Crate Training Your Shih Tzu Puppy

by Madonna Holko

Your breeder may have accustomed your puppy to sleeping and eating in its crate. If so, the crate is already its “den,” a safe, quiet place to relax. It is not a good idea to allow the puppy to have the run of the house unless someone is watching it. It will take several weeks for it to become accustomed to its new home and learn where the papers or the door to the outside is. We have found that most dogs are not completely reliable (they cannot be left unattended for many hours) until they are about eight to ten months old. Because puppies are naturally clean, they do not want to soil the crate and learn to “hold it” until released. This makes the crate a huge aid in housetraining, provided you do not confine the puppy for more than a few hours at a time. It is good to use a water bottle attached to the crate for drinking, to keep a water bowl from being tipped over or water from dripping off your Shih Tzu’s moustache and beard all over its chest and the floor. Feeding in the crate also makes it a highly desirable place to be. When bedtime is announced, encourage your puppy to go into its crate by itself by giving it a “cookie.” Puppies are usually eager to jump in the crate once they learn the system.

The puppy must be given an opportunity to relieve itself immediately when it wakes up in the morning, followed by breakfast and an hour of supervised playtime. Usually the puppy is then tired, and it will want to take a nap. If you can, put the crate in an out of the traffic spot. Playing a radio or nearby television should help settle the puppy when it must be left alone. (The intercom/television plays all day in the dog room here—all the different stations, from hard rock to country to easy listening/all sorts of programs from Disney, to sitcoms, to QVC, to football games, to get the dogs used to strange voices and sounds.) It also helps cover up odd noises that might frighten the puppy.

When the puppy is comfortable in the house and knows where to go when it needs to eliminate, it will probably be very happy sleeping in someone’s room/bed. However, there will still be times that it is better to crate the puppy—naptime, dinnertime, bedtime, or when there are workmen or visitors present. If you put the puppy in the crate and it makes a big fuss that doesn’t end within a few minutes, drape a sheet or large towel over the crate to block the puppy’s view of the world. Usually, this will settle it down. If this doesn’t work, close the door to the room if you can. Do not respond by taking the puppy out. It is not afraid; it simply wants its way and it is trying to find out if it can get it. If it is really persistent, don’t shout or bang on the crate. Open the door, use one hand to hold the puppy in place, and with the other hand take hold of its beard to force it to look at you and very firmly tell it, “Quiet!” Then, close the door and walk away. The puppy will probably be quiet for a minute or two and then may start again. Give it a minute and then repeat the command. If you find that the puppy is driving you up the wall put the puppy, in its crate, somewhere else for the time being. A favorite toy or two can also make the crate more interesting.

Crate training is worth the effort. Whatever its age, a well crate trained dog is a pleasure to live with, a great travel companion, and a welcome guest.