When you think of training a small dog, images of a yippy ball of white fur defying your patient instructions might be the first things to come to mind. Although small dogs might have the reputation for being more difficult to train than larger breeds, this is actually not the case. Small dogs are no more difficult to train than large dogs; you just have to take their petite size into account when training them.
Although a small dog's bad behavior might be less obtrusive and easier to ignore than when a larger dog acts out, it's still important to invest the necessary time and energy to make sure that your small dog is a good canine citizen. Read on for 10 helpful tips for training your small dog.
10: Don't Loom
Small dogs often can be threatened by the size of the person training them. If you loom over your small dog, he might be intimidated, unresponsive and even defensive while you're trying to teach him a new skill.
Because your body language is very important to consider when training your dog, make sure that you're working at his level. When you first start to train him, get down on the floor or place him on a chair or another surface that is at your height. Once you've been training for a while and your dog has grown more comfortable with the skill you're working on, you can then stand in an upright position.
9: Start with the Simple Stuff
The first skills that you should teach your small dog are the most basic commands: sit, down and stay. The skills not only promote good behavior but also are essential for keeping your small dog safe. While teaching your terrier to stay will allow him to be better behaved in general, it could also save his life by preventing him from darting out into a street full of traffic.
Once your dog has learned these basic commands, you can gradually increase the difficulty of the task. For example, once your small dog has learned to sit, you can then teach him to lie down. "Sit," "down" and "stay" are the building blocks of commands, and once your small dog has mastered them, he will be able to learn many new skills.
8: Be Patient
Practice makes perfect, and patient, persistent practice is key when training a small dog. While you might want to throw in the towel after he has an accident in the house or yaps at the mail carrier, you should never give up or give in when training. For instance, although it might be easier to pick your small dog up and take him outside every couple of hours to relieve himself, in the long run it will be much easier for both of you if he learns to go outside on his own.
Don't give up on a task if your dog is struggling with it. It's easer to avoid mistakes than to correct them, so stick by your small dog and supervise him as you begin your training sessions. For instance, when you're first beginning to housebreak your dog, watch over him closely. It's preferable to make him go outside if it looks like he's about to have an accident rather than noticing the accident at a later time and punishing him for it.
7: Minimize Distractions
It's best to start training your dog in a distraction-free environment. Rather than work in the hustle and bustle of your family room where the TV is playing and people are talking, begin your training in a quiet room where your small dog won't be easily distracted.
Once your dog has learned a task, move to a new place to practice. After he is comfortable with a task, take him to a busier environment with some distractions to see if the training has stuck. If he is comfortable with the task in a place with distractions, it's likely that he will carry over this behavior in new and unfamiliar places.
6: Keep It Short and Sweet
Just like large dogs, small dogs don't have a long attention span. Because he might lose focus after a short amount of time, limit sessions to 15 minutes when you first begin training. Focus on one skill per session so that your dog is not confused by commands. After you've been training for a while, increase practice time and work on more than one skill at a time.
No matter how long your training session, make sure to end it on a good note. Although your small dog might be struggling with a task, don't end a session out of frustration. Rather, wait until your dog has exhibited good behavior, reward him and then end the session. If he's still not getting the task after 15 minutes, ask him to perform something that you know he can do and end your training session
5: Reward Your Dog with Treats
Everyone appreciates positive reinforcement when they've done a good job. Your dog also enjoys being rewarded with treats after he's learned a new skill, accomplished a task or exhibited good behavior. Treats are an excellent motivational tool to use when training a small dog. Rather than physically punishing him for bad behavior, an action that can be particularly harmful to a delicate small dog, rewarding him with a treat is a great way to provide positive reinforcement for good behavior.
When rewarding your small dog with treats, make sure to give them the treat directly after they've performed the task. He then will associate receiving a treat with good behavior. In addition to giving your dog to a tasty snack, verbally praise him to reinforce the good behavior. Just don't overdo the treats; your small dog has an equally tiny tummy, so make sure the snack is miniature, too.
4: Make Your Dog Earn Attention
Due to their size, small dogs have the opportunity to do things that larger dogs can't. For example, he might be allowed to sit on a sofa or sleep in a bed with his owners while a larger dog may not. Although this behavior might be permissible and even welcomed, he could begin to take advantage of the privileges that his small size affords. To prevent your small dog from becoming a canine bully, make your dog earn your attention.
Before you pet your small dog or allow him to lounge on the sofa, give him a command. If he successfully completes the order, give him access to the privilege. This way, you're both reinforcing your training and rewarding your dog for good behavior.
3: Be Consistent
As with all dogs, consistency is important when training small dogs; a dog only will learn a task through consistent training. While their diminutive size might make it easier or more convenient to ignore bad behavior in the short term, if you let his bad behavior slide, it could be detrimental to your dog's training in the long run. You should never make exceptions to the rules for good behavior that you have established with your dog.
Everyone in your household should respond in the same way to your small dog's behavior. If some household members ignore bad behavior, they'll negate the training you've done and confuse your dog.
2: Be in Charge
Despite their tiny size, small dogs often have big personalities. They can be just as bossy and demanding as a larger breed of dog. When training your small dog, make sure that you're the leader of your pack. Establish clear authority, and never let your pet run a training session.
When you're training your small dog, use an authoritative voice, but be sure not to mistake a commanding tone for yelling; he may become intimidated and not respond to your commands. Don't shout or use a negative tone when saying your dog's name; rather, say your dog's name in a positive way in order to establish trust and authority.
1: Individualize Training
Despite having their tiny size in common, all small dogs have different personalities. The process by which your train them might be different as well. For example, your poodle might have the confidence to allow you to stand up when training him from the get-go. On the other hand, your pug might be a little less self-assured and require weeks of practice before he can grasp the "sit" command.
Depending on your small dog's individual personality, some tasks might be easy to learn while others will be more difficult. Learn how your dog works best, and adapt your training methods to best suit your individual pet.