Ask the Trainer | Tiny dogs need training, too |

Ask the Trainer | Tiny dogs need training, too

Dear Carla,My girlfriend just got a Chihuahua puppy. She has a little bag for him and carries him everywhere. Iandamp;#8217;ve always had big dogs who were well socialized and trained. I think this puppy needs to go to class just like any other dog, but sheandamp;#8217;s not convinced. I donandamp;#8217;t want this dog to become one of those crazy little dogs that canandamp;#8217;t go anywhere because they growl and bark at everything. What do you recommend?andamp;#8212; Little Dog DaddyDear Daddy,Small dogs need to be socialized and trained just like big dogs; unfortunately many small dogs have fewer opportunities for interaction with other dogs and people because their owners often carry them around. We are attracted to puppies because of their baby-like features. Many small dogs carry these features into adulthood, further encouraging our desire to pick them up and treat them like babies. If their paws arenandamp;#8217;t on the ground they canandamp;#8217;t experience the world! Under-socialized small dogs tend to be fear aggressive around big dogs and new people which leads owners to carry them or further restrict their environment. It really can become a vicious cycle. In addition, many small dog owners tend to be much more protective of their dogs (often overprotective) and also tend to be more tolerant of and make excuses for bad behaviors. Regardless of size, dogs are fearful of things they havenandamp;#8217;t been exposed to, are sensitive to novel sights and sounds, experience separation anxiety, jump on people, and chew things. They also love to play and are receptive to positive reinforcement-based training. I had a toy Yorkie enrolled in a recent puppy class. This adorable little pup weighed in at a mere 1 pound at the start of class. She was too small to play with the bigger puppies, but we found ways for her to get to know them when they were on leash. During playtime we allowed some of the mellower pups to come over one at a time to sniff and greet while her owner held her. When playtime was over and the other pups were back on leash, we let her circle the room and say hello on her terms. Everyone in class was amazed how outgoing and smart she was. I have to say, she was one of the smartest puppies Iandamp;#8217;ve ever met and her owners really enjoyed helping her learn.When I was young, I loved a book called andamp;#8220;The Borrowers.andamp;#8221; It was about little people who lived in the wall of a regular house and borrowed things to survive. Little household items such as thimbles served as furniture to them. I sometimes think this must be how small dogs see our large world. There are differences when training a little dog. It can be useful to place the dog on table for training so they donandamp;#8217;t have to look up so far. Another helpful tool is a target stick. Once Iandamp;#8217;ve taught a small dog to touch a target stick with their nose, I can use it to teach them to walk nicely on leash. So to answer your question, I do recommend taking your new pup to a well run, positive reinforcement-based class. However, have a discussion with the instructor in advance to ensure they have experience working with and making accommodations for small dogs. andamp;#8212; Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, email her at

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