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Small Dog Training:  When & What to Teach

Small Dog Training is crucial if you want to take an active stance and assure that your small dog will turn out to be a happy, well-adjusted adult dog. 

Many new small dog owners are not prepared for the amount of time and effort that goes into training that new bundle of joy. (OK, I'll admit I was there once myself, so don't despair)

Maybe you are one of those that believe that a tiny dog should be given lots of love, kisses and treats and let the problems surface before doing anything.  This type of thinking can lead down the path towards Small Dog Syndrome.

Maybe you just don’t know where to begin with your small dog training project. 

Don’t be misled by the many do-it-yourself dog training options that promise to answer all questions, resolve any issues, and turn your dog into a perfectly trained dog overnight. 

Training takes time and patience, but the rewards are great.

Is it unmanageable?  Of course not!   Training your dog can be the best activity that you and your new puppy embark on to bring the two of you closer together.  So, when and where to begin?

Where to Begin Small Dog Training

Small Dog Training

You can start right here on this site. 

We have many pages on training and the site is growing quickly.  If you don’t see something, please ask.  We may already have it in the works and just not uploaded yet.

The information is based on our personal experiences, extensive reading, and yes I’ll admit I use a lot of what I was learned while completing an undergraduate degree in psychology.   

Did you know that we often have to train ourselves before we start training the dog?  There are five people skills that if mastered successfully make dog training so much easier. 

The DIY Dog Training Tips page discusses these Human traits that help make dog training successful: 

  • Consistency,
  • Conciseness,
  • Congeniality,
  • Confidence and the ability to offer
  • Compensate with treats

Read more

When to Start Small Dog Training

When do I start training my new puppy?  This is a good question and one whose answer has changed over time.   

Years ago, experts recommended that you wait until they were “old enough” usually 6 months of age and had completed their full serious of vaccinations and de-wormings.  We have learned much since the “Good ‘o Days.”

Today, most trainers agree that puppy training needs to begin as soon as you take your dog home.  The same is true if you adopt an older dog. 

Chances are that the adult dog will have had some training before arriving at your home.  Your job, in that situation is to find out where the dog is in his training and pick up from there. 

We think about small dog training as an ongoing process that includes teaching manners and social skills, basic commands and housebreaking. 

Many puppies go beyond the basics, but the basics are a “must” for a happy, well-adjusted dog. 

A well trained puppy is much less likely to ever see the inside of a dog shelter or rescue and will live out his life as a devoted family member that you, the proud owner will be happy to show off to all your friends and family members.

Start with a good socialization program.

Socializing Your Puppy

There is much to be said about Socialization these days.  Properly socialized puppies rarely see the inside of a shelter or rescue.  Most new puppy owners want to show off their new dog to all their friends, neighbors and loved ones, but don't think of these fun activities as part of their small dog training project.  It should be.  This should be a win win situation for both owner and puppy.   

Very young puppies can get overwhelmed with all the attention but older puppies will thrive on all the new experiences.   But knowing how to socialize a new puppy is a very important skill that new dog owners can master quickly.

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Crate Training and House Training

Crate Training Your Small Breed Dog

House and crate training are two topics always come to the top of every new puppy owner’s mind and well it should be.  There are several options for house training a puppy and one must decide beforehand which method will work best for their own personal situation. 

Most people prefer for puppies and older dogs to find a suitable place outdoors for elimination.  Many, however, like the idea of an “indoor potty” for their new pooch.  It is mostly a personal choice, as one is not necessarily better than the other. 

Read more:  Housetraining

Read More:  Crate Training.

House Training Supplies

While not exactly a training issue, having the right supplies will make your job so much easier.  We've broken down the list of "must haves,"  so you can be prepared for all different situations.

Read more

Is Your Puppy Biting?

Puppy BitingHelp with Puppy Biting and Nipping

Young puppies are a frisky bunch to say the least.  Their excess energy can be overwhelming at times.  And, sometimes it feels their mouths seem to go as fast as their paws.

I’m referring, of course to all that chewing and nipping behavior that seems endless. This is a real problem until puppies obtain their full set of adult teeth.  While many puppies will stop nipping on their own as they mature, many others will not unless taught otherwise.  It’s important to nip the nipping in the butt before it turns into a problem. 

Many adult dogs end up in shelters because they were guilt of biting the toddler. 

Some breeds are more prone to this than others, and even within a breed, there will be some individuals who border on the more aggressive side (either due to genetics or early experiences). 

Never take a chance on your dog being the one that must be relinquished because he bit someone. 

Read more

Walking Nicely on a leash

If dreams of leisurely evening strolls through the neighborhood are saturating your brain, you need to be thinking about training your dog to walk on a leash. 

Even very young dogs can master this task, but it might not be accomplished overnight.  Gentle leash training is a must for any small dog training project and any attempts to force a puppy to walk on a leash will likely be met with resistance. 

What "Tricks" does your Puppy Do?

Basic CommandsBasic Commands

This is always the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about what they want to accomplish with their small dog training project.

Puppies are at an advantage in they learn faster than at any other time in their lifespan.    

In fact, it takes less time for puppies to learn a new trick than an older dog, even though there is not such thing as the old saying, “You can’t teach old dog new tricks.” 

We know better!  Puppies can be taught to do tricks, but basic commands such as sit and come, should be high on the training agenda. 

No one needs a dog that can do a high five if they won’t come when they are called.

What are some basic manners that all small dogs should know?


  • Hold a treat at the end of your small dog's nose.
  • Slowly move the treat up and over the head.
  • When he sits, praise with a word such as Yes or click (if you are using the clicker method.
  • Give the dog the treat.

When teaching the "sit" command, if the dog jumps up, lower the treat.  If he backs up without sitting, back him into a corner and wait for him to sit.  When he sits, mark it with an enthusiastic"yes" or click your clicker and give the treat.

Once he sits, the say the word, "sit" to teach him the association with the word, the treat and his action.  You will need to do this repeatedly over time until he consistently know the word and the action. 

Once your dog sits easily on your cue, start to reinforce (treat, click and "yes" more intermittently.  At first, every time the dog sits you will want to reinforce, but slowly skip one.  Gradually, make your reinforcements even more random.

Small Dog Training & Obedience Classes

Should you enroll your puppy in a kindergarten class?  This is a choice only you will make. 

Puppy kindergarten classes work well for people want to socialize their puppy and gain some expert help or advice at the same time. For those who have little time or resources to expose your dog to a variety of different dogs and people this option can be perfect.   

It can be a fun experience for your dog training is all done in a relaxed, fun and positive way.  The entire family can get involved, learn some new skills and then teach them to the dog in a cohesive fashion. 

Even though you attend classes, you will still need to do the majority of training at home.    These classes are as much for the owners as they are for the puppies.  There will be homework jobs that you and your dog will work on until the dog can successfully perform the task.

Puppy Classes

Small Dog Training & Behavioral Problems

What if your puppy or adult dog is already showing signs of behavioral problems that you would want to correct.  If they are not severe, there are things that you can do to steer your pooch onto the right path.  Don’t get caught with a dog that has Small Dog Syndrome. 

Some common dog problems include barking, nipping, chewing, jumping up, and separation anxiety. If you are worried and feel this is not an area you want to tackle on your own, relax, you're not alone.  There are experts out there to help you. 

You might want to start by enrolling your dog in a training classes. 

Sometimes the trainer will be able to suggest something that works.  If not, you might need to look for a reputable trainer that might work with you individually at their location or in your home.  One place to start is to visit the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Some behaviors are inborn and are difficult to train out.  Some can be modified so that the dog is easier to live with.  Still other behaviors can be eliminated all together with training. 

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