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Why Is Training a Small Dog Different from Training a Large Dog?

Why Is Training a Small Dog Different from Training a Large Dog?

12 minute read

When it comes to housebreaking and training a puppy, small dog breeds are notorious for being more difficult to train compared to larger breeds.

In fact, the phrase “are small dogs less obedient than large dog breeds?” is so commonly searched that the University of Sydney decided to conduct a survey on the topic. They reached out to 8,000 dog parents and discovered that, yes, there is a correlation between dog size and obedience. Simply put: the smaller the dog, the worse their behavior.

Of course, that’s not to say that large dogs are better than their smaller counterparts. We LOVE small dogs! Helping small dogs thrive (and giving their owners peace of mind) is at the very core of what we do!

But the reality is that training a small dog is different than training a larger dog.

The sooner you know this, the better off you’ll be as a “pawrent.” 

By understanding the difference between small dogs, such as toy breeds, and large dogs, you’ll be able to better understand and train your pup!

In this article, we’ll explore what these differences are, why they exist (nature vs. nurture), and provide tips on how to train a small dog. Let’s dive right into it!

Smaller Dogs, Bigger Problems: How Does Dog Size Affect Behavior?

The only difference between a small dog and a large dog is its size, right?

Not quite…

Yes, small dogs and large dogs both are canines, of course, but their genetic backgrounds and the way they interact with the world give them unique characteristics.

For example, how would you describe a chihuahua’s personality? Most people would describe the toy breed as extremely feisty, loyal, quirky, and even stubborn! Chihuahuas are extremely famous for their outsized personalities in such small bodies. They can also be mean to anyone that they consider a stranger.

Compare that to Labrador Retrievers, who are famous for loving everyone they meet. Also known as Golden Labs, they are the most popular dog breed in America because of their friendly, outgoing, and spirited personality traits. 

So this raises the question: is the difference because of nature or nurture?

The answer is, “Both.”

In terms of nature, the size of the dog itself impacts how the dog interacts with the rest of the world. Large dogs, for example, have more confidence because of their size. They instinctively know that if they feel threatened, they can fight back due to their large mass, tough muscles, and strong jaws. 

But small dogs, especially toy breeds that weigh between 5 to 15 pounds, are smart enough to know just how small they are. Imagine being the size of a boot or a soccer ball and seeing large dogs, humans, and speeding vehicles dominate the world around you. How would you feel? You’d probably feel small, insecure, unsafe, and vulnerable, right? Well, that’s exactly how many small dogs feel.

To compensate for their size, small dogs create big personalities for themselves. This is what dog behavior specialists call “small dog syndrome.”

The signs of small dog syndrome include:

  • Refusing to obey basic training commands
  • Being stubbornShowing aggression towards other people or pets
  • Nipping, biting, growling, or barking
  • Begging until they get what they want (food, attention, treats, etc.)
  • Ignoring you when you’re trying to communicate
  • Aggressively guarding its toys, food, or territory

As you can see, small dog syndrome itself can make it difficult to train small dogs compared to large dogs. Fortunately, small dog training collars can help you communicate effectively with your dog.

When training a small dog, it’s important to be patient and to remember that the way they experience the world impacts how they’ll respond to your training. By using the proper tools such as a training collar, you can get even the most stubborn dog’s attention and stop unwanted behavior. 

However, nature isn’t everything. Nurture is just as important when it comes to dog behavior. 

small dogs hard to train

How Does “Nurture” Contribute to Small Dog Syndrome?

Research from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna reveals that nurture plays a major role in why small dogs are more difficult to train.

Just as small dogs understand that they’re small, so do their owners. While this sounds obvious, what isn’t as apparent is how this subconsciously impacts parents of small dogs.

Consider what the researchers discovered. Dog parents of small breeds are more likely to:

  • Be inconsistent with their training. Maybe it’s because the dog is so small that it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” Maybe it’s because owners fear that their small dogs are too fragile. Regardless of the cause, the end result is the same: pawrents of small breeds are more likely to be inconsistent when it comes to when and how they train their dogs.
  • Spend less time playing with their dogs. Again, it comes down to size. Owners with large dogs are more likely to take their dogs on a run, go to the dog park, play fetch in the yard, or even play tug of war. However, the reality is that small dogs need just as much exercise as large dogs!
  • Unintentionally scare their dog. You don’t need to be a scientific researcher to conclude that scared dogs are more likely to be anxious, quarrelsome, and disobedient. Because of their size, small dogs are more likely to get scared if you yell at them, grab them by the scruff of the neck, jerk the leash, or even hit them.

When you consider all these factors, it’s clear that both nature and nurture explain the difference between training small dogs and large dogs. 

This raises the question: how can you properly train a small dog?

How to Properly Train a Small Dog

For success in training a small dog, you want to address both nature and nurture. 

Let’s start with nature.

Right off the bat, the major issue is going to be small dog syndrome. So how do you fix small dog syndrome?

The most important thing is to make sure that your dog feels as loved and safe as possible. If your small dog feels loved and protected, then small dog syndrome will be less of an issue. Remember, small dog syndrome only exists because the dog realizes it’s small and vulnerable. It’s overcompensating for its size by being aggressive, disobedient, and feisty.

By making your dog feel protected, it won’t need to embody small dog syndrome. It will feel seen and loved – and it will therefore be more receptive to your training!

Here are some tips to make your small dog feel safe at home:

  • Provide lots of toys
  • Create a safe space for you pup, including a private crate
  • Avoid running in the house (including your kids)
  • Keep loud, startling noises to a minimum
  • Slowly introduce your small dog to any larger pets you have

Now that we’ve addressed “nature,” it’s time to talk about “nurture.”

The most important thing you can do is to be consistent with your training. For example, when you want your dog to sit, use the exact same command every single time. Alternating between “sit,” “down,” and “get down” can be confusing. Remember, dogs can’t remember as many words as humans can. Keep your commands simple and consistent. Pick one word or phrase, then stick to it. 

The next thing you can do is be intentional about playing with your dog. There’s a reason that dog behavior specialists say, “A tired dog is a good dog.” In other words, if your dog is tired from playing, then it will be too tired to misbehave and chew on your belongings. Plus, all the time that you spend playing with your dog will strengthen your bond, which will coincidentally strengthen the respect that your dog has for you. 

Make sure you take your dog on a daily walk and play simple games and activities such as fetch or tug of war. Just because a dog is small, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t want to play as much as a larger dog!

And finally, avoid being physically aggressive with your dog. Tugging on the leash too hard or pulling it by the scruff of the neck might scare it. Don’t forget that fear can trigger small dog syndrome, so you’ll want to avoid these forms of punishment. Instead, praise your dog whenever it obeys you.

What happens if I try all these things and my dog still doesn’t listen?

Then you may need a small dog training collar

A small dog training collar isn’t meant to punish or hurt your dog. Rather, it’s a communication device that helps you get your dog’s attention.

At the end of the day, dogs are still domesticated animals that have their own instincts, genetics, and unique thought processes. 

If your dog is ignoring you, for example, it might not be because it’s misbehaving. Rather, it could be because it’s so focused on something else that it literally doesn’t hear you. It has “tunnel vision,” so to speak.

For example, let’s say your dog sees a squirrel. Its instincts are going to kick in and the dog is going to chase the squirrel. It loves the hunt and it’s going to chase the squirrel, even if the squirrel runs into the middle of the road. This is dangerous for your pup, but no matter how loud you scream, your dog might not hear you because it’s so focused on catching the squirrel.

Well, shock collars for little dogs are created to get the dog’s attention. Again, it’s not meant as punishment or to hurt the dog. It’s meant to bring its attention to you, so you can command it to “come here.”

When used properly, small dog training collars are an incredible tool to improve communication and stop unwanted behavior. 

However, training isn’t just about obedience. Potty training a dog is one of the most important parts of housebreaking.

But why are small dogs more difficult to potty train than larger dogs? Let’s take a closer look below.

how to train a small dog

Why Are Small Breeds Hard to Potty Train?

Again, both nature and nurture are to blame.

When it comes to nature, the answer is as simple as the dog’s size. Smaller dogs have smaller bladders, which means that they can’t hold as much in and have to go to the bathroom more frequently. Furthermore, smaller animals in general tend to have faster metabolisms than larger animals. This means that they process both solid food and liquid more quickly. 

When you consider both the smaller bladder size and the faster metabolism, then it’s clear why small breeds are hard to potty train. It’s because they have to use the bathroom more frequently. 

So where does nurture fit into all of this?

Well, smaller dogs mean smaller accidents. Think about it: because their bladders are so much smaller, if the dog has an “accident” inside, it’s less of a mess to clean up. The same is true if your dog poops inside. It’s not as messy, stinky, or gross compared to larger dogs because there’s less to clean up.

Well, researchers have found that dog owners are more tolerant when it comes to smaller accidents. In other words, smaller dogs are less likely to consistently receive training because their owners are more tolerant of these accidents. 

These are some other factors:

  • Small dogs have the “baby” or “puppy” factor. Parents are more likely to spoil the dog and forgive mistakes because of how cute the dog is.
  • Many small dogs live in apartments, as many apartments don’t allow large dog breeds like Rottweilers or Pit Bulls. If you live in an apartment, it’s more difficult to get the dog outside before an accident. Compare this to living in a house, where you can simply open the back door and let your dog go in the backyard.
  • Small dog syndrome may lead the dog to “mark” its territory inside the house by peeing on specific spots. 

When looking at all of these factors, it’s clear that smaller dogs are indeed harder to potty train. But it’s not impossible! Again, a training collar can help you communicate with your dog that using the bathroom inside is not allowed. 

The best part?

You don’t even need to be right by your dog!

Our training collar for small dogs comes with a remote that has a range of up to 1,000 feet! If you see your dog across the room and it’s exhibiting signs that it’s about to use the bathroom, simply activate the collar to get its attention. Then bring your pup outside as quickly as possible so that it understands that it should always use the bathroom outside, not inside. 

The shock collar is designed specifically for small dogs weighing 5 to 15 pounds, so it’s perfect for toy breeds. If you’re wondering how old a dog should be before using a shock collar, the recommendation is to wait until your dog is at least 6 months of age. 

At Wiggle Kingdom, we’re committed to helping small dogs and their pawrents have the best relationship and life possible! 

To learn more about how to properly use our training collars, simply watch our two minute training videos. You’ll be utilizing the collar like a pro in no time!

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