Training Small Dogs: What You Need to Know

Small dogs actually benefit greatly from obedience training and socialization. Just like large dogs, small dogs need to learn basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and down. In addition, small dogs need to be properly socialized in order to avoid behavior issues such as aggression or fearfulness.

Without training and socialization, small dogs can be difficult to live with and may never reach their full potential. Therefore, it is essential that all dog owners take the time to train their furry friends, no matter what size they may be.

In my previous article on training your small dog, I told you about the differences in training small dogs versus large dogs. This article discusses various training methods to help your small dog learn, obey and work with other dogs.

Dogs that receive proper training are less likely to be involved in bites or other aggressive incidents. Additionally, they are less likely to develop problem behaviors such as incessant barking, which can be a nuisance for both the dog’s owner and their neighbors.

A well-trained dog is typically more obedient and easier to control, making them a more enjoyable companion overall. For these reasons, it is important to make sure that your dog receives the proper training in order to avoid behavioral issues.

Though they may be small, dogs in the “little dog” category are just as capable of learning tricks and obedience commands as their larger counterparts. The key to training a small dog is to start early and be consistent. Like all dogs, small breeds respond best to positive reinforcement, so it is important to use treats and praise to rewards good behavior.

Consistency is also key when it comes to commands – all family members should use the same word or phrase when asking the dog to perform a certain behavior. With patience and practice, even the most stubborn little dog can be trained to behave in an obedient manner.

Types of Training for Small Dogs

The best way to develop a small dog into a good companion and willing helper is to have a solid foundation of basic obedience skills and training. These skills include:

  • Get to know your dog in a calm and friendly setting.
  • Establish your dog’s boundaries to protect both of you.
  • Setting some ground rules for interacting with other people and animals.
  • Learning how to calm your dog when he is having a tantrum.
  • Training your dog to sit, stay, come when called, and down.
  • How to teach your dog to walk calmly and at your side

Your small dog will benefit from the right kind of training when he interacts with other dogs. There are many good resources available, but it is helpful to have some basic skills when selecting or introducing your dog to another dog.

The ideal time to begin these skills is when you get your dog home, or even a few days before he arrives. Remember that most training and discipline for small dogs occur in the house.

Start with housebreaking

Your dog should be housebroken before you bring him into your home. This means he will need to go outside to relieve himself regularly, sleep in his bed, not chew up furniture or shoes, and sit politely when asked rather than jump up to greet people.

This is a critical step in your relationship with your dog and it should be started right away. Marking areas inside the home will not help, since he can’t help but think this is where he should go. This is one of the reasons that indoor potty pads are useful for small dogs.

If you have a new dog, start with short periods of crating your dog in an area where he can easily relieve himself, such as the kitchen.

Don’t overdo it at first. Start with 15 minutes or less and gradually build up to longer periods of time. Small dogs are very fastidious about their toileting habits, so they may need less time to do their business.

Confinement is what will housebreak your dog. If you are using a crate, give him an old t-shirt or flannel material that smells like you so he feels safe and secure in his crate. If you are paper training your dog, it is very important for the area to be very clean and sanitary. Clean the area every time your dog relieves himself, to encourage good housetraining habits.

Crate training is a great option if you live in an apartment or condo. Crate training does require more space than paper training, but it is much easier on the environment. It is also easy to set up and take down.

As soon as you get your new dog home, make sure he has easy access to the outside for eliminating purposes. The first few days are critical in this respect, because dogs can sense stress and will often try to relieve themselves in the house.

Be patient and watch for signs that he needs to go outside, such as sniffing the floor or circling. If you catch your dog in the act, immediately say “hurry up” or “let’s go OUTSIDE”, and immediately take him out to his toileting area.

If he has an accident, do not scold him. Remember that accidents are the result of poor supervision on your part and there is nothing else to be gained by punishing your new dog. Punishment-based training only teaches your dog bad behavior and makes him feel afraid of you.

Training Your Dog for First Meetings

Make sure your dog is comfortable around other dogs. Let him meet other animals in a place where he is calm and familiar. For example, allow your dog to meet other dogs and children in a large, quiet open area with no distractions such as other animals or people. Make sure the other dog does not appear aggressive or that he feels threatened.

If your dog is fearful, timid, or nervous around other dogs, he may be better off without meeting the dogs for some time. Instead, consider having him meet the other dog in a quiet, controlled setting like a training class. It’s best not to let the dog meet other dogs in a crowded yard or another noisy setting.

For older dogs who have always been timid and fearful, you may have to introduce them to other dogs slowly. First, bring your dog to the training class with a few other dogs who have never met him. When your dog feels safe and comfortable around the other dogs, add one or two more dogs to the class. Let your dog meet each dog for a few minutes. Your dog should not feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the other dogs.

When the other dogs have also become comfortable, add two or three more dogs, each for a few minutes. Once all the dogs have become used to each other, try having them all meet in an open area. Take turns with each dog showing your dog to each other for three or four minutes each.

Training Your Dog to Walk Calmly at Your Side

Training sessions should last between five and 10 minutes. Begin by walking your dog calmly at your side. Do not rush him or pull on the leash. As you walk, praise your dog when he walks quietly beside you. Praise him again if he stops to look at something interesting.

Try to keep your dog’s attention focused on you rather than on objects in the environment. This way, he learns to focus on you instead of on things that might frighten him.

Small dogs are easier to control than large dogs because they generally have smaller, stronger muscles. If you have one or two dogs, you will find that you will have more time and energy to train your dog and spend more time with him.

When teaching your dog to walk calmly beside you, it is important to start with a short distance so he does not get discouraged and keep walking. Make a short command like “walk beside me,” reward him, and start again.

You should also avoid overtraining him. This means you should not give him more commands than necessary. Instead, make the command simple and only make it more complex if your dog consistently does not listen or behave inappropriately. For example, you would not teach your dog to stay by adding in a “sit” command. Instead, reward your dog for remaining still. As your dog responds, increase the length of time he remains in place. As you increase the length of time, give a verbal reward and then a treat. As your dog becomes more obedient, try longer commands with fewer commands.

In the same way, you want to avoid rewarding bad behavior. If your dog barks, growls, or lunges, this is a bad habit and it is more work to correct than it is worth. It’s best to ignore these behaviors when they occur.

Training Your Dog to Come When Called

Most small dogs are naturally more willing to come when called than larger dogs. Small dogs generally do not hold back and are more willing to obey your command.

Training your dog to come when called is very simple. Make sure he knows how to come when you call. When your dog responds, reward him and start over again. To help your dog learn the command, try using a few different commands. For example, you can try using commands such as “here,” or “come” and reward your dog for obeying.

Once your dog knows the command, try running a few feet away and rewarding him when he follows. Gradually increase the distance until your dog can follow you anywhere. You should also work on this command inside so that your dog is comfortable responding to commands in any surroundings.

When working with your dog, it is important to have treats ready at all times. This will help keep the training short and effective because you can reward your dog for obeying you. If your dog does not respond the first time, do not continue to call him over and over again.

Instead, simply have him sit or lie down until he is calm. Then, try calling him again. If he fails to respond a second time, have him sit or lie down again until his body relaxes more before trying once more.

Training your dog is not an easy task but it does not need to be difficult either. With small dogs, you can spend more time training them because they do not need as much exercise and they are generally easier to handle.

By following basic steps with your dog, you can quickly train him or her to feel comfortable around other dogs and people. Your small dog will begin listening to your commands in no time at all if you work on obedience training with consistency and patience.