Small, but Mighty

Setting boundaries for your small dog doesn't have to be a bad thing. It's actually quite liberating to have rules that guide your relationship when certain behaviour is not acceptable. So, don't be hard on yourself for being tough on your small dog. By setting boundaries, you're building trust, teaching it independence and encouraging good behaviour.

When it comes to running the household, your small dog shouldn't have you well trained! If you feel that you don't have as much control as you'd like, it's time to step up and let your dog know who's boss! We know it's hard to resist its sweet 'puppy-dog' look, but standing your ground will earn huge respect from your small dog. More importantly, it will instill good behaviour when you're not together.

Lead by example
You can play a key role in your small dog's demeanor. Your body language, tone of voice and mood can reinforce positive actions or discourage negative ones. That's how dogs learn. Eventually, your small dog will associate specific words or actions with specific outcomes and learn right from wrong. Find out more about the right approach to teaching.

In the past, small dogs have even gotten away with aggression and biting. Since people don't feel as intimidated by their size, owners may let this behaviour go. Large or small, biting is unacceptable. One way you can show your little companion the right behaviour is through plenty of positive reinforcement.

Combating behavioural problems
Small dogs are known to be vocal. With higher pitched barks, they're definitely determined to get their point across. However, it's important that you are just as strong-willed as they are. Of course, be firm but fair! Keep in mind that your small dog responds to love and affection - so be sure to reinforce positive behaviour as well. The more love you give, the more you'll receive! Here are a few ways you can keep your small dog under control when:

Barking: From time to time, your little friend will exercise its vocal chords by barking. A helpful way to manage this is through commands which encourage when to bark versus when not to. For example, command your small dog to "Speak" and once your dog begins to bark show praise. Conversely, if your small dog barks unprompted, simply ignore the action. Be firm, since any acknowledgement will be considered "attention received" and the meaning of the speak command will be lost.

Biting: To prevent biting, show your little friend that it hurts - react by "whimpering" so that your puppy can see that biting is painful to you. But do understand that your dog comes by this naturally - many small dog breeds instinctively chase and bite things that move suddenly. If you feel a small chomp on your hand or leg, try to stop in mid-motion and be still for a very brief moment. Then with your free hand, finger-point at your dog with a strong "No" and when your small dog releases, show some praise.

Chewing and Digging: Chewing and digging are also natural instincts for your puppy, but these habits can be curbed. Chew toys are the perfect solution, but make sure they don't resemble any household objects or your small dog may think they're fine to chew on, as well. To prevent digging, keep an eye on your little dog while it runs around the garden and keep its toys inside so there won't be any temptation to bury them. If you're not able to supervise your puppy closely, make sure it stays on the back deck or patio - or a place where it can't actually dig.

Jumping Up: To prevent your puppy from jumping up, you have a few options. Firstly, you could step back and command "Off" and reward your dog once the command has been obeyed. But if your dog is too excited and simply cannot stop itself from jumping up, then walk away and ignore. Or, command your small dog to "Sit" and if this is obeyed, praise your little friend with a reward.

Although standing your ground may not be easy, don't forget that by setting rules now, you are setting rules for the future. It's important to teach your dog that there's a time to play, cuddle and have fun, but there is also a time to behave well - with or without you there. So remember to stick to your rules, encourage good manners and make sure your little companion understands that bad behaviour is ruled out!

The information above is of a general nature, and may be used as a handy guide to help you monitor your pet's well being and development. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. All decisions regarding your pet are your responsibility.