Small dogs deserve training, too



I have always wondered why many owners of small dogs don’t bother to train them. Not that all big dogs are well trained; most of them aren’t. It’s just that I rarely see small-dog owners disciplining their dogs even a little. In general, small dogs just get away with so much more than big dogs.

Reasons for this are simple. Big dogs create bigger, more noticeable problems. That’s why we hear about rottweiler attacks, not pug attacks. A dominant black lab that pulls its owner down the street is different than a dachshund acting the same way.

If a great dane jumps up at me, it could knock me over, scratch me or nip my face, even if the dog meant no harm. The great dane’s owner has to discipline her dog if she wants to avoid hurting an innocent visitor. A Pomeranian jumping at me is a little different. But the problem is, most of us actually encourage this behavior in small dogs. We think a small dog jumping on us is cute, even if the dog is barking or growling. Petting and talking to a dog that acts like this is only encouraging the behavior. After the dog learns it’s OK to growl at people, it might take it to the next level and bite. This is just one example of what we let our small dogs get away with and why it leads to larger problems.

When I worked at a boarding kennel and grooming shop, I had my fair share of dog bites (always my fault). I can remember being bit by two yellow labs. The others that bit me were small dogs such as bichons, toy poodles, cockapoos and Cocker spaniels. I don’t blame the dogs for biting me. They were acting out of fear, stress or frustration.

Certain breeds of small dogs can be territorial, dominant, high strung and full of pent up energy. With these breeds, it’s important not to allow the dog to show dominance by yapping at everyone, climbing all over the furniture and guests, pulling on a leash or growling. How many small dogs do you know that heel? I can think of one, a shih tzu in Ace’s obedience class. All other small dogs I know walk several feet ahead of their owners. If a dog is walking ahead and pulling, then she is walking her owner and thinks she is the leader.

The dogs aren’t to blame. Like big dogs, the little guys just don’t get enough exercise. A lack of exercise is the biggest reason behind dog behavioral problems. Even a small dog needs a long walk every day, but most don’t get walked at all. Little dogs need proper socialization, and they often don’t get that either. Little dogs are encouraged to be fearful, because an owner will scoop her dog up and cradle him, saying “it’s OK,” when there is no real reason to be afraid. If a chihuahua barks and growls at strange men and her owner holds him close, pets him and says “it’s OK” every time, the dog will be conditioned to fear men. It will only be a matter of time before the dog bites a man’s hand when he tries to pet him. Imagine what would happen if the dog feared children. It happens too often. A chihuahua might not cause as much damage as German shepherd that bites, but it could still require a child to get stitches.

It is a dog owner’s responsibility to train her dog, no matter what the breed. If more people educated themselves about dog behavior and training and actually followed through on training throughout the dog’s life, so many behavioral issues could be avoided. Unfortunately this is not the case, especially with small dogs that are more likely to be bought by a naive owner, looking for a cute accessory.

What are you doing to train your small dog?

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  1. Ty Brown on April 10, 2008

    Good points. In my dog training business the majority of my clients are bigger dogs. It’s great, though, to be able to work with small dogs and get rid of aggression and dominance, etc.

    Ty Brown’s last blog post..The proper way to use a bark collar

  2. chris on April 10, 2008

    I agree completely. When we adopted our chihuahua Rosie last July, she had a terrible fear of men – we think she may have been abused. She was unstable and that leads to behavior problems. We have worked with her, and whenever she shows any agression, we stop it from going any further, and little by little she is learning what isn’t acceptable, and also that not all men are mean. Reading Cesar Millan’s book has helped tremendously.

    chris’s last blog post..Bookworm Tag

  3. vee on April 10, 2008

    ooh yes i agree. I have an airedale and a shihtzu and i have to make a conscious effort to treat them both the same. I try as little as possible to coddle the shihtzu. And I try not to randomly pick him up- I imagine I would be disorienting for the little guy.
    However, He still acts like a small dog. And does things like growl and show his teeth which aren’t scary bc he’s a little dog. But if my airedale did that I would DEF be scared!

    vee’s last blog post..High FIVE!

  4. Bill on April 10, 2008

    Dogs and Aggression
    Last year I used Google Alert to get some insight on dog bites and attacks. For those of you that don’t know about this service, you give Google a topic and it e-mails you news releases on that topic.
    So, for the last year I have been getting on average of, lets say, four alerts a day, and at least one report every day. Now, if I disregard the reports that are non relevant (articles that happen to have the words dog and bite or dog and attack in the story) then disregard the articles that are multiples of the same stories, I am still left with a staggering amount of violent incidences between humans and K-9’s.
    Reading through every word of every article is not my cup of tea. My research skills are not great. However, I have trained myself to at least skim through all the articles to find the age of the human victim and the breed of the dog involved. Many of the attack releases are horrifying. Most involve young or small children, the dogs are (usually) known to the victim and of course “Pit Bull” is the news popular breed.
    I am not writing this article to bash Pit Bulls. I would never own one, because I am not a Pit Bull “type”. Nor am I a Poodle or German Shepard “type”. I think for the most part this breed is getting its reputation because of irresponsible humans that have no idea how to manage a dog that has been bred to be a killer. Do Jack Russell Terriers not bite? We breed them to kill. No one wants to take the time to read a story about a ferocious JRT. But we do pay attention to the dangerous breed attacks. As well, we have to take into consideration the severity of a Pit Bull attack.
    Part of my dog related business involves dog attack training for utility companies. These are the people that go to your house to read meters or to service equipment and it’s usually in the same place where many people STORE their dogs. I have labeled these dogs “backyard lawn ornaments”. The utility workers tell me their biggest fear is going into a fenced yard and seeing a dog on the end of a chain. They also tell me that some people will actually chain the dog to the meter, or build the dog run around the services to the house. The meter still needs to be read so there is usually some type of confrontation between the worker and the dog or the worker and the dog’s owner when asked to remove the animal from the area. It is easy to see that people that keep dogs this way did not get a dog for companionship. This dog is nothing more than a tool and eventually grows to be a social misfit. If it escapes or a child wanders into the yard the outcome is usually grim.
    Dogs, like humans, are social animals. They need interaction with other living beings to be mentally stable. A dog that grows up on the end of a chain will not develop the social skills needed to suppress the attack or bite reflexes when confronted by another dog or human. Understanding pack mentality is crucial to raising a dangerous breed pup.
    There are many other reasons why dogs develop aggression problems. Dogs are naturally aggressive. It is a survival instinct they are born with. The aggressive pup in the litter gets the most nutrition, warmth and affection. Once humans are in charge of the nutrition, warmth, and affection, care must be taken to insure that the pup knows its place in the human pack. The pup must be raised as a dog, not a human. Humanizing a dog will cause aggressive behavior. Issues can come from something as trivial as letting your dog on the furniture. Height is status in the pack. A dominant dog will stand over the submissive dog to show dominance. So letting your dog sit or sleep with the human pack members can give the dog a sense of authority that needs to be protected by aggression.
    Not controlling the entrance to the house can cause aggression issues. If your dog charges the door at the sound of a knock or a doorbell, it is a dominant response to protect the pack. A stable dog will know to alert the pack by barking once or twice and let the pack leader deal with the intruder. When you take your dog for a walk, the dog should be the last one through the door. In fact the dog should sit at an open door until it is allowed to go out. These may seem like small details to humans, but in a dogs mind Alpha Status is everything.
    If your dog is showing signs of aggression look for the triggers. What causes this dog to react violently? It may be something as subtle as a food dish by a door, or just being frustrated from lack of exercise.

    Bill Allen
    Outwest Canine Consulting

  5. kabbage on April 10, 2008

    I own 2 medium-sized (40-50lb) dogs. I resent people who don’t train their little dogs to behave around other dogs. If their 8-lb pipsqueak runs out and attacks my dog, my dog is the one who pays the price. Either mine has to tolerate some idiot hanging off her neck or face, or she risks being labeled as a “dangerous dog” for defending herself. I’ve become much more in-your-face with small dogs rushing at mine. Better that I get labeled as “that crazy bitch with those 2 dogs” than my dogs get caught up in the legal system.

    Second thought: a friend of mine is a professional dog handler. She would rather be bitten by a Rottweiler than a Chihuahua. A rottie bite will drain well while healing, but a Chi bite is more likely to close up and fester because it is a smaller bite.

    Lastly, I don’t think it matters who goes out the door first. I think what matters is who decides who goes through the door first. If I ask my dogs to wait while I go through the door, they wait until released. If I ask them to go ahead of me through a doorway, they do that, too. Sometimes one is more convenient than the other. Similar situation with leash walking. I prefer my dogs walk ahead of me on a loose leash when we’re going for a neighborhood walk. I can see what they’re doing and noticing, so I’m less surprised by things that happen. If I need to ask them to heel or to sit while someone else goes by, then I do that.

    kabbage’s last blog post..Love is Everywhere*

  6. Abbey on April 11, 2008

    Ahhh I am so guilty of this one… Our Shitzu has no training…she just slots into our life…she is rarely on a leash as we are at a solitary beach…her one habit…going psycho at the door when we get visitors…

    Now I have a Dane…she started to pick up the door habit. Although she does sit and wait at the house and car.. Chels is in training and the main motivation is her size…no way do i want her at risk…

    When i mentioned the door thing to the trainer, he said why havnt you bought her, my excuse…’well she’s 5yrs’ …needless to say both are in training now, I take the Dane and my daughter takes the Shitzu …

    Abbey’s last blog post..Walking Challenge, Day 7-11

  7. jazmin on April 12, 2008

    I am so there with you. Please do train them.

    Jazz

    jazmin’s last blog post..Cool Cat Livvie!

  8. Look at those choppers

    Dave from Welcome Back Rosenthal’s last blog post..The Perfection of Superman and The Legion of Super-Heroes

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