How To Potty Train Your Shih Tzu Puppy in 4 Easy Steps

Potty training is a little bit more involved than most people imagine, but today I’m going to show you the four steps you need to take in order to make the process as smooth as possible.

How to potty train your Shih Tzu. Potty training your Shih Tzu can be a challenging task, but with the four elements of potty training that I’m gonna show you you can have a fully potty trained puppy in no time at all, and here’s how.

How To Potty Train Your Shih Tzu Puppy

When it comes to house training your Shih Tzu puppy there are essentially four elements.

Number one, supervise.

Supervision is key, if your dog has an accident somewhere in the house and you miss it, you’ve missed a training opportunity. And disciplining your dog after the fact is unfair for their learning.

Interrupting them while they’re having an accident is actually the most effective way to let them know that they’re making a mistake. Keep in mind, you only have one second to give your dog feedback after they’ve made a mistake for them to truly understand.

So after you’ve caught your puppy in the act and you have interrupted their behavior you can scoop them up and head outside. Remember, no harsh corrections are ever needed or warranted in these situations, so if you can’t supervise your puppy, put them in a crate.

The Second Is Schedule.

Most puppies will need to pee after sleeping, after playing, after eating, so be prepared to take your puppy outside often in the beginning. And as you take them outside be sure that you’re using your leash and show them exactly where you want them to go.

The third key, feedback.

Be sure that you’re able to praise your puppy when they go outside and be sure that you’re able to stop them if they have an accident inside. Any missed accidents inside are missed training opportunities and it’s actually rehearsal of the wrong behavior. And this can really work against you.

Let’s think about it this way, in your absence your dog is still getting feedback. When your dog has to go it doesn’t feel good but when they do go, they instantly feel relieved. And remember, dogs do what’s rewarding.

If there isn’t anyone there to tell them that they’re wrong then they’re likely to think that they’re right. And rehearsal of the wrong behavior will only set them up for failure in the future.

Key number four, responsibility.

Once your puppy understands that they need to go outside to go potty, it’s time to put the responsibility on them to let you know that they need to go there. You can teach your puppy to sit and stare at you. Or you can teach them to ring a bell.

Or if they have grander musical aspirations, you can always teach them how to play the tambourine. Those first two methods are sure-fire ways for your dog to get your attention to be led outside.

So keep in mind these four key elements of house training, supervise, schedule, feedback, and responsibility. And that’s all I have to say about that.

The Four Different House Training Methods To Suit Your Lifestyle

When we say potty-trained a Shih Tzu, we are referring to housebreaking, house training, crate training, and potty training. Basically they all mean the same thing but might have different meanings to different people.

As with all training, we believe in positive, gentle approaches that do not include harsh punishment. Your puppy should be started on potty training the minute you bring him home, does he understand what to do?

Will he cooperatively pee and poop where you tell him? The answer is simple, probably not. Two decisions you will need to make before embarking on house training or housebreaking, are location and words to use.

First decide where you want your Shih Tzu puppy’s bathroom to be, most choose a location outside but it could be indoors on puppy pads or even a dog litter box which is useful for those who live in apartments or condos and do not have immediate access to the outdoors.

If you want him to eliminate in a particular part of the yard, always take him to that location, stay with him and praise him with his favorite treat when he goes.

Whichever location you choose, it is important to be consistent. Deciding that your dog should go outdoors, but provide a pad indoors for those times that you can’t take him outside to potty, sends a confusing message to your dog and makes house training more difficult.

Secondly, it is important with any training to have words to use that your puppy will understand. Just as we teach the word sit, we also need to use a word command for elimination. You might say, do your business, or go potty or do your duty, whatever works for you.

House Trained a Shih Tzu Puppy Schedules

Scheduling and consistency are very important in potty training your new pup. Young puppies will naturally need to eliminate after certain events, after eating or drinking, after playing, upon awakening from sleep and other times, but at least every one and a half to two hours.

Before I go on, I would like to point out that more dogs find their way to pounds and rescue agencies each year, because they never mastered pottying in the place deemed appropriate by their owner and because the owner never took the time to properly learn potty training.

For potty training or house training to be successful, the single most important thing that a new owner must learn to do is observe their puppy. Puppies display telltale signs that they are interested in eliminating, to house-train a Shih Tzu you need to pick up on their body language.

Sniffing, circling, squatting, with that said how many puppies get into trouble for leaving little surprises all over the house?

Observation is so important, simply being around the puppy is not enough. Puppies are very good at telling us things, and that is what we need to notice in order to train.

How To House Train My Shih Tzu

How To House Train My Shih Tzu

One of the easiest things you can do to set up your new pup for house training success is to feed them on a consistent schedule, you should also be feeding your puppy a high-quality food as well.

It’s our responsibility as people to show our dogs where they can, and can’t go. And house training is a months-long process, but it’s a good opportunity for you to become consistent and that is a telltale sign of a good teacher.

You see, dogs aren’t born knowing where they should and shouldn’t relieve themselves. house training success is fastest achieved when you get really good at controlling your dog’s environment and supervising them really well.

Our overall goal is to teach our dogs that our house is their house. See, instinctively dogs don’t like to do their business where they live and sleep, but it can take a while for them to generalize an entire house as their primary residence.

You first want your dog to understand that there is one area for their living space, before expecting them to generalize the whole living room, the kitchen, bathroom and so on until they’ve learned that the whole house is their house.

You do this by slowly giving your dog access to the rest of the house under heavy supervision over time, along with taking them outside very often.

So what are the best ways to control your dog’s environment?

I’ve found that the best way is by actual attaching a leash to you, this way your dog can’t wander off into another room and you’re in a better position to kind of take cues from your dog that they might want to go outside.

Baby gates are a great way to control where your dog can and can’t go, you could also get a puppy playpen and this will give your dog a fair amount of room when you want to break from heavy supervision from time to time.

No matter how you decide to control your dog’s environment, make sure you go out of your way to ensure that they’re having a great time in whatever environment you choose.

A crate is a nice way to give your dog a cozy place to hang out when you can’t supervise them. Now, since a crate is pretty small relative to a big room your dog is less likely to do their business inside of the crate, and they’ll be more likely to accept it as their primary living space.

Remember, dogs don’t like to do their business where they live and sleep, understand though the crate is not a dog sitter it’s just a way to keep your dog safe and out of trouble for short periods of time when you absolutely can’t supervise them.

But you want to introduce the crate delicately in order to make sure that your dog enjoys being inside. First let your dog explore the crate, open it up, let them smell it, let them check it out not forcing them in the crate at all.

Give him a treat just to create a positive association while being in the presence of this crate, try and get him to go inside of the crate voluntarily because you don’t want to force him in the crate. You want him to want to go in the crate.

Try and put the Treat in a little bit farther and wait for him to go in all by himself, again keeping the door open. Letting him know he can come and go at least at this point in this training. You’re just trying to get him comfortable with being in the crate for a little bit longer.

Close the door with your puppy inside but don’t just walk away and leave them alone, give them another treat. It’s a good idea to hang out with your dog for a little while he is locked in the cage, especially those first few training sessions.

The crate should be big enough for your dog to be very comfortable to move around in but not necessarily take several steps in a row.

After your dog is starting to make the connection that this is where they hang out, you can then begin to enlarge the crate.

To be clear an over sized crate is absolutely fine after your dog has gone several days without having an accident in the crate

In the beginning, place the crate near your bed so that your dog is less likely to have anxiety when you go to bed at night. It’s normal that your puppy might keep you awake sometimes in the middle of the night and yeah, you’ll have to get in the habit of getting up and taking them outside.

Hey, that’s just part of having a puppy, it’ll get better though and later you can move the crate into another room if you want to. A good rule of thumb for how long your dog should be in the crate is roughly one hour per month of age.

However, you really want to avoid having any dog in a crate for more than four or five hours at a time, at any age with the exception of overnight. This is why it’s important to have additional puppy-proofed areas available, like a puppy proof laundry room or bathroom where you can tolerate potty accidents.

Before leaving your dog alone for many hours at a time, do your best to give them age-appropriate exercise. Now, since many of us have jobs that require us to be away from the house for more than eight hours at a time, make arrangements to come home at lunch and let them out and play for about thirty or forty-five minutes if possible.

If this isn’t practical for you though, you might need to enlist the help of a friend, family member, dog walker or doggie daycare.

Potty Training Your Shih Tzu To Go Outside

In general, I recommend about once an hour. Make sure you take them outside immediately upon arriving home or waking up. Be prepared to stay outside for five to ten minutes, it’s okay if they don’t go each time but it’s important that you continually give them the opportunity to go.

Now, in cases where they’ve been left alone for two or more hours make sure you take them outside immediately upon arriving home or waking up.

When are you waiting for your dog to relieve himself be boring, just let him check out the environment because you don’t want to distract him.

When he finishes going that’s when you reward him big, It’s as though going potty outside unlocks the most fun version of you to your dog.

You can reward them with a great treat, or even a short play session creating positive associations. This way will make your dog actually want to go outside to do their business.

If your dog does have an accident inside, don’t punish him. This is about as effective as punishing an infant for going in their diaper.

Your dog isn’t to blame for this accident, either you weren’t consistent enough or you didn’t control the environment well enough so just do a better job next time.

What do you do if you catch your dog in the act of going inside?

If possible pick them up and rush them outside otherwise clean up the mess doing your best to eliminate any odors and do a better job of following the steps I’ve outlined.

Submissive or Excitement Urination

Some of you might be wondering about submissive or excitement urination, that’s where your dog pees when they get a little nervous or extra excited. Typically, most dogs will outgrow this by the time they’re 12 to 18 months of age, but if you prioritize socializing your dog they’ll probably get there sooner rather than later.

In general, I’d recommend against using puppy pads unless you have a unique situation like maybe you live in a high-rise apartment where it’s impractical to get your dog outside very often.

That’s because dogs generally develop a preference to whatever texture they experience, most often while relieving themselves. So, if you want your dog to go on grass full-time just introduce them to lots of grass and give lots of praise when they do their business in the right place.

When Is Your Dog Completely House Trained?

Most people celebrate house-training success a little bit too prematurely, so how will you know when your dog is completely house trained?

Well, I’d say that once they go one to two months with absolutely no accidents and can go several hours between potty breaks, you’re probably out of the woods.

Regression is likely, especially in the first year or if you move or your dog experiences another major change to their environment.

If this happens, just take a step back and go back to basics. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog remain vigilant for six straight months without letting your guard down, dogs are relinquished all of the time because of issues with house training and other problem behaviors.

Dealing With Problems

Puppies are so easily distracted by the environment around them, whether it’s a sight or a smell or a sound, maybe a leaf blowing by. Maybe there are dogs barking in the background.

But this can completely make the puppy forget about the fact that they’re out there to go potty. They can totally forget that they’ve actually got to go. Taking advantage of some natural training opportunities with your puppy is a real help.

So the first time out of their crate in the morning is a great time to start your potty training. You’ll have biology working for you and you’ll know that your puppy really likely has to go.

Potty training after a fun play session or shortly following a meal are also really great times to know that you’re going to invest a little bit of time into your puppy potty training.

First things first, any time that your puppy goes outside it’s really important that you go out with them and that you have them on-leash. You need to be able to guide the process and help them avoid any distractions, but you also need to really know whether they’ve actually gone or not.

So if you’re able to, try to find an environment with the least amount of distractions, whether it’s environmental sounds or smells or whatever. You can also choose this time to show your puppy exactly where you want them to go potty in the future, so take advantage of this.

Because you’re out there with your puppy on-leash, it’s easy to redirect them if they start to get distracted by a vehicle that drives by or some kids playing in the distance, you can just guide them around with your leash.

Now, you want to be as boring as possible when you’re out there with your puppy. The last thing you want to be doing is engaging them in play or using any sort of exciting language.

The other challenge is if you’re moving around a lot with your puppy, there are all sorts of interesting smells that they’re just discovering now, so try to remain in a small area.

Don’t move around too much and that way your puppy will quickly become bored with the sights and smells and sounds in this little circle you’ve created and they’re more likely to go potty then.

It’s really important that you give your puppy an appropriate amount of time to go when you’re out there.

Maybe it’s four or five minutes, or maybe if they’ve been really distracted and you’ve been guiding them away from these distractions over and over again, maybe it’s six or seven minutes. But it’s important that you don’t remain out there for 30 minutes.

You’re gonna give your puppy a handful of minutes let’s say and what’s really important is if your puppy doesn’t go, what you do next. If your puppy doesn’t go, you’re gonna bring them right back inside and directly into their crate.

Be careful that you don’t let your puppy sort of meander around the kitchen or wherever because that’s the opportunity that they may have been looking for to go potty. So you’re just gonna put them directly back in their crate.

You’re going to wait a couple of minutes and for those couple of minutes, you’re gonna keep a close eye on your puppy in the crate. If your puppy has an accident indoors, you’re going to be there to supervise them. You can actually mark that moment for them with an oops or a hay and it an interrupt that process entirely.

After those couple of minutes are up, you’re going to take your puppy out, take them directly outside, and then wash, rinse, and repeat. Follow the steps that we talked about a little bit earlier and just do it over and over again until your puppy realizes that the only place that’s appropriate to go potty is outside.

Remember, puppies are going to do whatever it is that they find rewarding. So if they’re continuously making mistakes in your home, that’s not their mistake. It’s actually your mistake.

Shih Tzu Puppy Playpen

Now a puppy Play Den solves a big conundrum when raising a puppy. For starters, we know that puppies should not have free-range of the house, especially while you’re gone. We need to prevent potty and chewing mistakes.

Many puppy experts recommend toy-feeding your puppy in their confinement space to habituate them to it, to teach them to enjoy being alone, and to help them become chew toy trained. This greatly reduces the likelihood that a dog will chew on inappropriate items or develop distress or anxiety later on.

But: we also know that a puppy usually needs to go potty soon after they eat. Plus, most of us working stiffs will have to leave the puppy for a few hours at some point. So how do we reconcile long-term confinement, toy-feeding, AND potty training?

All of these loose ends are resolved with a Puppy Play Den. The puppy Play Den was first suggested by the world-famous trainer, behaviorist, and vet, Dr. Ian Dunbar in his landmark book, “Before and After You Get Your Puppy.”

The plan was later picked up by Open Paw, which created the textbook for planning and care of shelter animals.

The Purpose of a Long-term Confinement area as far as puppies are concerned is two-fold:

One is prevention.

Errors increase the likelihood of more errors, so we confine the puppy to an area that precludes chewing and potty mistakes around the house when we cannot supervise them.

Two is pro-action.

We want to maximize the likelihood that the puppy will learn to use the provided toilet, to chew only chew toys, and to settle down calmly without barking. Prevention and pro-action are your best friends.

Most behavior problems are predictable and therefore preventable. Don’t wait for your puppy to make mistakes. You’ll just be running after the puppy doing damage control and you’ll always be playing catch-up.

It’s much better to preemptively set the stage and short circuit problems before they appear. The basic components of the Play Den are A Waterproof floor. A crate or comfortable bed Hollow, stuffed chew toys, water, And a doggy Toilet, not pads, in the farthest corner from the bed (we’ll go into detail with the toilet in a second).

An Optional add-on is an X-Pen that you can use to surround the individual pieces if the room is too large, or cannot be safely puppy-proofed.

Let’s drill down on the individual components.


Figure out where you’re going to set up your puppy’s Play Den. Ideally, this could be a kitchen, bathroom, utility room, or section of a room sectioned off by an exercise pen. Ideally, you want this close to the outside door so you can get them outside quickly when it’s time to take them out of their Play Den.

It’s good to establish going outside to potty as part of the routine any time the puppy is going to spend time with you.

TWO: BEDDING Give your puppy a crate or a bed.

Plastic Crates are the preferred tool here. You can take the door off. You can even take the top off for an easy to clean bed with high sides.
A typical dog bed may encourage chewing on the wrong thing.

In a pinch, a towel can take the place of more easily chewable bedding.


We’ve recommended before, as do many puppy experts out there, that toy-feeding your puppy in their confinement space is hugely beneficial for teaching them to enjoy being alone and to help them become chew toy trained.

This greatly reduces the likelihood that a dog will chew on inappropriate items or develop distress or anxiety about being alone later on. Toy-feeding and work-to-eat toys are the fastest and best methods. These include Kongs, Buster Cubes, Squirrel Dudes, Barnacles, or Atomic Balls.

Confinement prompts your puppy to focus on their stuffed chew toys, leaving little time to worry or bark. We’ve talked about how to deploy these toys before in our Kong article, but remember any brand or configuration will work mostly the same.

No matter what, though, it’s important that these are the only sources of food or chewable available. Do not use a food bowl.

FOUR: a bowl of freshwater – Pretty self-explanatory.

FIVE: YOUR DOGGY TOILET Listen: Ditch the puppy pads.

I know I said previously that you can use pads but I personally don’t like them and this is why.

Puppy pads do very little to help potty train your puppy. They just prolong the process and potentially create bad habits. Instead, we recommend a home-made toilet. Understand that puppies form three soiling preferences: Olfactory, Substrate, and Spatial.

If they smell poop or pee, even someone else’s, it’s a toilet to them. Smell triggers potty behavior. Dogs form a preference for the surface they like to go on. For a puppy, this is your opportunity to teach them what you want them to go on.

If you don’t pay attention to this, they’ll form a preference that may not be what you wanted, such as your hardwood floors or your area rugs. They also will also come to prefer going in certain places according to landmarks.

This component won’t be in place until you take them outside, but getting the Olfactory and Substrate dialed in will absolutely streamline the outdoor process. This is why I hate puppy pads.

Based on these three preferences pads just teach your puppy to prefer pads which will hinder your work later on.

And if you remove the pads, they’ll find something else in the house to go on that feels similar to them like bath mats, rugs, or even in the spot where the pads used to be according to a spatial preference they formed if the pads were used too long.

On a side note, though, pads might be a good solution for people that cannot or do not want to outdoor train their dogs. Disabled dog owners or people that live in high-rise apartments might actually want to pad train their dog. Just be aware of the ramifications and go into it intelligently.

Otherwise, making the toilet is a snap. You can just get a cat litter pan, baking pan, or plastic gardening tray, and line it with whatever substrate you intend to have your dog go on.

If you have a lawn outside, use a sod; if you have gravel outside, use some of that in the toilet; and if you have only pavement outside, use some concrete pavers in the toilet.

This type of toilet works super. Whenever your puppy is with you, you’ll be taking the puppy outside. But on those occasions when they need to spend time in confinement the toilet will keep the potty training on track and aligned with your household needs.

Try to have short play and training sessions hourly. If and when you cannot pay full attention to your puppy, this is the time to put your puppy in their Play Den with proper chew toys and their self-training toilet.

This is just like putting a baby in a playpen or crib when you can’t supervise them! Keep in mind that any potty or chewing mistakes your puppy makes are potential setbacks that anticipate more to come.

If an inexperienced puppy is allowed unsupervised free run of your home, potty, and chewing mistakes are guaranteed. And your puppy could become hyperactive and anxious.

As we said, problems are predictable and preventable, so steer that ship where you want it now, instead of just being at the whim of fate. Of course, once your puppy has mastered their household manners and enjoys time spent by themselves, they can potentially enjoy the full run of your house and yard any time you want.

How To Teach Your Dog To Ask To Go Outside

We have several puppy potty training articles on our blog, and one of the common questions that people ask us is, “How do I get my puppy to let me know “when they need to go outside?”

I’m gonna teach you exactly how to do that, and this method isn’t gonna require any bells. The only bells you’ll be ringing are bells of joy.

It wasn’t long ago that we had to teach our Shih Tzu some potty training and in this section of our article, I’m going to show you the exact method we used to have our Shih Tzu have an easy and reliable way to ask us to go outside to potty.

Puppy potty training accidents can be unpredictable so here’s a dog trainer hack. We know that after your puppy’s been in their crate all night that they’re gonna have to go. So here’s what I want you to do.

You’re gonna grab your puppy’s leash, you’re gonna go open your puppy’s crate and pick them up. Clip-on their leash, and then head up to the exterior door that you’re going to use to take your puppy outside to potty.

The reason we picked the puppy up is that we don’t want to risk the chance that your puppy’s going to have an accident when they come out of their crate, between their crate and exterior door.

So the best thing you can do is pick that puppy up so that they don’t have an opportunity to make that mistake, and then you can take them up to the inside of that exterior door.

Now, what most people do at this point is to take their puppy directly outside, but here’s the trick. At this point, we want you to set the puppy down and hang onto the leash.

Your puppy’s really got two choices. It’s either have an accident on the floor, which we’ve talked about in previous potty training articles. You know, it’s not the best outcome, but it gives you an opportunity to tell the puppy that that’s not what you want, or your puppy’s gonna indicate.

They’re gonna maybe sniff, or they’re going to maybe go towards the door or they’re gonna look to you. They’re gonna look a little bit uncomfortable, and that’s the moment you mark with your, “Do you want to go outside?”

And this is the foundation for this skill that your puppy needs to come to you to indicate that they need to go outside. Now, this isn’t the kind of skills that will be learned in one session. You’re gonna need to plan the same routines a few mornings in a row, as well at other times of the day.

You need to be really supervising your puppy and very aware if they start to indicate that they need to go potty, and maybe those signals are sniffing or looking to you or scratching or whatever they might be, you’re going to learn them in those morning sessions.

If your puppy indicates they need to go outside, you need to pick them up and immediately take them out. It’s beneficial to have your puppy come and find you to let you know that they need to go outside rather than them being stuck waiting at the door or while you don’t know that they need to go outside.

So remember, set your puppy up to be successful by starting this first thing in the morning when you know that they need to go. If your puppy happens to pee in the house, make sure you mark that moment with an, “Oops,” or a, “Ah,” or something to mark that precise moment that they have made a mistake.

The reason we love this method is it gives your dog the responsibility of letting you know that they have to go outside now and saying that, you need to be supervising. So whether they make a good choice or a bad choice, you’re there to let them know.

Potty Bell Training For Shih Tzu

Potty Bells are pretty popular, they can be pretty useful and the way I like to teach it requires a little bit of explanation.

Some dogs you can just put the bells up and there are people indicate to them that they want them to ring the bells and then they go outside and then the dog figures it out. Dogs are brilliant, that’s fantastic if you’ve not figured it out cool if not, do it this way.

I would recommend doing it this way just to make sure you’ve got the actual foundations and the actual behaviors that we really want. If it works for you, that’s great, it’s not a big deal. So we’re going to start by teaching the dog nose targeting.

Once they know how to nose target onto our hand we’re going to ask them to nose target onto the bells. And then we pair nose targeting with the bells with going outside until you get to that last step you’re not gonna hang up your bells.

They’re gonna be put away somewhere near the door but they’re not gonna be out all the time if we put them out all the time before the dog really understands what they’re doing, what they’re getting paid for then you run the risk of making a behavior go extinct by not paying it.

If they don’t have enough of the reinforcement history with that behavior then it’s gonna go extinct quickly.

So if the bells are up and they jingle it and no one’s home or they jingle it and you don’t hear them then they will learn it doesn’t work and stop using it.

To make sure we’ve got a big strong behavior they understand exactly what they’re doing and exactly what they’re getting paid for then we make it look more and more like real life so we’re gonna start with nose targeting.

Hand Targeting

We taught our Shih Tzu this method when we lived in an apartment so that she would not need to come and find us and stare. The stare could mean anything and we are not as smart as she is.

And I say that because she understands our words but we don’t understand any of hers so we needed a way for her to be able to tell us through other means of what she wanted.

The first step was to teach her what the word touch meant. The way we went about this was that we would place our hand in front of her and tell her to touch, then gently move our hand onto her nose.

When her nose touched our hand we gave her a treat, we said the word “touch” to her and when she pouched our hand we said “good girl”. We repeated this several times and then stopped moving our hand so that she would have to move her nose to make the connection and when she did she was given a treat.

Once we felt comfortable that she knew what touch meant we went ahead and placed a bell on a wall in a position near the door that would be easy for her to reach. Now we would wait till she needed to go outside and when she was a puppy this wouldn’t be very long.

When she was ready we brought her to the bell and placed our hand near it, and asked her to touch and tried to get her to accidentally hit the bell. When she did she got a treat and some praise. then we took her right outside to do her business and then right back in.

We wanted to be sure that she associated ringing that bell to only go outside to relieve herself, not for playtime. After a few days she associated ringing the bell with needing to go outside, she never rings the bell to play.

By doing it this way it was a strong connection for her that the bell was just to do her business and that was it.

All right Shih Tzu owners, good luck with your potty training, if you have an alternate solution, we’d love to hear about them. Keep practicing, and we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for reading.

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