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5 Ways Training Differs According To The Size Of Your Dog

The other day, I had been sitting on a park bench with my friend Casey when we spotted the ultimate canine showdown.

Standing his ground with fangs bared, the Chihuahua let out an aggressive high pitched growl that shook the park.

Meanwhile, his opponent, the golden retriever took one look at the fearsome little dog then promptly went back to lazily, scanning his surroundings.

The harried owner, on the other hand, had been holding onto the leash tied to his Chihuahua for dear life.

“Small dogs are always this excitable. Look at how well-mannered the golden retriever is!”  Casey exclaimed.

Turns out according to research there may be some truth to these stereotypes. However, this difference in behavior is because of the way owner’s perceive and treat big dogs in comparison to small dogs.

Learn how keeping in mind these 5 differences between training big and small dogs ensure good dog behavior.

1. Don’t Loom over Your Furry Friend

You and your little dog are spending the day training. You send a command her way, asking her to sit, while she tries stretching out her tiny limbs. You just lean over her and watch.

All 6 feet of you casts a shadow on your beloved pet and soon she’s shaking. When you just loom there, observing her, you are making her anxious because she believes your stance is threatening. This can negatively impact her learning.

Instead of looming, try kneeling or standing straight up and in front of her. Your hand placement should be in her line of sight and not above her head.

  1. Ensure that You Have the Correct Position while Training

Small dogs can be a little clueless when it comes to certain commands. Imagine a scenario where you stand straight up and command your dog to sit.

You make the appropriate gesture and say “Sit, boy” out loud while your dog is enthusiastically wagging his tail.

Unfortunately, the command doesn’t spur him to immediate action. He doesn’t move a muscle. Instead, he stares at you, confused.

Your dog believes that this action can only be done while you are sitting down as well. He doesn’t comprehend that it is a command only directed towards him.

A simple solution to this common problem is to take baby steps.

Begin by kneeling which makes you bigger as opposed to sitting but not quite as tall as standing. Get your dog to follow the command. Gradually transition to bending your knees to make yourself even taller and repeat the command. In the final step, stand while giving the order.

This helps your dog get used to taking this command with you in a standing position.

  1. The Smaller the Dog, the Smaller Its Stomach Capacity

Little dogs fill up quickly which can be a super positive thing since you don’t need to buy as much food as opposed to the amount of food you need to buy for a bigger dog.

Unfortunately, it’s not as positive when the rewards you hand out to your dog are food based.

Cut small pieces of lean meat just enough for your dog to get a taste. Don’t go for fatty meats or rich cheeses which will fill your dog up way too quickly and make them bloat.

A full dog has a harder time exercising and at that point, even a tasty reward wouldn’t motivate him.

  1. The Treats in Your Waist Pocket May Be Distracting To Your Large Dog

You are having a great time training your big dog. Every once in a while you take out tasty treats from your treat bag and hand them over. Suddenly, you realize your tall friend isn’t being as attentive to his actual training.

So, what’s the problem?

Dogs have a very strong sense of smell and with your treat bag in such close proximity, it can interfere with his attention span.

You can either relocate the treat bag to a higher shelf away from the dog or change the reward to non-food items like toys.

  1. Little Dogs Aren’t Always As Flexible

Smalls dogs may encounter problems when following basic commands like sitting. Sometimes, even if they have done it before, they just can’t go through with the action at present.

If you are in this situation, be patient with your dog. He just needs a little more practice.

You can go about this in two ways: either follow the baby steps method or reward your dog whenever he naturally does the desired action.

Get your dog to stretch his limbs out and then gradually get him to assume a sitting position. Make sure to reward him lots along the way.


Although there is truth to the stereotypes about smaller dogs being more anxious, that doesn’t mean they’ll be disobedient either.

Despite their differences, a bit of patience and unwavering dedication, it’s possible to train them both into spectacular, obedient and well-mannered companions. Remember, practice makes perfect!


What do you think?

Written by natalie


  1. Very good tips and approach. One thing though is that I never believed in treats for training a dog. I find that after a while they expect it and then do not respond to commands. But that might just be because my ex husband always treated his Roscoe (German Shepherd mix with Husky) and my Tasha (Husky mix with German Shepherd) as babies and gave them whatever they wanted. Heck he even made their supper along with hours with meat, vegetables and everything. The two dogs became so spoiled that they were unable to respect commands. I even had to use a prong collar on Tasha whenever I took her out for walks. It never did hurt her at all, the prongs were square and not pointed, but it did stop her from pulling. Unfortunately Roscoe had to be put down because of epileptic seizures unresponsive to medications and my dear sweet Tasha had also to be put down because of health problems at an older age. I still miss her dearly. Sorry about the length of this comment. I have a tendency to rant and rave whenever I talk about or to animals.

  2. I have just had a very frustrating half-hour trying to get our 5-month-old bordie collie to actually do what she’s told for once! She just refuses to obey instructions if she doesn’t feel like it – running off in the opposite direction when approached. Got any ideas?