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10 Mealtime Manners: Preventing Food Aggression in Shih Tzus

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Shih Tzu Mealtime

Ah, mealtime – that glorious moment when the delightful aroma of food fills the air, and your beloved Shih Tzu eagerly awaits their feast. But wait, what’s this? Growls? Snarls? Food aggression? It’s not uncommon for our furry friends to get a little overzealous when it comes to mealtime. However, fear not! With a few simple tips and tricks, you can teach your Shih Tzu proper mealtime manners and prevent food aggression for good.

Understanding Food Aggression in Shih Tzus

Food aggression in Shih Tzus, like in any other dog breed, stems from instinctual behaviors rooted in survival. When resources are perceived as scarce, dogs may feel the need to guard their food to ensure their own survival. This behavior can manifest as growling, snapping, or even biting when approached while eating.

Start with Proper Training from Day One

The key to preventing food aggression in Shih Tzus is starting proper training from the get-go. Begin by teaching your pup basic obedience commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.” These commands establish you as the leader and help your Shih Tzu understand that you control the food.

Establish a Feeding Routine

Consistency is crucial when it comes to mealtime manners. Establish a feeding routine for your Shih Tzu, with set mealtimes and designated feeding areas. This routine helps your pup feel secure and reduces anxiety around food.

Respect Your Shih Tzu’s Space

Just like humans, dogs appreciate their personal space, especially when it comes to mealtime. Avoid hovering over your Shih Tzu or reaching into their food bowl while they’re eating. Give them the space they need to enjoy their meal in peace.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in shaping your Shih Tzu’s behavior. Whenever your pup displays good mealtime manners, such as waiting patiently for their food or backing away when asked, be sure to reward them with praise, treats, or affection.

Gradually Introduce Distractions

Once your Shih Tzu has mastered the basics of mealtime manners, gradually introduce distractions during feeding time. Start with mild distractions, such as gentle petting or speaking softly, and gradually increase the level of distraction over time. This helps your pup learn to focus on their food despite external stimuli.

Addressing Food Aggression

If your Shih Tzu displays signs of food aggression, it’s essential to address the issue promptly and effectively. Consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can provide personalized guidance and support based on your pup’s specific needs.

Implement Behavior Modification Techniques

Behavior modification techniques, such as desensitization and counterconditioning, can be highly effective in addressing food aggression in Shih Tzus. These techniques involve gradually exposing your pup to the triggers of their aggression in a controlled setting and rewarding calm, non-aggressive behavior.

Avoid Punishment

Punishment is not an effective way to address food aggression in Shih Tzus and can exacerbate the problem. Instead of scolding or punishing your pup for displaying aggressive behavior, focus on positive reinforcement and redirection techniques to encourage desirable behaviors.


Mealtime should be a joyous occasion for both you and your Shih Tzu, free from the stress of food aggression. By implementing proper training, establishing a feeding routine, and using positive reinforcement techniques, you can help your pup develop excellent mealtime manners and enjoy peaceful mealtimes for years to come.


Can food aggression in Shih Tzus be cured?

Yes, with patience, consistency, and proper training, food aggression in Shih Tzus can be effectively managed and even eliminated.

Should I feed my Shih Tzu in a separate room to prevent food aggression?

It’s not necessary to feed your Shih Tzu in a separate room, but you should establish a designated feeding area where your pup feels safe and secure.

My Shih Tzu growls when I approach their food bowl. What should I do?

If your Shih Tzu displays food aggression, avoid approaching their food bowl while they’re eating. Instead, work on training exercises to teach your pup that it’s safe for you to be near their food.

Is it normal for Shih Tzus to guard their food?

Food guarding behavior is relatively common in dogs, including Shih Tzus. However, with proper training and management, you can help your pup develop better mealtime manners.

How long does it take to train a Shih Tzu to have good mealtime manners?

The time it takes to train a Shih Tzu to have good mealtime manners can vary depending on the individual dog and their previous experiences. Consistency and patience are key factors in achieving success

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