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General Training...

How smart and trainable is the Bichon Shih Tzu?


Extremely trainable!  Bichon Shih Tzus are fully capable of mastering potty training, a huge variety of tricks and behaviours, including off-leash recall and being amazing, respectful family members!  

What is the trick?  Consistency and a concentrated effort to establish yourself as the "pack leader" with your dog creates a really well trained dog.  Love and treats will take training to a certain point.  But if you are requesting a behaviour (for example "come" in an off-leash setting) and your dog sees a bigger "treat" than the one you are offering (in the form of a new dog they'd like to visit or some exciting aroma) they will chose the bigger "treat" over you!  This is avoided and consistent responses created by having the respect of your dog.  

We want a well trained dog who consistently responds to our requests.  How do we establish this?

Watch some Dog Whisperer!  It's the cheapest and most effective leadership training you'll have and it's easy to find with a Disney Plus membership.  For less than $10 a month, you can have unlimited "classes"!  You'll also need to access some resources for training simple behaviours like "sit", "come", etc.  There are both on-line and in-class options for these.

When can I go to obedience classes?

Plan on waiting until your puppy is at least 4 months of age and finished their immunization series. Once this is complete, there are lots of great dog obedience schools around. Whatever group you go with is bound to assist you in managing your dog and creating both safe and helpful behaviors.  There also a wide variety of classes and training business, for a wide variety of prices, that will cover specific behaviours and environments.

Can I take my puppy or dog off the leash outside?


Puppies should never be allowed off leash outside your yard as they are easily distracted and will run after the first child or dog they see.  Once you have attended classes and have consistent recall in a more controlled environment, this is something you can work on in larger fenced and safe settings.  Good "recall" and the ability to have an obedient connection with your dog in a wide open space requires a lot of training and work but is well worth the effort.

We read that this breed is a wonderful option as a therapy dog.  Can you give us more info?

The Bichon Shih Tzu is a wonderful, sweet, people loving breed.  But just as with people, every dog has its own unique temperament.  There are some Bichon Shih Tzus that would like nothing more than to quietly meet new people in senior's home or hospital settling.  But in order to be appropriate for this role, they will need training and the settled temperament that comes from maturity. There are some Bichon Shih Tzus that are busy in nature and would rather play or go for a walk than quietly do therapy work, so the dog does need to be selected for it's role.


A puppy is not an appropriate choice as a therapy companion.  If you have an anxiety disorder and want a therapy dog, consider adopting a dog who has already been prepared for this role as puppies are a ton of work, require training, are higher energy and will likely produce anxiety, rather than dissipate it!  A puppy will never be suitable as a therapy dog, but with work it can become a wonderful one!


Help! My dog is barking and destroying things!

Discipline is necessary for excessive barking or crying, chewing on shoes, furniture, etc, biting at toes or jumping up.  Use a squirt bottle filled with water to squirt him in the face and say firmly “NO!!”.  Repeat as often as necessary until the habit is controlled.  If he doesn’t respond to the water discipline, use lemon juice in a squirt bottle and squirt him directly in the mouth to stop barking.

Dogs are less likely to take, chew, or tinkle on things that you have firmly "claimed" as your own.  To claim items, you need to have established yourself as the pack leader and have learned the body language that can stake your claim.  Again, the Dog Whisperer episodes are an invaluable resource for managing this.

How much rest does my puppy need?

Playtime with your puppy should be limited to a half hour of play for every two hours of rest for each one month of age until he is four months old.  Example: an eight week old puppy can play for one hour and then must rest for two hours.  After four months, the puppy will adjust to his own needs.


When can I take my puppy out in public?


Puppies should NOT be taken for a walk on public sidewalks or park areas until four months of age and all of their shots are up to date.  Additionally, consider carrying your puppy into the vet for his shots rather than having him walk on the floor.  It makes sense that a floor that sick dogs have crossed is not something you want your puppy tredding on!


Is my puppy/dog safe in the yard?


Do not leave your dog in an unlocked car or yard when you are not around.  It is best to put locks on your gates if you don’t have a lockable pen built outside as these dogs are easily stolen.  Fighting dog groups steal these small dogs to use as bait for their pit dog fights.  There was an incident that occurred in Airdrie where four small dogs were stolen from their yards on the same night and never heard from again.

Why is my new puppy biting so much?


When puppies bite or nip on a child’s face, hands, etc., it’s a normal type of play for a puppy.  It does not mean he’s aggressive or poor tempered.  Try substituting a toy or chew stick for your hand or toes. If a puppy insists on playing rough, put him in his control area for an hour and try again.  Excitable or rough children encourage a puppy to play rough, so supervise them when they are together, and separate them when the play gets too wild.  This nipping period lasts about two months, from eight weeks to about sixteen weeks, then it will usually settle down. 


Teach children to come and get an adult if the puppy snatches something it isn’t supposed to have, rather than try to take it away themselves, as a puppy can bite trying to defend its stolen item.  If this behaviour becomes a problem, please call me.  Again, Dog Whisperer episodes are an invaluable resource for creating a respectful puppy pal.

How long can I leave my puppy/dog in his kennel during the day?

A limit of 6 total hours per day maximum kennelled (not including the night) should be observed to avoid stress related to over caging.  See the "potty training" section for more kennelling thoughts and training tips.  This daily limit applies to mature puppies and adult dogs.  

Is my puppy going to get car sick?  How do I help prevent this?

It’s relatively rare for an adult dog to experience car sickness.  It does occasionally happen and I’m convinced it’s linked to anxiety rather than the actual motion of the car. Your puppy may throw up on the way home (and this is common), and I again, I’d say it’s the stress of leaving, the new people, new smells and the motion not because this particular puppy is predisposed to car sickness for life.  Even though your puppy needs to be in quarantine over the two months (no public places, side walks, public lawn) until her immunizations are done, it would be good to take the puppy for a little car ride in her kennel, or on your lap, once or twice a week to get them used to the experience and sensation.  Keep it short and sweet but only take them out of the kennel and car when they are CALM.  This would also mean you’d need to complete kennel training before attempting this or being stuck in a kennel is going to add to the distress and create a negative experience associated with the car.

My dog is a picky eater.  Should we switch brands?  How to do we curb this behaviour.

Please check out "health" section. There is an extensive write up on picky eating and how to fix this problem.

Any toy suggestions?


Your puppy will enjoy his own teddy bear/stuffed animal, NO bean bag toys.    Latex squeak toys are fun and a ball provides a lot of fast action.  Please avoid wicker beds because chewed splinters can cause illness or even death.  There are some amazing puzzles now available for dogs to keep your pooches mind busy, if you have the inclination towards such things.  We love treat balls and most of our dogs do too.  We simple fill them with our dog food and our dogs love rolling them around and eating that way.  You can also find lots of "maze" and "IQ" toys that have skill levels and require the dog to learn behaviours and skills to open them up and reveal the treat... so tons of fun options!

Any treat suggestions?


Initially, treats should be bland and not very rich.  Typically, if a Bichon Shih Tzu has too rich of a diet, you will see it again in the form of diarrhea.  The same can be said of treats.  Avoid the pure liver treats, such as the vet sells, for life.  These are entirely too rich for the dog to the point that their own liver values will be thrown off for blood tests, if your dog is a regular consumer. White, not colored raw hide bones are good, but not too many.  A bully stick on occasion can be enjoyed by an older dog, but should be avoided for puppies, and again... occasionally is the key word. Puppies enjoy nylon bones, Milk bones, raw carrots,  celery sticks, or even a different variety of pet food are good treats for a puppy over four months of age.

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