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Training Tips

Shih Tzu Training Tips

tiny Shih Tzu puppy
Photo courtesy of 
Twa-Nas Pe-kae Shih Tzu
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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 and command training 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 the most effective and also stress-free.
Tip #1

Your Shih Tzu wants to make you happy. When you are training him or her for anything from housebreaking to command training, whenever they do something correctly, it is important to act as if you are extremely happy....as if they just did the best thing in the entire world. They not only listen to your voice, but pick up on your tone and even read your body language. Therefore, smile, give praise with a tone that shows you are very pleased, get down to their level and pat them with love.

For housebreaking: One of the Shih Tzu training tips is understanding how often to bring your little one outside. Housebreaking your Shih Tzu may begin as early as 8 to 10 weeks. A dog can only physically hold their elimination for a certain amount of time. A 3 month old puppy can last for about 3 hours, a 4 month old puppy about 4 hours and so on. To ensure that your Shih Tzu understands that eliminating outside is the only acceptable area, you must take the lead. A dog must be brought outside:
  • When they first wake up
  • Every hour that relates to their age, i.e. every 2 hours for a 2 month old
  • 20 minutes after each meal
  • In the evening before bedtime
It is suggested to use the tether method to train your Shih Tzu. This simply involves attaching the lease to your dog and the other end to you, thus allowing you to be able to keep an eye on your dog at all times. Each time they make a motion to eliminate, you will bring them to the designated area to do so.

When you bring your Shih Tzu outside, be sure to have them on a leash. You may choose the larger area of where you wish for them to eliminate; however your dog must be given the freedom of choosing the exact location. Your leash should extend out approximately 6 feet and within this radius your dog should be allowed to sniff, smell and take their time to find the perfect spot. By the time your dog is 7 months old, they should be fully housebroken.

For command training: Training for basic commands is vitally important; as your dog will need to understand certain words that you say; this will eliminate potential stress. If your Shih Tzu does not know what you want, he is not able to please you. At first, dogs will learn commands to receive something... this will be your praise and treats. But after a certain amount of time, following a command becomes an automated response.

Beginning at 8 weeks old and up to any age, you should teach your dog to:
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Heel
By the time your Shih Tzu is 1 year old, he or she should have a clear understanding of basic commands. Adding on some advance commands may be taught after the basic ones are learned. Training should always be done is in a calm environment with patience and love.

Heeling - For detailed step-by-step instructions for teaching this important element, see our Heeling page.

Tricks- Again, at the 1 year mark, your dog will be ready to learn some tricks if you wish. Learning to perform amusing tricks is optional; as the above elements will help your dog to grow up emotionally healthy, tricks are simply something you may teach if you wish to. Some dogs love to perform for their owners, as the praise, smiles, laughs and treats make the dog happy in return.

Shih Tzu Training Tip # 2

It is 100% true that positive reinforcement works and that punishing a dog for doing something wrong works 0% of the time. While you may feel frustrated on certain days, it will do neither of you any good to yell or act upset. Remember, you WANTED to have a puppy....This means that you take on the responsibility of training them. Remember as well that pups are NOT born knowing what to do in regard to housebreaking or listening to commands. Therefore, make it clear to them that you are pleased when they do things correct and simple ignore things done wrong. This is the fastest route to success.
funny Shih Tzu
Photo courtesy of
 Serendipity Shih Tzu
Tip # 3

Repetition, repetition, and again we say repetition! If you sat down at a computer to learn a new software program and someone took 10 minutes to show you what to do, would you remember it all one week later? We are guessing the answer is no. Therefore, remember that your Shih Tzu needs to be told and shown what to do many times. 

Being shown 1 time is random, being shown 4-5 times peeks their interest a bit... Being shown all of the time for several weeks creates a routine and an understanding of what is expected and what is not acceptable.
Shih Tzu Training Tip # 4

Consistency is the partner to repetition. This is particularly important when it comes to house training. This bred is very intelligent, however if an owner is giving mixed signals, what is a dog to do? Therefore, when it comes to bathroom time, ONE area should be chosen. Within that area, the Shih Tzu should be allowed to pick out just the right spot. This can be accomplished by standing in the middle of the area, with your Tzu on harness and leash....allowing them to walk within the diameter until they are ready.  

In order to remain consist ant, think about your choice of area... Will it be accessible in the winter? Does it tend to flood during heavy spring rains? It is close enough to the house so that you do not need to shovel a 50 foot pathway to it when it snows? When choosing, think about all of the seasons.

Note- For detailed step-by-step training for heeling, see our Heeling page.
Tip # 5

Understand your Shih Tzu capabilities. A dog usually cannot learn to fetch, come or lay down until they know the basic command of Sit. They cannot heel until they understand the feel of the harness and leash and are old enough to walk out in public (after having their puppy shots)....

For house training, a puppy does not have fully developed bowel and bladder muscles until about 8 months of age. Until that time, they can only hold on for so long! A 3 month old for about 3 hours, a 5 month old for 5 hours and so on. Every Tzu, whether a pup or adult must go first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If you do not bring your Shih Tzu outside when they wake up, it is not their fault that they pee on the floor!
cute little white and brindle Shih Tzu
Photo courtesy of 
Sorenson's Shih Tzu
Tip # 6

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. They look to you to let them know if they perform a correct action. They want to please you and if you take the time and have the patience, you will both reach the same goal.
Related Page:

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. 
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