I am very happy to say that this year with the Shih Tzu Sisters and Nigel has been full of improvements. Yes, there have been some frustrations, but the achievements more than make up for them. I went back over our journal to refresh my memory on our goals for 2012 and it was a very pleasant trip down memory lane.
The Shih Tzu Clan and the Man
I commented last December that the shih tzus were getting to various stages with the Man. They have come so far now that I believe he is now Dad to them. That is one of our biggest victories. Although Nigel and John have been close since the day Nigel came to live with us, at one time, Flower, Dottie and Candy would all bark like crazy each morning when he came downstairs, believing him to be an intruder. That gradually stopped happening earlier this year. Candy was the first female shih tzu to grow close to John, jumping in the air and wagging her tail like crazy when he comes home in the evening. Eventually, Flower joined the welcome committee. These days, Flower will willingly come to him for food and treats and, on occasion, jumps up onto the couch between us, where she is content to sit for at least several minutes. Dottie is still more cautious, but even she wags her tail when he gets home in the evening. Dottie’s usual position was the furthest corner of the couch, away from John, and even as far away from me as she could get. Now, like today, she sits right next to me, and even leans across me to get petting from John sometimes, or when I am not sitting on the couch, sometimes even cautiously walks over to him for a few minutes of petting before venturing back to her corner.
Shih Tzu Walks and Car Rides
One of my big goals of the year was to get the shih tzus used to walking. That was definitely no problem for Nigel, who came to us fond of walks and car rides. After some early discouragements, we earnestly began our dog-walking attempts in April. First we walked them around the back yard. Then, we started walking them to the nearby Wal-Mart and around a common area in back. We had a few scares when Flower balked and was able to pull out of her harness and run from us. We were lucky that we wee able to coax her back, and a new harness helped keep her in control. Candy and Dottie were also obstinate about not wanting to go for walks, and developed the habit of planting their butts on the ground. Dottie eventually got to the point where, like Nigel and Flower, she got excited when I got down the harness and leash basket. Candy is still a little wishy-washy in this area. We usually have to coax her, but she seems to like it once she is doing it. None of the female shih tzus wanted to go for a car ride when we got them, but that changed when we started taking them to Majestic View Park, particularly for Sunday walks. Now, Flower gladly jumps in the car and Dottie trots out and waits for me to pick her up and put her in it. We often have to fetch Candy from a hiding place, but once she is in the car, she’s fine, and she seems to enjoy the park walks as much as the others.
Dottie and Candy are so well-behaved on walks that we will often drop the leash and let them walk themselves, when we are in safe areas. In fact, we’ve granted Flower and Nigel that same privilege on rare occasions, but we keep a very watchful eye on those two! Nigel tends to want to run to greet strangers and Flower just wants to run!
Shih Tzu House Training
Another area that needed work was house training, which went hand-in-hand with the issue of how to get them to go out of the house to do their business. In the summer we installed a Magic Mesh screen door. Nigel quickly learned how to exit and enter through it, with Dottie learning from him and Flower the next shih tzu to get the hang of it. That cut down on the number of accidents inside. However, the cold weather meant that the screen door wouldn’t be much help. We installed a doggie door a friend gave us and Nigel again was the first to tackle that challenge. We haven’t had as good luck in that area. Flower has also figured out how to go through it by scratching at it with her paws. She uses it several times during the day, either to do her business or to see if there is a squirrel around to torment. Dottie will only go through the doggie door if someone holds it open, and Candy doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Although Flower tends to do her business outside now, over the holidays she, or possibly Dottie, decided to start peeing on the couch again. It might have been due to the increased amount of visitors because I haven’t had to wash the couch covers for days now. Candy isn’t as standoffish as she once was, but she still tends to rush up the stairs when there is too much noise or activity for her. Although she is very good about doing her business outside in the morning, she does sometimes relieve herself on our bedroom carpet during her alone moments upstairs. Dottie seems to be the only shih tzu that uses the training pad in the living room. Sometimes, though, she still prefers to run upstairs, try to get me out of bed, and if she doesn’t succeed, pee on the bedroom carpet. Even if John is downstairs in the morning before I get up, she won’t go outside when he opens the door. The good news is that where they once barked to get me up at 4:30 a.m., they now don’t bark until 7 a.m.! That makes it a little easier for me to work with their schedule.
Shih Tzu Food and Snack Time
Earlier in the year I also started making their food from a recipe we got from Sadie Shih Tzu. I still use it, but sometimes we simplify it and instead of putting it in meat loaf pans, simply bake it on a cookie sheet. (The simplified recipe calls for ground beef, ground turkey, canned pumpkin, diced green beans and pureed sweet potatoes.) We have also made progress in the snacks I feed them. I used to buy their treats but had so much trouble finding treats made in the U.S.A. that I now make most of them, with one exception. Their favorite treat is rawhide sticks covered with chicken. I don’t buy them if they are made in China, but Petco and PetSmart make some made in other parts of the world, so I buy them, wrap seasoned chicken around them and dehydrate them. I also dehydrate their other treats, such as chicken and apple and chicken and sweet potato.
Shih Tzu 2013 Resolutions
We have some resolutions for 2013. One, I still want to make the step up to an Excalibur dehydrator. My round Nesco American Harvest works great, but I did borrow a LEM, similar to the Excalibur, and love the trays that slide out and the size that allows me to dehydrate more snacks at a time and makes it easier to dehydrate taller snacks, like chicken-wrapped apples. I think I can rationalize the price because of the heavy use, but I haven’t been willing to make that step yet. I would like to find a way to perfect the house breaking, so we will continue to work on that. One big step will be to try to remember to shut our bedroom door during the day! I would also like to teach Flower not to bark at squirrels, which would probably make the neighbors happy. We have had good luck getting rid of tear stains for the most part, particularly with Flower. However, we continue to struggle with keeping four shih tzus groomed. We bought a Wahl Peanut recently, for some areas that are hardest to groom, but we need to take the time to experiment with it! We’ll be back to let you know how we do with these goals! Suggestions are always welcome, and we’d love to hear about some of your resolutions and victories!