All Dogs Need Training
This week's blog was inspired by some of our most stubborn dogs. Terriers. Yup and we're not talking about Staffordshire Terriers or Airedale Terriers, but the little guys. There seems to be a myth in society that just because a dog isn't big enough to pull you off your feet, then it doesn't need training. A lot of our aggression cases are actually small dogs. While they may not be able to fit your entire arm in their mouth if they were to bite you, it's still not a pleasant experience and can put people in danger. They're some of our more stubborn cases too. Small Dog, BIG attitude.
We have people come to us and say, "but they're so cute or little. I just don't want to hurt them or their feelings by saying no." or "I don't want to change our relationship in a negative way but denying them of something they want to do." We've said it once, and we'll say it again, your dog needs structure to thrive. Giving them structure builds the bond between you and your dog when you invest time into your pet.
"We can't love our dogs too much, but we can love them the wrong way."
Eric Allport - Owner K9 Heights Dog Training
Jumping and Boundaries
You have two types of guests that come over to your house and get mobbed by the dog. Those that say "It's okay, he/she's so cute" and liars (you know who I mean. The people who tell you it's okay but it's really not). But seriously folks. No one really wants a dog jumping on them when they walk into your home. It doesn't matter if its a 90 pound Mastiff named Cujo or a 4 pound Teacup Poodle, jumping and begging for attention is annoying.
Just because your dog can jump on you, or sit on your lap doesn't mean they should whenever they want. Who is training who? What's the difference between begging for food, and begging for attention? They're conditioning us to respond to their actions verses the other way around. It's possible to have a loving, fulfilling relationship with your dog without them ruling the roost (They're not cats after all).
We gain this structure by setting boundaries, creating a logical "if, then" scenario for your dog. We want your dog to change their thought process to"If I sit and wait patiently when people visit, then I get pets." instead of "If I jump on them, they will pet me!!". While this training philosophy may be simple in concept it's really up to us as owners to follow through. Often with small dogs we shrug off their behaviors, especially the jumping and barking.
An Ego the Size of Texas
We just did a series on Aggression with our case study Hank. If you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend reading it. While Hank was a big dog, aggression isn't breed or even size specific. All of our training points ring true for the little dogs too. Just because a small dog is small, it doesn't mean it won't bite or be reactive. A lot of the time small dogs will be more reactive because they are afraid.
Our family's Lakeland Terrier named Cricket, or our "Terrier-ist" as we lovingly refer to her, has a napoleon complex and tries her hardest to rule the house. If a dog comes and towers over her, she says "game on". She forgets that she weighs the same amount as a big dog's poop pile. To small dog's it doesn't matter if its a David and Goliath situation. They want to stand their ground and the have an ego the size of Texas, and there are some things we may be doing that may not be helping the situation.
Harnesses and flexi-leads
Owners often worry about small dogs because they're more fragile. We see owners trying to take actions to protect hurting their dog's neck by giving them a harness instead of collar. Again check out our blog on Aggression and Fashion to learn more about why harnesses create more aggression and amp your dog up more.
While it may look like overkill, we highly recommend a pinch collar on a small dog because it takes less force to correct them. It means it's gentler on them, yet still giving them feedback. This is extremely important when it comes to not putting sudden or harsh pressure on your dog's trachea and neck, because hello, small dogs are fragile.
So your dog likes to lunge at people, protect you, or prove how tough it is when meeting other dogs. DO NOT put your dog on a flexi-lead. Just because you can retract it does not mean you can do so:
B) Effectively (I'm convinced there is no way to get your dog back to you without yanking on the leash and reeling them in like you're fishing)
Last and most importantly why you shouldn't use a retractable leash is because a flexi lead is ineffective with a training collar. In order for you to have an effective correction for your dog, you want your leash to be loose and creating a "J" between your dog's collar and you. You make a quick correction, pulling up quickly on the leash and releasing. Flexi-leads are all about tension and don't provide the necessary slack needed.
Avoiding the Problem
Four on the Floor
It's so easy to encounter a situation and simply grab our 14 pound dog, instead of dealing with their lunging and jumping. When we pick up our dogs to avoid a problem instead of giving them a meaningful correction we are reinforcing this behavior, we certainly aren't preventing it from happening in the future. How can you give a meaningful correction if your dog is in your arms?
Another problem we run into is when we treat them without four feet on the floor. They want to get closer to you to get the treat sooner. When your dog sits "pretty" every time you treat them, we're reinforcing their lack of impulse control. We want them sitting calmly and the food coming to them, not reaching up to get the treat sooner. This can lead to your dog jumping on you and soliciting attention. That's not to say that you can't teach your dog to "sit pretty" but make sure if you're reinforcing other obedience skills such as sit, heel, stay, ect that you are treating with all four feet on the floor.
Set boundaries and expectations with your pups and make it know that they won't get attention from guests if they're begging for it. If they offer a calm sit, then allow your guest to engage. We don't want our dog's to get a reward from the negative behavior. This same concept applies to other scenarios in your house such as getting on furniture, and being on the bed. It's so easy to just let it slide because we want our pets to love us and offer us affection. We want to be sure we are the ones granting the permission, not the dog.
By waiting for this invitation it can help prevent resource guarding (guarding the couch or bed) and it can also prevent people from getting unexpected company with them while their drinking coffee on their couch. I may have learned this concept from experience with our Lakeland Terrier Cricket, shes got uncanny timing to jump into your lap while you raise your coffee to take a sip. Thus spilling it and me being soaked. I swear I could hear her snickering when she did this. It wasn't until we made her wait for an invitation that it stopped. Once she knew she couldn't invite herself wherever, whenever she wanted, it helped keep her ego in check.
Work on sending your dog to place whenever your door bell rings. You'll want to introduce this in phases. Start by sending your dog to place and then approaching the front door. Next if you can have someone knock on your door, and practice sending your dog to place or maintaining their place if they hear a knock on the door. Lastly, do this every time your door bell rings, if you need to have your dog on leash if you know someone's coming over. It will be easier to correct them from jumping or breaking from place too early. Ask your dog to hold place until your guest has come in, and then calmly release your dog.
We wouldn't want a big dog inviting themselves onto our laps, or our guest whenever they want, so why let our smaller dogs. They need just as much structure as the big guys. Little dogs are cute, they can work those puppy dog eyes and we can just pick them up and snuggle them. Small dogs still need boundaries and permission so that we prevent giant sized egos. Without structure and correcting poor behavior such as aggression and resource guarding we are putting our dogs, other dogs, and people at risk of getting hurt. As a dog owner it's our responsibility to society to put our best foot forward and ensure everyone's safety by having our dogs under control regardless of their size.