How to Train a Small Dog Basic Obedience

Medium
6-12 Weeks
General

Introduction

Imagine taking your small dog on vacation with you. You bring her to dinner with you one night, to a restaurant with outdoor seating. You tell her "Down". She lays down underneath your chair and behaves so nicely during the meal that most of the restaurant's guests do not even know that she is there. Until the end of your meal that is, when someone from a nearby table walks over to you and compliments you on how well-behaved your dog is. The next day you take her with you to an outdoor shopping area, and she heels beside you beautifully, even when you pass by another dog barking at her. On the third day, you decide to take her down to the beach, where dogs are allowed to be off leash during the early morning hours. You take off her leash and go for a walk with her down the beach. She races back and forth between you and the water, enjoying the spray, the sand, and her freedom. You tell her to 'come' after an hour, when it's time to leash up all of the dogs on the beach. She runs over to you obediently and sits down when you tell her to, while you put on her leash.

Teaching your small dog basic obedience is very important. Basic obedience allows you to take your dog with you to more places, it keeps her safe, it makes life with her at home more enjoyable and less stressful, and it enriches her life mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Defining Tasks

Basic obedience not only makes day to day life with your dog more enjoyable, but it also provides a foundation for other more advanced obedience, tricks, specialized tasks and work, and canine sports. Basic obedience makes life with a dog in all areas more enjoyable by allowing you to communicate with your dog better.

Which method you should choose to teach Fifi obedience will depend on several different things. It will depend on your dog, on the command that you plan to teach, and on your own personal training style preference. You may find it easiest to physically show your dog what to do by gently moving her into the position, applying a bit of pressure, or shifting her weight a bit, or you may prefer to lure her into the position and not touch her at all. If your dog loves food then 'The Treat Lure Method' will probably work best for you. If Fifi is not very motivated by food, then 'The Assistance Method' might work better. If you are trying to teach your dog to do something on cue that she already does often on her own, or something that is hard to stimulate her to do, such as sneeze, then 'The Capture Method' might be the best choice. 

If your pup has ever shown any form of aggression or is afraid of being touched, then do not use 'The Assistance Method' because that method requires more physical contact than any of the other methods do.

If you are using 'The Assistance Method' then remember to be gentle. You are not pressing her onto the floor or physically forcing her into a position with your weight. For most of the commands, you are simply gently positioning her body so that she moves the rest of the way into the position on her own, or you are helping her do something, such as 'shake' or 'stand', by lifting an area of her body up a bit, or you are applying a bit of pressure so that she will move her body into the position that you are trying to teach her, on her own. You are simply showing her what to do by physically guiding her into the position or into doing the behavior that you are teaching her.

If your dog is not very food motivated or you do not wish to use food for training, then you can use something besides food, such as toys, instead. Just make sure that whatever it is, it is safe and your pup considers it very rewarding. If our dog is very food motivated and will work for her own dog food, then you can also use her own dog food, taken from her daily amount, to train her. Doing this has the added benefits of being healthier for her, keeping her from gaining too much weight, and saving other, more exciting treats for especially difficult commands. 

Because your dog is small expect to get down low, on her level, while you teach her certain commands. Once she has learned a command, and can perform it when you give it to her while on her level, then in order to get her to perform the command while you standing upright also, you might have to give her that same command while you are in various crouching positions; gradually standing up more and more each time that you tell her the command, until you can give it to her while you are standing upright completely. This is because some dogs do not generalize well and a command given from a squatting position can seem different to a dog than the same command given from a standing position. If this happens to be your dog then she might need for you to help her generalize the command by giving it from different positions.

Getting Started

To get started you will need lots of small treats that your dog loves. You will need a resource with instructions for how to train your dog to do the specific command that you would like to teach her. One such resource is Wag!'s Training Resources page, found on this website. Another resource is a local obedience class in your area, that teaches the specific Basic Obedience commands that you would like for your pup to learn. For all of the methods, you will also need good timing, a positive attitude, patience, consistency, and persistence. 

If you are using 'The Treat Luring Method' then you might need an assistant, a prop, or a treat training pouch to hold your treats for you. If you are using 'The Assistance Method' then you will need gentleness and a firm, patient attitude. If you are using 'The Capture Method' then you will need a treat training pouch or a small Ziploc bag and pocket, to keep your treats close by, and attentiveness and responsiveness.

The Treat Luring Method

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Step
1
Grab treats
To begin, grab lots of your dog's favorite treats, and choose which command you would like to teach her first.
Step
2
Lure with a treat
Call your pup over to you and show her a treat. Tell her the word for the command that you are teaching her, and use the treat to lure her into the position or into doing the behavior that you would like to train. For example, if you are teaching your dog how to sit , then show her a treat, tell her to "Sit", and slowly move the treat from her nose toward the back of her head, until she sits down.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as Fifi does the behavior that you are luring her into, praise her and give her a treat. For example, if you are teaching her to sit, then as soon as her bottom touches the ground while she is watching the treat, praise her and give her the treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Practice giving your pup the command, luring her into the position, and then praising and rewarding her. Do this often over the next couple of weeks. Do this until she begins to respond to your command before you have lured her into the position.
Step
5
Phase out the lure
When your pup will respond to your command before you have lured her into the position or into doing the behavior that you are teaching her, then start to phase out the treat lure. To phase out the lure, give your dog the command, wait seven seconds to let her think about it, and then, if she needs a hint, lure her into the position again. Practice this until she will obey the command consistently before you lure her.
Step
6
Practice!
When Fifi will obey your command consistently without being lured, then practice often, in new locations, and around different forms of distractions. Start with easy distractions and locations and move onto harder ones as she improves. Do this until Fifi has mastered the command. Now teach your pup another command!
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The Assistance Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Get started
To begin, grabs lots of small treats that your dog loves. Choose which command you would like to teach her first, and then call her over to yourself.
Step
2
Show your dog what to do
When you have chosen which command you would like to teach your buddy, then gently move her into the position or encourage her to move into the position herself, while telling her the word for that command at the same time. For example, if you are teaching your pup to sit, then gently lift up her chin and press your fingers into the area on either side of the base of her tail, while you tell her to "Sit". Do this until she sits down in order to move away from your fingers.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as Fifi moves into the position that you are teaching her, praise her and give her a treat. If you are applying any pressure or touching her anywhere, then stop applying pressure and touching her as well.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat helping your pup into the position, while you tell her the word for the command at the same time. Continue to praise her and reward her each time that she moves into the correct position. Do all of this frequently over the next several days, until she begins to move into the position on her own when you tell her the command.
Step
5
Practice!
When Fifi will move into the position on her own when you tell her the command, then practice it with her frequently until she can do it consistently. If she starts to struggle at any point, then remind her what to do by moving her or encouraging her into the position again, then go back to simply telling her the command again afterward. When she has mastered the command in a calm location, then take her to new places and practice the command around different types of distractions also. Start with easy distractions and locations, and as she improves, gradually increase the difficulty of the distractions.
Step
6
Teach a new command
When your pup has mastered the first command, then teach her a new command using the same method!
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The Capture Method

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Step
1
Get set up
To begin, choose which command you would like to teach first. Grab some of your pup's favorite treats and a treat pouch or a small bag, to place the treats in. If your dog prefers toys instead of treats, then grab several of his favorite toys and keep them with you.
Step
2
Watch
Watch your buddy whenever you are around him. Whenever he starts to do the behavior that you are teaching him, then quickly go over to him and tell him the word for that behavior. For example, if you are teaching him how to sit, then when you see him start to sit down, quickly go over to him and tell him "Sit". If you cannot get over to him quickly, then tell him the word from where you are, on your way over to him.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as you tell your pup the command word and he completes the behavior, praise him and give him a treat. For example, if you are teaching your dog to sit, then as soon as you tell him "Sit" and his bottom touches the floor, praise him and give him a treat or a toy, as a reward.
Step
4
Repeat
Watch your pup carefully for the next couple of weeks. Every time that you see him begin to do the behavior that you are training him to do, go over to him, tell him the command for that behavior, and then praise and reward him when he complete the behavior. Do this until you have caught him doing the behavior at least thirty times.
Step
5
Call your dog over
After you have caught Fido doing the behavior that you are teaching him at least thirty times, then call him over to you and tell him the command that you have been teaching him. For example, if you are teaching how dog how to lie down, then call him over to you and tell him "Down". If your dog obeys then praise him and give him a treat.
Step
6
Try again
If your pup does not obey, then repeat the command up to five times, and praise him and reward him if he obeys during any of those times. If he still does not obey, then go back to catching him doing the behavior on his own. Do this until you have caught him doing the behavior at least fifteen times. After fifteen times, then call him back over to you and tell him the word for that command again. Repeat catching him doing the behavior for fifteen times, and then calling him over to you and giving him the command, until he obeys you when you give him the command.
Step
7
Begin again
When your buddy will obey your command when you call him over to yourself, then practice the command until he can do it every time. When he can do it consistently, then practice it in new locations and around lots of different types of distractions. Start with easy distractions and locations, and gradually move onto more difficult ones as he improves. When he has mastered that command, then teach him another one!
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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