One of the toughest things I found when I got my Shih Tzu puppy was the walks I would ‘try’ to take him. Shih Tzus are renowned to be very stubborn and everyone I know that has one says the same thing… ”he/she just doesn’t want to walk!”.
With my little one, he would walk a few steps, sniff around and then just lay down in the middle of the path or grass. No amount of gentle tugging or coaxing would get him to move. In fact, the only thing that would entice him was his little dog treats. And when I gave them to him, he would walk a few more yards and just lay down again. In fact, I was convinced this was just a ploy of his to get more treats!
So that was the first problem I had with walking him. The second problem I had was that when he did walk he would be all over the place and I’d end up almost tripping up over him or he would have me doing twirls just to make sure I didn’t end up with the leash wrapped around my legs. So now I had a double mission! I was determined that I was going to get my little man walking as nicely as all the other dogs that were being walked that I saw. And secondly, I was going to do this without either looking like a ballerina or falling over and breaking something in the process.
I set about looking online for information on how to train my puppy on walking and there were two specific things I found that I need to do:
1) I needed to train my dog to walk on a leash
2) I needed to teach my dog how to heel
So now I have summarized the information that I found below, so hopefully, all you new Shih Tzu puppies owners will learn from my mistakes and will be able to enjoy your walks with your Shih Tzus much quicker than I was able to start looking forward to and enjoying mine!
Training Your Dog to Walk On a Leash
Loose leash training is something that you absolutely need to do while your dog is still a puppy. Don’t expect them to become adult dogs and automatically know how to walk on a leash. When you first start out you need to have huge amounts of patience. Please don’t expect to take him or her for a walk around the block and be back in 15 minutes just in time to settle down and watch your favorite TV program. In fact, I would suggest the first time you go for walks with him don’t have any set amount of time to complete the task and be back. Do expect him/her to stop and take plenty of breaks, and you’re going to need time to coax him/her to start walking again.
A lot of owners make the mistake of trying to drag or pull the puppy, but this is simply going to make the puppy more anxious and will not look forward to his/her walks. Part of getting your dog to walk nicely is having him/her enjoy going for them.
So here’s what you’re going to need to leash train your puppy:
- A collar or harness
- A 4-6ft leash
- A lot of small tasty dog treats (make sure they are small so your puppy can chew and ingest them quickly, and without having to stop and spend time chewing on them)
The first few times don’t plan on taking your puppy all the way around the block because they’re probably going to get tired, and again this will mean they won’t want to go next time. Instead start off walking 100 yards or so the first time, and then increase this a little bit each time you go out.
So once you attach your collar or harness to your pup, and then attach the leash, you need to start off with some kind of simple command that you’re always going to use to let your puppy know you’re going for a walk. You can use anything like ‘walkies’ or ‘let’s go’ or anything that feels comfortable for you, but the most important thing is to use the same words each time and to be consistent. That way your dog will understand much quicker what is about to happen.
Have some treats ready at hand so you don’t have to stop and look for them. That way you’ll be able to reward good behavior immediately and your puppy will know why he/she is being rewarded.
So now it’s time to begin your walk and you may need to offer the first reward just to get your pup walking. Don’t just reward with the treats though. Also offer words of encouragement, such as “Good boy, Hugo” or whatever words you use in the home to let them know you are happy with something that they’ve just done.
Things to look out for initially are:
1) Is your dog trying to get too far ahead and pulling the leash?
2) Does your simply stop walking and just simply refuse to walk?
3) Is your dog constantly crisscrossing in front of you?
4) Does he/she walk comfortably by your site in the manner that you wish?
If Your Dog is Pulling At The Leash
In this case simply stop, call your dog and reverse the direction that you are walking in, so now he/she has to work harder to catch up and get ahead of you. Once your pup catches up with you give him/her a small treat, use your words of encouragement and keep walking in the same direction. If he/she gets ahead again and starts pulling, do the same thing. Reverse your direction and get him/her to catch up with you, again reward him/her as he/she gets alongside you. This may take a few attempts, but eventually your puppy will understand that you want him/her to walk alongside you.
If Your Dog is Refusing to Walk
The best way to get your pup going is using treats as a lure and verbal praise when he/she starts moving. If your dog is lying down and refusing to get up, simply stoop down low, give the treat and some praise and begin walking again. In all likelihood in a few steps you’re going to have to do this again and it’s a cycle that you’re going to have to repeat a lot at first. However always stay positive and if after a few tries they still refuse, that’s fine! Simply give up, pick them up and take them home. Any progress at all is good progress. One thing you can do when you take them home is to leave the leash and harness on them while they wander around the home, so they familiar with the feel of the harness on them, and also get used to the leash as they drag it around. That way they won’t associate the leash and harness with something that is unpleasant and that they don’t want to do.
The next time you want to go for a walk on the leash you can place the harness and leash on your puppy 10 to 15 minutes before you plan on going outside and let them run around with the harness and leash in place, so they are less anxious about going outside with it on.
Another trick is to enlist the help of a friend who has a dog that is leash trained. When your puppy sees them walking nicely then they may just mimic that behavior and learn that much sooner.
One final piece of advice here is to always take your puppy on the same route at first when you walk them so they get used to the scenery and they are not anxious or afraid because they don’t know what to expect. Eventually, once they know the route and that it’s safe for them, then they will happily go with you.
If Your Dog is Criss-Crossing in Front of You?
This is when you will begin the ‘Heel’ training. This is a bit more complex than simple leash training but it is worth the time and effort to teach your dog to walk by your side on the side that you want them to because eventually, they should be able to do this whether they have a leash on or not. Secondly, this type of training will mean your dog is walking at your pace, and not the other way around.
Probably the easiest way to teach your dog to heel is to use a ‘clicker’. So in this scenario, if you want your dog to walk on your left side, you would keep a handful of treats in your left hand and the clicker in your right hand. You start from the ’sit’ position and then use your command to start walking. Keeping your pup on your left side, walk three or four steps slowly and start to use the ‘heel’ command. Hold a treat out in front of your dogs face to guide him/her along, and after only three or four steps (assuming they stay on your left side following the foot) click your clicker and give him/her the treat and some words of praise.
Continue doing this and again you’re only trying to go three or four steps at a time before clicking and giving the reward and words of praise. The idea here is for your dog to associate the clicking sound with the rewards. Also be sure to use the ‘heel’ command every few steps so they associate this with what you’re teaching them.
If you find your pup starts to veer away or lose focus, simply use the stop and sit command. Refocus him or her and start again.
After a few days of doing this, increase the three our four steps to 10 or so, and then reward in the same way using your clicker. This time instead of stopping and making them sit if they veer instead use the heel command, and if they come back to your left side, click, reward with a treat and give verbal praise.
Eventually, you will be able to increase the 10 steps to 25 steps, to 50 steps and so on. You will need to cut back on the treats and simply rely on the clicking and verbal praise after a while.
At a more advanced level, you should be able to test your dog by changing direction during the walk and making sure they also change direction and walk by your side. Then you can try and graduate them to the honors class by removing their leash and have them follow the heel command.
Here’s a more detailed video on how to teach your dog how to heel
Does Your Puppy Walk Alongside You?
Hey! You’ve got it made and you’ve got it made! All you have to do now is encourage and reward this behavior so they don’t deviate from it.
Never rule out professional puppy training. By enlisting the help of a professional you haven’t failed in any way. You’re simply taking the short cut to getting to the point of being able to enjoy your puppy and having far fewer frustrating moment when you can’t get your puppy to do what you want him or her to do.
How To Make Your Shih Tzu Pup Walk Nicely Alongside You