Shih Tzus and Separation Anxiety: How Can We Help?

by Annabell
(Barlow, KY)

I don’t leave my two year old shihtzu much, just to Dr.’s once a month, and to pay bills once a month. I’m 55 with Rheumatoid arthritis, and, I’m a widow, I love my BooBoo to pieces!! It breaks my heart to leave him, I just can’t stand those sad eyes when I say goodbye…I reckon this is a stupid question…

Ed Says:

This is a very common problem and since Shih Tzu are such snuggle bunnies then can get very attached. Be careful because they can get destructive if it gets bad.

Most trainers will tell you take short trips away from home to get them used to being alone. Then make the outings longer.. It workd. I don’t’ prescribe to it myself. I just got another Shih-Tzu so he has a buddy and that worked very well except now I have 4! Some times the best plans go a little astray.

Wenda Says:

Dogs have no sense of time. Whether you leave them for 10 minutes or 8 hours they are very excited upon your return.

Don't feel bad about leaving for a little while as I bet BooBoo sleeps the whole time.

My Shih Tzu/Lhaso Apso is 16 years old and I have always told her when I was leaving. I don't believe in sneaking out and them waking up to find me gone.

If he has a blankie, you can get him on it with a toy and then leave.

Hope some of this helps you. Remember, he is fine, you are the one feeling guilty but don't we all? They do have those sad eyes but they are so loving too.

Karen Says:

sounds like she has separations anxiety.
Leave one of your articles of clothing for her so she can sleep on it while you are away. That way she knows you are coming back. Works with my shihtzus.
Hope this helps.

Our Answer

Of course that’s not a stupid question! We here at Entirely Shih Tzu understand what it’s like to look into those big sweet eyes and wonder if our furbabies are as happy as we want them to be.

Separation anxiety is a serious problem that can lead to destructive habits, stressed out humans and miserable Shih Tzus. But Annabell, you don’t actually mention that BooBoo is exhibiting signs of anxiety. Are you worried about him being alright, or is he actually demonstrating some of these symptoms:

    Urinating or defecating in the house while you’re gone
    Barking, howling or whining for more than a few seconds after you leave or return
    Chewing toys, furniture or other belongings in a destructive manner
    Scratching incessantly at the door while you’re gone
    Frantically greeting you with over-excited behaviors when you return
    Acting overly excited, depressed or appearing anxious as you prepare to leave

If BooBoo does display some of these behaviors you can assume he actually has some degree of separation anxiety. Not that long ago it was assumed that if a dog “acted out” while his owner was gone it was out of spite or a way to punish the human for leaving the dog behind.

The Humane Society points out that these unwanted behaviors are a panic response from the dog and not something he should be disciplined for. In fact, harsh treatment may only worsen the anxiety.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Rest assured that if BooBoo is experiencing separation anxiety it’s not because you did something wrong. Because they are bred for companionship and bond closely with their people, Shih Tzus are not a breed that’s happy being left for long hours day after day. But you shouldn’t feel guilty about going on errands now and then. Many people who work 40 hours a week have Shih Tzus who are happy and well adjusted.

Rescue dogs are susceptible to separation anxiety because many of them have been shuffled around from place to place without the chance to bond normally. Dogs that have had a negative experience at a boarding kennel or shelter or suffered some type of traumatic event (traumatic to them at least) are also vulnerable. A dog who spends the vast majority of time at home with his human may feel anxiety when left alone.


If BooBoo is experiencing extreme anxiety symptoms medication or a professional trainer may be needed. Speak with your vet for the best course of action. However, mild cases of separation anxiety can usually be handled with ease.

Taking BooBoo to a dog park or for short walks may help. A dog’s confidence grows the more he is socialized, and “making friends” other than you may help him feel more secure.

Don’t make a big fuss when you have to leave or when you return. You have to be the alpha dog; the leader of the pack would never kiss the other dogs goodbye or act as if she was sorry to leave – she’d just go do her business. When you come home ignore BooBoo for a minute or two. I delay giving my dogs “hellos” until my purse and bags are put away and I’m seated in my favorite chair. At that point I invite them over for some calm affection.

Develop a “safety cue” that you use each time you leave, such as giving the dog a treat and saying “stay home.” This will help him associate your leaving with something positive and increase his sense of security – when you say “stay home” that means you’re coming back soon.

Don’t encourage insecurity by acting like you’re doing something wrong when you leave for a little while. The more confidence you display around little BooBoo the more confident he’ll feel.

And Annabell, if it’s you, not BooBoo, who’s feeling separation anxiety just remember that he’ll be fine without you. Because they’re so tuned into our every movement, a little break actually gives our Shih Tzus the opportunity to relax fully without worrying about what we’re doing.

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