Are you looking for the definitive guide to Shih Tzu potty training? We know that the web is full of potty training guides, we know also that dog training is often contradictory and confusing. Which is exactly why we have created the beginners guide to Shih Tzu potty training.
First of all let’s talk about Shih Tzu training for a minute. By definition the word means teaching something, which is great because that’s what we are doing. We are teaching your Shih Tzu the right place to potty, which is crucial for a good mutual relationship between the two of you.
Shih Tzu Potty Training – A Mutual Goal
Before we go on I would like you to know, for sure, that dogs are not wolves and that they do not work against us to try and achieve a certain role within the home, this theory has been disproven and is therefore a dog training myth.
Interestingly the dog, by nature, is a co-operator. Which means he is happy to live in harmony with you and more than happy to work with you towards a mutual goal. Which is the canine thought process that we will tune into here, in order to make Shih Tzu potty training so easy.
Think of it this way, the dogs we care for love us, our dogs want to be with us and they want to please us. They are keen to live in domestic harmony and want nothing more than some simple things in life;
- Exercise and the chance for a good run and sniff
- A genuine bond with their family (whatever the species)
Because we are responsible and caring dog lovers we give them more than that, we give them devotion, their own cozy beds, great healthcare and lots of love. The thing that we do struggle with though is understanding our dogs.
A Communication Gap
Dog training is as easy or difficult as you make it. Some dog trainers make things difficult to understand and many even still work on dog training myths. Sadly this has moved us further from understanding our dogs than we ever have before, but why am I telling you this? We are talking about Shih Tzu potty training for beginners’ right?
I’m telling you this because all great dog training is first based in understanding. It’s important to get things straight in your mind and learn to communicate with your dog. It’s important not to go wading in to potty train your Shih Tzu with patchy understanding and flawed human to canine communication.
Shih Tzu Potty Training – Essential Understanding
So what do you need to know in order to be successful with your Shih Tzu potty training? Well first of all it’s important that you learn a few things about how your dog learns.
It’s virtually impossible to know exactly what goes on in a dog’s brain. We simply do not have the scientific knowledge to know precisely what our dogs are thinking. We do know a lot more than we did twenty years ago though and over the last two decades that dog’s mind has become far less of a mystery to us.
So what do we know and how does this knowledge fit in with Shih Tzu potty training?
We know that our dogs co-operate with us to solve problems and we also know the following;
- Dogs repeat anything that benefits them so if we reward an act the dog will repeat it.
- Punishing dogs does not work to get rid of a behavior it only serves to make the dog anxious and stressed (which leads to potty accidents)
- Dogs learn in stages and learn quickly if our communication during the lesson is flawless.
- Dogs, as far as we know at this point, do not experience complex emotions such as guilt. So when people state that the dog who has a toileting accident look “guilty” they are actually seeing anxiety by association. The dog sees a displeased owner and his body language changes into that of appeasement or fear, not guilt.
- Setting a dog up to succeed as often as possible will build his self-confidence and result in perfect potty performance very quickly.
Before we move onto the stages of Shih Tzu potty training it is important that you understand one more thing. This is a vitally important part of communication with your Shih Tzu and is something that will completely improve your lives together. I would like you to understand your dog’s basic communication attempts.
The act of understanding and responding to the natural language of your dog is the greatest compliment you can pay him, who said dogs should speak English anyway? If you don’t know what he is saying how are you to know when he wants to go outside? He will easily feel ignored every time he asks, leading to accidents indoors and poor potty training regardless of how hard the dog has tried.
The Shih Tzu that is trying to talk to you will display a few basic signals. If you were another dog then you would ‘get it’ immediately.
In the picture the Shih Tzu is using a very clear signal to the other dog, He’s saying “I’m not entirely relaxed here” This is a signal your dog may show if he needs to pee but can’t get outside.
As humans though, wrapped up in our own world we miss these subtle Shih Tzu signals and end up cleaning up then addressing the dog with the words “Why didn’t you ask to go out?”
Eventually, pretty quickly in fact, during potty training the dog learns one of two things;
- If his confidence is high, and he is completely potty trained, he learns to ask louder until you understand.
- If he is not potty trained and he has low confidence the dog learns not to bother asking at all, for the efforts are fruitless, and any fragile training fails.
So what are these signals, I hear you ask? Well read on and I’ll tell you.
When a dog is not completely happy, such as when he needs to go outside to potty yet only has a vague idea that this is what you want from him, he will start to become a little anxious. This anxiety will show in your Shih Tzu’s subtle behavior in the following ways;
- He will lick his lips – you may have seen this many times but not make the connection with anxiety. It is actually a stress lick and another dog will see the appearance of the dog’s tongue as a sign that all is not well. If your Shih Tzu licks his lips he may want to toilet but be unable to get outside to do it.
- The dog will look at you and glance away, than look again. Glancing away is another calming signal that is easily missed. During potty training the dog may simply look towards the door, very briefly, as he is learning. Your job is to grab that look and get him outside quickly.
- Sniffing the ground or the carpet, in a seemingly random way, is a sure fire sign that a Shih Tzu is about to squat and your cue to get him out quickly.
- The Shih Tzu that yawns is also often showing a sign of anxiety. A stress yawn is one of the more obvious behaviors and not all yawing dogs are tired.
During Shih Tzu potty training your dog may use very brief attempts at communication. Just the briefest look and then a squat, this is a mixture of lack of established learning and lack of confidence because the dog’s requests have been previously missed.
Sadly this is where a lot of potty training goes awry. We are here to prevent that though because now you know what your dog will do when he needs to toilet and the more often you respond to his subtle signs the less subtle they will become.
Let’s move on then to the five steps of potty training your Shih Tzu. When you know the communication, learning and basic behaviors this part should be easy!
Shih Tzu Potty Training for Beginners – Stepping up to Success
The idea with Shih Tzu potty training is to always set him up for success and never allow him to fail. By following these steps you can easily, perfectly and successfully potty train your dog in a language that he truly understands. The first thing to do is embrace your role as a temporary toilet taxi.
This is a fine art to perfect, particularly if you live with a puppy, you need hawk like eyes and quick legs because a puppy pee happens very quickly in the beginning.
So watch the dog carefully and certainly do not allow him unlimited access around your house as this is just asking for trouble. When your Shih Tzu looks like he will squat then quickly taxi him to the toileting area and reward as we describe below.
A dog needs a nest area that you can leave him in when you are out or when he is alone. Crate training is an integral part of housebreaking. A dog will rarely toilet in his own nest area. So a crate will encourage him to hold on to his pee until he is able to go outside of his sleeping area.
Introduce your Shih Tzu carefully to the crate though and make it comfortable with a cozy bed and toys, as this is his safe place and relaxing bedroom. It should certainly never be used for punishment.
A specific potty area, preferably outdoors, will build habit and its specific scent will encourage your puppy to return there each time he needs to ‘go’. Plan a feeding and toileting schedule and really stick to it at least until your dog is potty trained.
Ensure that you have a good odor eliminator in your potty training kit. Unless an odor is completely eliminated puppy will return to the accidental pee point again and again. Just masking the scent will not work, your dog’s super strong nose will soon sniff through that detergent and find the scent of his indoor toilet. An odor eliminator will grab hold of the pee particles and literally destroy them, which is a far more useful result.
Be a Good Shih Tzu Parent
This is an important part of potty training. If you are living with a new puppy do not expect too much from your new baby. He will need to toilet frequently in the beginning, as much as every half hour to hour. As a general idea a Shih Tzu puppy can generally hold onto his pee for one hour for every month of his life.
If you live with an older dog do not despair, although in many ways potty training a Shih Tzu puppy is easier than training an older dog that has never been housebroken, all is not lost if you have a piddling older pooch. These simple steps taken as though every single dog is a new puppy will help.
Puppy steps take every dog, whatever his age, right back to the foundations of learning. When the foundations of learning are changed so are the thought processes. This is applicable whatever your dog’s age. You can teach an old dog new tricks after all.
Rewarded Acts Are Repeated
You need to offer your Shih Tzu the chance to go to the toilet, in exactly the place you want him to, as often as you can. Always take your dog outdoors after eating, when he wakes and after playing because these are times he will most likely need to toilet, with added between times.
Never leave your Shih Tzu alone to toilet. He will, by nature, need to be with you, he is a companion dog breed after all. If you shut him out alone to toilet he will panic, then come back indoors and promptly pee at your feet. This is particularly relevant to young and clingy puppies.
From this very moment begin to reinforce the behavior that you would like your Shih Tzu to repeat. At the same time ignore any behavior which you would like to become non-existent. Your Shih Tzu will only repeat a behavior which he finds rewarding. Dogs learn by reinforcement and attention. So if you give your Shih Tzu a lot of positive attention when he or she toilets in the right spot, the one that you want him to, he will remember that and soon learn that this is the best place to go.
Avoid attention for toileting anywhere else – remember attention reinforces a behavior so if you shout or punish an episode of toileting indoors then you are actually teaching your dog to repeat that behavior too. To a Shih Tzu all attention is rewarding.
Command, Reward to Reinforce
Teaching your Shih Tzu to potty outdoors can easily become the act of toileting on command, by using the process of positive reinforcement of a natural act. You can start practicing this straightaway, it’s easy;
When your dog starts toileting add a command word to it such as ‘get busy’. Say the command two or three times and give the puppy a physical reward like a tiny treat. Over the next few days tell your Shih Tzu to ‘get busy’ at potty time then, as toileting occurs, give the treat alongside the command. Bring the command word gradually forward and your dog will soon learn the meaning of ‘get busy’ and toilet on command for that much appreciated reward.
Command, reinforce and reward can be used to train your dog to do anything at all because it caters to the fastest canine learning process. The dog learns to repeat any act that brings him a favorable result – in this case toileting in the right place for a nice reward.
Read Your Puppy’s Signs
We have already talked about this, but let’s recap quickly, missing the dog’s early requests is the most common reason that Shih Tzu potty training will fail.
If you have followed the early steps perfectly, within a few days your dog will begin to give you signs that he needs to go out. These signs are obvious when you know what to look for but easy to miss if you don’t. So when your dog is still learning watch out for him sniffing the ground, licking his lips, glancing towards you and/or approaching the door to his potty area
They may be brief efforts at communication but they will appear very quickly when your dog is learning to toilet outdoors. So watch out for them and when your Shih Tzu gives a sign get him to the toileting area, before it’s too late.
Remember – Never punish an accident, this will cause anxiety and anxiety makes a dog pee. Instead focus your attention on times of success in potty training, this will make the successful times stronger. It’s exactly how your puppy learns.
There will be accidents this is definite but with careful training they will be minimal and short lived.
Shih Tzu Potty Training – What Can Go Wrong?
Sometimes potty training with dogs is more complicated. Housebreaking can go awry for a few reasons other than lack of suitable training and there are some things to look out for with your own Shih Tzu.
Health problems, hormones and psychological issues can cause a breakdown in even the most carefully applied potty training, so let us take a quick look at them here.
Old age, illness and infection can cause potty problems.
Old age causes the muscles to become weak and the older dog may not be able to hold on like he once could, this is something to keep in mind if housebreaking suddenly breaks down.
Illness can be the reason for poor potty habits. If your dog is suddenly needing to pee a lot more than usual then he or she could be suffering with a urine infection. It is vital that a urine infection is treated with antibiotics or it can spread towards the kidneys and become a severe illness.
Hormones have an effect on the behavior of dogs. Scent marking is one of nature’s gifts that does not really fit into domestic life. Scent marking is usually carried out by a male, unneutered dog as a way of showing other dogs that he claims a certain territory. Female dogs scent mark too, but this is not so common.
If your male dog is unneutered then you may want to speak to the vet about getting this done. There are mixed views on neutering so it is vital that the vet looks at your dog’s individual case because some, worried dogs, need all the testosterone they can get.
When a dog is stressed, anxious or nervous then his potty training may fail. Common reasons for anxiety are;
- Separation anxiety
- Lack of self confidence
- Lack of effective socialization during the critical social learning periods (the first few months of a Shih Tzu’s life)
- Fear behaviors
If your Shih Tzu is struggling with potty training because he is anxious or worried there will be other behaviors too. For instance with separation anxiety he may bark or become destructive when he is left. With low confidence he may growl or bark in new situation and will display the same behaviors if he missed out on socialization.
Dogs are all individual with their own habits, fears, agendas and preferences. No two are really the same and your Shih Tzu’s behavior is a result of his learning, his genes and his environment. As we can’t go into that here, this is a potty training article after all, I urge you to really watch your dog and you will soon learn what it is that makes him act like he does.
So, we hope that you have benefited greatly from The Beginners Guide to Potty Training a Shih Tzu puppy. We would love to hear what you have learned and how the steps work for you, do let us know and good luck!