Rewards just may be the single most important motivator in shih tzu training. Obedience training through the use of rewards and other positive reinforcements has long been recognized as the most effective method of reaching most dogs and getting the best possible results.
Making obedience training fun, and even making it a bit of a game, can be very important to keeping both the shih tzu and the handler motivated and willing to learn. Incorporating a period of playtime at the beginning and end of every training session will make sure that every session begins and ends on a good note.
The most basic of all obedience commands is heeling, or walking with the handler on a loose lead. This is usually the first obedience behavior that is taught, and it is an easy one to teach through reward training. Begin by fitting the shih tzu with a quality, properly fitted training lead and training collar. If you are unsure of how to fit the training collar, be sure to ask a dog trainer, or the manager at the store where the equipment is purchased.
Start walking with the shih tzu, always being cognizant of the shih tzu’s position relative to your own. If the shih tzu begins to forge ahead, gently pull on the leash. This will engage the training collar and give the shih tzu a gentle reminder to slow down. It may be necessary to apply greater pressure at first until the shih tzu learns to accept the correction.
If the dog begins to fall behind, slow down and gently urge the shih tzu forward. The use of a lure, or a favorite toy, can be very useful when teaching the shih tzu to walk at your side. By keeping the lure at the desired position for the shih tzu, he or she should quickly learn the desired location.
Always be sure to provide plenty of praise, treats, toys and other rewards when the shih tzu does what is expected of him. Shih Tzu learn best by positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means that when the animal does what the handler wants, it receives a reward, which can be anything from a pat on the head to a treat to a favorite toy. At the beginning of training, even the slightest attempts to please the owner should be rewarded.
Training by using reprimands and punishment is not nearly as effective as training by using rewards. Dogs can become discouraged and confused by excessive amounts of punishment and reprimands. Reprimands may be required from time to time, to correct potentially dangerous behaviors like chasing or biting, for instance, but reprimands should be short and directly attributed to the problem behavior at hand. After the immediate danger has passed, the training should continue with reward based training and positive reinforcement.
For instance, if you come home and your shih tzu is chewing the furniture or other inappropriate item, immediately give the shih tzu a sharp “No"or “Off" and take the item away. Then immediately give the shih tzu one of his toys or other items that he is allowed to chew on, and praise the shih tzu enthusiastically when he takes the toy and begins to chew it. This will teach the shih tzu to associate chewing some items, like his toys, with praise, and chewing inappropriate items with reprimand.
It is very important for the shih tzu to make these associations, since it is very hard to change negative associations once they have formed. It is always much easier to train proper obedience behaviors the first time than it is to go back and retrain a problem shih tzu later on. That does not of course mean that retraining is impossible, it simply means that it is more difficult.
Teaching a shih tzu puppy, or an older shih tzu, to associate the behaviors you value, such as coming when called, sitting on command, walking at your side, chewing only on toys, etc. with happy, fun times is the basis of all successful shih tzu training.
Connie Limon is a shih tzu breeder. She publishes a FREE weekly professional newsletter with a focus upon health and wellness for you and your pets. Discounts are offered to subscribers. Sign up at: http://www.stainglassshihtzus.com