Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How You Train a Small Dog Makes a Difference

By Linda Cole

When it comes to dog training, the size of the dog does matter! It can mean the difference between being successful or falling flat on your face when trying to teach your small dog commands. In a way, it's easier to train larger dogs because owners of small dogs often treat a smaller pet differently than they would a bigger dog.

Many small dogs belong to the terrier group. This is a group of feisty, high prey drive dogs with lots of energy. They are smart and not afraid to let their feelings be known. Small dogs can be manipulative if they get a chance, and can have an attitude the size of a Great Dane. It's tempting to let a little dog get away with things most owners wouldn't accept from a larger canine. His actions may not hold the same weight as a misbehaving larger dog, but a small dog can still be disruptive. If your small dog jumps up on someone to greet them, many will think that's cute, but if a Saint Bernard leaps up, your guest could be lying on their back with a drooling dog standing over them. Not as cool to some, but could be cute depending on your guest's sense of humor.

Dogs can understand if they are being treated differently than others around them, and it's important to treat small dogs just like you would a larger one. Training is about teaching your dog how you want him to act, but it's also a good way for you to learn who your dog is as an individual. Small dogs can be stubborn. We can accidentally teach little dogs the wrong way to act if they are rewarded for their misdeeds or bad manners.

Part of our job is to instill confidence and trust in our pets. Treating a dog with respect, regardless of size, is one way of establishing yourself as their leader, and says you can be trusted. Don't give any treats or attention until your dog has all four feet on the ground.

Riley, my Terrier/Chihuahua mix, has been more of a challenge to train than my largest dog Max, a Lab mix. Riley had a tendency to jump up to grab a treat. I can understand why she did it – she was afraid one of the other dogs would get it before I got my hand down to her. Keep in mind how a small dog sees the world from their level if you have different sized dogs. Once Riley learned she didn't have to compete with the larger dogs for her treat, she settled down and became more willing to focus on the commands I was teaching, and not grab for her treat.

Finding the right treat is a consideration when training a small dog. The treat needs to be special and something that will get your dog's attention. CANIDAE TidNips™ treats are a favorite for my dogs. I like them because when treating a small dog, you want to give bite sized pieces they can handle, and I can easily break up the treat without it falling apart.

Small dogs need to learn the same basic commands as a larger dog. Sit, stay, come, and drop it are four commands that could save your pet's life. Small breeds that were bred to hunt vermin and small game have a high prey drive, and their desire to chase is just as strong as it is in larger breeds. They are also quick and can be gone in a flash if off leash when outside. Don't take your pet's small size for granted, and expect the unexpected just like you would with a Lab, Border Collie or any larger breed.

When training, get down to your small dog's level so he can see your face easier. When you call him to come, make sure he comes all the way to you, and doesn't go underneath a table or chair. A good command to teach a small dog is “stay calm, chill, settle, or quiet,” whichever word works for you to help keep him from getting over stimulated. It's a command that helps him control his energy. A small dog may have the attitude of a big dog, but they are still little, and that can be a bit intimidating for some dogs. Little dogs can be controlled by picking them up, but without training they won't learn how to behave, and could be at risk of developing small dog syndrome.

One mistake some owners of small dogs make is thinking their pet doesn't require exercise. All dogs need regular exercise to keep their mind and body healthy. Playing outside gets them out in the fresh air, and walking is a good way to keep your pet socialized with new people, sounds, sights, other dogs and places. A well socialized and trained dog is much easier to handle and less likely to get into trouble.

Photo by itarife

Read more articles by Linda Cole

1 comment:

  1. Because my family and I don't know very much about training our dog, I think we are going to search for some dog trainers in the Maryland area to help out. But thanks for the information! Great start!


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