How to Litter Box Train a Shih Tzu Puppy

Medium
3-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

Your Shih Tzu puppy is soft cuddly and cute. They are also incredibly little and easy to train to go potty indoors. Even when your Shih Tzu puppy is an adult, he's not going to be very large so he can be litter box trained to go potty inside your house. Litter box training your dog is easy to do and is ideal for situations such as living in a high-rise apartment or in an area where winter weather can be extremely harsh. Your Shih Tzu puppy is so little, taking him outside during winter conditions can be so uncomfortable he could forget to go potty. Your Shih Tzu puppy is eager to please you. He will be your loyal companion and will likely want to participate in all of the training you provide for him. 

Defining Tasks

When you decide to litter box train your Shih Tzu puppy, be prepared for him to spend a lifetime using a litter box inside your home instead of going outdoors to go potty. Litter box training your Shih Tzu puppy is not much different than house training your puppy. It will require lots of patience and commitment to watching the signs that your puppy needs to go. When litter box training, you will need to pay attention and be around to acknowledge when he typically needs to go potty. Remember, your Shih Tzu puppy can hold it for about an hour for every month he is old. During these early days of potty training, be available to get your pup to the litter box on time to avoid accidents in the house.

Getting Started

Your Shih Tzu puppy can be litter box trained with the right size litter box, lots of treats for rewards, and positive behavior training. Be prepared for repetitive training, acknowledging good behavior with treats, and verbal praise. Scheduling meals for your Shih Tzu puppy rather than letting him free feed will make after mealtime potty sessions easier to recognize.

The Small Dog, Small Box Method

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Step
1
Choose a box
Choose a box perfect for your little Shih Tzu. You’ll want to keep the walls low enough at least on one side so your little guy can step inside with no problem. For a Shih Tzu, a cat box with a low side might be a perfect size.
Step
2
Litter
You can purchase dog litter. Some dog owners use cat litter, but it isn’t necessarily the best thing to use for dogs. You can also line the box with newspaper or even pee pads. Your Shih Tzu might also enjoy litter pellets.
Step
3
Introduce box
Take your Shih Tzu puppy to the littler box and show him around. Let him explore and sniff. Do not expect him to go potty right away, but show him where it is. At this point, you can start with commands he will learn as he is litter box training letting him know to go potty there. Give him a treat once you have introduced the box to him.
Step
4
Signs
Start paying attention to signs your Shih Tzu will show letting you know he has to go potty. These signs might be sniffing around or circling in a room or area. If your puppy does these things, take him to his litter box and use the command to go potty.
Step
5
After meals
About five to ten minutes after meals, take your Shih Tzu puppy to his litter box and use the command to go potty.
Step
6
After and during play
After your 'puppy has had some extended playtime, take him to the litter box. Use the 'go potty' command to encourage him to go. While your Shih Tzu is playing, watch him closely, as he may pause quickly to squat or start circling. If you see these things during playtime, stop him and take him to the potty.
Step
7
Reward
Be sure to reward your Shih Tzu puppy with some excitement and a treat each time he uses the litter box.
Step
8
Practice
Pay attention to the signs your puppy needs to go potty and be sure to take him to the litter box any time he shows these signs. Also, be sure to take him to the box to go potty after meals and playtime, before bed, and upon waking from any sleep.
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The Click Command Method

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Step
1
Prepare
If you are clicker training your Shih Tzu puppy, use the clicker to litter box train him as well. Clicker training marks good behaviors. Prepare yourself with treats and your clicker handy any time your Shih Tzu needs to go to the box.
Step
2
Introduce the box
Introduce a small litter box to your puppy. Make sure this box is large enough for your Shih Tzu to turn around in while standing and not too big for him to want to play. Plan the material you will place inside well in advance. You can use litter, newspapers, pee pads, or even litter pellets. Once he sees the box, click and treat.
Step
3
Meals
Your Shih Tzu puppy will need to go potty about five to ten minutes after he has eaten a meal. Watch him after meals and take him to the box to go potty soon after. If he is successful or not, once he’s in the box and not playing, click and treat. When he gets to the point of going potty when you take him, save the click and treat for going potty.
Step
4
Treat
Each time your Shih Tzu puppy is taken to the box to go potty, give him a click and treat once he is done. Even if he doesn’t go potty, he is trying by showing interest in the box.
Step
5
After sleep
As soon as your puppy wakes, take him to the litter box to go potty. For most puppies, the urge to go is what wakes them, so he will be looking for a place to go rather quickly. When he is successful, click and treat. Waking from sleep is one time he should have to go immediately, so this should almost always be an immediate success worth celebrating.
Step
6
Keywords
Use keywords with your puppy to tell him to go potty each time you take him to the box. Be consistent and take him often. Be sure to click and treat your Shih Tzu when he is successful.
Step
7
Treats
Any time your puppy goes potty in the litter box, give him a special treat. Don’t forget to mark the positive behavior with the click and treat. You can celebrate with verbal praise as well.
Recommend training method?

The Crate Tray Method

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Step
1
Set up the tray
Use the tray for a crate or a small litter box tray to train your Shih Tzu to go potty in a litter box. Line the tray with litter, litter pellets, or newspaper. You can keep the crate structure in place or only use the tray, but do not also use the crate for a sleeping place for your puppy if you are using it as a litter box.
Step
2
Show the tray
Take your Shih Tzu to the litter box and show it to him. Get excited and start using words he will connect with going potty. Let him walk around in the tray. If he’s interested in going potty, he’ll sniff and go. If he starts to play, remove him and try again later.
Step
3
Potty time
Once your Shih Tzu puppy goes potty in the tray, give him a reward in the form of a treat and verbal praise.
Step
4
Take to the tray
Take your puppy to his litter box tray after every meal until he goes, as soon as he wakes from sleep, after playtime, and throughout the day and night. If you see your Shih Tzu sniffing around or circling, take him to the litter tray immediately to go potty.
Step
5
Redirect
Your Shih Tzu puppy will likely have accidents. Avoid scolding him. When you catch him in an accident, take him to the tray. If it’s too late, try to pay more attention to how long he can hold it and get him to the tray earlier next time.
Step
6
Practice
Litter box training your Shih Tzu puppy will be successful as long as you and your puppy are dedicated. You will need to show him or take him to the box often, pay attention to any signs he needs to go potty, and offer lots of rewards when he is successful. Eventually, your pup will go on his own.
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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
Teddy
Shih Tzu
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Teddy
Shih Tzu
2 Years

We rescued Teddy when he was a year old. His previous owner was an 85 year old man who lived alone.
He never walked him and just laid pee pads EVERYWHERE.
He also only fed him table food. I've tried to wean him off but he will refuse to eat if its something he doesn't want.
He is so stubborn and right after coming back from a walk will poop in the house a few minutes later. Any guidance will be appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
878 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kathleen, First, I highly recommend crate training pup and temporarily pup should always be either tethered to you with a hands free leash or in the crate while learning, unless you know he has just peed AND pooped and you have eyes on him 100%.. Check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. Make sure that the crate doesn't have anything absorbent in it - including a soft bed or towel. Check out www.primopads.com if you need a non-absorbent bed for him. Make sure the crate is only big enough for him to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that he can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it. Dogs have a natural desire to keep a confined space clean so it needs to be the right size to encourage that natural desire. Use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean any previous or current accidents - only enzymes will remove the smell and remaining smells encourage the dog to potty in the same location again later. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dog is older you can adjust the times and take him potty less frequently. I suggest taking him potty every 2.5- 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5 hours (or less if he has an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return him to the crate while his bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since his last potty trip. When you have to go off he should be able to hold his bladder in the crate for 5-8 hours - less at first while he is getting used to it and longer once he is accustomed to the crate. Only have him wait that long when you are not home though, take him out about every 3 hours while home. If he hasn't gone poop yet during that half of the day, he needs to be tethered to you or returned to the crate, then taken back outside again in 30-45 minutes if you know he likely needs to go, less frequently if he likely doesn't need to poop. Pooping outside equals more freedom. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If he is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. When he cries and you know he doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give him a food stuffed hollow chew toy to help him adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. Work on teaching "Quiet" by using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell him "Quiet" when he barks and cries. If he gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark As far as feeding, I suggest mixing his food with something he likes the night before feeding him. Start with a higher quantity of food he likes and a bit of dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food he likes overtime. Test out freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety first. If he likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of his dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if he will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and he doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. If he likes the kibble topper, you can also feed something like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost long term - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated overnight (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though). Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Have pup perform commands and tricks and use the dog food that has been mixed with freeze dried powder from a ziplock bag, as rewards for pup obeying commands. Many dogs are actually more enthusiastic about their food if they have to earn it and consider it a treat. Feed pup entire meal amounts this way so that he is hungry during training in place of the bowl for a while. When you do so, act like the food is treats - you should act like you have a great prize not like you have to temp pup to eat. It may seem opposite but what a dog can't have without working for it, often makes it even more appealing. Finally, if feeding meals in bowls opposed to as treats pup is working for, you can try feeding pup breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and removing the food after 45 minutes if pup isn't eating it...giving it again at the next mealtime. Once pup is eating regularly, then remove the lunch meal. Feeding the food at intervals rather than free feeding can help motivate some dogs to eat. Pup will likely skip breakfast and lunch the first day. Consult your vet about how long you can do this - some dogs can go like this for a couple of days until they get hungry enough to eat what they are given and see that there isn't an alternative, others can't do so due to a more sensitive blood sugar. Let your vet guide you on that if pup isn't eating by dinner time the first day. I am not a vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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