Are Shih Tzus Hard To Train? 6 Tips For Owners

The regal little Shih Tzu or ‘lion dog’ hails from Tibet and were considered canine royalty in China at the end of the 17th century. They never seemed to forget their royal status and are intelligent and loving creatures with distinct personalities and quirks. However, they do also have a stubborn streak that can make training difficult.

Shih Tzus can be hard to train due to their sometimes stubborn little natures. Notoriously challenging to house train, Shit Tzus can also develop nipping or destructive chewing behaviors if training is neglected. They need to be trained early and with a gentle hand to ensure that they learn obedience.

Unlike many toy breeds, the Shih Tzu is a friendly and outgoing creature that bonds well with children and adults alike, and are a devoted companion to their owners, which I wrote more about here. Because of their loving nature and eagerness to please, their affection is the key to these gorgeous little pets’ effective training.

Here are some facts and tips to help you train your stubborn little lion friend.

Why Are Shih Tzus Hard to train?

Because they are so small and cuddly, owners often neglect to give their beloved little lapdogs the proper training when they are young.

Basic training is essential, even in the small-breed dogs, and to ensure their safety when outdoors. Training also develops a bond with their owners in terms of the owner’s role as the pack leader.

If Shih Tzus aren’t taken in hand early, they become progressively challenging to train later.

Failure to housebreak a Shih Tzu early can mean a lifetime of picking up behind the precious little monsters, not to mention losing a cupboard full of shoes over time.

Shih Tzus and Housebreaking

Your Shih Tzu has a problematic combination of a tiny bladder and an enthusiastic and excitable nature that may cause housebreaking headaches for their devoted owners.

With their tiny bladders, Shih Tzu’s need to urinate frequently and should be taken outside often and trained with rewards when they urinate outdoors.

When they wake up for the day, puppies should be taken outdoors to their designated spot, up to once every half hour until bedtime.

Look out for signs such as sniffing, circling, or squatting. If you maintain regular feeding times, you will become familiar with their needs to use the bathroom and manage them accordingly.

How Do You Train a Shih Tzu?

More than other toy breeds, Shih Tzus have been given a bad rap for their training behaviors, especially in terms of potty training.

Shih Tzus have stubborn little natures and does not respond well to negative reinforcement, often responding to the opposite under such training methods. These companion dogs love to please their owners and are better suited to praise and using a reward system for positive behaviors. 

Your Shih Tzu may love attention, toys, or treats, especially, and these can be powerful tools to get your little lion to behave appropriately.

Each Shih Tzu is unique, and you should look for the things your Shih Tzu loves to use to incorporate it into your training. Losing patience or punitive methods with your Shih Tzu only brings out the stubborn and resistant parts of their loveable temperaments and should be avoided at all costs.

To train your Shih Tzu properly, you should incorporate these steps:

Lay Down The Rules

Shih Tzus are such adorable puppies that often owners don’t think to establish boundaries until it is too late!

You need to decide which furniture your puppy will be allowed on or whether the puppy will have its bed or share yours.

If you have a Shih Tzu in an apartment, a potty area outside should be designated from the start to encourage your puppy to be house trained.

Find Your reward System

Make sure you have plenty of tasty and healthy treats on hand that your Shih Tzu loves to start your positive affirmation goals.

A hard hand will only cause your Shih Tzu to stress and cause further behavioral problems, so be patient and gentle when treating your Shih Tzu.

Be Generous with Praise

Your Shih Tzu has a loving heart and responds exceptionally well to your praise. Every time your dog performs his business in a designated area, or exhibits good behavior, be generous with your praise. 

Be Aware of Your Shih Tzu’s Physical Needs

Your Shih Tzu has a tiny bladder and digestive system and need to do their business more often than other breeds. Be aware of your little lion’s needs and take your pup out to designated areas often, especially after feeding.

When your Shih Tzu does use the designated spot for doing their business, give praise or a treat to encourage similar behavior.

Don’t leave food out with a Shih Tzu, and remove bowls after each feeding time. This practice will help your dog to be regular and make it easier for you to predict their physical needs.

Teach Your Puppy Basic Commands

Once your house training is underway, use treats or mealtimes to teach your Shih Tzu the basic sit, stay, and come commands.


Owning a member of royalty comes with its own unique set of requirements. Your Shih Tzu needs a firm but gentle hand to guide them towards good behavior.

Shih Tzu’s loving and eager to please natures make them the perfect pet, and these great attributes are also the means to train your little lion to be a well-behaved member of your family.

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