There are a great number of owners and dog lovers alike that see toy breeds in a different light than other dog breeds. They see these dogs as literal toys or babies and tend to spoil, pamper and really have very low expectations of the dogs. In reality toy dogs are just as smart, intelligent and instinctive as any other size of dog, including the giant breeds at the opposite end of the size spectrum. No one would reasonably think there was no need to train a Great Dane or a Rottweiler, yet they don't have a similar opinion about a Chihuahua or a Maltese.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences, and the most obvious as well, is that aggressive acts by toy dogs are going to cause far less damage than the same act by a larger breed. Owners of toy dogs often simply pick up the dog or put it in a carrier or other room, preventing any problems with the dog behaving aggressively or possessively when someone else is around. While this may work well for the owner, it is really not in the best interest of their canine companion.
It is important for toy dog owners to realize that their delicate, diminutive pooch is, at heart, a big dog in a small body. In other words the toy dog has no conceptual understanding that they aren't just as large as the other dogs around them. They have all the larger dogs instincts, prey drives and mannerisms, and need both physical and mental exercise and stimulation to stay happy, healthy and emotionally balanced. Often these natural dog behaviors are minimized through being carried all the time, being isolated from other dogs, and being allowed to pretty much run the household.
All dogs, regardless of their size, need to have routine physical as well as mental stimulation. Dogs that are mentally bored are more likely to engage in negative or destructive types of behavior. These include barking excessively, developing highly repetitive behaviors, chewing and destroying property. Dogs that aren't properly housetrained or paper trained also can engage in messing in the house as part of the destructive types of behaviors.
Dogs need to feel that they are secure in their environment and protected and safe. This feeling of being in a pack is necessary for overall mental health for the dog. When dogs aren't properly bonded and trained issues with separation anxiety and other very atypical behaviors start to occur. Dogs that feel that they are the alpha leader take on the role of protector to the individual or family, which in turn creates its own set of challenging behaviors.
Unfortunately for many toy dog breeds, their reputation as yappy, snarly, nervous and perhaps even psychotic is a direct result of owners not treating the dog like a dog. If these dogs had been treated as dogs and provided with structure, obedience training and socialization they would have been well adjusted, calm and obedient family companions and pets.
Obedience training a toy puppy should start from the first day the puppy is brought home. While the tendency will be to hold and shower affection on the puppy, it is also important to give the dog time to adjust to their new surroundings. By providing the puppy the opportunity to investigate and explore the new home on its own they are less likely to be nervous or frightened in new settings. Of course it is very important to puppy proof the home and to supervise the puppy to prevent any potential injuries or accidents from happening.
Obedience training includes teaching the puppy his or her name and encouraging the puppy to walk with you through the house or even outside to the designated toilet area. Many toy dogs are carried around like dolls most of their lives and are never given the normal exercise and activity that all dogs need to stay healthy. Toy breeds can easily go outside on a leash or a harness for daily walks and runs and some love to get out and run and play with other dogs. This is all part of obedience training and socialization.
Teaching a toy dog the basics is the first step in providing both physical as well as mental stimulation and exercise. Start with the easy commands such as come and sit, then gradually move into more difficult and complex commands such as lie down, roll over, shake a paw, speak or virtually anything else you want to teach your dog. Many of the toy breeds including the Pug, Poodle, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chinese Crested, Shih Tzu, Havanese, Papillon and the Pekingese are very quick learners and can be taught to do an amazing number of tricks. Generally these dogs respond very well to positive training methods and will work hard to please their owners.
The other breeds in the toy group are just as intelligent however they may have slightly more challenging temperaments and traits. The more terrier type dogs such as the Brussels Griffon, Affenpinscher, Yorkshire Terrier, Manchester and Miniature Pinschers as well as the Toy Fox Terrier may be much more independent and stubborn throughout training. These breeds may also have a higher prey instinct, more in keeping with the terrier heritage, which means that they are very alert and attuned to their environment and less focused on the owner for commands. Obedience training in a positive, consistent and firm routine is important for these dogs. Low level repetition training is the best option as they will become bored and non-responsive with too many request for the same type of command.
Many of the toy breeds, including the Italian Greyhound, Poodles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Japanese Chin are very sensitive to any changes in the owner's tone of voice or mannerism. Most dogs will be moderately attuned, but these particular breeds tend to be almost hyper sensitive to the owner's emotional state. If training these breeds be sure to choose times when you are calm and not stressed and avoid any harsh tones or vocalizations when working with the puppy. Positive rewards and training are essential with these breeds.