Your new Shih Tzu puppy is adorable. Her gentle brown eyes and soft, fluffy coat are enough to make you shower her with love and forget all about training and discipline. She will only grow up happy and confident, however, if she knows what you expect from her.
You can begin house training your puppy the day she arrives in your home. Shih Tzu’s have a reputation as an easily trainable breed, and by anticipating the puppy’s needs you can help her make the right choices for her potty breaks. Take her outdoors to the designated potty area immediately she wakes up, directly after each meal and last thing before bedtime. In addition, puppies younger than six months old need potty breaks every few hours, and a good way to time this is to link the puppies age to the hours she can last. For example, a puppy of 3 months old needs a potty break every three hours, while a puppy of 4 months can go every four hours.
Teaching your Shih Tzu puppy to accept grooming at a young age makes the process easier when she is older. Brush your puppy daily using a soft, bristle brush around the face and head, and use a large-toothed comb for the rest of the body. Shih Tzus have large, prominent eyes which attract debris, causing tears and discoloration, so get her accustomed to having her eyes wiped gently with water and a cotton swab. Inspect her ears regularly for mites and wax and ask your groomer to show you how to clip her nails.
After the age of 3 months, bathe your puppy regularly in lukewarm water, using shampoo specially formulated for puppies. Never use human shampoo or soap on your puppy. Shih Tzus have light-colored skin and puppies are particularly sensitive, and human products may cause irritation or allergies. Alternatively, take her to the groomer for bathing as soon as she has had her second round of shots and has protection against the common dog diseases.
Take your Shih Tzu to meet as many people as possible. Allow her to be handled by children of all ages in a supervised setting, and correct her gently if she plays roughly with small children and babies. Once the veterinarian gives you the go-ahead to socialize her with other animals, take her to a puppy group to meet other dogs. Watch her carefully at the dog park, and ensure that bigger dogs don’t have the opportunity to bully her, which could make her lose confidence and become timid.
Go to Bed!
Teach your Shih Tzu puppy where her bed or safe place is, and to go to it on command. This is useful for a time-out when she gets too excited, when you have visitors or simply when you need a break from entertaining her. Draw her to the bed with a treat, and when she complies, say “go to bed” and reward her. Do this ten times in a row each day until she understands what you want from her when you say the words.
Learning the Leash
Start teaching your Shih Tzu puppy to walk on leash from the first day. Sit on the floor with her and fit the collar and leash loosely around her neck. Without holding the leash, play a game with her to distract her from it, so she realizes it is nothing to fear. Gently draw her to you holding the leash with one hand, and a treat or toy in the other. Reward her when she gets close to you. Once she is completely accustomed to the leash and following you while wearing it, you can take her outdoors and try it there.
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.