They Might be Tiny, but They Don't Need to be in a Purse!
by Robin MacFarlane
Owning a toy breed dog should include time allowing them to "be a dog."
Toy dogs are extremely popular, but I'm not always sure they get their due attention in the training world. I think it is taken for granted that they don't cause much trouble, or at least they are so small you can just pick them up to remove them from any problem situation.
It is a bit of a disservice to the dog though, at least in my opinion. After all, there are many breeds of toy dogs that provided a distinctive service to our past history. Numerous toy breeds were wired to be tough and tenacious little hunters, and somehow we've lost sight of that reality.
I don't have a problem with people wanting to dress these little ones up or toting them around in purses as long as they still honor the dogs for what they are meant to be.
That means letting them go to ground from time to time, play in the dirt, explore the terrain and fulfill the drives they were born with. Owning a toy breed dog should include allowing them to "be a dog" with equal or more time as it includes treating them as surrogate children.
It starts with the simple task of teaching them they can walk on a leash. Once the dog can walk on a leash, we can start exploring. Eventually working toward off leash reliability so that the tiny dynamos can really get out and have some fun.
On one of my visits to Gun Dog Supply I had the pleasure to meet Molly, a cool little Yorkie that gets to go with her owner to work and hang in the office. She knew a fair amount of stuff already when I first met her, but hadn't been on a leash a lot, so it was fun to get her started.
You will see in the video a typical response to leash pressure. If a dog is not trained how to respond to it, they freeze up. I had to use a bit of encouragement, but got her moving with me in a few minutes. These techniques are basically the same regardless of the breed of dog. The difference with these tiny guys is you really have to get down to their level. We probably appear to be GIANTS from their perspective, so it really helps to bend and get closer to their line of sight.
I hope to cover more topics in the future with these toy breeds. They can do so much more than we often give them credit for. We just have to stop underestimating them and start training!
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.