Teaching Your Shih Tzu To Come

Summer time is upon us, with lots of people going in and out of the house more often, and doors and windows being left open. You don’t want to worry about your dog escaping. The first line of defense is to be sure your doors and gates lock soundly, and to use a leash whenever your dog is out with you in an unfenced area. The second line of defense is training your dog not to dash out the door and to come when you call it.

To condition your dog not to race outside every time you open the door, you must teach it to sit EVERY time you take it through the door. Also, practice the command “wait” at the door when the dog has a leash on; the dog needs to understand that you can open and close the door and walk in and out without the dog following you.

It takes a lot of training to get your dog to reliably come on command. In part, the difficulty involved depends on your individual dog and his temperament. It also depends upon your already having developed a good relationship with your dog. It is easiest to teach the “come” command to a dog that likes to interact with you and be near you, as most Shih Tzu do.

The first thing to remember is NEVER to call your dog for punishment or to have him do something he does not enjoy, such as have his nails trimmed. Also, while training, do not call him away from something he enjoys a great deal, such as playing, to do something he enjoys less. Therefore, practice the command initially when you do not need to have your dog stop what he is doing. Choose a safe (enclosed) area without a lot of distractions.

While training, remember that a reliable “come” is one in which the dog comes close enough for you to actually gain physical control of the animal. Call your Shih Tzu, reward him with a treat and praise when he comes close enough for you to grab him by the collar, then release him and let him resume his play. Lots of repetition will teach him that good things don’t end when he comes to you, and he will be more willing to obey the command when it really counts. You can reinforce this by putting a long lightweight lead on your dog and letting him drag it behind him, being careful not to leave him unsupervised, as he could get entangled with something. If the dog becomes distracted and does not obey when you call him, step on the lead, grab it, and run in the opposite direction, repeating the command “come.” Then use the lead to bring the dog all the way to you, grab his collar, praise and pet him, and give him a treat before letting him resume his playtime. Once he seems to be responding reliably, you can set up additional distractions and practice some more. Eventually, your dog will learn to ALWAYS come when you call, which could someday save his life.