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How to Potty Train a Shih Tzu: 9 Great Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Toilet training a Shih Tzu

Potty training is an important first step when adopting a puppy, and successfully training your Shih Tzu can boost self-esteem your self-esteem. Potty training your Shih Tzu may be one of the most difficult challenges you face as a pet parent, but it doesn’t have to be overly stressful or frustrating. Shih Tzus are highly trainable pets, and the ease with which they can learn to potty train depends on factors such as the owner’s consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement.

If you want to potty train your Shih Tzu as soon as possible, we have some tips and methods to get you started.

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Getting Started

Whichever method you use to potty train your Shih Tzu puppy, it will take time, patience, and dedication. You can start training your Shih Tzu as soon as you bring it home, which will become easier as your puppy grows. Before you start, you need to consider where you will want your dog to do its business.

If you need to take your puppy for a walk to go potty, you’ll need a proper leash and harness or collar.

The 9 Tips for Potty Training a Shih Tzu

1.  Maintain a Consistent Feeding Schedule

Keeping your Shih Tzu on a consistent feeding schedule will mean that your dog is more likely to go potty regularly and avoid confusion and accidents. It is recommended to feed your puppy twice daily and to try to feed it at the same time each day.

Your dog will usually need to go to the potty about half an hour after it’s eaten. Never keep water out of reach for your dog during the night. Even though it may be tempting to restrict accidents, limiting your dog’s water can be unhealthy, so make sure your dog has water available.

Hungry Shih Tzu puppy holding an empty bowl
Image Credit: Rasulov, Shutterstock

2. Watch for Signs That Your Dog Needs to Go Out

Learning the cues and signs that your puppy needs to go potty will help you avoid having accidents in the house. Signs that your dog needs to eliminate are walking in circles, sniffing the ground, squatting, whining, and sitting by the door.

Taking your Shih Tzu out when you read the signs will teach it to associate going outside with going to the bathroom. Puppies, like babies, have little control over their bladders. Puppies under 12 weeks of age should be taken outside every one to 2 hours. As a result, monitoring is essential. Accidents with young dogs are unavoidable, but you can reduce their recurrence by taking the dog out regularly.

3. Keep Potty Times Consistent

Failure to stick to a consistent potty schedule can confuse your puppy, leading to more accidents in the house. Your Shih Tzu will figure out that it is able to be let outside, which may make it easier for it to wait rather than have an accident inside. You’ll need to schedule a potty break every two hours if your dog is young. When you notice your Shih Tzu going less, you can increase the time between breaks.

You should take your Shih Tzu out in the morning and right after you feed it. Make sure to let the dog out right before bedtime as well to reduce the possibility of overnight accidents.

Shih Tzu
Image Credit: rachnelson, pixabay

4. Assign a Potty Spot

Finding a potty spot in your yard can assist in training. You can have your Shih Tzu go in the corner of your property or an area that you don’t regularly visit, preferably not too close to the house and windows. Your Shih Tzu will recognize the smell of urine and feces, encouraging it to be eliminated in the same spot again.

Do not be concerned if you are unable to designate a potty spot. A designated potty spot can benefit a Shih Tzu during training, but it is only one aspect.

5. Use a Command for Potty Time

It can be helpful to have a command to give your Shih Tzu when potty training.  “Potty, “Potty time,” “make,” and “go wee” are all common cue words. Make sure that everyone in the family agrees on the chosen commands and uses the same one. You can use this to remind your Shih Tzu to use the potty area when it is outside.

When your Shih Tzu displays cues that it is about to eliminate, say your chosen command so that it eventually learns to associate the word with going potty.

adorable two months white shih tzu puppy
Image Credit: Lana Langlois, Shutterstock

6. Constant Supervision

Constant supervision helps avoid accidents, especially if your pup wanders far away. Only one accident is enough to hold back their potty training, so it is vital to keep an eye on them. This will also help you learn their signs and cues faster and easier. It also becomes a positive experience for your dog as they have the company of their favorite person and feel safe.

7. Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is essential for successfully potty training any dog, including adults. Positive reinforcement means to reward your Shih Tzu every time it follows a command or eliminates where it is supposed to. This can be done with praise and treats or your dog’s favorite toy. It will teach your dog that every time it does what it’s supposed to, it will get rewarded.

shih tzu brown
Image Credit: Steshka Willems, Pexels

8. Don’t Punish

Shih Tzus do not tolerate punishment well. Old potty-training techniques included rubbing your puppy’s face in its excrement or scolding it to teach them a lesson. Dogs do not associate these behaviors with wrongdoing but will teach your puppy to be afraid of you or other people who try to punish them.

9. Patience

Shih Tzus are highly trainable dogs, but it may take several weeks for your puppy to be completely potty trained. Consistent training over an extended period will eventually pay off.

You may feel frustrated and impatient at times but try to remain calm and patient. Always remember that potty training will take patience, as well as kindness.

Shih tzu puppy
Image Credit: Werner, Pixabay

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The 4 Potty Training Methods

1. Designated Spot Method

As we mentioned before, you can choose a designated spot in your yard to potty train your Shih Tzu. This will keep your yard clean and free of dog poop while protecting other areas from urine damage, but do not let your dog play in that area.

Every time you take your Shih Tzu outside to go potty, take it to the designated potty area. Wait patiently and use your command whenever you take your puppy to that spot. If your dog has an accident inside the house, take it to its special spot but do not reward it.

2. Crate Method

Crate training is a highly effective tool for potty training your puppy and creating a safe environment. Contrary to popular belief, a crate is not a cage. Crate training is a technique used to teach your dog to hold its bladder by confining it to its own space. The idea is that your dog won’t want to eliminate in the same area it sleeps or rest. As a result, training your puppy to be comfortable in a crate is an excellent way to keep them from having accidents in the house.

The crate should be large enough for your Shih Tzu to move around comfortably, lie down, and sit, but not so large that they find an area and use it as a potty spot. Dogs should only be in crates for a short time, so keep your pup there for a maximum of a couple of hours.

shih tzu puppy
Image Credit: sanjagrujic, Shutterstock

3. Ringing Bell Method

Incorporating a bell that your Shih Tzu will ring when it needs to go potty is another method that requires much more patience and perseverance. Hang the bell near the door your Shih Tzu will use to go outside to go potty. Teach your dog to ring the bell and reward it with a treat every time it rings it. When the bell rings, say the command you want your dog to understand so that it will associate the bell and the command with going potty.

Continue to practice getting your Shih Tzu to ring the bell while rewarding it each time. After a while, stop using treats and only use the command. Allow your puppy to ring the bell, then open the door to let it out. When your dog is outside, you can reward it with a treat.

4. What if My Shih Tzu Has an Accident?

In the case of an accident, you will need to clean up the soiled area thoroughly and quickly with an odor-neutralizing spray. Dogs are creatures of habit, and if they have an accident in your home, you can guarantee they will use the same spot again if it isn’t cleaned up.

If you catch your dog urinating or eliminating in the house, stop it immediately and rush it outside. If your dog finishes outside, treat them with praise and a treat.

Numerous and consistent accidents can indicate a territorial marking problem or a health problem such as a UTI or bladder infection. If you suspect a bladder infection, contact your vet to help you diagnose and resolve the issue.

Shih tzu puppy dog eyes
Image Credit: Angel Sallade, Shutterstock

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Shih Tzus are relatively easy to potty train but will require consistency and patience from you as the owner. Some methods may be more effective, but you will figure out what is best for your pup as you go along, and you will be happy that you persevered. The key takeaways for potty training your Shih Tzu are consistency, supervision, positive reinforcement, and above all else, patience.

Featured Image Credit: Ilina Yuliia, Shutterstock

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