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0 Comments | Oct 18, 2011

Train Your Small Dog Like A Labrador

One of the common behaviors I see in small dog owners is the tendency to pick up their dog in response to misbehavior.  This is a behavior that is generally isolated to small dogs.  We don’t try to pick up a Labrador to stop him from chewing on the remote control!  Because small dogs are so easy to scoop up, it is tempting to pick them up for each offense.  Dog chews on your shoes?  Pick him up and he can’t reach them.  Dog won’t release a bone or ball?  Pick him up and take it away.  Dog jumps, barks, whines?  Pick him up to quiet him, soothe, him, or to stop the irritating behavior.

Often small dogs’ portability allows them to abdicate responsibility for good behavior.  They aren’t required to walk nicely on leash, they don’t learn “drop it,” ”down,” or “leave it.” They are so small, it hardly seems necessary to insist on manners.

The catch is, dog training is about much more than basic behaviors.  When a dog learns “sit,” he is learning to communicate with his handler.  “Wait” requires dogs to learn and practice self control.  The more your dog learns, the more freely the communication flows between the two of you, the higher his level of self control becomes, and the more the world makes sense to him.  Building that connection between us and our small dogs is every bit as important as it is between us and our larger dogs.

Another issue with picking up small dogs for misbehavior is that it can lead to more misbehavior.  It is not unusual for small dogs to object to being picked up by vocalizing, growling, or even snapping.  When being picked up means the end of fun (no more ball, you lose your bone, you are crated, no, you can’t greet that dog), being picked up can be viewed as negative.  Add to that the fact that being picked up often comes out of the blue for the dog, is accompanied by the strange physical sensation of flying through the air, and when done wrong can sometimes be painful, and it is easy to see why some dogs find it unpleasant.

So, tempting as it can be to whisk our small dogs off their feet to keep them out of trouble, it is much more beneficial to your dog’s well-being, and the relationship between the two of you, for you to treat him as if he were a Labrador when it comes to obedience training.  Let him learn to stand on his own four feet and expect him to follow the rules.  Then, when you do pick him up, it can be a positive experience for both of you.