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How to Train a Small Dog: Our Top Tips

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Want to know how to train a small dog? We have you covered in this article as we walk through basic commands and more advanced training techniques. Read on for a happy, well-trained small dog.

Training your small dog to obey basic commands is necessary to have a happy and well-adjusted life together. Obedience training helps establish clear communication between you and your dog.  Proper obedience training also gives your dog healthy mental stimulation and a real sense of belonging and purpose. 

How to Train a Small Dog Basic Commands

Sit Command

Teaching your small dog the sit command is one of the most fundamental and practical commands you can impart. It’s the best way to get your dog to focus on you and to calm down. Here’s how to teach your dog to sit:

  1. Hold one of your dog’s favourite treats close to its nose.
  2. Move your hand holding the treat up so your dog’s eyes follow the treat which will cause them to sit.
  3. Once your dog is in a sitting position, say “sit” firmly and give them the treat.
  4. Follow this with plenty of praise and pets.  If your dog offers a front paw, take it.
  5. Repeat this process several times a day until your dog learns to sit on command.
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Stay Command

The stay command is an important command that helps keep your small dog safe and under control. Here’s how to teach your dog to stay:

  1. Begin with your dog in a sitting (“SIT” or “SIT DOWN”) position.
  2. Hold your hand up, palm facing your dog, and say “STAY”.
  3. Take a step back and wait 8-10 seconds.
  4. If your dog stays in place, say “GOOD STAY” and give them a treat or praise.
  5. Gradually increase the distance between your dog and you and also over time extend the duration of time the dog is expected to stay.

Leash Training

Leash training is important for all dogs, but it’s especially important for small dogs who can be easily overwhelmed by distractions and surroundings. 

Here are some tips for leash training your small dog:

  1. Start by introducing your dog to the leash in a safe and familiar environment.
  2. Once your dog is comfortable with the leash, start taking short walks around your neighbourhood.
  3. Reward your dog for walking calmly on the leash and ignore any pulling or lunging.
  4. If your dog is pulling on the lead, come to a stop and give your dog some time to calm down. Only then continue walking. 
  5. Gradual progress is vital. As your dog becomes more comfortable on the lead you can increase the length of your walks as your dog becomes more used to what is being asked of him or her. 

Remember to be patient and consistent when training your small dog. With time and practice, your dog will learn to obey basic commands and become a well-behaved companion. 

At first, the dog will probably get excited during these lessons and run to you smiling and wagging its tail.  It is happy and that is a positive thing.  Build upon that happiness, rinse and repeat the commands in a positive way till your dog does them right, and don’t act badly or frustrated. 

Remember, it isn’t about you, it’s about the dog!

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Dealing with Behavioural Issues

Small dogs often exhibit unwanted behaviour that can cause irritation and lead to frustration for both you and your dog. Luckily, many of these issues can be resolved with proper training and patience. Next, we’ll cover two common behavioural issues in small dogs — barking and chewing.


Small dogs are known for barking excessively. While barking is a natural behaviour for all dogs, incessant barking can be bothersome to both you and your neighbours. 

Here are four dog training tips that will help you with a dog that barks excessively:

  • Identify the cause: Find the thing that triggers your dog’s barking. Is it boredom, anxiety, jealousy, or maybe territorial guarding? Once you’ve identified the cause, you can take steps to fix the problem.
  • Positive reinforcement: Reward your dog when they stop barking on command. Use treats or praise to acknowledge good behaviour.
  • Exercise: Burn off that excessive energy. Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. A tired dog is less likely to bark excessively at non-threatening things.
  • Obedience Training: Put your dog in obedience training classes. A professional trainer can teach your dog to pay attention and properly obey commands. This will result in less barking.


Chewing up stuff is another common problem seen in all dogs but especially among small dogs. While chewing is a natural behaviour for dogs, destructive chewing is a serious problem. 

Here are four more tips to help you put an end to destructive chewing:

  • Chew toys: Give your dog plenty of chew toys to satisfy their natural urge to nibble and chew. Make sure the toys are non-toxic and appropriate for your dog’s size and age.
  • Supervise: Keep an eye on your dog when it is chewing. If you see the dog chewing on something they shouldn’t, redirect their attention to one of the chew toys.
  • Exercise: Make sure your dog is getting lots of exercise. A tired dog is a sleeping dog and will be less likely to chew destructively.
  • Training: Get your dog into obedience training. A professional trainer can teach your dog to obey all sorts of positive commands which will result in less destructive chewing.

By following these tips, you can help your small dog overcome behavioural issues and become a happy, well-behaved companion.

How to Train a Small Dog Advanced Commands & Tricks

Once your small dog has learned the basic commands, it’s time to move on to more advanced training lessons. Here are a few helpful tips that will take you to the next level:

1. Teach Tricks

Teaching your small dog tricks is a fun way to bond and keep their attention. Here are a few tricks to try:

  • Spin: Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and guide him or her in a circle. Give the command “spin” as they turn and reward them with the treat.
  • Shake: Hold out your hand and say “shake”, or “shake hands”. When your dog raises their paw to touch your hand, reward them with a treat.
  • Roll over: Start by getting your dog to lie down. Hold a treat in front of their nose and guide it towards their shoulder. As the dog’s eyes follow the treat, they should roll onto their back. Say “roll over” and reward them with the treat.

2. Agility Training

Agility training is a good way to keep your small dog in shape, both physically and mentally. Either set up a simple course in your backyard or take your dog to a local agility class — your choice. Use your imagination, just don’t go overboard by exceeding your dog’s ability. 

For starters, here are a few basic agility obstacles you can have fun with:

  • Jumps: Set up a hurdle or jump and encourage your dog to jump over it.
  • Tunnels: Set up a tunnel and encourage your dog to run through it.
  • Weave poles: Set up a row of poles and encourage your dog to weave in and out of them.
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3. Nose Work

Nose work is a fun way to test your small dog’s sense of smell. Here’s how to get started:

  • Hide a treat: Pretty self-explanatory but start by hiding a treat in a simple location, like behind a chair.
  • Encourage: Have fun and command your dog to find the treat by saying “find it”.  Then, make the hiding spots more challenging, like inside a box or under a blanket.
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06/18/2024 06:15 pm GMT

4. Advanced Obedience

When your small dog has mastered the basics, you can move on to more advanced obedience training. Here are some training commands to teach:

  • Stay: Have your dog sit or lie down, then say “stay” and take a step back. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog and the duration of the stay.  Be sure you reward your dog with praise and healthy treats.
  • Heel: When outside always use a short training leash or a short walking leash — a retractable leash is not recommended. Teach your dog to walk calmly beside you without pulling on the leash. Use the command, “heel”,  and reward your dog for walking calmly beside you.
  • Come: Teach your dog to “come” or “come here” when called — even when he or she is distracted by some noise, some object, some other animal, or some other person. Start by calling your dog’s name and rewarding them with loads of praise and a treat when they come to you. Gradually increase the distance and distractions.

By using these advanced training methods, you can help your small dog reach their full potential and become a well-trained, obedient best friend.

woman giving a treat to a small dog during training

How to Train a Small Dog: Consistency Matters

Once you have trained your small dog, it’s important to maintain their training over time to ensure they retain the behaviours you have taught them.

Here are five final tips to help you maintain your small dog’s training:

1. Key Components

Consistency and reinforcement are key to maintaining your small dog’s training. Make sure to continue using the commands and behaviours you have taught them regularly. This will help to reinforce their training and keep them on track.

2. Keep It Short and Fun

Most dogs, especially small dogs, have short attention spans so it’s important to keep training sessions short and fun. Keep training sessions about 10-15 minutes long.  Keep things interesting for you and the dog by using fun games and activities as a part of the training.

3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to maintain your small dog’s training. Reward your small dog with treats, praise, and affection when it attempts your command. This will help to reinforce the training and desired behaviour you want.

4. Challenge Your Small Dog

As your small dog becomes skilled in the training, it’s important to continue teaching and reinforcing. This will keep your dog interested in its training as time goes on.

5. Be Patient and Consistent

With the right approach and techniques, you can successfully train your small dog and enjoy a well-behaved pet.

Today we have looked at how to train a small dog and the final words of advice we can leave you with are to always be patient and consistent. This is extremely important when it comes to its training. Remember that training takes time and effort. With patience and consistency, your small dog will be a well-behaved and happy pet.

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