3 (Ways) On How to Potty Train a Shih Tzu – And More Tips

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Shih Tzu is a smart, trainable breed; however, potty training your puppy can be a daunting task if you opt for a random training technique that doesn’t prove to be specifically effective with Shih Tzus. Luckily, we’re here to walk you through the entire process to ensure your house training project remains frustration-free till the end.

So, to reiterate, you need to stick to proven training techniques, in addition to being patient and putting in the needed effort. As a rule of thumb, the more dedicated you are, the shorter the training period will be. Potty training your Shih Tzu can take you any time between 2 to 4 months, so if you want to make the journey as brief as possible, we’ve got you covered in our guide.

Indoors vs. Outdoors

The first question that you have to answer when welcoming your newest family member is where the puppy’s bathroom will be. There are both merits and drawbacks to going for an indoor or an outdoor potty spot. For instance, outdoor training is the shortest way to go, with fewer accidents down the line. The open-air matches pretty well with the Shih Tzu’s primitive canine instincts, making the whole process more manageable.

Carefully pick a spot in your yard, and every time your Shih Tzu needs to go to the bathroom, you can’t just take him to any random area in your yard and call it a day. It has to be the same exact spot every time.

However, not all dog owners have immediate access to an outdoor space. This is particularly true if you live in an apartment or a condo. It’s worth noting that Shih Tzu puppies have tiny bladders. That’s why you can’t just ask your puppy to wait while you choose your favorite outfit and then take him outside to do his thing. So, here comes the role of house training. Indoor potty spots also make more sense for people living in freezing areas, where taking your Shih Tzu puppy out will be a chore on its own.

Shih Tzu dog breed on my floor

When Should Shih Tzu Potty Training Start

Once you get your Shih Tzu puppy, you should try to set some boundaries as soon as possible. Dedicate a potty area in your house in the form of a litter box or a pee pad. Before diving into more details, you have to know that the first training attempts won’t go as smoothly as expected. Your puppy can’t magically come to understand what you tell it right away. You need some time before your Shih Tzu understands your body language and eventually starts to pee and poop where you tell it to.

So, you might think, why not wait until the Shih Tzu puppy gets old enough as it won’t be compliant anyway in its first days at your home. The answer is quite simple, the earlier you embark on your house training journey, the sooner your Shih Tzu will take responsibility for its actions and stick to its designated area for when it needs to go.

How to Potty Train Your Shih Tzu

Now that you’ve decided on where to place your indoor Shih Tzu’s potty area, let’s go through some more tips to reduce any accidents that might occur during housebreaking your puppy. Just remember that it won’t happen overnight; go over each step carefully for the best results.

Crate Training

Since Shih Tzu is a small dog breed, crate training can be a viable option. Crates are enclosed boxes that the puppy can easily slip in and out of, and they have plenty of uses. They can be used as a means of carrying your pet with you while traveling in a car or on flights. Crates can also be regarded as a dog house, where your Shih Tzu can feel secure.

Furthermore, if you can’t keep an eye on your puppy and you have some medicine or other household toxic substances lying around, you can keep your dog temporarily in its crate until you get such stuff out of the way. Also, crates have been shown to help with separation anxiety, so whenever you leave your Shih Tzu puppy alone, it can head to its crate as a means of reassurance until you come back.

So, you might ask, how exactly can crates be used for potty training? The answer is quite simple. Shih Tzus, like many other canines, have the instinct not to soil where they sleep. So, whenever your Shih Tzu puppy is inside, it’s less likely to let loose, and this can be the first step to teach your dog how to develop voluntary bladder control.

As we’ve mentioned before, the bladder of a Shih Tzu is tiny compared to other breeds. So, it can only hold urine for not more than 2 hours before the puppy gets the urge to void. This means you can’t just keep your puppy confined in its crate for extended periods of time and expect it to become house-trained on its own.

At night time, your Shih Tzu can go for longer periods before they need to use the bathroom. This is expected, as while asleep, the parasympathetic nervous system of your Shih Tzu takes the upper hand and decreases the tone of the bladder muscles until your Shih Tzu is awake and ready to mind its own business.

my happy Shih Tzu with her belt

Set up an Enclosure

Whenever you’re not attending to your Shih Tzu puppy, make sure to keep it in a controlled environment, where it won’t cause much of a mess. Crates can work just fine in most cases; however, some dog owners might argue that once their Shih Tzu is a year old or so, it can quickly outgrow its crate.

Now you need to dedicate more space for your pet in order not to feel imprisoned in a claustrophobic space, which can be a cause of stress on its own and lead to more frequent accidents. So, if you have a spare room in your house, you can start setting it up to become your puppy’s new den. The area can range from a small laundry room to a secondary bathroom. If you don’t have an entire room to spare, fear not; a fenced enclosure resembling those dedicated for toddlers can suffice.

Once you settle on where your dog will be spending most of its time, start making the area more cozy and welcoming. Add some toys, a sleeping mattress, water and food dishes, in addition to puppy pads. Make sure the potty area is as far away from the sleeping area so your puppy has a better incentive to follow the system you’ve put in motion. It’s important that you take care of such small details if you want the process to go as smoothly as possible.

For your housebreaking project to yield its aspired results, make sure to leave the door open for your Shih Tzu’s new home whenever you take the puppy out and let it wander with no restrictions all over your house. This way, it still has access to the potty exercise pen at all times and can rush back to its pee pads whenever it feels the need to go.

Umbilical Method

Some training methods are more effective than others; however, they might come with the caveat of requiring more effort on your end. This is especially true with the umbilical method. As the name implies, your puppy needs to be tethered to you at all times, so you can tell when it needs to use the litter box.

Such a method will only be effective if you can invest the time and effort to study your Shih Tzu’s body language, as the signs can be easy to miss if you don’t pay close attention. When your puppy needs to mind its own business, it can start whining or whimpering to show that it needs to void.

Once you pick any of these signs, go outside or to the indoor potty spot and wait for your puppy to eliminate. Once he’s done, praise him by showing more attention or offering treats. Shih Tzu puppies are smart and can quickly pick on such rewards. By repeating such steps over and over, you’re reinforcing the positive behavior and bringing your puppy one step closer to becoming fully potty trained.

Since you’ll be using a leash all the time, there are some points to keep in mind when picking an indoor leash for your Shih Tzu. It should be lightweight, so you don’t feel like something is dragging you down, and it should come with a soft handle that you can seamlessly wrap around your waist or attach to your belt loops.

Furthermore, puppy experts recommend you use your leash with a harness instead of a collar. This makes a huge difference when handling a brachycephalic breed like Shih Tzu. We’ve just tipped into some jargon territories here, so in other words, the harness is better used with breeds that have short necks, just like Shih Tzu.

This way, you won’t be exerting much pressure on your dog’s trachea and embedding it from breathing normally. In the setting of potty training, where your puppy will be attached to you all day, a collar can cause some serious neck injuries.

Extra Tips and Tricks to Master Your Housebreaking Quest

my two Shih Tzu

With the key Shih Tzu potty training methods out of the way, we figured you could make use of some extra tips that can boost the effectiveness of your chosen technique.

Setup a Fixed Schedule

Following a fixed schedule will definitely make your life easier when training your Shih Tzu puppy. Any dog owner should know that puppies tend to go potty more likely after some events like playing, eating, or waking up. If you can control as many of such variables, you can effortlessly come up with a fixed schedule for potty time.

For example, a regular feeding schedule is a great start to pinpoint your Shih Tzu’s post-meals voiding times. These are the trickiest to manage when training a puppy, and once you get these out of the way, it’ll be a walk in the park moving forward. It’s worth noting that water should be readily available throughout the day, as you don’t want your Shih Tzu to become dehydrated.

One issue that might prove to be annoying to many Shih Tzu owners is that some puppies might wake up in the middle of the night and decide it’s time to go potty. This shouldn’t be a big deal if you’ve already potty trained your Shih Tzu to use a litter box or some pee pads. However, the problem starts to bubble to the surface if your dog’s potty spot is outside.

You can cut down the times that you have to wake up in the middle of the night and take your pup outside by late feeding your dog and taking it outside a couple of times before bedtime, so it gets the chance to eliminate.

Pick Cue Words

As a bonus to whichever potty training method you choose, you can add some cue words to indicate that it’s time for your puppy to go outside or head to the litter box. It’s important that everyone at your house agrees on the same magic words for your poor little Shih Tzu not to get confused. Another key point to bear in mind when settling on the cue words is to keep it simple.

One or two syllabi can suffice, as you don’t want to go over the top and make it hard for your puppy to associate the words with potty time. For example, your word command can be as simple as “poop poop,” “go potty,” or “pee pee,” and your Shih Tzu should quickly make the association.

Use Training Treats

Once your Shih Tzu pup gets the grasp of where the right place for pooping and peeing is, you need to reinforce this behavior. If your dog doesn’t get any reward for doing the right thing, there’s no incentive to go the extra mile and try to repeat it. So, it’s important to motivate your pup by throwing in some treats and giving it lots of praise.

It’s worth noting that any delay in rewarding your Shih Tzu makes it harder for your dog to associate the reward with specific behaviors. That’s why you need to make sure that you go outside with the treats’ bag ready in your pocket, so once your pup does the right thing, the reward comes by in a matter of seconds.

Use Enzyme Cleansers

Cleaning your dog’s accidents is an indispensable part of the house training process. However, what you don’t know is that thorough cleaning can prevent similar accidents in the future. Soap and water aren’t enough, as your hardwood floors can still have some lingering odors that are only picked up on by your pup’s exceptional sense of smell.

Once your Shih Tzu identifies such odors, its brain deciphers such smells to indicate where the bathroom is. If you’re not filled in on all that’s happening in the background, you can easily get confused about why your pup chooses the same spot time and time again, no matter how many times you clean it.

In order to solve such an issue once and for all, you need to use a special enzyme cleaner that is capable of getting rid of any lingering urine smell and help your puppy focus on the real potty spot you’ve designated.

How to React to Accidents

If you end up with multiple accidents in the same week, you might need to reassess your house training technique and tweak things a little bit to suit your pup better. Furthermore, you need to consider some underlying illnesses as an incriminating cause of the uncontrollable bowel movements, as your dog might simply have diarrhea.

It’s worth noting that the Shih Tzu breed doesn’t respond to punishment, so there is no need for scolding your Shih Tzu puppy, as this will only make it more afraid of pooping or peeing in your presence. Moreover, if you catch your dog in the act, don’t just turn a blind eye. Rush your Shih Tzu puppy to its designated potty area and give it tons of praise if it continues off there.


Final Thoughts

Potty training your Shih Tzu puppy might sound like an impossible task at first. But once you put in enough effort and time, you’ll begin to form a deeper connection with your dog and come to understand its body language. Sticking to a fixed feeding schedule, setting up a reward system, and using voice commands are only some of the effective tips that let you get noticeable results in no time.

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Hi, everyone! My name is Mathew Barham and I’m the editor in charge here at M-Dog. I’m currently based in Northampton, Pennsylvania, where I live with my beautiful wife, two amazing kids, and four rowdy rescue dogs. Growing up, my parents had a huge backyard and lots of animals. So my entire life, I was surrounded by pets that I cared for deeply. When my wife and I moved into a bigger place, I knew that I wanted to do the same for my family. That’s when we went to an animal shelter and fell in love with the most adorable little rescue pup. Since then, our family just kept growing, and we couldn’t be happier about it.