Small breed dogs are still dogs, however much some owners seem to think otherwise.

Case in point: Head on over to almost any puppy class or adult "manners" session and you’ll get it immediately: there are never any small dogs … almost never, anyway. At least where I live.

My small dog-owning clients share the same basic sentiment concerning their disinterest in dog training, whether it's group-based or through a private trainer. And I just don’t get it.

All of my dogs have had behavior instruction through a training professional at some point in their lives. Though I’ve only had three sub twenty-pounders, all three have been to trainers or behaviorists for both basic training and specific behavior issues. All have responded positively to these ministrations. All became happier animals, better friends to me and, overall, more satisfied/satisfying pets.

Granted, I’ve had a very difficult time training them and they’re in no way as well trained as I would like. But they’ve better manners than, say, the average Yorkie I meet.

Why, then, do so many owners of small dogs neglect their pets in this regard? Is it the fact that a small dog is less likely to knock you down, pull you on a leash, or inflict major damage with a bite?

I’ve got to imagine that’s a large part of it. And it makes sense that the easy size of a small dog would translate into less concern for certain kinds of behaviors.
It’s also true, in my experience, that small dogs are harder to train, perhaps because we have a harder time accepting their unmannered behavior as problematic –– and therefore, we’re not consistent with our corrections and rewards (I know that’s my personal downfall).

Still, the kind of bad behavior I see and hear about in my clients‛ pets are the same behaviors that would have the owner of a big dog rushing to remedial puppy class. And it doesn’t have to be like that. Not while more training would make for for a happier dog.

On that note, I think it’s time I recommit to my Slumdog’s training regimen. Even veterinarians get the training blues.


Dr. Patty Khuly