You have a new best friend and it’s time to learn how to potty train a Shih Tzu puppy. The Shih Tzu has a somewhat bad reputation for housebreaking difficulties. Owners are often concerned that the new puppy is taking too long to housebreak—or worse yet, will never be housebroken. Why is a Shih Tzu difficult to housebreak? Dogs of this breed, like other small dog breeds, have small bladders and simply need to relieve themselves more often. Combine that puppy sized, Shih Tzu bladder with a puppy’s short attention span and the breed’s high energy, and it is easy to understand the difficulties of housebreaking a Shih Tzu. Following a few simple steps will help you potty train your Shih Tzu with confidence.
- Choose a potty spot for your Shih Tzu. This may be a readily available location outside the back door or a specialty indoor potty training mat—or a combination of the two. Choosing a location and consistently allowing the Shih Tzu to potty only in that area helps the animal associate the actions with the proper location.
- Remember that potty time is not play time. Puppies are cute and full of playtime energy, but potty breaks should focus on the task at hand. When you take the puppy to potty, use commands and phrases such as “time to potty,” “hurry up,” or something similar—and continue to offer these orders without allowing playtime until the puppy relieves himself. Once the “business” side of housebreaking is complete, praise the puppy and play with him. You will appreciate the “hurry up” training later when you are on a 3 a.m. potty break in the dead of winter!
- Set a consistent feeding schedule. Your puppy will need to eliminate shortly after a meal. The added pressure of a full tummy is too much for a puppy sized bladder. Avoid free feeding your dog until he is fully housebroken so that you are more readily able to monitor him after a meal.
- Offer frequent potty breaks. You really need to devote yourself to the potty training adventure. This will mean taking your Shih Tzu to the designated potty spot frequently, especially after meals and naps. In fact, when you are home with your dog, you should take him to the potty zone every 30 to 45 minutes—even through the night. As with a new human baby, training your Shih Tzu baby will likely disrupt your sleep for several months. Remember that a properly housebroken dog will make your life easier in the future.
- Supervise your Shih Tzu constantly. Even with frequent potty breaks, your new puppy may have an accident. It is important to watch your pet closely and look for the tell tale potty signs such as squirming, circling or squatting. If you are not able to watch the puppy, confine him to a crate or a puppy proofed room in your absence.
- Set up a crate or puppy proof room for times when supervision is not available. You should not allow the puppy to freely roam the home until she is completely housebroken. Instead, set up a puppy safe room or a properly sized crate to confine the dog in your absence. She should not be confined for more than two hours, however, or you will be hampering your training efforts. You may need to return home from work during break times if possible to take the puppy out—or enlist a family friend to help when you are unavailable.
- Praise rather than punish your Shih Tzu for accidents. Your puppy is growing and learning and is not misbehaving when she has an accident. Praise the puppy when she does well—but do not overly scold when she makes a mistake. Instead, take note of her behavior and learn to better identify your puppy’s “potty signs.”
Expect to devote several weeks to consistent training—and allow for several months for that puppy sized bladder to adapt to indoor living. Your Shih Tzu may not be able to be completely housebroken and unsupervised for six months or longer. Being consistent and patient will help you properly housebreak your dog for life.