4 Secrets of Small Dog Training

If you have a small breed dog, the way you approach their care and training matters! 

Small dog training doesn't always look the same as training large breeds, and small dogs have different needs and considerations during the training process. Life is not one-size-fits-all, and neither is dog training!

1. Potty Training Small Dogs is Harder!

Smaller dogs have smaller bladders and smaller urinary tracts. Some breeds in particular (looking at you dachshunds!) have anatomy that puts extra pressure on the bladder and makes it quite difficult to work on housebreaking. When you are potty training Ask The Trainer, you need to consider that their needs might not quite match those of other dogs.

Unfortunately, this means that many owners fail to fully housebreak their small breed dogs. It happens easily, the accidents are smaller and you might not notice them until some time later.

The problem with this is, if your dog has an accident every once in a while, they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Housebreaking isn't something a dog simply grows into, it's something you MUST work on.

Sadly, it is also something you cannot simply “train” in a dog, and punishing a dog for an accident isn't going to magically teach them that going potty in the house is bad. The only way for you to stop housebreaking is by preventing 100% of accidents for a period of time. You can do this by increasing your vigilance and preventing your dog from sneaking off.

For a great rundown on housebreaking a small breed dog, check out Dog Savvy, Small Dog Training Made Easy, or join our Ask The Trainer for tailored assistance.

2. Many Owners Choose the Wrong Small Dog Training Crate

On the housebreaking note, a good small dog training crate can make your housebreaking experience much easier. It can also prevent your dog from getting into trouble or damaging your home, rugs, pillows, shoes, and any other chew-able item! Here are a few tips for choosing the right crate for your dog:

  • NEVER leave a collar or harness on your dog while they are in their crate. This poses a serious choking hazard for even the calmest small dog. To keep your pet safe, take off their collar or harness when you leave them inside.
  • The crate is a safe space for your pet and a confined area where you know they won't get into trouble. It is not a punishment unless you make it one. Don't use the crate as a time-out zone.
  • Yes, your dog is small, but that doesn't mean their crate should look like the Four Seasons. Do not buy a crate too large for your dog, and make sure the crate you purchase comes with a divider. While housebreaking small dogs, you should leave just enough room for them to comfortably lie down.
  • Even if you think your dog is an angel, they can chew out of a soft-sided crate. Choose a wire crate for your pet to save yourself some money, at least until you are sure they do not chew.

3. It Can be Difficult to Stop Small Dog Barking Once it Starts

Many people picture a yappy little creature when they think of a small breed dog. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to stop small dog barking once they have become fixed in the habit.

However, your small dog never needs to start barking in the first place. You should ensure that you are providing enough mental stimulation for your pet. This will prevent your small dog from seeking other things to entertain themselves.

Even though your dog is small, it is still a dog, and thus needs mentally stimulating activities just like any other dog. Provide these for your pet, and you greatly reduce the likelihood they get into the nasty habit of barking at every little thing.

If your dog already barks incessantly, Dog Savvy, Small Dog Training Made Easy, contains a section on barking that can help you out. You can also seek personalized help in our Ask The Trainer.

4. Best Small Dogs to Train: Breed Does Matter

Our final note on small dog training… Contrary to popular belief, your dog's breed does matter. Everyone loves a rescue dog, and it can be incredibly rewarding to save a mutt's life, but small dog training can be much easier with a little insight into your pet's DNA.

People originally bred dogs for specific tasks. Some breeds, like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Shih Tzus, were bred originally to sit in the laps of royalty. However, many breeds, like dachshunds, rat terriers, and French bulldogs all served the purpose of ratters who hunted vermin.

Breeds with an active “job” thrive in environments that provide similar tasks for them. If you provide activities where your dog can sniff, run, jump, bite, and chew, they will thank you for it.

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