discuss.

share save 171 16 How a Shih Tzu communicates

Comments are closed.