Training two puppies
I have two, four month old shih tzus and have been keeping them together since I got them at eight weeks. I just read about keeping them separate and crate training them apart. Is it too late for me to do this since I have had them together for the past two months?
They do 'play' fight and one is definitely larger than the other. I still have trouble with them pottying in the crate over night. I feed them twice a day, usually around 4:30 for dinner. I take their water away at 7:30 and they go out the last time at 10:30. When they potty in the crate, they do not call out that they need to go. I get up as soon as I hear them in the morning, be it 5:00 or 7:00am.
I find that they are stubborn and often do not come when called unless I have a treat. I have tried not offering the treat every time as I have read that they train easier if they never know if they are getting a treat or not. I would appreciate any help you can offer. I hope I have not waited too late to show them who the "alpha" dog in the pack is.
Thank you so much. Lisa
No, it's not too late to separate them in terms of crating etc., although obviously they're accustomed to being together and will probably complain loudly about being apart for a while.
In fact putting them in separate crates will probably help with the crate training problems you're having. Make sure that the crate you choose for each pup isn't too big. It should be just big enough for the pup to sit down, stand up, turn around and lie down without touching the sides. No bigger or the puppy will make space for sleeping and pooping!
Shih Tzu's are fairly small dogs, so they need to eat and eliminate often, more frequently than larger breeds. If your pups continue to have accidents in their crates overnight once you separate them, I would recommend setting your alarm clock for around 2am and getting up to take them out for a potty break at that time.
It's purely 'business', no playing or talking and minimum interaction though. Out - potty - back to bed! It's often necessary to do this for several weeks when pups are young, and as yours have small bladders this may help.
I would suggest enrolling your puppies in a basic Puppy Obedience Class, either enlist someone to help you and take one puppy each, or take a separate class for each one. Trying to train two at once in the same class is going to be very difficult for you.
Formal obedience classes will help you and your pups learn to communicate well with each other and the instructors will be able to help you with any behavior/obedience problems you have. Learning the recall (the 'Come' command) can be tricky and it's one of the most important ones, so it's vital to get this right. You can find tons of information, advice and tips on basic training on my How To Train A Puppy and Basic Puppy Training Made Easy pages.
I've also reviewed and recommended some excellent puppy training books on my Dog Training Books page.
I would recommend treat-based training for puppies. It's very important to make learning an enjoyable experience for them and always use lots of positive reinforcement, praise and treats. Later on, once they've mastered the commands and understand what's expected of them you can start to make the treats an more 'hit and miss' type thing. That way they don't know for sure if they'll get a treat or not, but will try in the hope of getting one anyway. Now and then they'll get lucky! Eventually obeying the commands will become so routine and habitual for them that they will do it regardless.
Best of luck with your pups, if you have any other questions feel free to ask :o)