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How To Potty Train A Shih Tzu - The Safe & Kind Way

Does this sound familiar? You are relaxing at home, following your favorite TV show, then your Shih Tzu walks in front of you and does their thing right in the corner of the living room.


You may be scratching your head trying to figure out how you are going to potty-train your Shih Tzu effectively. The good news is that it is quite an easy thing to achieve. The Shih Tzu is not just a cute dog breed but they are also smart, and this means that they are highly trainable.

black and white Shih Tzu Puppy on table

However, you’ll still need to be patient and committed. Yes, your Shih Tzu might be smart and highly trainable, but they will need enough time to learn the new behavior.


So, how long will it take for your Shih Tzu to learn to be potty trained? That depends – some would take between 3 to 6 weeks, while others would take up to six months to learn. Regardless of that, you need to be patient enough until they master the training. It will happen, I promise!

Why Might You Need To Potty Train Your Shih Tzu Puppy?

If you ask a dog owner why they are potty training their dog, you would get different reasons. Some do it for the good of the dog and others to keep their home clean but regardless of the reason, it is always beneficial to potty train your Shih Tzu. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:


No Dog Mess/Odor In Undesirable Places


This is the most obvious reason. Some dogs tend to find a hidden section in the house and do their business there. If you cannot find where your dog relives themselves, you might have a difficult time keeping your house smelling fresh. But if you potty train them well, you can eliminate that bad smell.


They Can Stay In The House When Unwell Or Injured


When your Shih Tzu has an injury or an illness, it might not be safe to take them outside. This means that they might do their mess in the house causing bad smells and a lot of cleaning up after them.But if they are potty trained they would be able to stay indoors and relieve themselves in the right place?


It Gives You Peace Of Mind


Not only does potty training your Shih Tzu help to keep your house free from the odor and mess, but it also gives you peace of mind. Have you ever come across a pet owner who always rushes home from work to take their dog out? When your puppy is potty trained you wouldn’t have to worry about rushing home when you are out and about.

Different Strategies For Potty Training Your Shih Tzu

We have included crate training in the list above as this is a popular method for potty-training dogs. However, I think this is a particularly cruel strategy, so I won’t be elaborating on this method. You can easily achieve the same results with a much kinder approach.


Below, we will go into more detail about the steps to potty train your Shih Tzu.

How To Potty Train Your Shih Tzu Puppy

Now let’s explore the strategies for potty training your Shih Tzu.


Start As Soon As Possible


First things first, you need to start the potty training as soon as the puppy gets home. If you just got them from the breeder, don’t wait!


The earlier you start, the better your success. Too many new pet owners make the mistake of ignoring the mess the puppy leaves around the house for the first few weeks.


They presume that the puppy will learn when he grows up. This is a very big mistake.


Instead, start the potty training straight away!


Also, keep in mind that puppies have a small bladder so this means that the puppy will poop and pee whenever they want to.


They cannot hold it for a long time. When potty training a puppy take it as though you were handling your 2-year old child. Remember to be patient!


Observe Your Shih Tzu Puppy


After you understand that they have a small bladder and can do their thing almost anywhere and whenever they feel like it, you will need to keep an eye on them. Make sure that you observe them to see if they are showing any signs of ‘wanting to go.’


You will need to watch out for common signs like sniffing, squatting, or circling. Always be keen to notice any body language that indicates they want to relieve themselves.


Decide On The Location (And Stick To It!)


Another important thing you need to consider is whether you want to train the dog in the house or outside.


Do you want to train them to ‘go’ on a specific spot outside or do you prefer using a litter box or pad in the house? Which of the two is the best option? That depends on some factors.


If you live in an apartment with multiple floors, you might want to consider potty training indoors. But if you live in a home with a yard, the outside option would also be a good idea.


All in all, choose one option and stick to it. Do not train your dog to use the litter box inside one day then take them outside the next day. Doing this will confuse them and be counter-productive.

Shih Tzu puppy training

Follow A Regular Feeding Schedule


If you feed your Shih Tzu at specific times throughout the day it will help you predict when they will want to go. It’s a good idea to establish a routine for both you and your dog.


Feed them the same times every day so that they can also use the bathroom at regular times. Your dog will most likely want to go about 30 minutes after feeding.


Remember to give them enough water. Some owners deny their dog water so that they don’t urinate overnight. Just because the same approach works with your kids doesn’t mean you should apply the same to the dog.


The dog needs plenty of water throughout the day so ensure that there is fresh water available for your dog at all times. We want them well trained but we don’t want to be cruel or punish them in any way.


Designate A Potty Spot


For those living in a home with a yard, you should consider designating a spot for your Shih Tzu to use whenever they want to relieve themselves.


Doing this is the simplest approach if you prefer the dog to go outside. The dog can easily sniff his pee and poop, which then encourages them to go in the same area again and again.


One way of making the process easy is to pick a specific corner in the yard. The corner should be specifically dedicated to your Shih Tzu’s potty business.


Choosing a corner is a good idea because the pee and poop smell rarely vanishes. For those that don’t have a backyard, you can opt for a specific tree or grass patch where they can do their thing.


Introduce A Litter Box


The litter box is the best friend for any dog owner that wants to potty train them.


One thing about the litter box is that it is suitable for any house. Whether you live in a home with a backyard or a condo/apartment, a litter box will serve you perfectly.


You will need to use positive behavior when training your dog. Here are some helpful things to follow when potty training your dog with a litter box:


  1. Find the right box – As we have mentioned, you need to choose the perfect box for your dog based on their size. The walls of the box should be low enough for your dog to step in and out easily. However, this should be on one side only. The other sides should be higher than the other side. You can read our other article about choosing the right litter box here.
  2. Add some litter –  Don’t forget to line the box with some pee pads or newspaper.
  3. Introduce your dog to the litter box – Once the litter box is set up, you will need to introduce your dog to their new potty box. Let your dog sniff around the box and explore it and become comfortable being in it. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect the dog to pee or poop at that specific time and it will take a while before they get used to it.
  4. Take them to the litter box after meals – Now that they are aware of their new potty spot you’ll need to familiarize them to the litter box. Take them to the litter box after meals, not immediately after but when you know it’s around the time they will want to go. Remember we said the Shih Tzu takes around 30 minutes to poop or pee after meals so this is a good estimate.
  5. Use a command when necessary – Sometimes, you don’t need to get up from the sofa and take your dog to the litter box or outside – especially if they already know where they should go. All you have to do is say the magic command, and they will follow it accordingly.You can use the simple command, ‘Go Potty’ to tell them to use the designated area. But this should only be used when you notice your dog wants to go. For example, if you see them circling, squatting, or sniffing, say the command. This way your dog will associate this positive command with going to the toilet.

    I don’t agree with scolding or negative commands when they go in a place you don’t want them to go, just ignore them and reinforce the positive command when they go in the right place.

    Positive reinforcement is the key here.

  6. Reward him for going to the right place – Whether you trained your dog to go outside or inside the house in a litter box you should reward them when they do it correctly. With the reward, you can either give them a ‘Good Boy/Girl’ or a dog treat as long as it’s something positive that your dog responds to in a positive way.  Also, make sure you reward them immediately after they go so they can associate what they have just done with the treat. If you leave it too late they won’t realise what they are rewarded for.


If you would like to see some reviews on the best litter trays for dogs then please read our article – Litter Trays For Dogs.

Things To Consider When Potty Training Your Shih Tzu

I do not recommend the crate option. This is another way of ‘locking up’ your dog. Although it may be effective I believe it to be cruel and think you can achieve the same results with a more loving approach. Remember your dog is a sentient being with feelings and should be treated with the respect they deserve.


Don’t punish or scold them – Your Shih Tzu will not respond positively to punishment. You should not yell at them or hit them in any way. They are not intentionally relieving themselves in the wrong place and you need to be understanding and patient.


Ensure that you clean the mess properly, especially in the unwanted areas around the house. If you fail to clean thoroughly, the smell will remain and they will go to the same place again.


Be patient and committed – it may take some time but you will get there eventually!

Further Reading

If you would like to dig deeper into all areas of caring for your Shih Tzu we recommend you check out the book bellow.

shih tzu complete guide book cover

Using interviews with 17 top Shih Tzu breeders, author and experienced Shih Tzu owner Molly Weinfurter has created an in-depth look at what it takes to successfully live with, raise, and train a Shih Tzu.


This book has a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Amazon with over 220 reviews.


So that’s how you should potty train your Shih Tzu. Quite easy, right?


Just remember that you need to have enough patience with your dog during the potty-training period. If they are still a puppy, be as gentle as you would be to your 2-year old child.


Don’t rush your dog and keep in mind that the earlier you start the training process, the quicker and easier it will be for both of you.

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