Even though Shih Tzus are smaller than many other breeds, size doesn't matter to them. These little dogs love to roam around with, socialize with, and play with dogs that are much larger. This is critical for them, particularly at a young age, so they don't have "unreasonable fears" of new people, situations and dogs. However, it is up to you as their owner to manage new encounters, from setting them up to monitoring play between dogs, to ensure that socialization has a positive impact on your pet.
Before socializing your dog, you need to first understand that there are social ranks among these animals. Generally, rank is determined based on age. But the sex of the dog also comes into play. Females, for example, are known for respectful yielding and submission. The "social maturity" of a Shih Tzu starts to develop when they reach the age of 18-36 months. Social maturity is also dependent upon sex, temperament, and size, in most cases.
It is important to socialize your pet for a number of reasons. One is that your pet will become friendly with other people and animals if properly socialized. They will also tend to be more active and engage in play and exercise. Another very important reason to socialize your pet is to prevent a "fear biting" response, wherein your pup gets terrified around other animals or people and will bite. This can be dangerous and can lead to injury, so socializing your pet to avoid this response is highly recommended. After all, you want to be able to take your pet to the dog park or enjoy having guests in your home, don't you?
You don't want to simply dump your Shih Tzu pup into a situation that makes him or her fearful. To begin socializing your dog, start off slow. Take your pet somewhere new, and go to this place every day or at least on a frequent basis for about three months. This can be the pet store, a dog park, or even just a regular park. This will allow your pet to encounter new people, new sights, and new smells - which he or she will become accustomed to over time.
Your dog can pick up on how you feel, and so it is your duty to become familiar with the places where you have your outings, and enjoy being there. You don't want them to pick up on any negative feelings you have. If you don't enjoy where you are going, choose another spot that both you and your pet can learn to love. You also need to make sure that you do not put your dog in any danger. Protect your pet, but don't be overprotective. If, for example, a large dog is charging or nipping at your dog, it's your responsibility to step in. However, if the larger dog isn't reacting negatively, there's no need to make your dog feel fearful.
When meeting other pets, talk to their owners to find out if the pet is friendly. If the other dog is not friendly, move to the other side of the street, keeping your pet away without invoking panic. If the dog is friendly, however, let the dogs greet each other, mingle, and settle on their own. By doing this, you are getting your Shih Tzu acclimated to meeting new people and four-legged friends, and you'll be more likely to have a healthy and happy pup, whether you're out meeting other people or just relaxing at home.