When new Chihuahua owners think about training their puppy, the first thing they think about is a group obedience class. Though that may be good for some puppies for a variety of reasons, you have some other options that might be better. Here’s a few ideas to find a training program for your Chihuahua.
The best way to start will be to find a good teacher or school. You should look for a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement methods, and ask to observe a class. Many trainers will offer classes for just small dogs. Even if the students are not using clickers, they should be recognizing good behavior and reinforcing it. Stay away from teachers who are punishing or aggressively correcting behavior.
Watch the students and their dogs closely. While learning is hard work, the instructor should be introducing material in a way that keeps the dogs happy, relaxed, and successful. If the dogs are worried, the handlers are stressed, and the instructor is not able to adjust the material to the team’s level of understanding, from beginner to advanced, keep looking.
Another thing to avoid is a teacher that encourages the use of aversive punishment or other harsh treatment. If you see dogs with choke chains, lots of yelling and “corrections,” and the teacher is intimidating dogs or people, keep shopping. If instructors don’t believe in training with treats or other rewards, again, shop elsewhere, because they don’t understand learning theory or positive reinforcement training. Most importantly, if you feel uncomfortable about how an instructor is interacting with your Chihuahua, stop and ask questions. Don’t let someone bully you or your Chihuahua.
Many instructors offer group classes for beginning students. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult for novice trainers to concentrate in the chaos of a class with too many puppies, and you can quickly become frustrated and overwhelmed.
Instead, look for a teacher that offers a combination of private and group lessons. For example, a few private lessons in your home can get you up and running with some basic skills, while going to a group lesson or playgroup will help with your pup’s socialization skills. A group class that meets outdoors, but keeps the material simple, can help you learn to generalize new skills that you’ve mastered in a private lesson.
If you do attend a puppy kindergarten-style training class, expect that most of the training will be done at home with little supervision. The classes are really to demonstrate the homework and troubleshoot what you worked on the week before. If at any time you don’t understand the material or you’re having difficulty, approach the instructor and ask for some one-on-one assistance. After all, instructors want you to succeed, too!
And last but not least, another option to enhance your dog training skills is, to find different online training courses offered on the web. For little or no cost to you there’s a huge variety off different dog training programs to choose from, some specially fitted for small dogs like Chihuahuas.