Ask Trainer Dan: Size Doesn’t Matter

One of the biggest myths I run into when talking with pet owners is that only large dogs need to be trained. All dogs, regardless of size, would be well served by getting training. There are a few reasons for this, but in essence, your dog will only behave as well as you require her to.

By doing some training early on, you’ll teach the key basic behaviors (sit, down, etc.), which set the groundwork for a comfortable, well-behaved dog.

An important term to remember–and avoid!–is “size-related lenience”. In practice, many behaviors that are considered essential to prevent or deal with in larger dogs (jumping on people, barking at strangers, begging for food, etc.) are thought to be cute or not an issue in smaller dogs.

Though it’s true that having a Maltese jump on you isn’t as noticeable as when a German Shepherd does, it’s important to realize that both dogs are showing the same lack of respect for boundaries that could potentially lead to further behavioral trouble.

One last thing to remember is that, while your puppy may be too young for classes, you begin training your dog from the minute she enters your home. You fawn all over her and give her love and treats when she’s cute, you let her know when she does things you don’t like–these simple things that we don’t even think about are actually setting the foundation of her understanding of the household’s rules. It’s much easier to do things right from the beginning than to try to change the rules later, so make sure you’re setting the right rules from day one!

If you have any dog training questions, feel free to post them in the comments or send them my way! You can reach me at dan.cicio (at) gmail dotcom or @trainer_dan on Twitter.


My Tail Hurts From Wagging So Much is pleased to reintroduce our readers to Dan Cicio – a dog trainer at   My Doggies Daycare in Southern California. He started there as a kennel supervisor and quickly realized just how much he enjoyed working with the dogs, to the point that he knew it would be his life’s work. Understanding dog behavior and responses always interested him, so training was the natural course. Dan is a certified trainer through the Animal Behavior College, and will be answering reader questions about dog training and behavior for My Tail Hurts From Wagging So Much on a regular basis.

4 thoughts on “Ask Trainer Dan: Size Doesn’t Matter

  1. Great info. I know a "couple" of dogs myself that sort of have boundary issues, is it ever too late to implement rules?

  2. @Janine: Thanks for the welcome!

    @Ma: Definitely not! Old dogs can certainly learn new tricks, as long as we're consistent about how we implement them. Rule changes are always easier with younger dogs because they haven't spent as much time reinforcing the bad habits, but it can still be done!

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