Shih Tzu & Children

By Jo Ann White

Many breeders of Shih Tzu (and other small dogs) refuse to sell a young puppy to a family with pre-school age children. Others insist upon meeting the entire family before making a decision about whether to allow this. This is not because the breeder is being unreasonable. Nor is it because Shih Tzu do not like children-they certainly do! But while adult Shih Tzu are sturdy, well-boned, and muscular for their relatively small size, Shih Tzu puppies are a different matter. So are older, well-behaved and obedient children as opposed to those in the "terrible twos."

It's hard enough for an agile adult to keep from tripping over or falling on a Shih Tzu puppy. Shih Tzu puppies love feet-be it chewing on shoelaces or toes, tugging on pants legs, or simply darting about you as you try to walk across the room. Even knowledgeable people who do the "puppy shuffle," sliding their feet across the floor rather than lifting them up between steps, find it hard to keep their balance. Also, children tend to dart about in unpredictable ways. Like puppies, the more excited they become the faster they move and the less sensible and cautious they become. If in the process a child should trip over or step on a puppy, either could be seriously injured-most likely, the puppy, since it is so much smaller. This is one reason why breeders who DO let a puppy go to a family with small children insist that children sit on the floor when playing with the puppy. The other reason for this rule is that if the child is sitting on the floor and the puppy wiggles out of its arms, it doesn't have far to fall.

Children should never be allowed to play with the puppy unsupervised. Disaster can occur in a split second. Childish excitement, coupled with squeals and other loud noises and sudden movements, can also easily frighten an impressionable young puppy. It may become frightened enough, or overexcited enough, to nip. It may also nip and chew simply because it is teething. Children often find it difficult to understand that a puppy is not always in the mood to play. Because it has few other ways to express its needs, a cornered puppy may nip if not given an opportunity to rest undisturbed when it is tired. Not only do puppies have needle-sharp teeth, but nipping in puppyhood can lead to serious problems later in life. Overexcited playtime, particularly if it involves tug-of-war, king-of-the-mountain, or other such games, may ultimately result in a puppy that decides it, rather than humans, should dominate the household. The dominant dog created during unthinking playtime may later snap if you try to remove a toy or its food, comb tangles out of its coat, or otherwise make it do something it doesn't want. Such behavior needs to be sensibly nipped in the bud, but not by unthinkingly swatting at the dog as a child might do, which would then become hand-shy.

Young children have a tendency to poke and pull when playing with a puppy. This could easily cause an eye or joint injury in a young Shih Tzu puppy, completely apart from its effects on temperament. Thus, if you have small children and want a Shih Tzu, you might be better off getting an older dog, or a larger breed, or waiting until your children grow up a bit. Your young child may be the well-behaved exception to the rule. Nevertheless, if you do get a Shih Tzu puppy, please be sure to consistently enforce sensible rules, and not to leave child and puppy alone together. In the long run, your entire family (canine and human) will benefit. For more tips on puppy-raising, with or without young children, see the articles under training on this web site.