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Dog Training/simple house training


I have a male Shih Tzu that has a tiny mix of Maltese mixed in and we just love him. He is about 6 months old and no neutering has been done. He's had his shots. We have children and a nice big back yard. The problem is I don't think we know how to train him to signal us when he has to "potty". We have heard that Shih Tzus can be stubborn about this and hard to train. We have been told that they need a schedule of "potty breaks". We have heard of "crating" which we don't like. We have been told that having a schedule means the puppy has trained you, not you trained him. He continues to have accidents, and when they happen, he will come to me, coward and then show his complete belly--like he is saying, "Sorry, I was bad again...".

We have given him treats for going potty outside. Someone told us to stick his nose in the accident, say "potty", bop his nose, then guide him outside and say "potty" out there. We need something that is effective, because it is obvious our communication and his isn't working.

I hope I have been detailed enough. Can you give us some guidance? Thank you for your time...

Hi Rebecca.  Small dogs can be a challenge to housetrain, not because they are stubborn, but because their bladders are small and they are so close to the ground that you don't always notice when they give their signals that they have to relieve themselves.  Once they start practicing eliminating in the house it becomes a pattern that's hard to break.

First, you have to establish that the only option for pottying is outside and not on your floors.  That usually means setting up a confinement area - usually a crate, although exercise pens can work as well. The dog should be in his confinement area whenever you are not actively monitoring his every movement. He should only be allowed freedom in the house when his bladder is empty.  He should be taken outside every 20-30 minutes when he is awake, when he gets up from a nap and anytime you see him stop and sniff the ground during play.

Here's an article that will help you teach your pup to notify you that he has to go outside:  

Never stick dog's nose in an accident, never smack him for any reason.  He'll learn to be fearful of you - that's what you're seeing when he cowers and shows his belly.  And it's not teaching him anything.

For more information on puppy training, go to and check out the free online training textbook.  Let me know if you have any questions at all.  Good luck!

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP


I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.


I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Victoria Stilwell Positively! Licensed Trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Truly Dog Friendly Coalition

BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Training Program
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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