Training Your New Puppy
Training a Yorkie or Shih Tzu can be both an amusing and a frustrating experience. “Bad dog” generally elicits much tail wagging, many kisses, and lots of “Who, me?” looks of injured innocence. “How could you possibly be angry when I’m so charming?” seems to be the general approach. Most breeders know of a home in which the situation escalated until the owner had a less-than-completely-housebroken dog. This isn’t fair to you or your dog, so be firm when necessary. Rest assured, your dog will love you just as much if you teach it to be well behaved. No matter what, you need to be very diligent about helping your dog get things right as well as never letting them get away with unacceptable behavior. As soon as a puppy thinks there are exceptions to your rules, you've just lost credibility as a leader.
There is no reason to shout/yell at or beat a dog. Punitive methods of punishment are now seen for what they are - mild forms of animal abuse. Simply teaching your dog what to do and letting them know when you're displeased, you can come to an understanding that is mostly based on reward, whether that be treats or your affection.
WHY DO I RECOMMEND CRATE TRAINING?
The principal on which the crate works is that a dog won't eliminate where they sleep - certainly not if they can't just move over to get out of the way. They may be animals, but they don't want to lie in their own waste. By making the crate a relatively comfortable place, with soft bedding, food and water, a crate can be a place that your dog feels safe in. Crates also have the added appeal of keeping your dog from getting into mischief and keeps them (and your home) safe when you are unable to supervise.
The crate should NOT be a place of punishment, but a sanctuary where your dog can retreat to rest and be secure. Provide toys and treats to make the crate a pleasant place. It helps to put the crate where people are during the day, or in the bedroom at night. This way the dog will be safe but not lonely. A radio or television can help to keep the dog quiet when you are out. Play with your puppy and take him out to eliminate before you confine him to his crate, and DO NOT leave him there for such a long time that he has no choice but to eliminate in the crate. If you will be out for extended periods, you may want to puppy-proof a small room or use an exercise pen to reinforce your dog’s natural desire to keep his bed clean. Crate training is also useful when you need to board your dog or keep it safe while traveling.
HOW DO I HOUSEBREAK MY DOG?
The Shih Tzu and Yorkie are both affectionate dogs, so patience and praise usually does the trick. Don't set your expectations too high, as smaller breeds do not normally housebreak quickly. It takes a lot of patience, encouragement and rewards. Remember that there is no point in scolding a dog after it is done committing a foul act of nature. If you can catch them in the act, you can voice your displeasure, but otherwise, don't bother - they've already forgotten what they were just doing.
The most critical thing is to avoid giving your puppy opportunities to have accidents inside, and to praise him profusely whenever he eliminates where you want him to, be it on newspaper or “piddle pads” in his puppy-proofed area or outside. This means that your puppy should be constantly supervised inside the house until he has not eliminated indoors for at least four to eight weeks. You must also go outside with him, so that you can praise him when he eliminates outdoors. Watch for signals, such as sniffing and circling, and be sure to take him out every few hours, especially when he first wakes up, immediately after eating and before and after playtime. Suddenly, the light will dawn! A puppy has a very short attention span, so punishing him after the fact is useless and may instead teach your dog not to eliminate in your presence. You can gradually extend the time between outings as the puppy has greater control over his bladder. Some owners teach their dogs to eliminate on paper indoors as well as outside all their lives, so they don’t need to walk them in bad weather or rush home to take them out. You may want to associate a command such as “hurry up” or “go potty” with the act of elimination; this is useful later when you want the puppy to eliminate quickly in an unfamiliar place. If you are housebreaking an older dog, you may want to use piddle pants or (for males) a belly band with a sanitary napkin inside when the dog is inside, being sure to remove it and take the dog outside on a regular basis. After a few accidents, the dog will decide to go outside rather than be wet and uncomfortable.
Remember, shouting and/or yelling when a dog is young and not being responsive enough lead to difficulties with toilet training.
HOW CAN I TRAIN MY NEW PUPPY TO HAVE ITS FEET GROOMED (OR JUST ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE)?
Hold the dog’s foot for five seconds, and then give it a tiny treat and lots of praise. Do this again for a little longer, again finishing with a treat. Gradually increase the time the dog must allow whatever behavior is desired, and decrease the frequency of the reward. Training often entails tricking them into thinking that you are doing something for them, rather than vice-versa. If they think they are manipulating you to give them a reward, they will eagerly perform the behavior. For this approach to be effective, you have to ask your puppy to do just a bit at a time in a gradual manner—especially if he already objects to the project at hand. Handle and brush him regularly, and reward him for compliance. While you should not stop when your puppy is misbehaving, do not force things to the point where he becomes overly stressed. Instead, pause briefly to murmur reassuring words, then continue a bit, reward, and take a break.
DO “TIME OUTS” HELP DISCIPLINE SHIH TZU'S AND YORKIES?
Giving your dog a “time out”—separating it from you as a negative response to its behavior—works really well for these breeds, because they crave human companionship. Yelling at or physically punishing usually just makes it more stubborn.
WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN AND MY PUPPY?
Shih Tzu and Yorkie puppies are small. Children should sit on the floor to play with the puppy. When walking in its vicinity they should do the “puppy shuffle,” sliding their feet across the floor to avoid accidentally stepping on or kicking the puppy, which loves being underfoot! Also, children should be cautioned to keep their fingers away from the puppy’s eyes, which are easily injured, to avoid sudden movements or loud noises, and to let the puppy rest when it is tired.
HOW DO I KEEP MY PUPPY FROM CHEWING AND OTHER DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS?
Play with your puppy so it can work off its excess energy and provide plenty of toys, rotating them frequently so they remain interesting. Provide your puppy with a “puppy-proofed” area (perhaps behind a baby gate) that is safe for him to explore, and do not allow him unsupervised opportunities to get into mischief. It is much easier to reinforce desirable behavior than to break bad habits.