Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Train Shih Tzus (6 Proven Tricks)

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »
Shih Tzus are one of the most popular small dog breeds. Their size and low-shedding coats make them suitable pets for various living situations and families. They’re friendly and affectionate but have a well-known stubborn streak that owners need to navigate. To help you out, we have six tips on how to train Shih Tzus.

Divider 8

How to Train a Shih Tzu in 6 Steps

1. Start Young

As soon as you bring your new Shih Tzu puppy home, it’s time to get started with training. The earlier you can get your pup started with basic manners, housetraining, and socialization, the greater your chance of success. Shaping your puppy’s behavior is typically easier than changing the habits of an adult dog, especially with a breed prone to stubbornness like the Shih Tzu. You’ll need to keep training sessions short and age-appropriate for puppies with short attention spans.

black and white Shih Tzu puppy
Image Credit: Ken Hurst, Shutterstock

2. Make a Schedule

Shih Tzus have a reputation for being tough to housetrain. To help simplify the process, decide on a schedule for your dog and stick to it. Take your puppy outside at consistent times throughout the day, so they learn what to expect. Dogs like knowing what to expect, so a routine can keep them relaxed and make learning easier. For housetraining, using a schedule can help the puppy learn to hold its bladder and understand how long it will have to wait to go outside. It also helps you to remember to take them out regularly and thus avoid accidents.

3. Be Consistent

In addition to keeping a regular schedule, another valuable tip for training a Shih Tzu is to maintain consistency across all aspects of the learning routine. Decide which commands you’ll use for each behavior or skill you’re teaching and stick with them. Set boundaries for what’s off-limits to your puppy and enforce them consistently to avoid confusion. Especially at the beginning of training, be consistent about rewarding behaviors you want to continue. For many dogs pairing a hand signal with the voice command will make learning easier.

shih tzu near food bowl
Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

4. Puppy Proof Proactively

Taking time to puppy-proof your house will help make training your Shih Tzu easier. Eliminating temptations will save you from constantly correcting your puppy, which can get frustrating for both of you. Set them up to succeed. Put away or secure any items that could be a chewing hazard, like shoes, kids’ toys, or electrical cords. This proactive step will simplify the training process and help keep your puppy safe from eating things they shouldn’t or getting an electric shock.

5. Never Punish Your Dog

Shih Tzus are both stubborn and sensitive. They won’t respond well to harsh or harmful treatment. Research shows that negative reinforcement such as physical or verbal punishment is not appropriate for dogs. This type of handling is unnecessary, ineffective, and likely to damage your relationship with your Shih Tzu. If your Shih Tzu misbehaves, try redirecting their attention with a toy or treat. Another option is to ignore bad behavior and only give your Shih Tzu attention and praise when they’re doing the right thing.

white shih tzu dog licking owner on the nose
Image Credit: Zelma Brezinska, Shutterstock

6. Use Reward-Based Training Methods

Your most valuable training tools for pups like Shih Tzus are patience and plenty of treats. Use treats to reward your dog for obeying commands or to distract them from destructive behavior. Positive reinforcement goes hand-in-hand with the strategy we mentioned in the last tip: ignoring bad behavior. Step in quickly with a reward and praise when your Shih Tzu does as you ask or stops a negative behavior on their own. With patience, your Shih Tzu will learn which behavior earns rewards and which commands connect to them. Some dogs prefer a toy or fuss as a reward rather than food, go with what motivates your dog.

Divider 2

Are Shih Tzus Easy to Train?

Shih Tzus are smart little dogs that become very attached to their owners. This combination of traits usually produces a dog that learns quickly and easily. However, training a Shih Tzu is slightly more complicated because they can also be stubborn.

While they can be easy to train, you may need to be a little more creative and patient when coaxing desired behaviors out of a Shih Tzu than other breeds. Small dog owners are often less motivated to commit to training simply because their size makes it easier to manage these breeds.

Because of this, Shih Tzu owners might become frustrated and give up on training more quickly if their dogs act hard-headed. Managing your expectations is a vital part of successfully training a Shih Tzu.

Divider 2


If you’re thinking of adding a Shih Tzu to your family, it’s crucial to research the breed thoroughly to ensure they’ll fit your lifestyle well. Part of that includes being aware that you might be dealing with a dog who pushes back during training sessions. Cute and clever describes a Shih Tzu, but these charming little dogs are more than capable of learning commands and tricks. These six tips should help simplify the process of training your Shih Tzu.

Featured Image Credit: Jumpstory

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database