We often think that because little dogs are small we don’t need to have the same expectations of them as we would big dogs. They are often seen by people as babies that never grow up. For example today at a local business I met the owners new dog, a pup that weighs about 6 pounds and will not get much bigger. The owner said that the puppy growled and snarled at her last night and meant it when she tried to take a toy away from her. A client overheard this and replied “that is a wonderful, you want her to do that she is tiny and has to protect herself.”. Then this afternoon during a private training session at the park I observed an owner carrying a little dog. The dog was growling and barking at every person she passed. So here are some things to remember when training and managing your little dogs:
- Resource Guarding: Resource guarding is when a dog has possession of an object that your dog thinks is valuable, and is growling/snapping/biting in an effort to protect/keep that object. The object may be something we deem silly, for example, a piece of Kleenex is a common object dogs guard…or even empty bowls. Some dogs will even guard spots, like a bed or couch. And in few, rarer cases dogs will see their owner as a resource and guard that person. It does not matter the size of your dog resource guarding is a serious issue and must be addressed immediately. I work with resource guarders on a regular basis and it is important to understand that Resource Guarding takes a decent amount of time to “fix” with most dogs, and the training will have to be repeated, from the beginning with all other family members to ensure the dog has generalized the behavior. Patience is key.
- Jumping Up:We tend to let little dogs jump up on us and other people. Unlike bigger dogs, they won’t knock us over. But jumping is an undesirable behavior and can be an obnoxious one if not managed properly. I’ve seen clients legs covered with deep scratches from little dogs jumping. This is a behavior that needs to be worked on in the home and in public. Teach your dog to Sit, a sitting dog cannot jump.
- Setting Limits: Since little dogs are the perfect lapdogs we often allow them to crawl into our laps and let them stay even if they are not invited. If a little dog is used to being in your lap anytime he wants he may get protective of you. This could lead to growling and snapping at other people while the dog is on your lap. To avoid this only have you dog in your lap when you invite them. If they get into your lap uninvited place them back on the floor until you invite them up.
- Carrying: If you carry your little dog around too much they will not develop independence and confidence walking on their own. They should be trained to walk calmly on a leash, develop self-control, sit and wait, at home and out in public. If you pick up your little dog they may become protective of you which was the case with the dog at the park today. Also, if you see an aggressive, unleashed large dog coming and you pick up your little dog the dog is going to attack you. So always carry a pepper or citronella spray on your walks with your little dogs.
- Play with Bigger Dogs: This is one I see all the time at dog parks. Most dog parks have a little dog side and a big dog side and they have these for a reason. Some times big dogs are just fine with little dogs, until they aren’t. When the energy level goes up for both dogs a prey drive can kick in, don’t put your little dog into this position. Your dog can also be injured inadvertently by the larger dog during play, even when nothing aggressive is going on. A large paw over the back can cause spinal injuries. If you know a big dog that is appropriate with your small dog it is possible for them to play together under direct supervision. However, at the dog park keep you little dog safe by utilizing the small dog side.So the bottom line is that little dogs need training too. When you are working with your little dog and they do something think to yourself if this was a 100lb dog would I be okay with this? If your answer is no then the behavior needs to be corrected.