“My small dog is way too exited all the time. He does not know or follow dog training commands and seems to have a mind of his own when I want his attention. It seems as if I find myself yelling at him and telling him to do the same thing over and over again. He has no good manners, no regard for my rules and it’s just not working.” And Leila had not even said hello yet! The soon to be new client on the phone, was beyond exasperated.
She closed with, “I’m sure you’re going to tell me it’s all my fault!”
Nothing needed to be added to that. She was absolutely correct. Many people who own a small dog have very similar concerns. I have found that they usually have made 5 big dog training mistakes.
Now before I list the 5 big dog training mistakes I want to also say, in their defense, that there are plenty of dog owners with medium and large breed dogs that make the same mistakes. So let’s not point fingers. You can learn here too.
Observation based on experience
These 5 big dog training mistakes are my observations over time in going from home to home for 25 plus years of in-home training.
I’m not going to just discuss these 5 big dog training mistakes, I will also recommend alternative solutions that will improve your relationship with your dog immensely “if” you choose to change. I hope you do as a lot of a small dogs behavior issues are their ways to relieve stress and anxiety that are created by their relationship with you.
Remember, no matter how old your small dog, it’s never too late to train.
5 big dog training mistakes
Here’s a short list of the 5 big dog training mistakes made by many small dog owners:
1. Too much love and affection
2. Small dog owners don’t set personal space boundaries
3. Don’t do dog training because of their small dog size
4. Small dog owners do not walk or exercise their dogs
5. Small dog owners do not socialize their dogs
Now let’s break down these dog training mistakes
Small dog owners give too much free love and affection
Most dog owners get their small dog simply because “it’s small”. Like I said before, “small” is much less intrusive and easy to pick up and put on the couch with you, or better yet on your lap. It becomes a habit. You sit down, your dog nudges and you pick him up and on your lap he goes.
Hold it! I’m not saying, “No love and affection with your small dog.” I’m just saying, “Require your dog to earn his love and affection by doing something like a sit.”
Too much unearned love and affection can begin to nurture your dog’s insecurities. What do I mean by that? If you freely pet your dog at every nudge he gives you for attention, then that begins to help your dog figure out “who’s doing what for whom.” Or, “Who is running the show.” He is!
When you turn around and correct him for things he does, that sends a conflicting message now saying you are in charge.
Match every nudge with a “”sit requirement” and sometimes send him away and call him back on your terms later on. It sounds easy and it is. It does take breaking old habits though.
Small dog owners don’t set personal boundaries
What are personal boundaries? The immediate space around you including your lap is your personal space. All dogs, large and small dogs alike, pay particular attention as to whether you can control your personal space – or not.
They test the waters and jump on the couch/bed and get in your lap or personal space without asking. They want to see if it is possible. And, in most homes where dogs are allowed to do this freely and “at will,” they get rewarded for doing just that. In many homes small dogs even have custom steps leading to couches and beds to aid in their efforts to invade your personal space anytime and anywhere.
The problem comes up when your small dog now begins to guard “his” bed or couch sometimes even growling or snapping to keep you or others off unless he wants you there to continue providing the constant love and affection mentioned above.
Set your rules for getting into your personal space. He must earn it and earn it on your terms, meaning, when and where you want him- not just his.
Believe it or not having rules on your personal space will lower his stress and anxiety. Here’s what we do at our home with our dogs.
If I come into the family room and Sammy (our lab) is on the couch and I sit in my easy chair, Sammy is okay to stay on the couch.
If I come into the family room and decide to sit on the couch, Sammy gets off the couch automatically. He didn’t at first and had to learn like the rest of our dogs. Now, 99% of the time I’ll ask him to sit and invite him back up on the couch. But here are two things I’ve accomplished with Sammy:
1. Sammy now has rules and expectations about personal space. Less stress knowing what is expected. We have a well-trained dog with good manners.
2. When we have visitors over and they sit on the couch, Sammy gets off the couch. Good manners cause our guests to want to visit again.
3. BONUS: You get your cake and eat it too. You never loose out on your warm fuzzies.
Watch out. Don’t let your dog hog your personal space. It’s your space to give, just don’t give it freely. Get something in return. Get a sit.
Small dog owners don’t do dog training
Most small dog owners don’t train them, they love them. That’s the rule. They are simply too small to train. What harm could they cause? Well, let’s see.
If you don’t train your small dog to sit, he will jump on your visitor. Small dogs can pester a guest as much as a big dog. Worse, small dogs can embarrass you by jumping on the couch now inhabited by your guest and crawl all over them. They even (as you probably know) get on the top cushion and crawl on your shoulder and lick your ear. I know because it happens to me every week with small dogs.
Start training your small dog to obey your one word commands like sit and down when in the company of your guests. This will probably mean putting him on a leash at first to control him in the presence of a house guest.
Teach him to settle down by your foot as you visit with your guest. And, make him up a stuffed Kong toy to divert his attention and associate something very positive with the guest.
Small dog owners do not walk and exercise their dogs.
Small dogs have the entire big house in which to run around. They don’t need to walk or exercise outside. True or false? I would have to say that even with small dogs, exercise is a great way to buffer stress and anxiety, especially if it is done every day. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog.
Not to mention, allowing your small dog to satisfy his needs to sniff and explore with his nose in the great outdoors. I also think that dogs that routinely walk everyday are less inclined to escape and run away because of the bond created with its owner in sharing pack activities. Becoming a partner of your dog instead of just his owner is important.
Walk your dog twice daily for at least 30 minutes each time if you can. Supplement that with dog training. Do sits and downs on the walk as you move around the neighborhood.
You will be amazed at the difference in your relationship with your dog.
Venture out to parks, the beach and hiking trails near your home. You’ll be glad you did and so will your dog.
Small dog owners don’t socialize their dogs
You would think that because small dogs are so easy to transport, they would get many trips to dog parks or romps with the neighbor dog next door. Many think their dog is just to fragile to play with others so the intention is to protect the little one and not really go to the park to visit other dogs. He might get hurt.
As a result they wind up staying home or get to ride in mom’s purse (totally sheltered) to and from the grocery store or hair salon. A lack of this socialization can equate to unpleasant walks with your small dog as he lungs and snaps at dogs along the way.
Doggie day camp environments could provide the ideal solution for your small dog. Do your investigation. He will need temperament testing. Once a week play time with his new small dog friends coupled with walks at home with you might be exactly what he needs. Think about the controlled environment of day camps. Some even provide boarding. What a stress-free way for your dog to enjoy time away from you when you vacation.
Little dogs are just flat out cute. Don’t get me wrong. I love small dogs too. In fact, I always had big dogs and never ever wanted a small dog-at least until I got Sophie. I fell in love. I also recognized straight away that she would need training and structure
She brightens our day not in a small way but a big way. But I trained her and treated her no differently than the big dogs in the family. That’s what has made her a very good dog.
Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know how this article impacted you and the way you think about training. Are you looking at it a little differently?
Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home. This is a must have for you if you are having dog behavior problems , so grab it now.