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Imagine that you have just brought home a tiny, adorable bundle of fur that barks. Yes, I am talking about your new Bichon Shih Tzu puppy. She might be small and cute, but she has a lot of personality. She exhibits loyalty and a bit of stubbornness while she tries to keep up with you as you move throughout your home, attacking your shoelaces whenever you stop for a moment. Your new pup is eager to learn and looking to you for direction. You try to be consistent but sometimes it's hard not to give into her bad behavior when she is just so cute.
Your Bichon Shih Tzu may look small and cute, but she needs to learn how to behave, just like all dogs do. Most small dogs do not perceive themselves as small, they are just dogs with instincts, temperaments, mental and physical needs, and a need to be social. Your pup is very capable of learning obedience commands, manners, fun tricks, and games. When taught how to behave properly, your puppy will not only look cute but will be a pleasure to be around as well, and who doesn't love an adorable, well-behaved dog?
Training is not only vital in order for your puppy to learn good behavior, but it can also benefit her mentally, emotionally, and physically. Training is a great way to stimulate your puppy's mind, to teach her self-control, get out her excess energy, to give her a sense of purpose, and to increase her learning capacity. It also provides wonderful opportunities for bonding for you and her. By spending time with your pup in training, you will be building her respect for you, her trust in you, and her desire to please you. You will also be giving her a source of confidence and security since she will learn to depend on your leadership and protection. If you make training fun, then you will also increase her desire to learn even more. Because training stimulates her emotionally, mentally, and physically, training is great for her overall health and well-being. Most dogs are happier overall when they are regularly being trained in a consistent, communicative, and non-threatening way.
When training Fifi, remember to be patient. She is young and it will probably take a lot of repetition before she learns the new command. Just remember to have fun and to keep in mind all of the positive benefits of training. Not only the end goal of her learning a new command, although that is important, but also the bond that is created when you train, and the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of training regularly.
You might find that your pup is a bit stubborn. This could be due to her temperament or simply a lack of understanding about what she is supposed to do. Try seeing things from her point of view, to make sure that communication is not the issue. If communication is the issue, then focus on that part of the training, to help her understand how to do the command that is being taught. If she simply is being stubborn, then rather than getting angry, view it as a fun challenge. Your goal is simply to be consistent and a bit more stubborn than she is about the training. Gently and patiently insist that she does the command until she gets tired of refusing and complies. There is no need to be harsh or intimidating, with a bit of perseverance, gentleness, and patience, you will get there with her, and you might even have a lot of fun in the process.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. Ideally, the treats should be easy for your puppy to eat. You will need a calm location to practice the command in at first. You will need a resource for how to train your puppy to do certain commands. Wag! Walking's Training Resources page is a great resource for learning how to train specific commands and tricks. Another option is to locate a class in your area that teaches the behavior that you would like to train your pup how to do.
If you are using the 'Lure' then you will also need good timing, a positive attitude, and patience. If you are using the 'Capture' method, you will also need a small Ziploc bag or treat pouch, attentiveness, and patience. If you are using the 'Position' method then you will need a gentle touch and calm persistence. With all of the methods, depending on which command or trick you choose to train, you might need an assistant, a leash, collar, or harness, props, or a specific location.
The Lure Method
Choose a command
To begin, choose small, tasty treats, that your puppy loves. If your puppy is very food motivated, then you can also use her own dog food instead of treats. After you have gathered your treats, decide what command or trick you would like to train her how to do first. When you first begin, choose something easy, since many harder commands and tricks build on easier ones. Good commands to start with are: 'sit', 'down', 'attention', 'touch', 'come', following, name recognition, 'speak', and 'quiet'.
After you have chosen which command or trick you are going to teach your puppy, then go to a calm location together. When you are in a good spot, show her the treat, and slowly lure her into the position or into doing the behavior that you are teaching. Since she is small, you will probably have to sit down or crouch to do this.
As soon as your pup begins to do the command or trick that you are trying to teach, tell her the word for that command. For example, if you are luring her into the 'sit' position, as soon as she begins to sit when you move the treat from her nose toward the back of her head, tell her to "Sit".
As soon as your puppy completes the command, praise her and give her a treat. For example, if you are teaching her how to 'sit', then as soon as her bottom touches the floor, praise her and give her a treat. Try to praise her the second that she sits down so that she will make the connection between sitting and being praised and rewarded, sooner.
Repeat luring your puppy into the position or behavior that you are training. Do this until she begins to do the behavior before you have finished luring her, as soon as she sees the treat, you begin to move it, or she hears your verbal command.
Phase out lure
When your puppy will do the behavior that you are teaching before you lure her all the way, then begin to phase out the treat lure. To phase out the treat lure, hide the treat and give her the verbal command, then wait seven seconds before luring her into the position. Repeat this until she will do the behavior in response to just your verbal command. The seven seconds in between the verbal command and the lure give her time to think and to listen to the command, so that she will learn the verbal command better.
The first time that your pup does the behavior in response to just your verbal command, give her five treats, one at a time. Give her just one treat at all other times. After she has done the behavior in response to your verbal command, continue to practice, until she will do the command consistently. When she can do the command consistently, then gradually decrease the frequency of your treat rewards, until you have replaced them with just life rewards, such as going for a walk, being fed dinner, being petted, being thrown a toy, and being allowed to greet other dogs or people. Continue to practice often and in new locations.
The Capture Method
Get set up
To begin, choose what command you would like to teach your puppy. Fill a small Ziploc bag or treat pouch with treats or kibble, and place the bag into your pocket or hook the treat pouch onto yourself, so that your rewards will stay close by.
Watch your puppy throughout the day. Anytime that he begins to do the behavior that you are trying to teach, tell him the verbal command for that behavior while he is doing it. For example, if you are trying to teach Fido the 'down' command, then as soon as he begins to lay down, tell him "Down" in a calm voice.
Right when your puppy completes the behavior that you are trying to teach, praise him and offer him a treat. For example, if you are teaching him the 'down' command, then as soon as his chest touches the floor and he relaxes into the 'down' position, praise him and give him a treat.
Look for opportunities to catch and reward your puppy for doing the behavior that you are trying to train. Remember to tell him the verbal command while he is doing the behavior every time that you catch him. Do this until you have caught your pup doing the behavior at least thirty times.
After you have caught your puppy doing the behavior at least thirty times, test whether or not your puppy has learned the command by calling him over to you and giving him the verbal command. Repeat the command up to five times in a row, waiting ten seconds between each command. If your puppy does the behavior that you have been training in response to your verbal command one of the times, then praise him and give him five treats, one at a time, the first time that he does it.
If your puppy does not do the behavior when you tell him to, then go back to catching him doing it for longer. After you have caught and rewarded him for doing the behavior at least ten more times, test him again. Repeat testing him and practicing until your puppy will do the command when you tell him to.
When your puppy will do the behavior that you are trying to train in response to your verbal command, then practice the command with him until he can do it consistently, and remember to have fun with your puppy!
The Position Method
Choose a command
To begin, choose what command you would like to teach your Bichon Shih Tzu puppy.
Gently move your puppy into the position that you are teaching him, or show him how to do the behavior by offering him physical assistance. For example, if you are teaching your puppy how to 'touch' a bell to alert you when he needs to go outside, then gently lift his paw while telling him "Touch", and ring the bell with his paw.
As soon as your pup does the behavior that you are teaching, with your assistance, praise him and offer him a treat.
Repeat assisting him in doing the behavior until he begins to do the behavior on his own when you reach for him, tell him the verbal command, or show him a prop that you are using.
Practice makes perfect!
When your puppy can do the behavior without your help when given the verbal command, then practice the command with him until he can do it consistently. When he can do the behavior in response to your verbal command consistently, then begin to practice the command in new locations and around different types of distractions. Start with easier locations and distractions, and gradually work up to harder ones as your puppy improves. Congratulations on teaching your puppy something new!
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 03/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021