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Training Tips

Shih Tzu Training Tips

Overview

While the basics of training are the same for most dogs, there are certainly short cuts and Shih Tzu training tips that will make housebreaking, command training, and other types of training much easier for you.

When you implement the following, you will find that both your Tzu and you are happier... A well trained dog is a happy dog because they are pleasing the person that they love most: You!

Let's look at the ways that you can make any sort of training as effective as possible and also stress-free.
tiny Shih Tzu puppy
Photo courtesy of 
Twa-Nas Pe-kae Shih Tzu

Tip #1- Correctly Mark the Moment

One of the most important keys is to mark the exact moment that your Shih Tzu performs a desired action. 

This is applicable to any sort of training, including housebreaking and commands. 

It is also important for when you do not want your Shih Tzu to do something, such as not barking or not jumping.

In order for a dog to truly understand that an action is correct, two things are needed: 
1) Praise and 2) Reward.

For praise:

If you are not enthusiastic to train your Shih Tzu, your puppy or dog will not eager all on his own.

The strong human-to-canine bond ensures that your kind, happy words of praise drive home the importance of following a command or performing a certain action. It's best to include the desired action within the phrase you use to offer praise.

For example, 'Good sit, good!' or 'Good pitty-potty, Good girl!'

For reward:

There are a couple of treat tips that will help increase training success:

1. Always have treats within a zipped plastic bag and either in your pocket or very easily accessible. If you need to go searching for the reward treat it will not have as much of an effect.

2. The training treat should be a treat that is not given out as a normal snack. If you've found a great brand of snacks that you like, you can stick with the brand, but only offer one certain flavor for training. For example, bacon & apple for training and other flavor options for in between meals.

3. The training treat should be appropriate sized. This is not meant to be a snack that a Shih Tzu munches on as a meal supplement. Rather, it should be sized relatively small to offer a quick burst of yummy flavor to mark an action.

In addition, large training treats will fill a Shih Tzu up and can interfere with meal time.
An example of how this works:

You are house training your Shih Tzu. You have your chosen treats in a small zipped plastic on the counter near the exit door.

You bring your Shih Tzu outside to the designated area. As you are leaving, you say 'Let's go pitty potty!'

You stand in the center of the area, and allow your puppy to choose the perfect spot.

Your Shih Tzu pees... Great job! But, now you must immediately make sure that your dog know this.

As soon as your male places his leg back down or your girl stands up, you use a super-happy voice to say, "Good pitty-potty, that's so good!' while bringing the treat to his/her mouth. 

Now, both your words and the reward have sent a strong message. Each time this is done, you are one step closer to success. 
Recommended training treats are below. These are sized perfectly for Shih Tzu, are all-natural, and are made in the USA. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontally to see all 4. 

Shih Tzu Training Tip # 2 - Only Use Positive Reinforcement

It is 100% true that positive reinforcement works and that punishing a dog for doing something wrong works 0% of the time. If taken to the extreme, punishment only serves to make a dog fear you, not respect you. 

While you may feel frustrated on certain days, it will do neither of you any good to raise your voice or act upset. 

In some cases, this can be misinterpreted. For example, if a dog is barking a lot and an owner starts yelling, the dog can think that the owner is just joining in.

And in other instances, the moment is lost and the dog will not understand what he is being scolded for. This is very true in regard to potty training. Often, by the time an owner sees an accident this is in a dog's past and he will not understand what he did wrong. 

If you actually are witnessing an accident, you can indeed raise your voice or clap your hands to cause your Shih Tzu to take pause; and then, you should run over, scoop him up and bring him outside. This should then be followed by the aforementioned praise and reward. 

So, always make it very clear when you are pleased and simply ignore things done wrong. This is the fastest route to success.
funny Shih Tzu
Photo courtesy of
 Serendipity Shih Tzu

Tip #3 Repetition

Canines have both short and long-term memory.

The key to any type of training is to offer enough repetition that something moves into a dog's long-term memory. 

And, you'll want that something to be pleasant (via the praise & reward). 

Being shown what to do on a random basis will not bring out results. 

However, being shown every day, multiple times per day will help you achieve the desired outcome. 
Be sure that everyone in the household in on the same page so that even if you are not there, the training repetition can continue. 

How long it takes for a Shih Tzu to learn something does vary. However, in general most Shih Tzu can learn a command within a week, house training within 2 months, and behavioral actions can vary from 1 to 4 weeks. 

Shih Tzu Training Tip # 4- Consistency

Consistency is the partner to repetition. 

When you are training your Shih Tzu, try to make each session or training opportunity exactly the same with as little variation as possible. 

For housebreaking, take your puppy out on schedule. Use the same phrases each day for praise. Head directly to one designated area (simply going 'somewhere outside' will set you back). 

For commands, have daily sessions and keep those sessions the same length. 

You'll want everyone in the household to be training your Shih Tzu in the same way. Progress will be halted if owners are using different techniques. 

Tip # 5 - Understanding Capabilities

While this breed is very clever and likes to please, it's important to keep your expectations realistic. 

In most cases, training for one thing is built upon a previous element. For example, 'fetch' or 'down' is often learned more easily after the basic command of 'sit' is understood.

In regard to house training, even if a puppy completely understands what to do, he may not be able to physically follow through. 

Puppies do not have fully developed bladder and bowel muscles. So, it is not until the 7 to 8 month mark that a puppy is even able to hold his needs for 6 to 7 hours. 
shih-tzu-relaxing
Susy, at 2 years old, photo courtesy of Andrea

Tip # 6 - Teamwork

Think of training as something that you and your Shih Tzu are doing together as a team. He or she is looking to you for instruction and guidance, and this should be delivered in an upbeat, positive manner.

All types of training should be fun learning experiences, and great bonding experiences. 
Related Pages:

Shih Tzu Does Not Bark - Why a pup may not be barking, ways to help a dog find his voice and medical reasons why a dog may suddenly be silent. 
House training a Shih Tzu Puppy - Step by step guidance for successful potty training. 
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