By Susan Kilgore
While we don’t recommend bringing a new puppy home during the confusion of the holidays, when it may face many additional seasonal health hazards, a puppy for Christmas remains a popular gift. One of the most daunting tasks you will face with your new Shih Tzu for at least the first several months is housetraining. Standard housetraining methods and the very effective method of cage or crate training are still popular among new owners, and are discussed elsewhere on this site in the article When You Bring Your New Puppy Home. However, housetraining methods have expanded to include new products to suit a wider variety of individual dog and human circumstances and needs. Many years ago, who would have ever considered a litter box for dogs, doggie diapers, belly bands, and potty pads—including Wizdog, a potty training mat? All of these new methods and products have been used with certain degrees of success. In many cases, they replaced the old newspaper training we once knew in order to prevent the spread of newsprint ink and wet floors beyond an assigned area. In others, they were designed to keep the dog from having accidents in inappropriate places in the house. Most of these methods can be used throughout the dog’s lifetime if you wish, particularly if you are not always at home to take the dog out on a regular schedule or your dog hates to eliminate outside in the rain or snow.
The litter box resembles the bottom of a plastic dog carrier that is made specifically to contain the corresponding paper pellets (a dog’s kind of kitty litter product). The litter box is placed in particular location(s) in one’s home, much like a kitty litter box, and the dog is routinely encouraged to eliminate there. This could be a convenient method to use, although pellets may be scattered outside the box (or even eaten by puppies who investigate EVERYTHING).
Doggie diapers/potty pants/belly bands are products that fit onto the dog’s body. The doggie diapers/potty pants can be useful for females who may be incontinent (unreliable with their housebreaking) and/or in season. They come in a variety of sizes to fit nearly every breed. I’ve heard of dog owners using human baby diapers to fit the dog’s size instead but with a tail opening cut out according to the individual dog’s tail placement. Belly bands are a wrap used for male dogs, and are secured around their middle to catch and absorb any urine. There are one piece washable belly band units and those made to use with absorbent replaceable inserts. Human panty liners are often used as disposable inserts. In addition to the various products found on the market, you can also find an assortment of material patterns, colors and styles to make yourself should you be handy with a sewing machine and/or needle & thread.
Pee pads or potty pads for dogs are thin plastic sheets topped by an absorbent cotton/paper batting. They come in a variety of sizes, scented or unscented, and resemble human bedpads. A plastic flat holder for the pads is also available; this keeps them flat and held down so that inquisitive puppies don’t decide to drag them across the floor or chew on them. In fact, many dog owners purchase human bedpads in bulk from a medical supply store for a reasonable price. The pee pad method is quite handy, as the pads can be placed anywhere and are easily tucked in luggage, bag or purse to be taken on trips with you. I’ve known of much success with their use. The urine-scented pads are particularly effective in encouraging young puppies to use the pads. They may also be used to transition a Shih Tzu from eliminating inside to going outside by simply moving the pad from inside to outside until it is finally no longer needed at all. The Wizdog is similar to the potty pad method. It is a flat plastic holder for your choice of absorbent material (newspaper, potty pads) with a plastic grid to fit on top. Your dog will stand on the grid when it eliminates, keeping paws and floors clean.
Nearly all of these new products and more can be found in larger pet store chains and pet catalogues. You can do further research there and on the internet and discuss various housebreaking methods with your breeder before making the choice that’s right for you and your dog.