Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Teacher's Pet Training Academy - Training Tips for Small Dogs

by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA

A few years ago, I was surfing the Petfinder site, mainly out of boredom. While I consider myself mainly a midsize-herding breed kind of person (I have a few items around my house that declare “I love my Australian Shepherd”), I’ve always had a soft spot for Pomeranians. Long story short, I ended up adopting Pepper, a 10 pound “Pomeranian/Chihuahua/who knows what” from the ARVSS rescue group, and, thus, having my first small dog to train. 

The wonderful thing about positive reinforcement-based training is that it is safe and effective for any size dog (or cat, rodent, bird, etc.!), so I knew that little Pepper could learn in the same way that my larger dogs did. But I found there are some things to consider when working specifically with a small dog.

First, if I am luring Pepper with a treat in my hand, I need to bend over a lot farther. While this isn’t a huge deal for me, it can be difficult when we’re on a walk, and for owners with difficulty bending, it could be a significant problem. A nice way to combat this issue is to teach your small dog to use a target stick. You can purchase a target stick made specifically for dog training (that usually has a rounded ball at one end), or you can use a wooden spoon or other long object that extends your reach. Teach your small dog to touch her nose to the end of your target stick (by marking and rewarding her for doing it), and then you can more easily lure your dog with the stick instead of having to bend all the way over. 

Second, small dogs get underfoot a lot (small dog owners are probably considering this an understatement right now). When I ask the dogs if they want to go outside, I get two excited big dogs racing down the stairs to the door. And I get one excited small dog racing down the stairs, then back up the stairs, behind my feet, back down the stairs and weaving in between the big dogs’ legs. Since this could one day lead to a very sprained ankle, I thought perhaps I should train something safer. I worked with Pepper on staying behind me as I walked down the stairs, and then taught her to jump up on a chair to wait to go outside. Jumping up on an elevated surface is another great thing to teach small dogs.  From the dog’s perspective, humans spend a lot of time towering over her. When I want to put on a harness or do some grooming, if I ask her to jump onto a higher surface first, it’s less intimidating for her when I do lean over her. 

Third, think about the things that others may do to your small dog that wouldn’t necessarily happen to your big dog. Nobody has ever tried to pick up my husky mix. Just because small dogs are small and cute, doesn’t mean they want to be picked up by a stranger any more than a big dog does. So stand up for your small dog – if you see your dog is uncomfortable when someone reaches for her, ask the person to stop, and call your dog to you for safety. And, if your dog is uncomfortable being reached for, you can choose to do some counter conditioning/desensitization work (person reaching for dog = really yummy treats for dog), but always respect that your small dog sees things from a different perspective than you do. 

Want to see some of these tips in action? Check out the video HERE!

Happy training!

No comments:

Post a Comment