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?Kona snow

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.

But, why?

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

kona and the bugClicker 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!




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  1. Linda says:

    Yes,you are so right. For years I have encouraged small dog owners to stop carrying their dogs and train them. I am currently trying to train a 4 yr old rescue a male neutered shittsu. He is blind, weighs 8 lb. Have trained a blind dog before. This,one is much harder because he is older plus the. Breed. However he is learning that he must walk and behave, he does not get carried or picked up just,when he wants. Linda


  2. Ginger Robbins says:

    What about when you don’t have the clicker with you?


    Minette Reply:

    Once you condition the dog, you don’t need the clicker any more you have conditioned the response. Then you can use the clicker at a later time if you teach something new


  3. Barb Stice says:

    It is so true.
    Our 9lb dog rules us.


  4. toni says:

    Thank you for this info. I have 2 tiny Chihuahuas and they are spoiled rotten. I know its my fault, however I feel better knowing that there is something I can do about their lack of obedience!


  5. DON J. BARTELS says:



  6. Linda says:

    I’m a Dixie person. My1st Doxie was à male& we trained with the choke collar method, it took 10 weeks & 100 hrs. of training. My second dog was A very small female so I tried the reward method & she learned much faster & all the same tricks.


  7. Carol Knopfel says:

    I have two small dog’s, a maltese and a maltese yorkie mix. Their 6 and 8.What can I do to stop them from barking so much when someone comes up to my door are comes in. We have to pick our yorkie mix up when we open the door are shes out jumping on the person coming in. I took them to a class and the first thing they said to me is why do you care as small as they are who care’s if they jump on someone. I care I don’t want to walk into someone’s house and have their dog jumping all over me. Please help.


  8. Bonnie Small says:

    Well, I have certainly goofed with my mini doxie! He has already spent 10 days in quarrantine for biting a neighbor. He is very protective of me and the yard which he shares with 5 other dogs of various breeds. He sits on command but as soon as I smile and say Good dog he jumps up to be held. He is about a year and a half old. What do I do with him?


    Minette Reply:

    enroll in our aggression coaching course email dana at


  9. Elizabeth says:

    I am interested in the little dog training. How much does it cost. I have a chihuahua, Brussels griffon mix. She is just over two years old and I want to do more training. I am just interested in the basics leash training, come when called, not barking, and not being afraid and barking at people when they come in the house.


  10. Kathryn says:

    I adopted a three year old Jack Russell a few months ago. I’ve seen a huge difference in his attitude and behaviour because I try to treat him the same way as my boxer/lab mix, but I have had trouble using rewards in the same way. I didn’t do clicker training with my big guy, but I’ll try it with the little one.


  11. Mary says:

    Hi Elizabeth.. I have a chihuahua/yorkie mix and I want info on the exact things you want too.. Maybe we have to buy a book 🙁


  12. Gina says:

    I have had chihuahuas for over 40 years and I agree wholeheartedly! Nothing irritates me more than all the big dogs who want to kill my little guy when we are walking. Even the huge dogs that are friendly but want to jump on the little guys in play.
    I owned a dog boarding kennel for nine years and ALL of my larger boarders (med size ) learned immediately to use manners at my place. They all learned very quickly to all be gentle while playing and listen to me. No force used, except maybe a big voice.


  13. Christina Easton says:

    Yeah, right, some little dogs need training.
    Not to bite at visisters heals.
    Some little dogs are just angels. like mine.
    My Yorkshire terrier Misty trains himself every day.
    He is observant when not sleeping, playful inventing games
    to entertain himself.
    Like dropping a tennis ball off a height and watching the ball bounce and roll along then going after it to come back and repeat the game with more gusto.

    He has improved so much with obedience since he was adopted by me from the SPCA 2 years ago.
    He uses his own kind of doggie sign language which I have learnt from him .
    This process has led to a much closer relationship with Misty as I can read how he is feeling and catch his gestures of gratitude, fun and joking Mum.
    Acknowledgement to something i have said to him also fun gestures and positive gestures of a kind of laughing, teasing me a bit but i know you dont mind cos its fun gestures and so on.
    I just love the way he is so bright.
    Most Yorkies should never be smacked, shouted at, threatened or punished. I read they can actually become uncommunicative and depressed if treated badly this way.
    They also exercise themselves indoors a lot even if you have a garden like I do for the dog.
    Indoors is different more fun to run about the beds and couch, play hide and seek.
    Life is short so enjoy your Yorkie whilst you have him, they always surprise you every day.
    They are amazing little chappies with little dog size but big dog hearts
    Love to all little dogs,.


  14. Julie Spear says:

    I have a male yorki stud that is 2 1/2 and a female that is coming 2 I plan to breed. I started your program awhile back my male is afraid of the clicker, they are very good at going to their crates when told and a few other things . How ever I am really busy I still work full time and haven’t been keeping up on it and I need help with aggression from my male and general behavioral issues. Can you send me information on your classes?


    Minette Reply:

    enroll in our aggression coaching class. email dana at


  15. Sandy says:

    I have a year old chiweenie female who is terrified of the clicker. When I use it she goes off and hides. I can’t seem to get her to do anything with the clicker. Can you help me?


  16. Karen says:

    I also have a maltese yorkie mix- a Morky. She is 2. She also barks a lot when someone comes to the door. Everyone says she is very sweet & very playful & so cute. She is well potty trained now. The only problem we have is her barking at people & other dogs.


    Minette Reply:

    But how much basic obedience have you done? have you taught, sit, down, stay, come, heel?

    People think that the basics are not important to small dogs, but how can we get them to listen to us during the stressful times like when they bark, if we never teach them to listen to us during the mundane times?

    obedience is important, and will teach your dog to listen to your commands.


  17. Linda says:

    I am a Doxie person…not dixie….sorry.


  18. Lenore Smith says:

    I now mind a small 6yr old terrier/mix dog for a neighbour 6 days a week while he works – owner doesn’t mind at all when he barks at everything, but it drives me mad as I cannot stop him, at my door, at people going past, at a bird, at anything.!!! As my neighbour is only home at night, there’s not a lot of barking there & he says ‘that’s what dogs do’! I have tried treats, good dog, etc when I can get him to finally stop barking, but even banging a newspaper on the table doesn’t help.. My other neighbours are very cranky, so I desperately need your advice. I do not use physical punishment !!! So looking forward to hearing from you. I am 76.y.o.& not very agile.


  19. Maria says:

    I am a dog minder (in England) you are so right, the little dogs are cute but so badly behaved, most of them have never had training because their owners think they don’t need it but it makes my job a lot harder looking after all shapes and sizes of dogs they are the hardest! I try to teach them to behave when they are with me, treats, toys and playful rewards are everywhere but then they go home and it’s back to the start! It’s difficult to train when you have several dogs all at different levels.


  20. Dyca says:

    My husband and I are big dog people, but a few months ago we rescued a badly neglected three year old Chihuahua. Her name is Sasha and she was left outside year round tied up with a cable. I tried clicker training her, but the noise from the clicker only frightened her. I couldn’t get her to do anything except stand there and tremble with her tail tucked and her ears down. But she is really smart, so I started using my trained big dogs to train her. It has worked beautifully. She now does sit, lay, and we are working on stay. She is a real challenge, but has fast become a treasure in the family. She gets along well with all of the big dogs too. 🙂


  21. Angel says:

    I have a 11 yr old Yorkie who marks everything. He goes outside every hour but continues to lift his leg. He started this after we lost our 11 yr old white lab due to a stroke. Then we got a new big dog for my son and he has a daughter now. The Yorkie and the tan lab are best friends. He follows her every where. They’re inseparable. But he continues to lift his leg on a leg of the kitchen table and on my granddaughters things. I feel he does this because she gets so much attention.. That He used to get. I’m in a wheelchair. He is my son’s dog. He follows my son everywhere & Has separation anxiety when ever My son leaves. What’s the best way For him to teach him not to lift his leg.


  22. Karen says:

    Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. I have the Morky that barks when someone comes to the door. She hasn’t had obedience training but we have taught her to sit, stay, down & come. She was 2 in December. Do you think she is getting too old to take her to a obedience training class? She is smart & she barks & jumps up & down when I get ice from the ice maker. She loves ice.


    Minette Reply:

    Never too old!





  24. Minette says:

    I’ve owned and loved Rotties! I would still have them if they weren’t so prone to cancer I use that experience because I have had them… and one was dog aggressive.

    Not bashing the breed, merely sharing my experiences


  25. Elizabeth says:

    I didn’t get a response on this article. I am thinking about buying the video that they sell but I would like to know if hey have something different for small dogs. Let me know of you hear anything.


    Minette Reply:

    The truth is little dog obedience and dog obedience is really no different. We don’t have a “little dog program” instead we have a general dog training program.


  26. Cindy says:

    I have a 20 month old parti Yorkshire terrier. He has already earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen title and also does agility. I plan to continue with the AKC Community Canine Good Citizen. I too was tired of seeing poorly trained little dogs so set out to show what little dogs are capable of if given the chance. He is perfectly house trained and is very welcome in stores . He greets people at a sit. I use clicker training and treats and toys. I love to see his little brain work. It can be done with time and love.


  27. stella says:

    my 2 year maltese is jum,ping on people when i take him outside,he will not bite he likes to held. he constantly will bark any people and other dogs through the window and patio door. when i leave him for a few minutes he willjump on me and pee, help?


  28. Nola Scholz says:

    Thanks Minette. I couldn’t agree more with your Blog. Travelling in our RV we have seen so many badly behaved small dogs. We have a 4 month old MalteseX and we are determined he is going to be well behaved. We have a benchmark where we ask ourselves “if he was a Rottie would we let him get away with that”. I must add we are in our mid 70s, so have to have the best behaved little dog so he is a joy to share our old, old, age,


  29. Lorraine J Welsh says:

    For a dog that barks all the time, try putting a penny or nickel in a clean soda or beer can, pull the tab around so it won’t fall out, and shake vigorously. This works for my Maltese puppy. Also, when the dog jumps up on people, try a small spray bottle with water in it and give him a spray in the face. These things work on my dog. They do sell dog collars that emit a slight electric buzz and stops the barking.


  30. Lorraine J Welsh says:

    I have a maltese, and when he barks I just yell stop. I know that you are not supposed to yell, but once, and he comes to me and I give hime a scratch or cookie. Use cookies all the time for good behavior, but never for jumping up. A can with pennies in it or just try sshhhhh. A spray bottle works too.


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