Many pet owners take their small breed dogs to group classes or watch training videos, and find that their dogs struggle a little more than some larger breeds. Though the basic training concepts remain the same, some small details can make all the difference when you’re training a small puppy.
This is the primary reason we developed our Dog Savvy Small Dog Training Made Easy Course, to help address some of the unique issues small dog owners face.
Setup for Success
Before you go into a training session with your small puppy, it is important to remember that size does matter. Stomach size that is! Small breed dogs can’t inhale treats at the same rate as a lab, and small breed puppies get full even quicker! That’s why it’s important to go into your training sessions prepared.
You should cut your treats up into tiny little pieces before you even begin your training session. Even the little “training treats” should be at least cut in half before use to help you get the most use out of them. When you’re training a small puppy, breaking your treats up until small pieces can really help keep them from filling up too fast!
A final note on preparing for your training sessions; don’t go into the session with the expectation of working for 20 minutes with your dog. All puppies have short attention spans. Work in 5 minute increments, and do several different training sessions throughout the day to keep your dog interested and motivated.
Tools of the Trade
For any breed of dog, you will want to use the same training methods. The basic process of training something new typically involves using a food lure, a bridge, and reinforcement. Essentially, you lure the dog into position, use a word or sound as a “bridge” to let them know exactly when they’ve done the correct thing, and then reinforce them in some way (usually with a bit of food).
Even when you are training a small puppy, you will want to make sure you still use all these basic training principles. Don’t skip over parts just because your dog is “less dog” than something like a golden retriever. Your dog learns in the exact same fashion as any other dog, or animal for that matter!
For the Tricky Case
With that said, just because a small dog learns in the same way as any other dog, doesn’t mean the process is the exact same. In fact, when one of my clients has difficulty luring their dog into a “sit” or a “down,” a large percentage of those issues occur for small dog breeds.
If you happen to have a tricky case, you might try changing the surface that you are training on. For some small dogs, when you train on a slippery surface they have a hard time focusing on where you are trying to lure them. Conversely, if your dog is resistant to luring into a “down” position, you might need to switch from a rug or carpet to a slippery surface to help them slide into position more easily!
If you continue to have difficulty, or just think you need a little extra help, our monthly Ask The Trainer makes for a great addition to Dog Savvy.
Don’t Forget the Mental Stimulation!
Our final, and perhaps most important, takeaway is that small breed dogs are still dogs. Though they might not need the same amount of physical exercise as a larger breed, they do need just as much mental exercise.
For dogs to thrive, you have to make them think! Providing mentally stimulating activities for your small breed puppy can make the training process much easier, and prevent potential behavioral problems later on down the road by preventing boredom.