guide for how to potty train a shih tzu puppy

How to Potty Train a Shih Tzu Puppy?

The overall concept of potty training a pup of any breed is identical. You would define tasks, set boundaries, and meet your dog with patience and encouragement.

However, the details on how you train each breed and your dog specifically can vary.

A Shih Tzu puppy can be easy or difficult to train, but the process can be made simpler with some of our tips below.

Are Shih Tzu Puppies Hard to Potty Train?

shih tzu puppies and toy breeds are hard to potty train
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Let’s start with a very common question we get with a Shih Tzu pup, and that is if they are difficult to house train. In general, toy and small breeds are notoriously difficult to house train. This is mainly due to small bladders, but Shih Tzus can also be stubborn.

They are sometimes too smart for their own good and you may notice your Shih Tzu puppy would rather play than go potty during outdoor training. Generally, house training a Shih Tzu puppy can take anywhere between a few weeks and months.

One factor that can lengthen the potty training period is if you don’t spend a dedicated amount of time training your dog. This can’t be helped for those who work full time outside of the home, so keep in mind that the time you spend training your pup will impact how long it takes for him to be fully potty trained.

Another factor is your Shih Tzu puppy himself. Is he open to learning or do you happen to have an extra stubborn fur baby on your hands? Try to train your Shih Tzu to learn basic commands as it can help during potty training. As we said, Shih Tzus are smart, so many of them will get the hang of potty training sooner than later.

When Should Shih-Tzu Potty Training Start?

shih-tzu potty training should start training asap
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Ideally, Shih Tzu training should start as soon as you welcome him home. There are some dog breeders and dog owners that suggest against potty training until your Shih Tzu is at least 3 months old. The youngest a Shih Tzu puppy can be separated from its mother is 8 weeks or two months. That is also the time when they’re able to unite with their new owners.

At that time, your tiny Shih Tzu will undoubtedly still have problems controlling its bladder and bowels, and holding it is seemingly impossible. That’s okay because this will improve with age.

In the meantime, there is no harm in trying to instill the concept of potty training and a designated potty spot even if your dog can’t quite make it there just yet.

At 3 months, your dog should be able to understand potty training and get to the potty spot correctly at least half of the time. Our advice is not to wait until your dog can have total control over his bladder, because by then, he will most likely have established a potty spot for himself and it will be more difficult to break him of this habit.

Once you welcome your female or male Shih Tzu puppy home, start planning the potty training asap. You can also enroll him in puppy training classes in order to integrate rules into your dog’s life.

He will learn obedience and good behavior at a young age, which will hopefully prevent him from running rampant over you as he matures.

How to House Train a Shih Tzu Puppy

How to House Train a Shih Tzu Puppy
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House training isn’t just about establishing where your pup is going to go potty; it’s also about getting everything ready and having a plan of action so your puppy will grow into a well-rounded adult Shih Tzu.

What You Need to Get Started

What You Need to Get Started in Potty Training

There are a few things our team recommends you prepare even before you bring the young puppies home. Bear in mind that you don’t need to prepare everything on the list because what you need will vary depending on the potty training methods you choose.

Puppy Pads or Dog Litter Box

Not all professionals will recommend using puppy pads. You can choose whether or not you want to train your dog to go indoors as well as out, and if you want to use potty pads to outline the designated potty area. There are always two sides to an argument, and there are experts that swear by them and ones that don’t.

We’ll dive into more detail about what these pee pads are for, how they can impact dog behavior, and how they can make the potty training process easier later on.

Puppy Pad Holder

Whether you get a puppy pad holder or not is up to you, but we do feel like it’s a good investment because it keeps your dog from playing with the pad, which could be dangerous if he ingests the pieces.

Plus, it’s also a great solution to solve the problem of tracking. As the potty pad gets wet, your dog is bound to step on a wet spot and track his cute little wet paw prints all over the house, which you later have to clean up.

Poop Bags

This item is a necessity for dog owners regardless of how they choose to train a Shih Tzu. Once your potty-trained dog goes potty on walks, in your backyard, or inside the house, you will need something to pick up the mess and throw it out.

What better item to use than biodegradable waste bags? With this, you can pick up your Shih Tzu’s waste without soiling your hands.

Keep in mind that not all dog poop bags are not biodegradable and since your Shih Tzu will produce a lot of waste during his lifetime (better know how often puppies poop), we recommend getting ones that will eventually decompose.

Doggy Wipes

Doggy wipes are a godsend when it comes to potty training for your dog and for you. Just in case your young puppy doesn’t go potty very neatly and makes a mess, step in it or if you get it all over your hands, doggy wipes can temporarily clean up the mess until you can get home.

Poop Scoop

A poop scoop, or a pooper scooper, is very handy for a dog owner who doesn’t want to “get their hands dirty.” A poop scoop is similar to a small shovel, which is used to pick up your dog’s poop.

They are as long as shovels, which makes them not very convenient to tote around. For this reason, not many dog owners carry one on walks, so they are more used for backyard poops.

It’s also a good idea to give the shovel a wash or good wipedown to rid the surface of accumulated waste.

Leash and Harness

A leash and harness are dog accessories that are not only for walks, but mandatory for any dog owner to have. Whether you’re training your dog to accept the leash or to lead him outdoors to have a bathroom break, you need to keep him secure, and that’s where the harness and leash come in.

Some trainers will suggest a collar in the beginning when your Shih Tzu is still young, but we recommend you graduate to a harness as your dog ages and becomes stronger because it’s less of a choking hazard.


Lastly, you need a good bag of treats! The best and right way to train a Shih Tzu is with positive reinforcement. No matter how long your Shih Tzu takes to understand potty training, we highly suggest rewarding him with treats every time for encouragement.

This is the prime method to show your dog that what he’s doing, which is going potty in the right area or on pee pads is something that pleases you, and in turn, he gets treats. With positive associations like this, your Shih Tzu will be fully potty trained in no time at all.

We Think You’ll Like It: Indoor Dog Potty Reviews

Set a Routine

It’s so important to set a routine when you’re starting to potty train your dog. Dogs thrive on order, consistency, and a set schedule, so establishing those things early on will make potty training easier.

Your dog will conform to your routine and wake up and sleep when you do. You should also aim to feed your dog at the same time every day. This is especially helpful during your Shih Tzu’s younger years.

Young pups will need to eliminate around 15 minutes after meals, so if you are aiming to take your dog outdoors to do his business, knowing exactly when every day to do so will minimize accidents and keep them contained.

It also gives you a good grasp of when your dog will need to go. Trust us, having a routine is good for your dog’s training but it will also help you maintain your sanity throughout a trying time in your dog’s life.

Aside from getting your dog to go before bed, right after you wake up, and after mealtimes, you should also aim to give him a potty break in between playtime and before you leave the house so you won’t need to stop during the drive.

Indoor vs. Outdoor

As we said before, you can choose to train your pup to go both indoors and out or just outdoors. There are both advantages and disadvantages for both. Outdoor training is the quickest and most efficient because there is less to clean, or at least the accidents are easier to manage.

However, you will have to risk poor weather conditions in brisk winters if that’s the time of year you happen to train your Shih Tzu.

Unless you have a puppy door installed or a method to let your dog go outside to relieve himself at will, you will need to physically open the door for him. In order to know when your dog wants to go, you will have to read the telltale signs or strike preemptively and take your pup out once every 30 min to an hour.

Having a method to let your dog alert you of when he needs to go, such as with a dog bell, will take extra training and more time on your part. The doggy door is also something you must train a Shih Tzu to use, which will also take more time.

Indoor potty rooms also make a better fit for people living in the city or those who face harsh winters or rain during a significant part of the year. Maybe you’re simply not feeling up to taking your dog out today. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to stay home? You can if you also train a Shih Tzu to also go to a specific potty area indoors.

Which one sounds more suited to your lifestyle and the area you live in?

Crate Training

Crate training is one of the most effective and recommended methods for potty training by experts, breeders, and other dog owners alike.

Why? It’s because of a simple fact – dogs don’t go where they sleep. This is a basic truth, but there are exceptions.

For example, if you choose to rescue a dog from a shelter halfway around the world, your dog will most likely need to hop on a flight to get to you.

International flights can take upwards of 10 hours, in which case a nervous or even a relaxed dog may need to relieve himself. If your dog has no other option, he will still “go” where he sleeps, although he will hate it.

The crate training method is very useful for small to toy breeds like the Shih Tzu. One thing we will say is you should never allow your dog to associate the crate with punishment. Once this connection is established, it’s very difficult to break.

Your dog will end up disliking or even hating the crate and refuse to go in. It will no longer be a sanctuary and a place of refuge for your dog. Instead, it will be an uncomfortable and harrowing place, and you can kiss crate training goodbye. Learn how to manage a dog barking in a crate.

Crate training not only gives your dog a place to call his own, but it also teaches your dog to hold it. We wouldn’t recommend subjecting your Shih Tzu to hours of holding it in because it could lead to health issues such as UTIs and bladder infections. On average, a dog can hold it for his age plus 1. What we mean is a dog who is 3 months old can hold it for 4 hours.

Although a dog can hold it for a certain length of time, by no means should he be asked to. You should still let your Shih Tzu out to go to the bathroom whenever you can. One more key point to keep in mind when you’re crate training your Shih Tzu is to get the right size crate. A crate that’s too large will not teach your dog to hold it. He will go comfortably in a corner and sleep at the other end of the crate.

Your dog won’t mind being near his poop as long as he won’t need to sleep on it. A crate that’s too small is considered cruel and inhumane, so what is the right size?

The right size is a crate that still allows your dog to stand up comfortably, perhaps take a step or two forward, turn around, and lay down. It should not allow your dog to make many steps because that will give him enough room to relieve himself.

Potty Training without a Crate

Potty Training without a Crate
Image by sylviesi on Pixabay

Can you potty train your Shih Tzu without a crate? Yes! You can still achieve perfect house training without a crate, it’s just that using a crate is easier, especially if you’re a dog owner who doesn’t plan to allow your dog to go inside.

Instead of a crate, you would use a baby gate or a pen to section off your dog’s space. We wouldn’t suggest using a baby gate or something of the like until your dog is at least somewhat potty trained. This is because a baby gate is designed to cordon off a room, and that is way too much space to control your dog’s accidents.

If you’re using a pen, it basically acts like a crate without the top. But because your pup will get a lot more space with a pen, you have to section off a part of it as a potty area. This is where you would lay down the puppy pads. Eventually, after your dog gets the hang of things, you can do away with the pen altogether and lay the potty pads somewhere more suitable.

Accidents Happen

Accidents Happen
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It’s important to keep things in perspective. Accidents will happen and it’s natural and normal. What you should invest in is an enzyme cleaner, which breaks down your Shih Tzu messes on a molecular level and completely eradicates any lingering residue from the location. This is important because dogs are attracted to the scent of their own urine and feces and will keep going to the same spot to go to the bathroom.

If you leave any trace, your house training process could be derailed, especially with a stubborn Shih Tzu. When you see any spots, clean them up right away with an enzyme cleaner and the location will be as good as new.

One more tip is not to punish your dog when accidents happen, and definitely do not scold or yell at him if you didn’t catch him red-handed. Your dog is incapable of linking your reaction to something that happened hours ago. If you do not catch your dog in the act, just clean up the mess and hope he does better next time.

If you do happen to catch him, so NO! loudly and maybe even bring him to the right potty area to let him finish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Shih Tzus easy to potty train?

No, unfortunately, smaller breeds like the Shih Tzu are more difficult to train, and that is because they have smaller bladders, which means they can’t hold it for too long. You will need to pay extra attention to your Shih Tzu during housebreaking, which is tough on those who don’t work from home.

Another factor that makes the Shih Tzu a little more difficult to train because they are notoriously stubborn and headstrong.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to all Shih Tzus because every dog is different. You may be very lucky and come across a Shih Tzu that is very eager to please.

How long does it take to potty train a Shih Tzu?

On average, it will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to train a Shih Tzu. Again, there may be some outliers where a Shih Tzu is incredibly smart and gets the hang of potty training within a week, not barring a few accidents, though.

There are also ones that may experience house training regression, which will need gentle reminders from you to get back to the routine.

Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t get it as quickly as you had hoped. As long as you keep at it with patience, consistency, and encouragement, your dog will get there eventually.

How do I stop my Shih Tzu from peeing in the house?

Proper house training at a young age will prevent your Shih Tzu from peeing in the house. If you wonder how to prevent your male dog from marking in the house, neutering will solve the problem most of the time. We have found that training dogs with puppy pads at a young age will also decrease the chances of marking and a male dog peeing with his leg raised.

A male dog trained with puppy pads will crouch, and he will instinctively stick to this habit even as he matures and raises his leg outdoors.


Training your Shih Tzu to go to the bathroom in the correct place could take longer than some other breeds. However, Shih Tzus are incredibly smart, which means they will likely get it in less than a few months.

Just make sure you have prepared everything before you begin the process and always encourage your dog with treats and pets if he gets things right.

Don’t worry about accidents because they will happen. Just make sure you clean messes up immediately and hope your pup does better next time.

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