How to Kennel Train a Shih Tzu Puppy

Hard
3-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

If there is one thing any Shih Tzu owner can tell you, it would have to be that training them to do just about anything can be both frustrating and amusing at the same time. If you scold your pup by saying something like "bad dog" you are more likely to be greeted with a goofy smile, tons of tail wagging, and one of those "Who, me?" looks.

While some would have you believe that crate training any dog amounts to a form of cruel punishment akin to a human being put in jail, oddly enough, this is the exact opposite of how your pup will come to see his kennel. In the wild, he would seek out a cave for his den. In your home, the kennel will become a substitute den and if your training goes the right way your pup will come to see it this way, spending plenty of time in it on his own. 

Defining Tasks

The whole point of training your pup to go in his kennel and stay there is so that you can go to the store, to work, or even to bed at night. Not only is giving your pup his own personal space important to the overall condition of your home (no accidents, nothing shredded), but it is just as important to him. In the wild, dogs have their own den; they use it for sleeping, staying out of the weather, hiding from predators, and raising their families.

Of course, in your home, your pup will never actually need a den for most of these reasons. But, at the same time, he will still benefit significantly from having a place that he can truly call his own. One that when he goes there, it's that one place where he can rest undisturbed. Bear in mind that once your pup starts using his kennel to go to in this manner, everyone in the house should be taught to leave him alone. 

Getting Started

One good thing about having a Shih Tzu is that you can save a little money in comparison to those with a bigger breed. This is because you should only have to buy one kennel instead of two or more as your pup becomes an adult. If possible, you should try to have the kennel in place before you bring your pup home for the first time. This way it will simply be another part of his new home. You can bring a kennel in later, but having one in place beforehand makes it a little easier for your pup to get used to it.

Make the inside of the kennel as comfy as possible for your Shih Tzu pup. Go ahead and carpet the floor, add a cushy bed, maybe a blanket, definitely some toys, and a water bottle. That should just about do it. Again, make sure the kennel is the right fit for your pup. He'll need enough space to stretch out, stand up, and turn around, but not much more than that.

The In Your Own Good Time Method

Effective
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Step
1
Everything in place
Once you have your pup's kennel in place and all set up to go, leave the door open and bring your pup in.
Step
2
Bowl placement
You should place his food and water bowls outside the door to his kennel at first. Now step back and give your pup a few days to get used to the whole situation. If you are really lucky, he will start wandering in and out of the kennel without any need for encouragement.
Step
3
Close the door
Once your pup seems to be getting used to going into his "den", it's time to up the ante a bit. The next time he goes into his kennel, close and latch the door behind him. If he decides to start barking and fussing, ignore him until he calms down, which he will. Then give him one of his favorite treats and shower him with praise.
Step
4
Once he has enjoyed his snack
Once he has scarfed down the treat, open the door and let him come out. Then take him outside to do his business and run off any excess energy.
Step
5
It's on you now
The rest is all about extending how long your pup stays in the kennel before you let him out, how many times a day you are willing to work on this training, and on how quickly your pup figures it all out. In time, you may find your pup spends a lot of time in there all on his own.
Recommend training method?

The Dimly Lit Method

Effective
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Step
1
Set the stage
What could be more fun than having a new place to call home complete with a dimly lit dinner? Not much in the dog world. With your pup's kennel in its permanent location, go ahead and use a blanket to cover most of it in order to create a warm, dimly-lit environment for your pup. Then leave the door open and see what happens. At first, your pup may only sniff at it, that’s fine. Eventually, he will start walking in and out of it on his own.
Step
2
Ring the dinner bell
When dinnertime comes around, be sure to place his food and water dishes just outside the door of his den. Your pup will start to connect the kennel with something good (i.e. the food). Leave things like this for a few days, then move his bowls to a point just inside the door, but far enough in he has to at least partially enter the kennel to reach his food.
Step
3
Move dinner back
Once he has had time to get used to going this far into the kennel, start moving the bowls further back until your pup has to go all the way into his kennel to get to it. Then close the door and let him eat his dinner in peace. When he is done and looks towards the door, go ahead and let him out, then take him outside to pee.
Step
4
An extended stay
Time to start working on extending the amount of time your pup spends in his kennel between when he is done eating and when you open the door. Start introducing the "kennel" command each time you send him into his kennel so that he learns to associate the two. Be generous with treats and praise when he gets things right.
Step
5
Going out for a bit
Go ahead and kennel your pup, get ready to go out, and without a fuss beyond perhaps a simple, "Bye Howie, be a good boy!", go out for a couple of hours. When you come back, don't fuss over your dog, give him time to calm down, then acknowledge him, if he has not made a mess be sure to praise him, and the let him out once he has calmed down and take him out to go potty. When you can do this for several hours at a time you will have kennel trained your Shih Tzu puppy.
Recommend training method?

The At Your Own Pace Method

Effective
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Step
1
It's a setup
Set your pup's crate up in a quiet place in the living room or family room so he will always feel like he is part of the family. Toss some toys and a treat inside and close the door.
Step
2
Something smells good
Your pup should be drawn to the smell of the treat, which in turn will make him curious about the kennel and desperate to find the treat. When he starts pawing at the sides of the kennel, open the door and let him in, while at the same time using your cue, "Kennel, Howie." Let him go in and explore and praise him for being brave enough to go in and find the treat. When he comes back out, use an "Out" cue and praise him, but no treat. You want him to associate going in the kennel with the treat, not coming out.
Step
3
Working your way in
Slowly, over the course of a few days, toss the treats farther and farther back in the kennel until they are landing on the back wall and your pup is standing all the way inside to get his treat.
Step
4
Behind the closed door
Once he seems comfortable with going all the way in, go ahead and quietly close the door. If he fusses, let him go on until he gets tired of it. Then praise him and give him a treat.
Step
5
Movin' on
The rest is in your hands, it is up to you to keep working with your pup, extending how long he stays in the kennel until he is happy to spend the day in it while you are at work or out for a night on the town.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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