Q: My one-year-old Shih Tzu doesn't seem happy on her walks. She's very aware of everything around her, and I can't talk to people when we're out because she starts to bark and snap. She has started to growl at everyone she sees and is quite aggressive towards other dogs. If I try to block her view she turns that aggression onto me.
She also has a sensitive tummy, so I can't give her too many treats to help train her out of this behaviour. It's a shame because she is lovely when we're in the house. What can I do?
A: Shih Tzu's can sometimes be a little stubborn! As Maisie has a sensitive tummy use her ordinary dry food as treats in training. It sounds as if Maisie is walked on lead? Did she get the chance to socialise with other dogs on walks as a puppy? The main socialisation period is 3-12 weeks. If yes, her behaviour could be linked to frustration - she wants to interact with other dogs but is being prevented from doing so as she is on lead. This can then lead to redirected aggression, which might explain why she's being aggressive with you.
However, as you feel that she is not happy on walks and she is also growling and snapping at people, the behaviour is probably more serious and is likely to be fear-related. I would recommend that you get Maisie professionally assessed so that a Behaviour Modification Programme can be compiled for her. See www.apbc.org.uk.
Inga MacKellar, animal behaviourist