Shih tzu generally want to please their masters but they do occasionally have that stubborn moment when they want to do their own thing and nothing else, which can make them difficult to potty train. However, you can turn that around and with some persistence and patience on your part. You can make the answer to the question “Are shih tzu easy to potty train?” a resounding “Yes!”.
The Sooner The Better – potty train from three months if you can
As with any training, potty training is best taught from the earliest opportunity when the shih tzu is a puppy, from the age of around three months. If you have adopted an older dog that doesn’t know where to relieve himself you can still apply the same techniques set out in this article but it’s going to be a lot more difficult and you’re going to need a lot more persistence, understanding and patience. With such dedication you will win through in the end. Contrary to the old adage you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The first step in potty training is to designate an area for your shih tzu to do his business. This can be a sheltered spot in your backyard or front garden, ideally protected from precipitation by a roof overhang or dense tree so that you can still go there with your pup in foul weather. If your house doesn’t have an outside area then pick an appropriate spot outdoors that is close by, won’t annoy anyone and you can clean up any mess easily. If you live on the upper floors of a high rise it’s going to be too late by the time you get outside in which case I recommend using a commercially available dog litter tray and placing it on your balcony or in your bathroom should you not have a balcony. If you have a male shih tzu the type of litter tray with the small, vertical post in the centre is best.
The tray may also be employed by those owners that will be out at work or school all day and there is no-one else available to take the puppy to his designated spot during the day. The tray, in this case, should used in conjunction with “open crate training”. This is totally different to “crate training“, where your shih tzu is shut into a smaller crate for periods of time (Not as cruel as it sounds!). Open crate training is better described in my post: “Shih Tzu Separation Anxiety – how to cope“.
Go, Go, Go! – Quite Literally!
Once you have established where the designated “go to” area is, it’s time to start the potty training in earnest. Whilst in toilet training, have your puppy wear his harness and have his leash at hand so that you are ready for emergency action. If you spot the signs that he needs to go or is about to go you can quickly clip on the leash and take him to the designated area.
Walk your puppy on the leash to the designated toilet area and give, in a clear authoritative voice, an appropriate command such as “go toilet” or “go potty”. Whatever phrase you use it has to be a specific toilet command that can’t be confused or used for anything else. For example, if you used the phrase “let it go” you could have a puddle on the floor the next time you try to get your slipper back.
After you’ve issued the toilet command wait and see if your shih tzu does his business. If he does, give him a reward. This can be a small treat or some lavish praise. If your puppy doesn’t do anything, don’t worry and don’t take any action. Just go back to where you were and try again ten to fifteen minutes later. Give the command again and when he does eventually do his business in the correct place you must administer his reward immediately. Any delay and he won’t associate the reward with going to the toilet in that place and with the command. This is important, you need your puppy to think good things are going to happen if he responds to your commands. In a few months when doing his business in the right places becomes habit, you can gradually tone down the rewards until completely stopping them.
Shih tzu have small enough bladders as it is, so it follows that the bladder of the puppy is going to be even smaller and not capable of holding on to much urine. For that reason you really have to take your puppy to the designated spot every two hours. You need to say the command every time and reward a successful discharge every time. Consistency is key! With day to day repetition of this training it won’t take long for your puppy to associate your command with going to the toilet.
After a few visits your puppy will be attracted to your designated area just by the smell of urine and feces. Dogs instinctively like to urinate on previously soiled spots. Although the shih tzu’s short snout makes their sense of smell weaker than that of a longer snouted dog and, even if you clean the area or tray, they will still pick up the odour.
There will inevitably be some accidents, especially during the night when you’re not going to want to get up every two hours to take your shih tzu puppy out. If you catch him in the act, issue no punishment other than a resounding “no!” and clap your hands sharply. Then pick him up, grab his leash and take him out to the designated spot to finish. (You did have his harness on, didn’t you?) If there is only evidence of his mishap after the fact, issue no reprimand or punishment at all. He will become confused as he will not know what he is being reprimanded for.
Because your shih tzu will be attracted by the smell to defecate in the same spot again, all incidents of indoor mishaps must be thoroughly cleaned up using a cleaning product specific formulated for cleaning up after pets. When the area is dry, spray it with an odour neutralizing product. Follow all of this advice and the accidents will become less and less as the training goes on.
While continuing the training you can also take your puppy for walks, ideally twice a day. See my post “How Often Should You Walk a Shih Tzu?” for further discussion. As you walk, use your chosen toilet command in appropriate places, such as the grass at the base of an established tree. Of course, reward him as usual if he responds to your command. So in addition to poop scoop bags, always take a small bag of treats on the walk with you, at least until he is fully house trained.
Try and keep the two walks at regular times of the day, every day. Ideally, take your shih tzu out first thing in the morning so that he learns he will be able to discharge his overnight build up of urine at that time. The second walk should ideally be ten to fifteen minutes after his evening feed. A shih tzu is usually ready to defecate around half an hour after eating. It will also help with the potty training if you keep meal times to the same time every day. Regular meal times = regular potty times.
Some people, including experts, will tell you not to allow your puppy access to water at night. This is a definite no no! You must allow your shih tzu access to water at all times . Depriving your puppy of water can lead to dehydration and heatstroke, both potentially fatal conditions in the extreme.
As your puppy gets older, so his bladder capacity and strength will increase allowing you to increase the time interval between visits to the designated area. When he reaches 12 months he should be able to go through the night without needing a potty break. At 14 months he will be a fully grown adult and under normal conditions able to hold back his bodily functions for his twice daily walks.
So, Are Shih Tzu Easy To Potty Train?
Okay, I’ll be honest with you, putting in the effort and patience on your part can be a little testing at times. Your shih tzu’s characteristic stubbornness can be a little testing at times. But keep your mind set on the task in front of you, follow all of the guidelines set out above, and you will find that he will eventually take to potty training with ease. All of a sudden he’ll “get it”.
I wish you success with your shih tzu’s potty training. If you have any questions or views on this subject or anything shih tzu, please leave a comment or send a message using our contact us form.