shih tzus

Teach with Reliable Structure

Question:
My two Shih Tzus are sisters, 4 years old, adopted last year. They are usually potty trained but I did have to replace hallway carpet to tile. They don’t know how to ask to go out and I have trouble being intuitive all the time. They are shy and not playing or affectionate. They are much better than when I got them however. How can I speed this up?

Dr. Nichol:
Your girls are doing the best they can with what they know. Their lack of interest in playing and interacting with you is a clear indication that they are afraid in their new home. Despite your good care, losing the bond with their previous people may still be causing them anxiety and insecurity. They need help coping.

Consistent, canine-specific leadership will be essential. On one hand your two fuzzy flummoxed pupsters may understand the rules of eliminating outside but if they’re frightened of human movements or anxious about leaving the house they may too overwhelmed and confused to make good choices. A reliable structure, based on genetically programmed canine behavior, will make a difference.

Let’s return to basics. Teach the girls to earn gentle reinforcers using the One Day Housetraining method. This actually works in one day with young puppies but your dogs have old bad habits they need to abandon. They’ll catch on if you repeat this routine during 4 consecutive days, followed by close tether training. Go to my website, drjeffnichol.com, and search housetraining. My video and articles will help you set the good sisters on the right path.

Your dogs can only learn if they lighten-up. Move slowly and speak quietly around them. Rather than approaching to pick them up or pet them you should squat with your side turned and then lure them to you with food. Say, “Poopsie, come”. Then gently reinforce them for being brave with a tasty snack and slow petting.

I’m glad you sought my advice rather than scolding or punishing. Nobody who gets intimidated by their leader learns what to do instead of the wrong behavior. Kindness, patience, and science-based behavior modification always win in the end.

Dr. Jeff Nichol provides pet behavior consultations in-person and virtually by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on behavioral or physical concerns on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.