Training is just as important for small breed dogs as it is for large breed dogs. Because their small size allows some people to overlook a small dog's bad behavior, dog owners don't always put as much time and energy into training their small breed dogs as they should. Unfortunately, this lack of training can lead to a number of behavior problems, including aggression, pushiness, and incessant barking. It can also be dangerous for your small dog. A dog who doesn't learn to come when called is at risk for bolting out into traffic or becoming lost. And no matter their size, a well-trained dog is a much more pleasant companion than one with bad manners.
The following are some tips to help you get started on training your small dog.
Nothing in Life Is Free
Their size means many small dogs are afforded privileges that larger dogs are not. For instance, small dogs are more likely to be allowed to sleep in your bed and sit on your furniture. While this is fine, as long as it is acceptable to you, it can lead to pushy dogs who think their owners are there to cater to their every whim. In other words, allowing your dog to do as he pleases all the time can lead to sharing your home with a tiny tyrant.
To let your small dog know you are in charge, get him started on a Nothing in Life is Free program. This type of program is designed to teach your dog that he has to work for everything he values. Give him a command which he must obey before he has access to anything he enjoys. For example, ask him to sit before he gets fed and down before he is allowed up on furniture. Your small dog will quickly learn that pushy behavior gets him nowhere.
Train on His Level
Training a small dog can be hard on your back and scary for your dog. Especially in the early stages of training basic obedience commands, it can intimidating for your small dog if you are towering over him. To put him at ease and to save your back, start at the same level as your dog. You can do this by getting down on the ground with your small dog or bringing him up to your level by putting him on a table or step. Once he is comfortable with training and learning new commands, you can begin to work on training while you are standing and he is on the ground.
Keep It Positive
Positive reinforcement training is a great way to train small dogs. Techniques like clicker training and other reward-based training can be very effective. Because they are so small, punishment-based training can be harmful and frightening to a small dog. It is too easy to accidentally hurt a small dog by giving him a leash correction. And being so much smaller than you is intimidating enough without adding punishment to the mix. Keep things positive and upbeat, and your small dog is sure to learn to love training sessions.
Special Considerations for Housetraining
Dog trainers often hear complaints from the owners of small dogs when it comes to housetraining. Owners feel that the recommended techniques for housebreaking, such as crate training, just don't work for their small dogs. It's not true. The same techniques that work on large breed dogs will work on your small breed dog, with one notable exception. Small dogs often have smaller bladders than larger dogs. This means that they aren't physically able to hold it for as many hours as a larger dog. Your small breed dog may simply need a few extra trips outside each day. Owners whose schedule don't allow them to walk their small dogs every 3-4 hours may need to hire a dog walker or choose to teach their dog to use housebreaking pads or a litter box indoors.
Sports, Advanced Obedience, and More
Don't underestimate your small dog's ability to learn new behaviors and to excel in a wide variety of activities. Small dogs can do well at dog sports, such as agility and Earthdog, as well as advanced obedience. If these competitions don't appeal to you, you may still want to consider training your dog for AKC Canine Good Citizen certification. With proper training and socialization, small dogs make wonderful companions who are welcomed wherever you go.
Edited by Jenna Stregowski, RVT