Q: I am having trouble potty training my Shih Tzu. I have tried the kennel thing and she just doesn’t seem to understand. She is still a puppy, only 11 weeks old so she doesn’t have her 3rd set of shots and our vet recommends that we don’t take her out to the park yet because we don’t have a yard. We are at a loss, can you give us any ideas. We really don’t know what to do.
A: Since you don’t have a yard, using pee pads (or a litter box) for your pup may work well. You can teach her to potty on the pad for now, then later, if you want to, you can also outdoor-potty train her.
To teach her to use the pee pad, carry her there and set her on the paper once per hour, for a few minutes. Some pee pads come with a scent that’s meant to attract the dog to urinate there, but it may work better to use a pee pad to blot up some (just a little, not a lot) of your pup’s next pee-accident. The scent of her own urine on the pad tends to give a dog the right idea of what to do there. A teeny-tiny smudge of her own poop on the pee pad may also help her know it’s okay to do “both kinds” of potty there.
To prevent potty accidents, keep your pup confined to the same room you’re in, so she doesn’t wander away when she needs to pee. If you’re moving from room to room, leash her to your belt and “wear” her around with you, so she’s always where you can keep an eye on her and see her behavior when she needs to potty. When you can’t be watching her, confine her to the bathroom or a folding exercise pen in a room with an easy-clean floor. Put a pee pad there for her to use when she needs to.
Dogs generally need to relieve themselves at predictable times: right after eating/drinking, upon waking, and after (or sometimes during) play and exercise. Keep watch for these indications: sniffing around as if looking for something, walking in small circles, glancing at the door you take her out for potty, starting to wander toward a less-used part of the room or house, or actually starting to squat. When you see any of these behaviors, take your pup to her potty area and wait there with her until she relieves herself. Then praise her very softly, I call it “lullaby” praise, so she knows she’s done the right thing but not such exciting praise that she forgets she may not yet be finished with her business.
There are several good books on housetraining. Reading one or two of these will help you learn more about how to teach your pup this important life skill.