Little Dogs, Obedience Matters!
How Cute is This Guy! Thanks SWGuevin for the photo!
If I had a quarter for every time someone tells me that little dogs don’t need obedience… Well I would be writing this from my castle in the Bahamas!
People think that just because they can pick their dog up, just because their dog can’t inflict the kind of bite or damage a big dog can that they don’t need to teach or train them to do much; if anything.
Most of the time these owners spend the lifetime of the dog simply worshiping and paying homage to the dog and living often times in an abusive relationship because the dog dictates when he gets fed, what he gets fed, where he sleeps and even where the owner is or is not allowed to sleep, eat and sit.
More on that later…
The fact is; I rarely see little dogs even come through my classes.
However, recently I have been graced by the most wonderful owners of the cutest 7 month old Yorkshire terrier puppy.
I’ll use his name because she has been to this site to endorse me and my classes and my training.
His name is Kona, and I am seriously in love.
I have spent a few nights wondering if I would be quick enough to stuff him in my sweatshirt pouch and run 😉 But I am pretty sure his parents would hunt me down to the ends of the earth 😉
I Think There is a Disconnect Between Small Dog and Big Dog People
You see, I think there is a disconnect between big dog and small dog people.
I can’t say I haven’t suffered from it occasionally over the years because I see myself as a big dog person, but because of my work I get to see these small dog gems as well.
I think big dog people resent small dogs (and often their owners) because it is usually the small dogs that are lunging and growling and kicking when they see a big dog and these small dog owners find no fault with their dog’s behavior.
Most of us who own big dogs, know that this is not acceptable behavior in any dog over 20 pounds or so.
When I was in my 20’s and had a dog aggressive Rottweiler, I was expected to be in total control of her when she saw other dogs. I spent years at classes proofing her behavior. I could not let her lunge, growl, and bark at other dogs like she wanted. It is not socially acceptable (and I am grateful because it has made me the trainer I am now!) Even if ANOTHER DOG started it… it was her that was bad if she did the exact same thing back!
And, if a big dog does bark back or show aggression most small dog people blame the big dog!
But, Kona’s parents are big dog people with small dogs!
By that I mean, they expect the same kind of obedience from their small dogs that I do from my big dogs!
The Truth is: There Should be No Difference
But the truth is there should be no difference in behavior or obedience from one dog to another simply because of size.
The same can be said for the way a dog is trained!
After 2 weeks of classes, little Kona probably has better eye contact and focus than any other dog I have had through classes in quite a while.
Yes, just 2 weeks! His owners are diligently doing their homework and training! If you do it, it shows!
Isn’t It More Difficult?
Isn’t it more difficult to train a tiny dog than to train a big dog?
Yes, in some ways it is.
In some ways the extremes: the 2 # dogs and the 250# dogs pose more of a challenge for people.
Because so many training programs still rely on corrections or corrective behaviors.
And, it is nearly impossible to issue a great leash correction to a 2 pound dog or you will send them flying and it is nearly impossible to physically fight a 250 pound dog.
If you do it right, you don’t have to worry about either of those “problems”.
A dog that is positively motivated learns to work for the joy of working, and he doesn’t realize he is 2 pounds or 250 pounds!
So Kona’s mom has learned to become proficient at clicker training (just like the owners of the 100+ pound Boerboel puppy who has come to some of my other classes).
Clicker Training and Positive Reinforcement is the Key
Clicker training is the key.
For those of you trainers out there who like to argue and want to promote prong collars in your classes. Yes, there is no such thing as “purely positive”, everything in life comes with some kind of correction or corrective behavior.
And, I am not preaching to use a million treats per session or to teach your dog that he can’t work without food.
I have very successfully competed and titled to high levels and of course there are not treats or toys allowed in competition. If you do it right you are simply bringing joy and motivation to your training time.
I have never seen a dog find “joy” in a correction from a prong collar.
But, by teaching and rewarding good behavior and shaping we are building stronger behaviors.
Kona is choosing to give his mom eye contact because she knows how to motivate and reward him. Yes, he gets treats on occasion but he also gets praise and toys!
He is learning to love obedience because it comes with these fun and intricate “mind games” that challenge him to learn.
He is stimulated physically and mentally, so he is getting what he needs and he is not worried about an impending correction or physical pain.
He isn’t rewarded for “just being cute”.
He isn’t picked up and carried.
He is forced to work through startles and fears like any big dog would have to.
And, he has learned if he plays the game right and mom clicks she will be bringing him something he desires.
We Big Dog People Get Spoiled
I think we big dog people get spoiled.
We do too much luring.
Dog won’t sit shove a treat in his face.
Dog won’t “heel” shove a treat up his nose.
It is ironic, because it is nearly impossible to lure this little guy (unless you are a toddler).
His behavior has to be shaped.
Meaning his mother has to wait to see it and then she can communicate with him, using the clicker that she likes it. Then he waits for her to bend and deliver treat, toy or affection.
Shaping leads to quicker learning.
I wrote a whole article on it, to read why; click here
I see the difficulty people have when they don’t use a clicker or a marker.
Their communication with their dog is frustrating at best.
A marker trainer learns the EXACT moment to give communication.
Most owners wait until it is too late and the dog is doing something else.
So Just because You Can’t Bend Down to Lure Your Chihuahua
So just because you can’t bend down to lure your Chihuahua, your Papillon or whatever small breed you are working; doesn’t mean he or she should not have as proficient a heel and obedience as my Malinois does!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.