Shih Tzu Training 101 – Tips from Shih Tzu Owners and Experts

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Shih Tzu Dogs" by Molly Weinfurter. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Molly Weinfurter

Whether you have an adult Shih Tzu or a newborn puppy, every pet will need some type of training to adjust to a new lifestyle. A puppy will need to learn the basic commands while a full-grown dog may just need to learn how to listen to you specifically. Either way, it is important to remain patient with your new dog and give them time to learn what you expect from them.

It is important to remember that the most important part of training any dog is consistency and repetition. If you keep trying the same commands and lessons over and over again, then eventually your Shih Tzu will catch on. Try to develop a specific schedule for training so that your puppy can get in the habit of listening to you and training often. Just remember to try your best not to lose your patience during any part of the training process.


If you adopted an adult Shih Tzu, then they are likely already housetrained, but if you have a puppy then this is an essential part of the training process. Right away, you want to teach your puppy that if they need to relieve themselves, then they should go to the bathroom outside. This is a part of training that may take the most time and effort. It can be easy to become frustrated if you can’t get your puppy to listen, so if things don’t go as planned, just take a deep breath and keep trying.

The younger the puppy is, the harder it is for them to hold it. Take them outside as much as possible to avoid accidents. Stefanie Marie Peacock, a certified Shih Tzu breeder from Peacock Shih Tzu Puppies, states that you should “remember that your puppy will not have complete control of their bladder until they are 5-7 months old.” This means that if you have a puppy, they should be taken out every few hours until they can learn to control when they need to use the bathroom. Expect a lot of long nights at first because your puppy will likely need to go at some point while you’re trying to sleep as well.

Shih tzu grass
Photo Courtesy – Sara Reilly

Adult dogs can hold it in for much longer, but that doesn’t mean you should expect them to. Regardless of how old your dog is, you should still take them outside quite a bit. It can be boring for a dog to be cooped up inside all day, especially when there are so many interesting smells for them outside. Don’t limit their walks or bathroom times simply because you don’t feel like it. Your dog’s life shouldn’t always be planned around your needs because they also have their own needs to worry about. Therefore, give your dog plenty of time outside each day.

The most important times to take your dog outside are right when you wake up and right before you go to bed. This can help your dog sleep through the night without having to get up to pee. Don’t take your puppy outside at night and then stay up for a while before going to bed or wake up in the morning and get ready before letting them outside. The longer they have to hold it in overnight, the more uncomfortable it will be for them.

When you’re potty training your dog, it is a good idea to take them to the same spot each time. At this spot, make sure you are only there until they pee. Don’t play with them while you are in that area or they may think of it as a play area rather than a potty area. Be consistent so they can learn the routine of going to the bathroom in this area outside.

While a puppy is learning, they will have the occasional accident. It just happens. If you catch them in the act, then make a loud sound to startle them so that they understand what they’re doing is wrong. Then take them outside immediately so they can relieve themselves where they’re supposed to. However, if you catch an accident after it has already happened, then scolding your dog is not the best solution. A puppy cannot understand what they did wrong if you punish them for an act that has already happened. They will only get it if they are scolded while they are doing it. The best thing to do is simply clean up the mess and keep a close eye on them to make sure you catch them if they attempt to do it again.

Shih tzu sitting
Photo Courtesy – Kate Wieser

Every time your dog goes to the bathroom outside, give them a small treat right away. This will help them to associate going to the bathroom outside with a good experience and help show them that outside is where they are supposed to go. Once they seem to be getting the hang of it, you can substitute treats for praise and attention.

If you have your own fenced in backyard, then it may be a good idea to get a doggy door leading out into your yard. This way, if your dog needs to relieve themselves, then they can learn to let themselves out, which can be easier for them to learn. At first, they may not be able to make it past the porch, but at least their accident will still be outside rather than on the carpet or tile floor.

When your puppy is being housetrained, it is important to wipe your dog’s butt after each time they go number two. If you do not do so, their feces can get stuck to them and become hard as a rock over time. If this happens, they may not be able to go to the bathroom after a while or it will become painful for them each time they poop. This can cause a hernia or other medical issues, so if this somehow happens to your puppy, you must visit the vet right away to ensure that the issue does not get any worse.

Crate Training

When leaving your dog alone, it is common to worry about them having accidents or getting into trouble, which is why many owners lean toward crate training. Using a crate is not necessary and many Shih Tzu don’t need it, but you might feel more comfortable using one at least until your dog becomes completely comfortable in your home. This way, you know they will not get into anything that you don’t want them to. After you’ve had your Shih Tzu for a while, you can try leaving them outside of the crate because most likely, they will just sleep while you’re gone. However, if you decide to use a crate, don’t keep your dog in it for long periods of time often, especially if they are a puppy. They need time to adjust to being in the crate. Sticking them in there all day at first would be way too much for them to handle and not really fair to your new dog at all.

Shih tzu at the park
Photo Courtesy – Lori Gearheart

When selecting a crate, you will need to buy one that is big enough for your dog to comfortably fit into, but not so big that they can freely walk around in it. This is because if they have too much space, they could easily have an accident in one corner and then just lie on the other side of the crate with no worries. Even if you are worried about your dog having an accident in the crate though, you should still keep a comfortable blanket or bedding in the bottom of the crate. Otherwise, it will be uncomfortable for your dog to sit on the hard, plastic bottom for long periods of time. If you are worried about them getting the blanket dirty, you can add a layer of newspapers or towels to help clean it up easier. Just remember that blankets are washable, so if anything happens while you’re gone, there is no need to freak out at your dog.

Crate training can be a good way to help housetrain your puppy as well because being in the crate will help teach them not to go to the bathroom while they’re inside. It is uncomfortable for a dog to have an accident and then have to lie in it afterward, so this will make them try their hardest to hold it while they are in their crate. However, many Shih Tzu breeders suggest that instead of using a crate to housetrain your pup, try a fenced in area of the house with potty pads in it. This will give your dog more space to run around. Also, sometimes, if a dog has an accident in their crate too often, they could become used to being dirty, which would make the training harder. Therefore, you may want to consider a pen or gate as a better way to contain your dog when you’re not around.

While the crate is usually just an easy way to keep your dog contained at night or while you’re gone, it should also be used as a safe space for your dog. You don’t want them to be upset every time you make them go into the crate. Reward them when they go into the crate on command, so they associate it with a good result. Even if they are hesitant at first, Shih Tzu are usually fine with being in it because it is just another place for them to sleep. Even when you are home, keep the door to the crate open in case your dog just feels like lying in it from time to time. If trained properly, your dog will enjoy this space instead of fear it.

An important part of crate training that many dog owners forget is that the crate should never be used as a punishment. If your dog chews up your shoes or has an accident, you should not shove them into the crate to teach them a lesson. This will only scare them and make them want to stay as far away from the crate as possible. If you use it for negative reasons, they will think they are being punished every time you go somewhere and leave them behind in that crate.


Shih Tzu are not a breed that chews a lot, but all puppies can go through a teething phase, so try to keep valuable objects out of reach. If you notice your dog is chewing on unwanted objects too often, you can purchase plenty of different bones and toys for them to chew on instead. This will help to teach them what is okay to chew on and what isn’t. If you catch them chewing on something that they’re not supposed to, scold them and then give them a toy or chew instead. When you visit a pet store, you can ask them about what types of chews they specifically recommend for Shih Tzu.

Shih tzu treats
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According to Shih Tzu breeder Stefanie Marie Peacock, “The teeth that your baby has when you adopt them from me, they will lose them all and have a full new set within 4-6 months of age.” This means that until your Shih Tzu is six months old, you need to expect them to chew a lot. Most dogs love to chew on wood, so watch out for table and chair legs. If your dog does sink their teeth into some of your furniture, try not to get upset with them. It is just part of their teething process to help ease the pain. Just keep a close eye on them and keep plenty of toys lying around for them to chew on and you should be good.

It is likely that your dog will get a hold of something they’re not supposed to at some point. You may think everything is out of reach, but you really never know when your dog could sneak around and somehow get a hold of something toxic. To ensure that your dog never suffers from any type of food poisoning or other sudden conditions, it is a good idea to keep the number of the vet, emergency clinic, and Animal Poison Control Center nearby so that you can quickly call one of them if an emergency occurs. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Growling and Barking

As many small dogs are, Shih Tzu can be known as a bit of a yippy breed. Even if they don’t bark often, once they start barking, it can be difficult to get them to stop. More specifically, Shih Tzu typically bark when they see other dogs walk by or come near them. This is an important behavior to stop because if you allow them to growl and bark at other dogs, then your dog might think it is okay to be aggressive toward these other pets.

Every time your Shih Tzu starts to growl or bark at another dog, give them a command to make them stop. Make sure this command is consistent every time so that they can associate the command with their actions. If you notice your Shih Tzu spot another dog and they do not make an attempt to growl or bark, award them or give them praise to encourage them to keep up that behavior.

If your dog is a rescue dog that already has a bad habit of barking, then it may be more difficult to properly train them to correct this behavior. Sometimes they simply will not listen to your commands and continue barking every time they cross paths with another dog. If this is the case, then you need to find a way to show your dog that you are the boss and not them. An easy way to do this is if you catch them barking or growling, you can simply grab on tightly to the hair on their face and tell them no and this will usually get them to stop. It will not harm your dog in any way, but it will typically get them to realize that you are serious with your commands. Even if it does not get them to stop barking right away, it should cause them to bark less often. You never want your dog to think that they are in control or they will try to get away with as many things as possible.

The more your Shih Tzu is around other dogs, the less likely they are to bark at them. Therefore, make an effort to socialize your pup as much as possible.


Some Shih Tzu are compelled to dig holes, but many owners frown upon this because it makes them extremely dirty. Also, if they try digging in the neighbor’s yards or on public property, this could easily become a problem. Despite how small the breed is, they can dig a hole surprisingly fast. Therefore, as soon as you see your dog start to crouch down to dig, immediately command them to stop.

The easiest way to stop your dog from digging in unwanted areas is to keep them distracted with other things. Bring toys for them to play with or treats to draw them away from the hole. If your dog realizes that they can get a toy or a treat instead of digging, they will quickly lose interest in this bad behavior and want to play with you instead.

Separation Anxiety

Shih Tzu can become very attached to their owners and become upset the second they are left alone. You can’t be with your dog every second of every day, so you need to find a way to make their alone time easier for them. For example, you can make sure your dirty laundry is accessible to them while you’re gone. Oftentimes they will want to lie in it because it smells strongly like you. If you don’t like the idea of having your laundry sitting out, then there are dog beds that you can purchase that are made specifically for stuffing with your laundry to help with your dog’s separation anxiety.

If you ever have to leave your dog with someone else for a little while, bring something that smells like you, such as a blanket or pillow. This way they will still be able to smell you and they know that you will be coming back for them. This will help make their time away from you a little less scary.

Running Away

Many people assume that their dog is too well behaved and too attached to them to ever run away. In some cases, this may be true, but sometimes dogs can get lost and have difficulty finding their way home. They could just harmlessly wander off in the wrong direction and not remember how to get back home. Whatever the case, it is important to keep an eye on your dog and help teach them not to run away.

Shih tzu command
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For the most part, you should always keep your dog on a leash outside. If they are at the dog park or another fenced in area, that can be an exception, but otherwise, even if you’re just walking around your neighborhood, your dog should be leashed at all times. Even if you have complete trust in your dog, you never know what could happen, especially with a dog that is newer to your house because they may not know where home is just yet.

You should also keep a tag with your contact information on your dog at all times. This way, if they ever are without a leash or if they ever happen to wander off, at least someone will know how to contact you when they find your dog. If your dog gets lost without a collar or tag on, anyone that sees your dog will just assume that they’re a stray.

Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

Besides separation anxiety, Shih Tzu usually have very few problems with being left alone. Whether they’re in a crate or not, they will likely just sleep or look out the window the whole time you’re gone.

If you have to be gone most of the day, be sure to spend plenty of time with your dog before you leave and after you get home. Give them just as much attention as you would if you were home all day. It is not fair for your dog to get less love just because you’re gone more. To help cheer them up, give them a treat or bone to chew on when you leave so they won’t be as sad to see you go.

If your Shih Tzu is not used to you leaving just yet, they may bark for a while once you step out the door. If you hear them barking, don’t immediately go back in to tell them to stop. If you do, they will think that if they bark, you will come back for them. Instead, let them bark it out for a little bit. If you are worried about disturbing your neighbors, you can always leave and then wait outside until you hear your dog stop barking. This will help to give you peace knowing that your dog is fine and will not bark the entire time. Leaving your dog home alone can be hard on both you and your dog at first, but over time, it will become much more comfortable for the two of you.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Shih Tzu Dogs" by Molly Weinfurter, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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