How to Leash Train a Shih Tzu Puppy

Medium
4-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

Your Shih Tzu puppy might be small and easily managed on a leash, but leash training him will keep you both safe and give you a lifetime of stress-free leash walks. Even a small dog who pulls on a leash can injure their larynx and throat. 

When you train your Shih Tzu puppy to walk on a leash with leash manners with you, he won't pull on the leash tugging your arm, potentially cause an injury to his neck, or chase after dogs, bunnies, or butterflies. Your Shih Tzu puppy comes with an incredible personality. He is a spunky little fella who is happy to please you. Your pup will be a loyal, playful companion. He is outgoing and friendly to people he meets along your walks. When you are walking your Shih Tzu puppy on a leash, he should be able to portray all of his great traits without being rude or pulling on his leash.

Defining Tasks

Starting fairly early with your Shih Tzu puppy teaching him leash manners will help with additional training as well. You might want to make sure your Shih Tzu puppy is at least eight weeks old before you introduce a leash. If your Shih Tzu puppy pulls at all on a leash, consider a harness and attach the leash to the harness rather than his collar. This will always keep his neck protected and give you better control should he pull and run after something while on your walk together. Leash training your Shih Tzu puppy will also give him lots of exercise, so avoid putting your Shih Tzu puppy in a doggy stroller or carrying him around. 

Getting Started

Training your Shih Tzu to walk on a leash will require some repetitive actions and lots of tasty treats. You will, of course, need a leash appropriate for your Shih Tzu’s size and weight as an adult as well as a harness, should you choose to use one. Schedule leash training sessions with your Shih Tzu puppy and stick to your training schedules. Anytime you take your adorable Shih Tzu puppy out for a walk, people are going to want to stop and pet him. It's pretty hard to train any puppy who is distracted by affection so at first, it might be helpful to leash train your Shih Tzu puppy in your house or even in your backyard away from the distractions of the outside world. 

The Command Word Method

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Step
1
Let’s go
Train your Shih Tzu to know a command when you two walk together. This command can be something as simple as 'let's go for a walk' or 'let's go.' Whichever command you use, be sure it's the same command you use each time you take your puppy for a walk on a leash.
Step
2
Attach the leash
Attach your Shih Tzu puppy's leash to his collar or to a harness. Let him walk around the house with the leash on getting used to how it feels, the weight of it, the sound it makes. As soon as you attach the leash, give your pup a treat and the command 'let's go' letting him know it's time to go for a walk using his leash.
Step
3
Begin walking
Start walking with your Shih Tzu next to you on a fairly tight leash. You don't want to pull your puppy and you don't want him pulling you, so make sure the leash is loose enough that's not happening but not so loose that your puppy can get away from you, pull on you, or get wrapped around your feet.
Step
4
Treat and praise
As you and your Shih Tzu puppy walk together, every now and then offer him a treat and tell him what a good boy he is. Try to use the same words each time you offer him verbal praise such as "yes" or "good boy".
Step
5
Pulling
If your Shih Tzu puppy pulls on the leash, stop walking and wait for him to stop as well. When he stops, give the command 'let's go' again and begin walking.
Step
6
Continue
Continue your walks together using this method of walking and treating for good behavior and stopping when your Shih Tzu pulls or uses poor leash manners. As long as your pup is doing well on the leash you can slowly loosen the leash a bit more, giving him more space for loose leash walking.
Step
7
Rewards
Be sure you are rewarding your puppy along the way as well as at the end of your walk together. As soon as you return home and take off his leash, give him a treat and let him know What a good boy he is.
Step
8
Schedule walks
Once you have practiced short walks rewarding good behavior with treats and praise, begin to schedule longer walks together. Try to take at least one walk a day with your Shih Tzu puppy.
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The Change Direction Method

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Step
1
Collar and leash
Attach a collar and a leash to your Shih Tzu puppy before leaving the house. You may want to practice on the leash inside your house until your puppy gets used to how the collar or even a harness feels around his neck or body. Some little dogs have no idea what to do with the leash and could use some indoor practice before they go out into the world.
Step
2
Treat
As your Shih Tzu is getting used to his leash and collar or harness and collar, give him a treat. Set your training up to reward your puppy for positive behaviors.
Step
3
Walk
Start a short walk together with your puppy on the leash. As you are walking, say the word "yes" often as your Shih Tzu walks with you. As you say the word "yes", also give him a treat. This will condition him to understand the word "yes" is positive and positive means he gets a treat.
Step
4
Redirect
Anytime your Shih Tzu pulls on his leash, stop walking, turn around, and start walking in the opposite direction. At some point, he will be tugged on by your walking in the opposite direction and he will have to stop or catch up.
Step
5
Practice
You want your puppy to learn to walk next to you on a fairly loose leash. Leash manners will include not pulling on the leash, not walking in front of you or behind you or crossing your path, and certainly not chasing after anything along your walk. Anytime your Shih Tzu is practicing leash manners, say the word "yes" and give him a treat.
Step
6
Poor manners
Anytime your Shih Tzu chooses poor leash manners and does not do as you are practicing together, stop and walk in the opposite direction. Only reward your puppy with a treat and the word "yes" in the form of verbal praise when he is doing well.
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The Click to Heel Method

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Step
1
Leash
Place your Shih Tzu on a leash. You may consider a harness as well, but as long as neither you nor your puppy are pulling on the leash, a leash and collar should be fine. Click and treat once the leash is on. This sets your puppy up for training mode.
Step
2
Left side
Position your Shih Tzu on your left side and ask him to sit. Once he sits, click and treat for a job well done.
Step
3
Go for a walk
Take your Shih Tzu puppy for a walk. If this is your first time putting a leash on your Shih Tzu, give him a few minutes to get used to the feel and weight of it before walking with him. If he needs to get used to a leash, you can stay in the house and practice walking together for the first few training sessions.
Step
4
Treat in hand
Place a treat in your left hand and start walking forward. While walking, use the command ‘heel.’
Step
5
Click and treat
Every few yards, click and treat as long as he is walking with you and staying by your side. You will want your Shih Tzu to stay next to you on your left side, not pulling on the leash and not going too far ahead or lagging behind.
Step
6
Redirect
If your Shih Tzu is no longer staying with you on your left side, stop walking and wait for him to stop as well. Once he has stopped walking, start your training session again. Do not click and treat until you have walked a few yards.
Step
7
Rewards
Be sure to reward your puppy along the walk as long as he is doing well. Also, reward him with a tasty treat once you are finished walking and the leash is off.
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 02/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Chloe
Shih Tzu
12 Weeks
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Question
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Chloe
Shih Tzu
12 Weeks

My puppy just lays down and doesn’t want to walk with the leash. What do I do?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Very cute!! There are several good methods here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-beagle-puppy-to-walk-on-a-leash/. Use treats to lure Chloe along. Similar ideas are presented here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-dachshund-to-walk-on-leash/. It's practice makes perfect. Be patient and keep trying! The Treat Lure Method is explained here:https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-boxer-puppy-to-walk-on-a-leash/. The best thing to do is to practice with her every day, use an encouraging and happy voice as you walk along, and praise her constantly as she walks. Good luck!

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Question
Jack
Shih Tzu
10 Weeks
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Question
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Jack
Shih Tzu
10 Weeks

I have same problem as Cloe’s owner. I’ve tried tossing treats ahead of him maybe good for 3 tosses. Then he flattens like a pancake! And that is how he stays unless I pull him up by his harness. The only time he really runs (and I mean fast!) is when I turn around and say “go home.” He knows exactly what that means and knows how to go home! So this appears to me to Possibly be stubbornness? I’ve thought about throwing treats in driveway as I say “let’s go” and then turn around with “go home”, and maybe work just on driveway walks to and from the house? I’m at a loss! I’m also going to try indoor play and practice with harness and leash. Take the walking experience back a few notches.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
225 Dog owners recommended

Hi there! Unfortunately this is just something that takes a little time. I know time isn't always the best answer, but it is with young puppies on the leash. One thing you can do to speed things along a little is put some treats in a straight line. Maybe a foot or so apart and let Jack stop and eat each treat as you go along on leash. After a few tries at that, space the treats out a bit. Continue until he just starts walking nicely on the leash.

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Question
Buddy
Shih Tzu
14 Weeks
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Question
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Buddy
Shih Tzu
14 Weeks

Buddy gets really excited when I put his harness and lead on and can't wait to get going but as soon as we set off to walk he just sits down and refuses to walk, he runs and plays in the house just fine so it's not a physical problem

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
225 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Start with having some really tasty treats or favorite toys handy. Show your pup a treat while the dog sits or stands at your side. If you plan to eventually compete in obedience trials or other dog sports, it’s traditional to have the dog walk on your left side. But if you don’t care about competition, it doesn’t matter which side as long as you’re consistent. Wait until the puppy focuses on the reward. Then say, “Let’s go!” or another verbal cue that you use consistently. You must know how to talk to a puppy in a manner it understands. Hold the treat right in front of its nose as you begin to walk, luring the dog to keep pace. Practice Walking After the puppy understands the concept of loose-leash walking and sitting on command, you might want to change up the speeds. You will want your dog to maintain the pace you're going and stay at your side, whether you walk, trot, or run. Also, practice changing directions. When your pup walks on the left, a turn to your right or an about-face to the right should be pretty easy for the dog to follow. Turning to the left may require luring with the reward at least initially. Turn it into a game so that once the pup understands, you can give praise extravagantly. Problems and Proofing Behavior "Proofing" a behavior means ensuring that your dog will stick with the behavior even in challenging situations. To proof your dog's ability to walk well on a leash, move the practice times to areas that have more distractions. After all, leaving your backyard or living room will be necessary when you go to the park, or take a car ride to visit friends and family, and you want loose leash walking to be a default behavior wherever you go. For instance, you should practice in the front yard during morning rush hour or when your spouse tosses a ball on the other side of the room. As your dog develops more skills, you can start to teach it to "heel." The “heel” position is walking alongside you on your left side at knee-level while stopping and starting when you do, and sitting when you stop. Once your pup pays attention to the "let's go" command and anticipates the “sit" command when you stop, you might want to try getting your dog to heel around the entire perimeter of the yard or do laps outside the house. Even the smartest dogs can have trouble sticking with a behavior, and you will probably need to reinforce some of the training you've done, helping your pet to learn behaviors and overcome common challenges without immediate rewards. Jumping up for a reward. Your puppy should not be jumping up for the treat or toy, so lower the position if the puppy is trying to jump up. You can also use a long wooden spoon with a sticky treat or a commercial “treat stick” designed for that purpose so you don’t have to bend over. After a few steps, stop and tell your puppy to "sit." Reward the pup with the treat. Rushing ahead or tugging at the leash. Repeat the leash walk exercise with the lure. Stop every few steps, place your pup in a sit or down position, and reward it. The pup quickly should understand that “let’s go” (or other consistent commands) means to walk at your side—and you will pay with a reward when the dog sits as you stop. Behaving properly only when a reward is given. When the pup has performed several exercises, it won’t need to be lured but will want to know you have rewards handy. Increase the pup’s attention span by eventually offering the reward intermittently—rather than every time, reward every second, third, or fourth time. This teaches your dog to always obey since it is unclear when a reward is coming.

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