My Shih tzu Doesn't Like Me -- How Can I Bond with Him?

by Arlene
(California)

Why doesn't my shih tzu love me? He will go hang out with my son all the time. I'm retired and adopted him for me. I try to love on him, but he snorts and walks back to my son. This makes me sad. My son hasn't done anything special, but he still prefers my son. What can I do??



Anonymous Says:

You should be the one to feed him and give him treats. Walk him. Play with him. Let me know if this helps.


Our Answer

Arlene, your disappointment is easy to understand. Of course you want that little furball to love and adore you because you want to love and adore him too. Since you don’t mention whether or not the dog is a puppy or an adult I have two possible theories on why this might be happening:

1. If the dog is an adult it may be that his previous owner was male and it’s natural for him to bond with what he’s already familiar with.
2. Without doing anything special or trying in any way, your son may project an “alpha” personality that the dog naturally responds to. Shih tzus are extremely sensitive to the impression humans give off. It’s their job to read our personalities so they can be the best possible companions. If there are two people in the home it’s only natural for him to gravitate to the person he perceives to be the “the boss.”

The good news is that no matter why your new Shih tzu has taken a shine to your son there are several enjoyable activities that can strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

Back to Basics

Be sure you are the only one feeding him. When you give him dry food or snacks handle the food a bit to get your scent on it. This will teach him to recognize you as the one who provides nourishment.

Work on basic obedience skills at home, or better yet, join an obedience class. Pet centers frequently offer them and the cost is reasonable. It doesn’t matter if he’s already the best little gentlemen in a fur suit, practicing commands will strengthen your bond and reinforce your stature as the alpha of the pack.

Take him for walks. Though this breed doesn’t require extensive exercise, a daily walk of even 15 minutes (longer if you’re able) will help him blow off steam and bond with you.


Grooming is a wonderful time for bonding. Since he already seems to have little patience for you, concentrate on brushing with a soft bristle brush (it feels good) instead of doing all the ouchy, pokey things. You may find he’s willing to lay in your lap for longer and longer periods if he knows a nice gentle brushing and a little behind-the-ear massage will be his reward.

Daily play is always important. Find a toy your dog is crazy about and don’t let your son use it. Play fetch with his special toy for short periods once or twice a day. Always stop before he loses interest and then it will be an exciting treat every time you bring out that certain toy.

Go the Extra Mile

Take him for rides. I’ve never known a Shih tzu that didn’t love to ride in the car! Of course, you must remember how sensitive the breed is to heat and never, ever leave him in a closed car on a warm day. The dog park or pet center are perfect destinations. If you don’t have an errand that’s pet friendly, make one up. I frequently see people strolling around the large home do-it centers with dogs in their carts. I occasionally pile my three Shih tzus into the car for a trip to the Starbuck’s drive-through where I order one latte and three small cups of whipped cream just for something to do.

Enter yourself and your dog into a Rally Obedience or Agility class. Yes, little dogs can do these activities too! In fact, Shih tzus are fast becoming some of the shining stars in Agility. Look for instructors who are knowledgeable about toy breeds and have the right facilities to serve them safely.

The key to success with any of these tips is to perform them with confidence. Shih tzus can smell desperation and will often turn up their cute little black noses at anyone who tries too hard. Don’t beg for his love or boss him unnecessarily. Simply act as if your dog is your best friend and soon he will be.

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