How to Train a Small Dog

Updated On: Friday, June 9, 2023 14:44:46 PM America/Los_Angeles

Do you have a new puppy in the house? Congratulations! A dog can bring a lot of joy into a home. Dogs are wonderful companions and have so much love to give. But for the relationship to be beneficial for both you and your pup, some training is in order.


A study in Applied Animal Behavior Science showed that small breed owners are more likely to see their dogs as aggressive, fearful, and less obedient than owners of large breeds. However, these owners also tended to use less effective training techniques. The study also showed that when large and small dogs had similar training from their owners, they were equally obedient and well behaved.


This article explores eleven tips and techniques for training smaller breed dogs and puppies. Keep these guidelines in mind as you spend time with your new four-legged friend. 


Photo by @blackdingo


Be Positive!

Back when our parents and grandparents had dogs, they trained their dogs with punishments. Pups were yelled at (or worse) for bad behavior. Researchers found, however, that this method is not as productive as positive training methods. Positive approaches involve treats, playtime, and praise as rewards for good behavior. This method is better for the relationship you have with your dog, and it is also far more effective.


Playing Games to Teach Skills

Puppies and small dogs have limited attention spans. To make your training successful, make it fun - for both you and the dog. For example, when you teach your dog to come, you will start by giving him treats when he responds to his name. Once he reacts consistently, a game of tag is in order. You will call them and take a few steps away. Then drop a treat. When they come to you (and the treat), give them lots of praise and affection. Eventually, you can turn this into a fun game of chase. Puppies will follow you because they love to chase things. Games like this will help you teach your small dog to come when called.


Act Like a Puppy

Puppies and small dogs like to wrestle and use their teeth to explore. This is normal puppy behavior. However, no one wants a little dog that bites. If your dog uses teeth when playing, you need to speak in a way she will understand, when her teeth are on your skin, yelp like a puppy. Then, stop the play immediately. This lets your small dog know that what they are doing is not acceptable.


Make it Real

If you have a puppy, you will also need to potty train. Much like acting like a puppy can teach your small dog not to bite, making the potty-training experience "real" can help your pup pick up the skill faster. Instead of using pee pads, try using real grass. Your goal is to teach your dog that they are only allowed to go when their paws are on grass. When he does his business, give him a delicious treat. You can also buy special supplies just for training, something they only get then. Also, give them lots of praise and extra pets.


Have a regular schedule when you are potty training and take them to the same spot every time. Place your puppy on the grass every half hour to an hour and tell them to "go potty" or whatever term you wish to use. Make sure they get time on the grass after eating, drinking, and first thing in the morning and after playtime and naps, which is when their digestive systems may be working extra hard.


Over time, move the grass mat closer to the door and alternate the grass mat with going outside. If you live in an apartment or area that doesn't have easy access to grass, follow the tips on this guide and it can be an excellent permanent solution.


Capture Good Behavior

One of the simplest ways to train a dog is to reinforce what they are already doing. For example, if you are training your small dog to sit, have delicious treats ready. When your pup sits, respond with an enthusiastic "yes!" and a treat. You need to be fast, but if you can show your dog what you want, it will be easier for them to repeat it.


Increase Skills

Like humans, dogs learn best slowly over time, rather than in one big session. You will have far greater success if you do many mini-training periods, building skills gradually over time than if you decide to spend a whole day training one skill. For example, if you are teaching the command "stay", start teaching them to stay next to them. Slowly, over time, start to increase the distance between you and your pup, using lots of positive reinforcement when they exhibit the correct behavior. 


Start in Boring Spaces

Have you ever tried to read a book during a rock concert? Probably not, because it is hard to concentrate when a lot is going on around you. The same goes for your dog. Training commands like "sit" and "lay down" are much easier if you do them in boring rooms without a lot of distractions. Your pup is more likely to sit or lie down naturally, and you will be more focused so you can reward them with treats the minute they do the right action.


Make it Easy for Your Small Dog to Behave

One of the most straightforward tips for training your small dog is to set them up for success. How? If your little dog is still learning to be housebroken, use gates to keep them in appropriate rooms. If your dog is chewing, give them toys they are allowed to eat and praise them. In turn, keep your expensive shoes out of their way, so there isn't any temptation.


Train with High-Value Treats

Your small dog will respond better to a special training treat than a piece of their regular food. Bits of cheese or lunch meat are commonly used, but they can be a lot for a small dog's stomach to handle. Instead, consider getting a bag of high-quality food for your dog in a different flavor than what they get at mealtime. You can follow great suggestions from ThePets that show that you should pay attention the food's protein source, such as chicken because toy puppies are prone to allergic reactions, and their digestive system is sensitive to changes in diet. 


Be Quick with Treats and Praise

Small dogs are always on the move, so you have to be fast! Keep your high-value treats handy at all times, and be ready to reward good behavior instantly. The closer the reward is to the action, the easier it is for your dog to understand what it is rewarding.


Have a Schedule and a Routine

Dogs are happiest when they know what is going on. Try to create an excellent learning environment for your pup by having regular feeding times, times to be outdoors, exercise, and training sessions. A daily routine will help your small dog be calmer and less anxious. 


Be Consistent

This is the number one tip for training your small dog. Be consistent in everything you do. Make sure that all members of the household know the training commands. For example, are you using the word "yes" or the word "good" when doing something right? Use the same praise, so your dog knows what to expect. The more consistent you and your family are, the easier it will be to have a happy, obedient small dog.


Follow these simple techniques and you'll have a happy, well-trained companion in no time!

TAGS: training