Crate training is a valuable tool for dog owners, especially when it comes to Shih Tzus. These adorable, small breed dogs are known for their lively personalities and affectionate nature, but like all dogs, they benefit from proper crate training. Crate training can be a crucial part of raising a well-behaved and happy Shih Tzu.
To crate train your Shih Tzu, start by choosing the right-sized crate. Introduce it gradually, make it cozy, and associate it with positive experiences. Follow a consistent routine, using treats and praise. Be patient and never use the crate as punishment. Gradually increase crate time as your dog gets comfortable.
Why Do You Need to Crate Train Your Shih Tzu?
Before diving into the specifics of crate training your Shih Tzu, it’s essential to understand what crate training is and why it’s beneficial. Crate training is the process of using a crate, which is typically a small, enclosed space, to teach your dog to become comfortable in a confined area. The crate serves as a safe and secure den for your Shih Tzu, much like a natural den that wild canines seek out for shelter.
What are the Benefits of Crate Training Your Shih Tzu?
Crate training your Shih Tzu is a valuable investment in their well-being and your peace of mind. This training method offers numerous benefits, not only for your furry companion but also for your household.
- Safety: Crates provide a secure place for your dog when you can’t supervise them, preventing them from getting into dangerous situations or chewing on household items.
- Housebreaking: Crate training can aid in housebreaking your Shih Tzu. Dogs naturally avoid soiling their living spaces, so they’ll learn to hold their bladder and bowel movements until they’re let out of the crate.
- Reduced Anxiety: A crate can become a safe haven for your Shih Tzu, reducing anxiety when you’re not around and providing a place to retreat to when they need some alone time.
- Travel Convenience: Crate-trained dogs are more comfortable and safer during travel, whether it’s a car ride or a flight.
- Behavior Management: Crates can help manage and correct unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, or separation anxiety.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of crate training let’s move on to the practical steps involved in crate training your Shih Tzu.
Choosing the Right Crate for Your Shih Tzu
The first step in crate training your Shih Tzu is selecting the right crate. Here are some factors to consider:
- Size: Your Shih Tzu’s crate should be just large enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Crates that are too big can defeat the purpose of crate training, as your dog may use one end for sleeping and the other for eliminating.
- Material: Crates come in various materials, including wire, plastic, and fabric. Wire crates are popular because they provide good ventilation and visibility, but plastic crates can be cozier and more den-like. Choose the material that suits your Shih Tzu’s needs and your preferences.
- Portability: If you plan to use the crate for travel or want the flexibility to move it around the house, consider a crate with handles or wheels for easy transportation.
- Durability: Shih Tzus are generally not heavy chewers, but if your dog has a tendency to chew, opt for a sturdy crate that can withstand their attempts.
- Safety Features: Look for crates with secure latches to prevent your Shih Tzu from accidentally escaping. Some crates also have divider panels, which can be useful for adjusting the crate’s size as your puppy grows.
Once you’ve chosen the right crate, it’s time to introduce your Shih Tzu to their new space.
Introducing Your Shih Tzu to the Crate
The key to successful crate training is to make the crate a positive and inviting place for your Shih Tzu. Here’s how to introduce your dog to their crate:
- Place the Crate in a Familiar Location: Put the crate in a room where your family spends a lot of time. This way, your Shih Tzu won’t feel isolated when they’re in the crate.
- Make It Cozy: Add comfortable bedding or a crate pad to make the crate inviting. Consider placing an old t-shirt with your scent in the crate to comfort your dog.
- Leave the Door Open: Initially, leave the crate door open so that your Shih Tzu can explore it at their own pace. You can also use treats or toys to encourage them to go inside.
- Mealtime in the Crate: Start by feeding your Shih Tzu their meals near the crate, gradually moving the food inside the crate. This helps your dog associate the crate with positive experiences.
- Short Periods of Enclosure: Once your Shih Tzu is comfortable entering the crate, close the door for short periods while you’re present. Stay nearby and reassure your dog if they seem anxious. Gradually increase the time the door is closed.
Remember, patience is key during this introduction phase. Some dogs may take to the crate quickly, while others may require more time to adjust.
Shih Tzu Crate Training Routine
Consistency is crucial in crate training your Shih Tzu. Establishing a routine helps your dog understand when it’s time to be in the crate and when they can come out. Here’s a sample crate training routine:
- Morning Routine: Start your day by taking your Shih Tzu outside for a bathroom break. Then, bring them back inside and place them in the crate with a treat or toy while you prepare breakfast. Make sure they have something to occupy their time.
- Regular Potty Breaks: Throughout the day, take your Shih Tzu out for bathroom breaks at regular intervals. Puppies, in particular, have small bladders and may need to go out every 1-2 hours.
- Mealtime in the Crate: Feed your Shih Tzu their meals inside the crate. This reinforces positive associations with the crate and encourages them to enter willingly.
- Play and Exercise: After meals and bathroom breaks, spend quality time playing and exercising with your Shih Tzu. This helps them burn off energy and reduces restlessness in the crate.
- Naptime: When it’s time for your Shih Tzu to rest, place them in the crate with a cozy blanket. Close the door and allow them to nap for a couple of hours.
- Evening Routine: Before bedtime, take your Shih Tzu outside for a final bathroom break. Then, place them in the crate for the night. Make sure they have a comfortable sleeping area.
It’s essential to adapt the routine to your Shih Tzu’s age and needs. Puppies have shorter bladder control, so they’ll need more frequent bathroom breaks. Adult dogs can stay in the crate for longer periods, but avoid leaving them crated for extended periods during the day.
Shih Tzu Crate Training Tips
While following a routine is essential, here are some additional tips to ensure successful crate training:
- Stay Calm and Patient: Avoid showing frustration if your Shih Tzu resists the crate initially. Stay calm and be patient, using positive reinforcement to encourage them.
- No Punishment in the Crate: Never use the crate as a form of punishment. It should always be associated with positive experiences.
- Gradual Increase in Crate Time: As your Shih Tzu becomes more comfortable in the crate, gradually increase the duration of confinement. This helps them build confidence and reduces separation anxiety.
- Ignore Whining: If your Shih Tzu whines or cries in the crate, resist the urge to let them out immediately. Wait for a break in the whining before releasing them, so they don’t learn that whining leads to freedom.
- Crate Games: Play crate games with your Shih Tzu to make crate time more enjoyable. Hide treats or toys inside the crate for them to find, turning it into a fun activity.
- Supervision: Never leave your Shih Tzu crated for extended periods without supervision. They need social interaction and exercise outside the crate.
- Travel Training: If you plan to travel with your Shih Tzu, acclimate them to the crate in the car or during short trips before embarking on a long journey.
Troubleshooting Common Issues When Crate Training Your Shih Tzu
Crate training doesn’t always go smoothly, and you may encounter some challenges along the way. Here’s how to address common issues:
- Whining or Barking: If your Shih Tzu whines or barks excessively in the crate, try covering the crate with a blanket to create a darker, cozier environment. Also, make sure they’re well-exercised before crating.
- Accidents in the Crate: If your dog has accidents in the crate, ensure you’re taking them outside for bathroom breaks frequently enough. Clean the crate thoroughly to remove any lingering odors.
- Escape Attempts: If your Shih Tzu tries to escape the crate, make sure it’s securely latched. You may also need a crate with sturdier construction.
- Destructive Behavior: If your dog becomes destructive in the crate, it may be due to anxiety. Consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for guidance.
- Separation Anxiety: If your Shih Tzu exhibits signs of severe separation anxiety, such as excessive drooling or destructive behavior, consult with a veterinarian or behaviorist for a specialized training plan.
Crate training your Shih Tzu can be a rewarding experience for both you and your furry companion. It provides a safe and secure space for your dog while helping with housebreaking, travel, and behavior management. By selecting the right crate, introducing it gradually, and establishing a consistent routine, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu becomes comfortable and content in their crate.
Remember that every dog is unique, and the timeline for crate training may vary. Be patient, stay positive, and adapt your approach as needed to meet your Shih Tzu’s individual needs. With time and effort, your Shih Tzu will come to see their crate as a comforting retreat, making both your lives more enjoyable. Happy crate training!