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How to Train a Toy Breed Puppy

50% Cute, 50% Tremble

It's the second of Clara's many training sessions. I read up a little about toy breeds and so far the consensus is that they are just like any other dog to be trained. Looking into their breed just shows a little insight into why they do what they do best, like how Golden Retrievers love softly chewing things and people, and how Mini Pins could have really short attention spans like Chihuahuas. They often show aggression because they are small, and if they end up in a fight, well, they don't have a dog in that race, so to speak. 

I also took back what I said about potty training, and simplified it to putting Clara on a leash in the spot where she's expected to go potty. Preferably done an hour after regular meals, and reward her when she does it properly, reward her accordingly. 

I'll also change up my training reward to only give Clara a treat every 2nd or 3rd time she does something right. The rest will be praise and pats and rubs. This is to both save treats as she has a small stomach, and maintain the positive reinforcement without making her dependent on the reward, which I should have done with Maui a long time ago, but it already works for him anyway. 

Clara approached me with a wagging tail and little pitter-patters, she clearly enjoyed her first clicker training with me. I first asked if Vangie wanted to try the training too, but she politely refused and just wanted to watch. 

I called Clara and she instantly approached. That means the recall training has some effect on her. Next to teach her is the simple sit and stay command, but I'll try to teach "sit" first. The technique is to place a treat in my fist and then move it up to their nose and over their head to make them look up and sit. I called Clara and made her smell the treat on my hand. I moved it up her nose and over her head. 

She just spun around. She's so small that the method doesn't work. I tried it a couple of times, even trying to make it so that her nose follows it completely upward, but when it goes past her head she quickly spins around, almost flicking her entire body. She has the speed and agility to do such a feat and I'm stumped. 

I tried softly pushing her back down but whenever I touch her back, she flicks her head towards my hand and licks it. It seems that I cannot teach her to sit, so instead, I'll teach her to stay. 

I called her, then said "Stay!" then after counting two seconds, I clicked and gave her a treat. She quickly learned to love the clicker and I could see how she lit up when she sees it. It's like Maui's expression, but much faster. 

I gave the command "Stay" again, waiting two seconds, clicking, then I praised her and gave her head a small scratch. She actually likes the head rubs, so lucky me. I did the command again, and this time, waited 3 seconds. She looked at me expectantly and when I clicked, she did a little hop. Absolutely adorable. I gave her a treat and did it 3 more times for 3 seconds each, and she did so properly, only giving a treat the third time. 

It was time to test if it works when I step back. I called her attention and she made eye contact with me. I said "Stay!" then slowly stepped back. As expected, she stepped forward just as I did. I said "Stay!" again and walked back, and she made two steps. This is going to be a bit of a gamble. I could revert to staying in place, but I need to see if she is responsive to learning on her feet. 

I did it one more time, and when I saw that Clara didn't move. I quickly clicked and gave her a treat to mark that behavior. I commanded her again, but alas, she stepped forward. When I tell her to stay, she trembles, as if she's placing tremendous effort to just stay still. 

This "Stay" command was pretty tough. This might be a training issue with most toy breeds, but I assume this only applies to the trembly ones like the Chihuahua and Shih Tzu. Sometimes, she would stay in place, but sometimes she would step. I figured eventually that I might be too strict with her. Maybe if I step back further, Clara would just stay in the general spot. When I tried it, she just kept walking closer, so that's not the case. My goal is to keep her in one position as I walk away, so I kept going. I figured that if I kept marking the right behavior, she'd understand eventually. 

After a couple more tries, Clara was suddenly noticeably less enthusiastic about the treats, so tried a few more times with only praise and scratches, then stopped. I don't know if I can do shaping with her at this rate, unless I further reduce the size of the treats, or actually use small high-quality kibble. I asked Vangie what she feeds Clara and she apparently feeds her the canned stuff as her regular food, so she might not like the kibble, but I'll bring a small amount and see if she likes it. 

So it seems that toy breed dogs could actually be a little harder to train, not because they have different personalities, or have certain dispositions, but because their size prevents them from eating too many treats. The praise and rubs approach extended it a little though. Once again, teaching them the stuff is easy, but the true test of mettle is reinforcement. I discussed this with Vangie, on how dogs can learn stuff, but they will forget things if they aren't constantly drilled for a significant period of time. I told her about how Matty's owner took over the obedience training after I've taught Matty the basics, and all that's left is to do consistent training via positive + negative reinforcement training. 

Vangie was a little indecisive because she doesn't know what to do. I could always do the reinforcement, but I hope she learns enough of what I'm doing so I don't have to keep visiting. Honestly, I don't want to charge anything, because as soon as I do, the responsibilities are going to solidify and I just don't have the right skills or experience to justify it. Still, I wouldn't mind a snack and a drink. She did offer some homemade cookies and I'm all up for home-baked stuff. 

But I won't ignore the fact that if I do this training project with reinforcement, I'll be adding more experience to my belt. My unrealistic goal of learning to train a pack of dogs to help me when society collapses continues!

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