How To Train a Shih Tzu

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Most owners take their young dog to puppy classes to train it, which is generally a good idea when considering how to train a Shih Tzu. But is it all you need?

The Shih Tzu is generally a well-behaved, amiable, and intelligent breed. But to ensure it follows your orders properly and behaves well in front of other people, you need to put it through a robust training regime. Otherwise, you risk being the person whose pet no one wants to meet.

Beyond puppy classes for socialization reasons, conducting personalized private sessions to train your Shih Tzu may be far more valuable than training situations where there are multiple dogs and humans together in one class, as this can be very distracting for everyone concerned.

Besides this, there are other things you can do to properly train your Shih Tzu. Most dogs will be extra attentive during training sessions when they know that you will reward them for their efforts. We’ll explain the ways of rewarding your Shih Tzu for accomplishments during training and good behaviors below.

Through extensive research on authoritative websites/forums related to dog training and first-hand experience of owning a Shih Tzu, we worked out the best training methods for Shih Tzu dogs. These methods will teach you how to train a Shih Tzu by going over the most important things you will need to keep in mind while planning for the different training regimes of your puppy/dog.

In this article

‍Training Basics When Learning How to Train a Shih Tzu

If you want to learn how to train a Shih Tzu, the following are the most important and basic training commands you will need to keep in mind.

Three Most Important Words

“Come,” “Sit” and “Stay” will be the three most important words you will ever teach your Shih Tzu.

These three basic commands will ensure that your Shih Tzu remains safe in almost every circumstance.

For instance, when your dog correctly learns the “Come” command, you can always quickly bring them back to your side if you should see danger be approaching.

When you reach your Shih Tzu the “Sit” and “Stay” commands you will be further establishing your leadership role. A dog that understands that its human guardian is its leader will be a safe and happy follower.

Choosing a Discipline Sound

Choosing a “discipline sound” that will be the same for every human family member will make it much easier for your puppy to learn what they can or cannot do and will be very useful when warning your puppy before they engage in unwanted behavior.

The best types of sounds are short and sharp so that you and people in your household can quickly say them and so that the sound will immediately get the attention of your puppy because you want to be able to easily interrupt them when they are about to make a mistake.

It doesn’t matter what the sound is, so long as everyone in the family is consistent. A sound that is very effective for most puppies and dogs is a simple “UH” sound said sharply and with emphasis.

Most puppies and dogs respond immediately to this sound and if caught in the middle of doing something they are not supposed to be doing will quickly stop and give you their attention or back away from what they are doing.


While walking your Shih Tzu, never let the dog take the lead. If it tries to do so, pull strongly at the leash to warn the pet when it is going out of limits. If it still doesn’t obey your wishes, stop for a minute and let it follow suit. It will eventually give in to your wishes.

In the same way, if the Shih Tzu refuses to move, give it time to rethink its decision. It will eventually pick up and start walking by your side if you persist.

Always keep the Shih Tzu in the following position. You can allow it to talk by your side but make sure it is not mistaking the signal to mean it is ready to lead. If and when it tries to wander off, all you need to do so is manipulate its actions by pulling at the leash.

While walking, you need to keep a steady hold on the leash. At the same time, don’t pull too hard or drag the puppy/dog with the leash. You might end up strangling the puppy or causing lasting damage to its tender muscles in the neck region. Don’t slack but don’t pull too hard either.

Take it for a long walk every day. Choose a specific time of the day when the sun is warm and the environment is breathable. It will be an amazing sight to see your Shih Tzu trot along your side in utter happiness!

Penalizing Unwanted Behaviors

Often humans make the mistake of accidentally rewarding unwanted or bad behaviors. It is very important to recognize that any attention paid to an overly excited, out of control, adolescent puppy, even negative attention, is likely going to be rewarding for your puppy.

Therefore, when you engage with an out-of-control Shih Tzu puppy, you end up rewarding them, which will encourage them to continue more of this unwanted behavior.

Be aware that chasing after a puppy when they have taken something they are not supposed to have, picking them up when they are barking or showing aggression, pushing them off when they jump on you or other people or yelling when they refuse to come when called, are all forms of attention that can be rewarding for most puppies.

As your Shih Tzu dog’s guardian, it will be your responsibility to provide a calm and consistent structure for your puppy, which will include finding acceptable and safe ways to allow your puppy to vent their energy without being destructive or harmful to property, other dogs, humans, or the actual puppy.

Activities that create or encourage overly excited Shih Tzu puppies, such as rough games of tug-o-war, or wild games of chase through the living room, should be immediately curtailed so that your adolescent puppy learns how to control their energy and play quietly and appropriately without jumping on everyone or engaging in barking or mouthy behavior.

Further, if an adolescent Shih Tzu displays excited energy simply from you, your family members, or any visitors, petting it, you will need to teach yourself, your family, and your friends to ignore your puppy until they calm down. Otherwise, you will be teaching your Shih Tzu puppy that the touch of humans means excitement.  

For instance, when you continue to engage with an overly excited puppy, you reward them for uncontrollable behavior and teach them to display energy when they see humans.

Worse, once your puppy has learned that humans are a source of excitement, you will have to work very hard to reverse this behavior.

Children are often a source of excitement that can cause an adolescent puppy to extremely wound itself up.

Do not allow your children to engage with an adolescent Shih Tzu puppy unless you are there to supervise and teach the children appropriate and calm ways to interact with the puppy.

To keep everyone safe, your Shih Tzu puppy must learn at an early age that neither children nor adults are sources of excitement.

You can help develop the mind of an adolescent Shih Tzu and the minds of growing children at the same time by teaching children that your puppy needs structured walks and by showing them how to play fetch, search, hide, and seek, or how to teach the Shih Tzu puppy simple tricks and obedience skills that will be fun and positive interaction for everyone.

Perseverance and Consistency

When you enroll your Shih Tzu in any of the training sessions, make sure you take it in for the session for the entire duration of the course. Just because your pet seems to be behaving well shouldn’t encourage you not to take your pet for further discussions.

For the training method to be truly effective and long-lasting, you need to remain consistent with the lessons. For all you know, by missing out on any session, you might be reinforcing negative traits in the Shih Tzu dog.

Take your pet in for the training lessons regularly. It is best if you carry out the lessons during their early years. This helps integrate the type of training and value into the pet’s behavior, which in turn yields lasting results and ensures a positive experience for your dog.

Adult Training

The adolescent period in a young Shih Tzu dog’s life, between the ages of 6 and 12 months, is the transitional stage of both physical and psychological development when they physically almost grow full in size, yet their minds are still developing and they are testing their boundaries and the limits that their human counterparts will endure.

This can be a dangerous time in a puppy’s life because this is when they start to make decisions on their own which, if they do not receive the leadership they need from their human guardians, can lead to developing unwanted behaviors.

When living within a human environment, your puppy must always adhere to human rules and it will be up to their human guardians to continue their vigilant, wasteful guidance to make sure that they do.

Many humans are lured into a fall sense of security when their new Shih Tzu puppy reaches the age of approximately six months because the puppy has been well socialized, they have been to puppy classes and long since been house trained.

The real truth is that the serious work is only now beginning, and the humans and their adult dogs could be in for a time of testing that could seriously challenge the relationship and leave the humans wondering if they made the right decision to share their home with a dog.

If the human side of the relationship is not prepared for this transitional time in their dog’s life, their patience may be seriously tried, and the relationship of trust and respect that you previously built may damage, and could take considerable time to repair.

While not all adolescent puppies will experience a noticeable adolescent period of craziness because every puppy is different, most young dogs do commonly exhibit at least some of the usual adolescent behaviors, including reverting to previous puppy behaviors.

Some of the adolescent behaviors might include destructive chewing of objects they have previously shown no interest in, selective hanging/ignoring previously learned commands, displaying aggressive behavior, jumping on everyone, barking at everything that moves, or reverting to relieving themselves in the house, even though they were house-trained months ago.

Keeping your cool and recognizing the adolescent signs are the first steps toward helping to make this transition period on your Shih Tzu puppy and all family members.

The first step to take that can help keep raging hormones at bay is to spay or neuter your Shih Tzu just before the onset of adolescence, at around four or five months of age.

While spaying or neutering a Shih Tzu will not eliminate the adolescent phase, it will certainly help and, at the same time, will spare your puppy the added strain of both the physical and emotional changes that occur during sexual maturity.

As well, some female puppies will become extremely aggressive toward other dogs during heat, and non-neutered males may become territorially aggressive and pick fights with other males.

Once you spray or neuter your Shih Tzu, you will want to become more active with your young dog, both mentally and physically, by providing them with continued and more complex disciplined exercises.

You can accomplish this by enrolling your adolescent Shih Tzu in a dog whispering session or more advanced training class, which will help them to continue their socialization skills while also developing their brain.

Even though it may be more difficult to train during this period, having the assistance of a professional and continuing the experience of ongoing socialization amongst other dogs of similar size can be invaluable, as this is the time when many young dogs begin to show signs of antisocial behavior with other dogs as well as unknown humans.

When you provide your Shih Tzu with sufficient daily exercise and continued socialization with unfamiliar dogs, people, and places that provide interest and expand their minds, they will be able to transition through the adolescent stage of their life more seamlessly.

Human Training

Housetraining, housebreaking, or “potty” training is a critical first step in the education of any new puppy, and the first part of a successful process is training the human guardian.

When you bring home your new Shih Tzu puppy, they will be relying upon your guidance to teach them what they must learn.

When you nurture your puppy with consistent patience and understanding, they are capable of learning rules at a very early age, and house training is no different, especially since it’s all about establishing a routine.

Potty training a new puppy takes time and patience—how much time depends entirely upon you.

Check with yourself and make sure your energy remains consistently calm and patient and that you exercise plenty of compassion and understanding while you help your new puppy learn new bathroom rules.

Shih Tzu puppies and dogs flourish with routines and happily, so do humans. Therefore, the first step is to establish a daily routine that will work well for both the canine and the human alike.

For instance, depending upon the age of your Shih Tzu puppy, make a plan to take them out for a toilet break every two hours and stick to it because while you are at the beginning stages of potty training, the more vigilant and consistent you can be, the quicker and more successful your results will be.

Generally speaking, while your puppy is still growing, it can hold its urge to pee for approximately one hour.

This means if your 2-month-old puppy has been snoozing for a couple of hours, it will need to relieve itself immediately after waking up.

Some of the first indications or signs that your puppy needs you to take it outside to relieve it will be when you see them:

  • Sniffing around
  • Circling
  • Looking for the door
  • Whining, crying, or barking
  • Acting agitated

It will be important to take your Shih Tzu puppy out first thing every morning and immediately after they wake up from a nap as well as soon after they have finished eating a meal or having a big drink of water.

Also, your happy praise goes a long way toward encouraging and reinforcing future success when your Shih Tzu puppy makes the right decisions, so let them know you are happy when they do their business in the right place.

Initially, treats can be a very good way to reinforce how pleased you are that your puppy is learning to go potty in the right place. Slowly you can remove treats and replace them with your praise.

Next, now that you have a new puppy in your life, you will want to be flexible concerning adapting your schedule to meet the requirements that will help to quickly teach your Shih Tzu puppy their new bathroom routine.

This means not leaving your puppy alone for endless hours at a time because firstly, there are sensitive pack animals that need companionship and your direction at all times, plus long periods alone will result in the disruption of the potty training schedule you have worked hard to establish.

Remember, your Shih Tzu is a growing puppy with a bladder and bowels that they do not yet have complete control over and you will have a much happier time and better success if you simply train yourself to pay attention to when the young companion is showing signs of needing to relieve themselves.

Bell Training

A very easy way to introduce your new Shih Tzu puppy to house training is to begin by teaching them how to ring a doorbell whenever they need to go outside.

Ringing a doorbell is not only a convenient alert system for both you and your Shih Tzu puppy or dog, but your Shih Tzu’s intelligence will impress your visitors too.

A further benefit of training your puppy to ring a bell is that you will not have to listen to your puppy or dog whining, barking, or howling, and your door will not become scratched from their nails.

Unless you prefer to purchase a specifically manufactured doggy doorbell or system (this will, of course, cost more), take a trip to your local novelty store, and purchase a small bell that has a nice, loud ring.

Attach the bell to a piece of ribbon or string and hang it from a door handle near the door where you will be taking your puppy out when they need to relieve themselves. The string will need to be long enough so that your Shih Tzu puppy can easily reach the bell with their nose or a paw.

Next, each time you take your puppy out to go potty, say the word “out” and use their paw or their nose to ring the bell. Praise them for this “trick” and immediately take them outside.

The only downside to teaching your Shih Tzu puppy or dog to ring a bell when they want to go outside is that even if they don’t actually have to go out to relieve themselves and just want to go outside because they are bored, you will still have to take them out every time they ring the bell.

There are many types and styles of “gotta” go commercially manufactured bells you could choose, ranging from the elegant “Poochie Bells™” that hang from a doorknob, the simple “Tell Bell™” that sits on the floor, or various high tech door chime systems that function much like a doggy intercom system where they push a pad with their paw and it rings a bell.

Whatever doorbell system you choose for your Shih Tzu puppy, once you train them, this type of alert system is an easy way to eliminate accidents in the home.

Crate Training

Crate training is always a good idea for any puppy early in their education because you can utilize it for many different situations, including keeping them safe while traveling inside a vehicle and being a very helpful tool for house training.

When purchasing a Crate for your Shih Tzu puppy, always buy a kennel that will be the correct size for your puppy once they become an adult.

The Crate will be the correct size if an adult Shih Tzu can stand up and easily turn around inside their kennel.

When you train your Shih Tzu puppy to accept sleeping in their crate or kennel at nighttime, this will also help to accelerate their potty training because no puppy or dog wants to relieve themselves where they sleep, which means that they will hold their bladder and bowels as long as they possibly can.

Always be kind and compassionate and remember that a puppy will be able to hold it for approximately one hour for every of their age.

Generally, a Shih Tzu puppy that is three months old will be able to hold it for approximately three hours unless they just ate a meal or had a big drink of water.

Be watchful and consistent so that you learn your Shih Tzu puppy’s body language, which will alert you to when it’s time for them to go outside.

Presenting them with familiar scents by taking them to the same spot in the yard or the same street, for instance, will help to remind and encourage them that they are outside to relieve themselves.

Use a voice cue to remind your puppy why they are outside, such as “go pee” and always remember to praise them every time they relieve themselves in the right place so that they quickly understand what you expect of them and will learn to “go” on cue.

Exercise Pen Training

The exercise pen is a transition from kennel-only training and will be helpful for those times when you have to leave your Shih Tzu puppy for more than you can reasonably expect them to hold it.

During times when you have to be away from home for several hours, it’s time to introduce your Shih Tzu puppy to an exercise pen.

Exercise pens are usually constructed of wire sections that you put together in whatever shape you desire, and the pen needs to be large enough to hold your puppy’s kennel inside one half of the pen, while the other half will be lined with newspapers or pee pads.

Place your Shih Tzu puppy’s food and water dishes next to the kennel and leave the kennel door open so they can wander in and out whenever they wish, to eat or drink or go to the papers or pads if they need to relieve themselves.

Your puppy will be contained in a small area of your home while you are away and because they are already used to sleeping inside their kennel, they will not want to relieve themselves inside the area where they sleep. Therefore, your Shih Tzu puppy will naturally go to the other half of the pen to relieve themselves on the newspapers or pee pads.

This method will help train your puppy to be quick “paper” trained when you must leave them alone for a few hours.

Free Training

If you would rather not confine your young Shih Tzu puppy to one or two rooms in your home and will be allowing them to free-range about your home anywhere they wish during the day, consider free training.

When free house training your Shih Tzu puppy, you will need to closely watch your puppy’s activities all day long so that you can be aware of the “signs” that will indicate when they need to go outside to relieve themselves. For instance, circling and sniffing is a sure sign that they are looking for a place to do their business.

Never get upset or scold a puppy for having an accident inside the home because this will result in teaching your puppy to be afraid of you and to only relieve themselves in secret places or when you’re not watching.

If you catch your Shih Tzu puppy making a mistake, all that is necessary is for you to calmly say “No,” and quickly scoop them up and take them outside or to their indoor bathroom area.

Your puppy or dog will understand yelling or screaming from you when they make a potty mistake, as unstable energy is displayed by you, the leader. This type of unstable behavior will only teach your puppy to fear and disrespect you.

When you are vigilant, the Shih Tzu is not a difficult puppy to housebreak and they will generally do very well when you start them off with “puppy pee pads” that you will move closer and closer to the same door that you always use when taking them outside. This way, they will quickly learn to associate going to this door when they need to relieve themselves.

When you pay close attention to your Shih Tzu sleeping, eating, drinking, and playing habits, you will quickly learn their body language so that you can predict when they might need to relieve themselves.

Your Shih Tzu will always need to relive themselves first thing in the morning, as soon as they wake up from a nap, approximately twenty minutes after they finish eating a meal after they have finished a play session, and of course, before they go to bed at night.

To ensure that their education is as stress-free as possible, having compassion during the house training time in your young Shih Tzu’s life is important.

How well you pay attention will minimize the opportunities your puppy may have for making a bathroom mistake in the first place. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant. Also, the fewer mistakes they make, the sooner your Shih Tzu will be trained.

Electronic Devices Training

Generally speaking, positive training methods are far more effective than using a device that involves negative stimulation.

Further, unless you are training a Shih Tzu to hunt badgers or rabbits, using electronic devices is usually an excuse for a lazy human who will not take the time to properly train their dog by teaching them rules and boundaries, which leads to respect and an attentive follower.

When you do not provide your Shih Tzu (or any dog) with a consistent leadership role that teaches your dog to trust, respect, and listen to you in all circumstances, you will inevitably experience behavioral issues.

Electronic training devices such as e-collars, spray collars, or electronic fencing all rely upon negative, painful, or stressful reinforcement, which can easily cause a sensitive breed, like the Shih Tzu, to become nervous or live a life of fear.

For instance, a dog simply cannot understand the principles of “invisible” boundaries, and therefore, you should never subject it to the confusion of the punishment that occurs when walking across an invisible line within its home territory.

Dogs naturally understand the positive training methods of receiving a reward, which is much more efficient and effective when teaching boundaries. Rewards are far kinder and create a much stronger bond with your dog.