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Do Shih Tzus Like to Cuddle and Be Held? (What Owners Say!)

Their squishy little faces and their fluffy bodies make them so sweet and cuddly they may as well be a living stuffed animal. Of all the small breeds Shih Tzus are touted as the friendly easy-going family dog. They may just be the perfect pet for a family who loves small cute and cuddly, but I wanted to know how much do Shih Tzus really like to cuddle? Are they the cuddliest of them all? I had to know, so I decided to ask other owners to hear what they had to say.

Shih Tzus are very affectionate and when they are in the right mood love to cuddle and be held. They enjoy cuddling and always want to be with or next to their owners. Out of 375 people surveyed 69% of owners said that their Shih Tzus love to cuddle with them. Less than 19% preferred little to no cuddles.

Why do Shih Tzus love cuddling so much, who do they love to cuddle with, do they like to be held, and what about that small that percentage that don’t like to cuddle? Is it something their owners have done, or is it their personalities? Is there anything you can do to encourage your dog to cuddle with you? Keep reading to learn all the secrets!

Thank you Patti L. and Kristen G. for use of these photos!

Are Shih Tzus Affectionate?

Shih Tzus are very affectionate and outgoing dogs. I asked a group of Shih Tzu owners how much their dogs liked to cuddle with them on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most cuddly to 1 being not at all and got some not-so-surprising results.

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145 people said that their Shih Tzus were a 10 on the cuddle scale and another 72 didn’t think 10 was high enough. They gave answers such as 1 trillion, 10 x 10, and 100%, as well as descriptions such as my Shih Tzu is always near me or in my lap!

Over 80% rated their Shih Tzu 5-10 on the cuddle scale.

With that being said, there was a fair amount more than I expected that said their Shih Tzu didn’t like cuddling at all! 5 people said their Shih Tzu never want to cuddle with them. Around 18% of owners rated their Shih Tzu a 3 or lower on the cuddle scale. This was a higher percentage than Yorkies, Maltese, and Chihuahuas, with only Papillons being higher no cuddling rate at 26%.

Some other interesting things I learned from owners:

  • Female Shih Tzus wanted more cuddles when in heat.
  • One Shih Tzu owner said their dog only wanted cuddles when they heard loud noises.
  • Several owners said that their Shih Tzu preferred cuddling with their spouse over them.
  • One person said their dog was like a cat and needed her space.
  • And another preferred to lay on the cold hard floor as opposed to cuddling.

Why Shih Tzus Like to Cuddle

Shih Tzus have a very interesting history that can give us some insight as to why they may be so affectionate. In earlier history they were bred for the Emperor of China to sit around the palace and bark when people or animals approached, this was supposed to alert people to the presence of unwanted visitors. Soon after that, the Shih Tzu became a favorite of the Imperial Chinese court as companion dogs rather than working dogs. 

So now we know that the biggest reason why they are so cuddly is because for 100’s of years that is exactly what they have been bred for. Shih Tzus sole purpose in modern-day breeding is to be companion dogs, and often breeders will choose which dogs to mate based on their affectionate characteristics.

Even most Shih Tzus that don’t necessarily love cuddling or being held still love to be near their owners. They like to follow their owners around and be near to them whenever they are sitting or resting. Sometimes they even sit and stare at their owners as if to bed them for more love and attention. So here is a solid list of why your Shih Tzu loves to cuddle and be held!

Because of the Bond and Trust you Have

When a Shih Tzu has established a bond and trusts its owner then it is likely to show that trust and affection by wanting to be with and around its owner at all times.

Owners who care for their Shih Tzus by feeding them, grooming them playing with them, and just spending time with them will gain their trust and can build a bond with them fairly easily. This helps your Shih Tzu understand who takes care of them and in a way presents you as their pack leader creating an instinctual trust with you.

This is one of the reasons that the Shih Tzu breed is so cuddly and affectionate. This is also the reason that you may notice that your Shih Tzu favors one person in your household more than others. If there is one person who is consistently spending more time caring for and playing with your dog it’s likely that will be their preferred person to be with.

To Show Love and Affection

Shih Tzus like to cuddle with their owners to show them love and affection and receive that love in return.

Science has proven (link to US National Library of Medicine Study) that when owners and their dogs are engaged in activities like cuddling and showing each other affection both of them receive a surge of Oxytocin, the hormone dubbed as the LOVE hormone. It makes both our little pooch and us feel happier, calmer and loved.

This increase in Oxytocin has a lot of positive effects for both you and your Shih Tzu. It’s proven to reduce stress levels, help owners who may suffer from anxiety or depression, lower blood pressure, and helps us stay present in the moment. Your dog will also benefit from this surge in the love hormone.

Shih Tzus are very affectionate and that makes them great dogs for families and kids.

Find Out Why Shih Tzus are the Best Dogs for Kids!

Shih Tzus Cuddle for Warmth

Since Shih Tzus are on average are a fairly small dog and only grow to be around 9-16lbs, they can easily get cold more quickly than bigger breeds. It’s instinct for any dog to find its pack and huddle up together for warmth when feeling too chilly, but especially for the smaller Shih Tzu.

You may notice that your Shih Tzu burrows under the blankets and hides for the same reason. Your dog will do this when they are feeling cold and are looking for a nice comfy warm place to settle down. If your Shih Tzu can be close to you sharing your body heat, in his mind, that is a great place to be!

Shih Tzus Cuddle for Protection.

Shih Tzus are normally very playful, perky, and very friendly! Even though they are very friendly with strangers and generally do really well being around other animals it’s in a dog’s nature to seek a place of protection and comfort when wanting to relax. For this reason, they will often seek you out and want to be near you or in your lap while sleeping so that they can feel the protection that comes from being with their pack.

This may explain why the percentage of Shih Tzu’s that don’t like to cuddle is a bigger number than that of some of the other small breed dogs. Shih Tzu personalities are more friendly and confident, and less weary of strangers than dogs like Chihuahuas, or Malteses. This could mean that they feel more confident and safe when they sleep and less of a need or desire to be with their humans while sleeping.

Shih Tzus cuddle because it’s instinct

Newborn puppies need to cuddle closely with their mothers as a way to survive. They need the life-giving milk that they provide as well as the protection and warmth. They instinctively know they are helpless until they get older open their eyes and become more curious.

This survival instinct goes back to the beginning of time even before dogs were domesticated. as well as protection for themselves, they can also be somewhat territorial and protective of others in their family, (think back to the Imperial Chinese using the dogs to alert of strangers). You may notice this if your Shih Tzu has attached to one person in your family. Even though he is most likely fiercely loyal to the entire family, he may cuddle with his person more.

Why Shih Tzus Don’t Like to Cuddle or be Held

There are many things to figure when trying to figure out why your Shih Tzu may not like to cuddle with you.

It could be too hot. Unlike us our dogs can not sweat through their skin. The only way they can cool themselves off is through their nose and the pads of their feet, as well as panting. Because of this they are much more sensitive to temperature changes. If it’s very warm your dog my be avoiding your snuggles because it doesn’t want that extra body heat.

They have been abused or had bad experiences in the past. For Shih Tzus that really don’t enjoy cuddling at all this is usually the most likely scenario! If you have a rescue or your dog has had negative experiences with cuddling others in the past then this normally loyal trusting breed could be struggling with trust issues.

It’s possible to regain its trust and have a strong bond with your dog, but it will take a lot of time and patience and they may not ever warm up to the idea of super close snuggle time.

Their personality will have a lot to do with whether or not they want to cuddle up to you. Some dogs are naturally more energetic and inquisitive and don’t want to slow down enough to relax and snuggle. Some Shih Tzus are quite confident and independent and just prefer to have their space.

You’re not their person. A lot of owners admit that their Shih Tzus may like to cuddle with another member of the household a little more than others. Shih Tzus can choose a favorite person and may prefer to be with them when possible. Their favorite person is often the one who plays with, feeds, gives affection and attention to the most.

Your lifestyle and home dynamics can play a big part in whether or not your dog is super cuddly and affectionate. If as a puppy you spend a lot of time snuggling on the couch and holding your dog in your lap then it will naturally lead them to be more snuggly. If you are a very active family and are on the go exploring and moving around a lot your dog will tend to follow your lead.

They are still a puppy and full of energy. Puppies tend to be a bit more rambunctious and may not slow down for cuddles very often in their first year of life. They are so busy exploring and trying to figure things out they will tell you they don’t have time for those cuddles. It’s usually very easy to steal some cuddles from them, however, once they nod off to sleep. It can even be a great way to train your puppy to cuddle (Link to my article can I train my dog to cuddle) and get them used to it.

They are getting older and don’t enjoy being held as much. Some Shih Tzu owners said that their dogs became less cuddly as they got older. This could be for a few reasons, but the most likely one is that as they age they start to suffer from aches and pains, and shifting or movement from you while cuddling could disrupt their sleep and make it less enjoyable.

Can I Teach My Shih Tzu to Cuddle and Enjoy Being Held

You can train a dog to do many things including learning how to lay down and sit still, whether that be in your lap on next to you it’s possible to help your dog learn to be closer to you and share some of the same space. However, you should never force your dog to cuddle with you or be more affectionate than it’s comfortable with. Here are some ways you can encourage your Shih Tzu to enjoy giving cuddles and being held.

  • Understand a Baseline: Notice where your Shih Tzu is at with their desire to cuddle. When do they like to do it, when don’t they? Do they shy away from petting? Is there a particular way they like to be pet and held? Can you recognize their body language and what they are trying to tell you?
  • Take advantage of their natural cuddle times: Once you know when, where and how they like to cuddle take advantage of those times and work it into your schedule so you can get maximum cuddle time and your pup will get used to the routine of it. Some owners really like to cuddle with their Shih Tzus in bed at night and in the morning, but before you decide to let your pup sleep in bed with you check out this article I wrote about the pros and cons of your dog sleeping with you.
  • Wear Them Out: A tired dog is a well-behaved and happy dog and a lot of times a cuddly dog! Never try and force your Shih Tzu to cuddle with you especially when they are full of energy and want to play.
  • Bond with your Shih Tzu and Build Trust: The more your Shih Tzu trusts you the more affection and love they will naturally want to give you. Doing things with your Shih Tzu you know they will enjoy will help you become closer not only emotionally, but physically as well. This can include playing with toys or hand-feeding them.
  • Encourage your Shih Tzu and reward Behavior you Like: When your dog is cuddling calmly with you in your lap or by your side make it a pleasant experience with a high-value reward attached.
  • Get Good at Basic Commands: When your Shih Tzu gets good at commands like sit, stay, and settle, you can use those to your advantage to help them learn to be calm when it’s cuddle time.
  • Name the Cue: As with training your Shih Tzu most things you’ll want them to understand the word associated with what they are doing. When they know what a cuddle is called then as you get better at communicating with each other you’ll be able to ask for a cuddle and receive on-demand.
  • Respect Boundaries: It’s important to remember that most dogs do not like hugs in the traditional sense. Being held too tightly can make them feel agitated and stressed. Kisses and getting into your Yorky’s face can also be upsetting to them and possibly dangerous for you.

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