Shih Tzus are friendly, social lapdogs who are less prone to excessive barking than other small dog breeds. They are also, however, notoriously stubborn and difficult to housebreak. The key to proper Shih Tzu training is consistency, gentleness and a basic understanding of dog behavior. These dogs also require lots of attention and are prone to separation anxiety when away from their owners. With proper -- and, if possible, early -- training, your Shih Tzu will become a calm, friendly, well-behaved companion.
House training is one of the most difficult obstacles owners of Shih Tzus face, because these dogs have small bladders and are prone to anxiety. To properly house train your dog, begin as soon as you bring your puppy home. Take them outside every two to three hours, after eating, after a nap and after play sessions. If your dog has an accident, take them outside immediately to help them learn the association between using the bathroom and going outside. Clean up accidents using a urine scent remover to discourage future soiling. Give them a treat and lots of praise every time they go outside. When you cannot supervise your dog, crate them to prevent accidents until they are fully trained. Each accident teaches your dog that going inside the house is acceptable, so reducing accidents is key to preventing house training problems. Never yell at your dog for having an accident; this increases anxiety and teaches them that they get attention -- something Shih Tzus crave -- for going inside the house.
Shih Tzus are naturally sociable, but can become skittish if they are not exposed to a wide variety of people and dogs. It is easiest to socialize a puppy between eight and sixteen weeks. Socialize your dog by taking them to lots of places, and giving them a treat and lots of praise for every new interaction. Older dogs may be more difficult to socialize. Start slowly, in friendly, non-threatening environments, and gradually increase your dog's exposure to new stimuli as their comfort level increases.
Because Shih Tzus are so small, owners are often unconcerned by inappropriate leash behavior such as pulling. However, dogs are most comfortable when they can behave on a leash, and good leash behavior makes exercise pleasant for both dog and owner. Hold a treat in your hand to keep your dog's attention on you, and give them a treat every few minutes for walking close to you. If your dog begins pulling, stop walking. This teaches them that pulling slows down a walk.
Shih Tzus are highly sensitive to punishment and yelling, and may misbehave when frightened. Consequently, reward-based methods are best. Use a training clicker and treats to teach your dog commands such as "Sit" and "Stay." Click the clicker as soon as your dog exhibits the right behavior and then give her a treat. Because Shih Tzus can be stubborn, it is important to practice new commands several times each day and to continue practicing obedience throughout your dog's life. Placing your dog on a leash when they are learning a new command can help them keep their attention on you.
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