Shih Tzu Training
Shih Tzus are as stubborn in training as they are sweet in your lap. They are not unintelligent dogs; they are just quite independent with a willful streak. One study showed that Shih Tzus took 80 to 100 repetitions of a command to obey just 25 percent of the time! But with patience and consistency, your Shih Tzu will know when to “sit” and when to “stay” in no time.
While the basics of training are pretty much the same across all breeds, some practices and short cuts are best for the stubborn little Shih Tzus. Trying these tips will yield results leaving you and your Shih Tzu all the happier for it. The Shih Tzu will be happy to please the most important person in their life: you!
Your Shih Tzu is happy when you are. Whether you’re housebreaking or teaching commands, when they do something correctly, it’s best to act as if that just made your day! They will respond to the tone of your voice, but body language and your pitch will be picked up on as well. Smile, give enthusiastic praise with your voice, and get down to their level and pet them lovingly.
One of the most important things to do is to house train your Shih Tzu. You can start house breaking as early as 8 to 10 weeks. A dog is only physically able to hold their elimination for so long and to ensure that your dog understands that the only acceptable bathroom is outside, you have to take charge.
Take your dog outside when they first wake and every hour to 90 minutes in the early days, so they get used to the fact that when they “go” outside this is what pleases you most. You should also aim to take them out about 10 to 20 minutes after each meal, and in the evening before bedtime.
One method is called the “tether method”, which involves having the dog on a leash and allows you to see your dog at all times. Each time they make a potty motion, bring them to the area you would like them to go. You may choose the broader area, but you must give your Shih Tzu the freedom of choosing the exact spot. Allow them to sniff and find the spot. If this is done consistently, your dog should be fully housebroken at around the 7-8 months mark.
Training for basic commands is a great way to teach your dog what you are communicating, and eliminates potential stress. If your Shih Tzu does not know what you want from him, he will not be able to please you, and that will distress him. At first, dogs will obey commands to receive something, whether it be your praise or treats. After some time, obeying your voice will become automatic.
You can teach your dog to sit, stay, come, and heel from the very early days, from around 10 weeks old. By the time your Shih Tzu is 1-year-old, he or she should have a clear understanding of these basic commands. You can always add some advanced commands at a later date but remember that training should ALWAYS be conducted in a calm environment with lots of patience and love.
Teaching your Shih Tzu tricks won’t aid in his emotional health or development; it is simply amusing and the dog enjoys this one-to one interaction too. Some dogs enjoy performing these amusing feats, as the praise, smiles, laughs, and treats make them happy!
It is 100% true that positive reinforcement works and that punishing a dog for doing something wrong works 0% of the time. It is okay to be frustrated some days, but yelling, acting upset, or even hitting the dog will do nothing, and hitting is simply unacceptable. Puppies are NOT born housebroken or knowing to listen to commands.
Making it clear to them that you are pleased when they do things right, and simply ignoring other unsavoury behaviour, will be the quickest route to success.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!
When we learn something, we do not immediately retain it. You do not know how to drive a car because someone showed you how for 10 minutes and then asked you again a week later. It is the same with your Shih Tzu, who needs to be told and shown what to do many times.
Being shown something once is random. Being shown the same thing 4-5 times incites interest, and being shown constantly and consistently for several weeks creates a routine, and communicates what is expected.
The other side of repetition is consistency. This is very important when it comes to housebreaking. Shih Tzus are very intelligent and clever creatures, however, if an owner is giving mixed signals, they won’t know what to do. This is why, at bathroom time, ONE area should be chosen in which the Shih Tzu may choose just the right spot to “go”. Stand in the middle of the area with your dog on a leash, and allow them to walk the diameter until they are ready.
Consistency involves mindful planning. Will the spot be accessible in the winter, or does it flood in heavy rains? Is it close enough to the house that you won’t need to shovel a long path to it when it snows? Think of all possible scenarios.
Understand Your Shih Tzu
Can you program a computer? Cook a gourmet meal? Juggle? Everyone has the things they can do and the things they can’t, and Shih Tzus are no different. Just like you, a dog usually is not able to fetch, come, sit, or lay down until they are taught the basics. They cannot learn to heel until they understand the feel of the harness or leash and are old enough to walk out in public.
In housebreaking, puppies do not have fully developed bowl and bladder muscles until they are about 7-8 months old. Until then, they can only hold it for so long. Every Shih Tzu of any age has to go first thing in the morning and the last thing before bed. If you don’t take them outside, it won’t be their fault if they go in the house.
You Are A Team!
When training, think of it as something that you and your Shih Tzu are doing together as a team. He is looking for your guidance and instructions. He looks to you to see if he’s done the right thing the right way. If you take the time, with consistency and patience, it will pay off and you will have a well-trained, happy little dog.