Potty Train a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu are a smart, highly trainable breed of dog. If you want to potty train your Shih Tzu, you should be able to do so with a bit of patience. To start, establish some boundaries. Make sure your Shih Tzu knows where and when she should relieve herself. From there, reinforce behavior with praise and treats. Make sure to avoid certain training methods, like scolding, that could alienate your Shih Tzu.


Establishing Boundaries

  1. Keep your Shih Tzu in a crate. Until your Shih Tzu is fully potty trained, you should leave her in a crate when you're not able to supervise her. When you're out at work or school, or when you're sleeping, keep your Shih Tzu in a crate.
    • Choose a crate big enough for your Shih Tzu to comfortably stand and turn around in. You can make your Shih Tzu's crate more comfortable by putting toys, bedding, and water in the crate.
    • Crate training plays on a dog's natural instincts. In the wild, dogs sleep in dens. Your dog may actually enjoy being in her crate. Keep the crate out and open during the day, allowing your dog to go in and out of the crate as she chooses. This will make your dog more willing to enter the crate when you need to put her away.[1]
    • The crate is a tool for potty training, but it should not be used as a form of punishment. A dog is unlikely to soil her crate as she sees it as part of her home and territory. Therefore, you can use the crate to keep your dog from eliminating in the house.[1]
  2. Maintain a regular feeding schedule. If you keep your Shih Tzu on a regular feeding schedule, she's more likely to use the bathroom at regular times. Try to feed your Shih Tzu around the same times each day. Your Shih Tzu will usually need to go out about half an hour after feeding.
    • While a schedule is important, you should not withhold water from your dog to prevent her from urinating overnight. Limiting your dog's access to water can be unhealthy; dogs should be provided with fresh water at all times.[2]
  3. Watch for signs your Shih Tzu needs to go out. When first potty training your Shih Tzu, it's best to take her out when it looks like she's about to use the bathroom. This will teach her to associate going outside with relieving herself. If you see your Shih Tzu squatting or sniffing, take her outside before she eliminates in the house.[3]
    • If you're potty training a puppy, keep in mind young dogs need to go out more often. Your Shih Tzu will need to use the bathroom about every 2 hours when she's young. Be vigilant and keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu when she's a puppy.[3]
    • Puppies, much like babies, have little control over accidents. Therefore, vigilance is important. Accidents are inevitable with young dogs, but you can lessen their frequency by taking the dog out every couple of hours.[3]
  4. Let your Shih Tzu out around the same times each day. Having a fixed walking schedule can help train your Shih Tzu to eliminate outside. Your Shih Tzu will learn when she can be expected to be let out. This may make it easier for her to wait instead of eliminating inside.[3]
    • As stated, with a young dog you'll have to schedule a walk every two hours. Once you start to notice you're Shih Tzu eliminating less, you can space out the time between walks.[3]
    • You should always let your Shih Tzu out in the morning, shortly after feeding your dog. Make sure to let the dog out just before going to bed as well. This will lessen the likelihood of overnight accidents.
  5. Designate a potty spot, if possible. If possible, designating a potty spot in your hard can help with training. Your Shih Tzu will recognize the smell of urine and feces, encouraging her to eliminate again. You can, for example, always have your Shih Tzu eliminate in the corner of your yard. This can help potty training go more smoothly.[4]
    • If you do not have a backyard, having a potty spot can be more difficult. However, you may find there's a particular patch of grass your Shih Tzu goes for on walks. You could try walking your Shih Tzu near this patch of grass to encourage elimination.
    • If you can't designate a potty spot, do not worry too much. While a designated potty spot can be helpful for a Shih Tzu, it is only one component of training. A regular feeding and walking schedule, as well as positive reinforcement, are also effective means of potty training a Shih Tzu.

Reinforcing Behavior

  1. Consider how to reward your Shih Tzu. Some owners find rewarding their dogs for eliminating outside is helpful. Shih Tzus are people-friendly animals who tend to want to please their owners. Offering a reward when your Shih Tzu eliminates outside can help encourage the behavior.
    • Praise and treats are the main forms of rewards you can use. You can carry a small bag of treats with you and offer your dog a treat when she goes outside. You can also praise the dog after she eliminates outside. Say something like, "Good girl!" and then pet your Shih Tzu.[3]
    • You may want to use treats at first, when your Shih Tzu is first learning. However, many owners wean their Shih Tzus off treats as they get accustom to a new bathroom schedule. You may not want your Shih Tzu to always expect a treat for basic behavior. Consider tapering off the treats as your Shih Tzus begins to learn to go to the bathroom outside.[3]
  2. Reward immediately. Dogs live in the immediate. Reward your Shih Tzu as soon as she eliminates outside. Say "Good girl!" or give your Shih Tzu a treat as soon as she finishes urinating or defecating. Be consistent. Make sure to reward every time your Shih Tzu engages in the desired behavior.[5]
  3. Think of a command. It can sometimes be helpful to have a command to give your Shih Tzu. Something like, "Go potty!" can be helpful. You can use this to remind your Shih Tzu she should use the bathroom when outside, further reinforcing the desired behavior.[4]
    • Say "Go potty!" when you know your Shih Tzu is about to eliminate. If you see her squatting or sniffing, for example, say, "Go potty!"
    • Eventually, your Shih Tzu will learn "Go potty!" means she should use the bathroom. If your Shih Tzu is dawdling on a walk, saying "Go potty!" may encourage her to eliminate.
  4. Scold in the immediate moment. In the event you catch your Shih Tzu eliminating indoors, scold in the immediate moment. Give a firm "No!" as you clap your hands. Then, immediately take your Shih Tzu outdoors to eliminate. As stated, dogs live in the immediate. If you don't scold your Shih Tzu in the moment an accident is happening, the dog will not understand why she is being scolded.[5]

Avoiding Pitfalls

  1. Do not punish a Shih Tzu. Shih Tzus do not respond well to punishment. If you see your Shih Tzu has had an accident, it is too late to scold the dog. Punishing your Shih Tzu after an accident has occurred will only serve to confuse her.[5]
    • Never put your dog in her crate as a form of punishment. You should never use physical violence, like hitting the dog, as a form of punishment.[5]
    • You should never yell at a Shih Tzu. The only form of scolding you should use is a firm "No!" Raising your voice can startle your dog, creating an environment of fear. This can make training more difficult.[5]
  2. Clean accidents thoroughly. In the event of an accident, clean the affected area thoroughly. Use an odor-neutralizing spray and make sure you get out any traces of urine or feces. You want to make sure the area is clean. Shih Tzus are drawn to smell. If an area smells like urine or fecal matter, they're likely to eliminate in that area again.[4]
  3. Have patience. Shih Tzus are highly trainable dogs, but it may take a few weeks for your dog to be successfully house-trained. If you're working with an older Shih Tzu, training can take longer. However, consistent training over a long period of time will eventually pay off. Even if you are frustrated, try to have patience while you're training your Shih Tzu.

Sources and Citations

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