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Can I Leave My Shih Tzu Alone? Tips & FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

shih tzu dog looking out from the balcony

Can I Leave My Shih Tzu Alone? Tips & FAQ

Ever since ancient days, the Shih Tzu has been accustomed to following their humans wherever they go. But in modern times, it’s harder to let our dogs accompany us on errands since they can’t just wait in the wagon or trail behind us at the market. Since the Shih Tzu is literally bred to never leave you, is it okay to leave them? The short answer is yes, but not for very long.

After all, even if you’re retired or work from home, it’s practically impossible to never leave the house. However, since the Shih Tzu is a companion animal, they’re more likely to develop separation anxiety than some other breeds if left alone for long periods of time.


How Long Can I Leave My Shih Tzu Alone?

When you first adopt your Shih Tzu, you’ll ideally commit the next few months to staying by their side. Potty training takes a consistent, hourly effort. A Shih Tzu puppy’s small bladder simply won’t support them while you’re gone at work for 8 hours a day. We recommend taking them outside to relieve themselves at least every couple of hours until they’ve mastered the skill.

You shouldn’t leave your Shih Tzu for longer than 4 hours at a time until they’re around 8 months old. At this time, their bladder’s capacity has increased, so you can leave them for the length of an average work shift, but this is still not ideal.

If you must work away from home, we recommend hiring a dog walker to come see your pup in the middle of the day or enrolling your Shih Tzu in doggy daycare. A lonely, bored Shih Tzu can become destructive as they grapple with these tough emotions.

How to Train Your Shih Tzu to (Happily) Stay Home by Themselves

While you won’t be able to leave your Shih Tzu puppy for long stretches right away, you should introduce positive associations with being alone as soon as possible. Gradually working towards longer times apart should help the transition go smoothly. Here are some tips as you begin.

1. Create Positive Associations with the Crate

The crate isn’t a dreaded doggy prison. Instead, it’s your pup’s private oasis where they can relax away from the noise and stress of the rest of the household. Leave the door open when you’re home so your Shih Tzu can crawl in when they want to and not feel trapped.

When it’s time for you to go, always escort them to the crate with a treat in hand.

2. Leave for Brief Periods at First

woman closing or opening the door to a house
Image By: Ekateryna Zubal, Shutterstock

Start with 15 minutes, then work your way up to an hour for the first 2–4 months of your pup’s life. While you might have heard the general advice that you can leave your dog for 1 hour for each month of their life, we tend to take a more conservative view of small companion breeds who have tiny bladders and aren’t bred to be independent.

Stick to 4 hours or less until they’re 6 months old. After that, you can gradually work your way to 6–8 hours. You should never leave your Shih Tzu for longer than 8 hours, even as an adult, and ideally no more than 6 hours.

3. Meet All Their Needs

In the hour up to your departure, make sure they’ve had an opportunity to eat, drink, and relieve themselves. Try not to encourage these things right before you leave, though, or they may begin to negatively associate eating and relieving themselves with you leaving the house.

4. Make Them Comfortable

Side view of two empty wooden dog's houses with dog food bowls in balcony
Image By: Phuttharak, Shutterstock

If you’re leaving your Shih Tzu in a crate, line it with a plush blanket and a safe, stuffing-free toy or treat that they can enjoy while you’re away. If your Shih Tzu stays outside of their crate while you’re away, make sure there’s nothing in their reach that can hurt them, such as dangling power cords or open food.

Leave out a little food and water so they don’t panic, and try to slip away quietly.

5. Always Leave a Light On

You never know when heavy traffic may cause you to come home after dark. You should make a habit of leaving at least one light on near your Shih Tzu so they aren’t afraid if nightfall comes without you.



With proper training, your Shih Tzu can comfortably stay at home by themselves. Even so, they’re companion animals who won’t thrive in a crate or sitting on the sofa alone all day. If possible, someone should attend to your Shih Tzu at least every 4 hours. In extreme cases, it’s okay to leave your Shih Tzu for up to 8 hours, but you should never go beyond that and try not to make it a habit.

If you are gone for most of the day every day, you might consider taking your Shih Tzu to doggy daycare or hiring a professional dog walker. Having someone to check on them can alleviate the stress of your absence and reduce their chances of developing separation anxiety.

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Featured Image Credit: Daniel Malinowski, Shutterstock

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