Tips for Training Large and Small Dogs

No project, apart from raising a child, requires more patience than dog training. All breeds have different attributes that present challenges. Some are intelligent, but boisterous and easily distracted. Some are eager to please, but dim-witted. But special considerations are required for size.

Small dogs are easily transported, providing more choices for a training area around the home or away from it. But they tend to bark more readily and are often either too fearful or too bold. Extra effort directed toward bark suppression is often required.

As with any training regimen, start young and train regularly. Be sure to establish early on your ‘alpha’ (leader of the pack) status. Respond firmly to any challenge. Don’t give in to ‘cuteness’.

When leash training a smaller dog be especially careful to correct sideways on the neck (by jerk, tug or restraint) rather than back. When the dog pulls forward, jerk sideways to correct and inform, not to punish. Even a small dog has strong neck muscles, but also has an easily bruised throat.

Be careful not to apply excessive pressure on the hindquarters when encouraging a sit. Small dogs are sturdy, but the size difference between it and you makes it too easy to force when you want to direct.

Large dogs, too, come with inherent challenges. As the weight/strength ratio between trainer and dog tips in favor of the dog, several considerations come into play.

The first is – always be alert. A small dog that tugs on the leash unexpectedly can be annoying, a large one can be dangerous. If a German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Rhodesian Ridgeback, or even a larger breed chooses to jet after a cat you need to be prepared to resist.

Select at least an inch thick leash of good nylon or leather. Make sure his collar is wide and equipped with quality fasteners that won’t break under tension. When walking, grasp the loop at the end of the leash in your right hand and insert your thumb through the loop.

Then take a few inches of the leash to your left and fold and drape them over your left palm. Insert your left hand’s thumb through the little loop formed. Clamp the leash across your left palm. (For right handed people, walking with the dog on the left. Reverse directions as needed.)

As with small dogs, perform corrections by jerking sideways, not back. Their throats, too, can be bruised by excessive force. Just jerk and release. It also helps put them momentarily off balance.

Large dogs, even socialized ones, will sometimes go after small children. Whether they see them as prey or as someone their size to play with it’s sometimes hard to tell. Take care not to allow jumping. Always be prepared with leash corrections, until training reaches the stage where they will reliably respond to pure voice commands.

Large dogs can much more easily jump fences, and just as often fail to clear one cleanly. When they clear it, you have a potential lawsuit, when they don’t you may have a vet bill. They’ll rarely break a bone this way, but it’s common to get scrapes on the belly which the dog will turn into hot spots – raw patches of skin – requiring treatment.

In either case, make sure that barriers are high and sturdy. Even the best trained dog will sometimes respond to instinct and go after a cat or other dog.

Both large and small dogs need daily training to learn and reinforce guidelines about what is or isn’t acceptable behavior. But in both cases the rewards are safer and more loving pets. Dogs like clear, consistent rules and need to know who is the leader and who the follower. You should be the first, the dog the latter.

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