Jeff Stallings, CPDT/KA

Small dogs need training as much as large dogs

By Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

Small dog breeds and mixes are more popular than ever, in part because they fit well in smaller homes and urban environments. I was always more fond of larger dogs until I volunteered for a few years with an organization that rescues small dogs, where I came to better appreciate the personalities and antics of these miniscule mutts.

Some folks assume that their eight-pound Chihuahua or Yorkshire terrier doesn’t need to be trained because of his diminutive stature, but this mistaken notion does a huge disservice to the dog and the owner alike. If anything, training is more important for small dogs because, unlike a big lumbering Newfoundland for example, they often have energy to burn, and exercising their impressive canine brainpower is exhausting. But, of course, train that Newfoundland, too!

Start with early socialization

How many times have you seen someone scooping up their tiny dog every time another dog enters the picture, in an attempt to stop her from lunging, barking and freaking out? When I see this, I can pretty much tell you this dog’s early history: As a puppy, she was not taken to puppy socials, not given opportunities to play with other puppies, and not allowed to methodically learn the ins and out dog language.

Keeping in mind that the primary socialization period ends at 12 weeks of age—go to puppy socials early and often! The lack of early socialization is potentially tragic for any dog, and no less so if she’s a pipsqueak instead of a pit bull.

Oh, and your little rascal should meet 100 people of all sorts before she is 12 weeks old, especially babies, children and big men with tattoos, beards, glasses and hats—like me! (And don’t forget the skateboards, bicycles, buses, trains and wheelchairs.) Did I mention children?

Potty training is a piece of cake

I sometimes field calls from exasperated owners telling me their eight-month-old Chihuahua mix is still peeing and pooping all over the house—and chewing up their furniture, shoes and everything else in sight. I just about scream when I hear this, because it means they have read not any book published in the last 20 years about potty training a puppy.

Puppies, large and small, EARN the privilege of having unfettered access to your entire home—once they have mastered the art of eliminating only in the great outdoors. Until then, they are in a pen area or small room unless they can be watched like a hawk. 

You must strive to set your puppy up for success, and extending full and unfettered access to your home is a recipe for an exasperated owner and a confused puppy. Each time your puppy “goes” outside, a small but tasty treat is in store. Click here to read my blog post on potty training.

Obedience training for your teacup tailwagger

Nothing makes me happier than watching a calm, well-behaved small dog happily following the lead of his responsible owners. Just because your dog is small, it does not mean that the ability to follow cues is any less important. All dogs—and I do mean ALL dogs—should at least know how to sit, lay down, stay and come when called. I am shocked when I meet older dogs who have not even been taught to sit!

Look, if you want an animal that does whatever, whenever, get a cat. Wait, I take that back: Even cats can be taught those behaviors! If you don’t know how to teach your dog (or cat) these most basic of behaviors, sign up for an obedience class, or hire a trainer to come to your house to show you how clicker training works. If you think your dog is too small or too young to learn anything, take a look at this video that went viral last year, of a tiny young Yorki doing amazing things:

If 20-week-old Misa Minnie can learn to play dead and weave an obstacle course, your little dog can at least learn to sit, stay and come. So get cracking on the training: Your diminutive dog will thank you for it!


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4 Responses

  1. Excellent article! I’m not aware of puppy socials in our area. Next time I have a puppy I’ll check on that. Thanks

  2. Jeff, that is the cutest Yorkie! That woman did a super job of training. What fun watching that! Mom

    *Peggy Robinson* * *

    Sent from my iPad

    On Aug 16, 2014, at 1:31 PM, “Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA” wrote: Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA posted: “By Jeff Stallings Small dog breeds and mixes are more popular than ever, in part because they fit well in smaller homes and urban environments. I was always more fond of larger dogs until I volunteered for a few years with an organization that rescues “

  3. Amen to this blog Jeff!!! It has been a pet peeve of mine, for as long as I’ve watched, over the years, so many untrained, unsocialized and downright uncivilized little dogs. I am also a large breed person, Akitas for over 30 years, and could not imagine living with one of these tiny terrors, that was until I found the “need” to find a small breed buddy for one of my Akitas, who was born blind and with a deformed paw. He was also small for the breed weighing a mere 75 lbs, and my other Akitas, were much larger and I thought they might “break” him whe playing, so I went in search of a small breed that was sturdy enoguh to live with Akitas, but also something that I could live with.

    I searched and searched and finally found in rescue a smalll breed litter and I was able to meet both parents, who also ended up in rescue because the owner didn’t want them after the female got pregnant and after meeting the litter, I realized that I found my next dog….a little French Bulldog/Shih-Tzu mix. I was shocked a the number of people with “littles” who said, oh you’ll see she’ll they are different than big dogs and hard to housebreak, lots of little dogs bite and don’t like strangers and blah, blah, blah. I decided that was not what I wanted to live with, so I raised, trained and socialized her as I did my large breeds and she is first of all housebroken (took only a couple weeks) and second is one of the most awesome dogs out there and everyone who meets her instantly falls in love with her. Not only is she best buddy and “seeing eye dog” for my blind Akita ;o) but she is a pet therapy and reading assistance dog, and now competes in agility, obedience and rally.

    Sooooo….if the owner does there part to raise their “little” pooch with the same effort and due diligence as large breeds, you too can have an awesomely amazing little dog!! :o)

  4. Makes me feel good reading this as Ms. Lola, our 5 lb. Chihuahua does so well with other dogs and people. She’s teaching our new Golden puppy how to behave as well and he listens! Great article Jeff!!!

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Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA
Dog Trainer and Author

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