I started training dogs professionally years ago, when I was still living in a small apartment in the greater Seattle area. It was my first apartment of my own, and while I was proud of it in some ways, it did have its limitations when it came to my options in pets.
During that phase in my life, living in a one bedroom suburban box and trying to balance school and work, I stuck to small dogs and ended up with my two little monsters, Grimm and Wicca. I’m happy to say they’re still with me today, and hopefully will for many years to come.
Though I’ve trained all types of dogs in my career so far, I am still asked pretty frequently by clients and colleagues alike how I manage to train them with the same standards I’d have for a larger dog. Do I get back pain from administering food rewards? How did I find my tiny prong collars (they’re from Leerburg, by the way)? And how ever do I get the little ones to be as compliant and reliable as I do my giant client dogs?
The truth of the matter is, with very little exception, that training small dogs are really not very different from training dogs of other sizes. All of the core concepts are entirely the same, and, save for having to bend down more frequently to give treats, it’s more or less business as usual.
There is, of course, the exception.
When first started out applying balanced training principles with Grimm for his severe aggression, which I actually talk about in my story, The Dog That Turned Me Into A Trainer, it was a major pain to get him on an e-collar at all.
Back then, remote collars were mostly built for large dogs, and the receivers were just so big on Grimm’s nine-inch neck. They were heavy, kind of clunky, and were definitely not made with my Chihuahua-Italian Greyhound mix in mind.
Luckily, I was able to make things work with an old Dogtra ARC, which worked out a little better due to the curved design. At the time, that was the best I could do.
At risk of sounding like an old fart, training small dogs on a remote collar was just not the smooth experience it is today.
Luckily, though, there are way more options these days for trainers, and for dog owners looking to train their small dog with a remote collar. Not only are most e-collar receivers just lighter and smaller in general, but there are actually models of remote collars designed with little monsters specifically in mind.
Today, at least two reputable remote collar brands — that’s Dogtra and E-Collar Technologies — carry e-collar models specifically built for small dogs. The Dogtra IQ Mini is their small dog unit and is compatible with dogs as small as 7lbs. Meanwhile, E-Collar Tech has the ME-300 Micro Educator, an extremely compact receiver designed for dogs 5lbs and up.
The Micro Educator is the remote collar I use for both of my small dogs, a Chihuahua-Italian Greyhound-Mix and a Pomeranian.
Both of these units are great for small dogs not just for their compact size and weight, but also because the contact points themselves are closer together than you’d find on other remote collar units, which helps keep maintain proper contact on tiny necks.
For small dog owners who are just looking to get started incorporating a remote collar into their dog’s training program, I can confidently recommend either unit. However, I have much more hands-on experience with the Micro Educator from E-Collar Technologies.
For dog owners who have already gone forward and purchased a remote collar for their small dog and are now struggling with proper use, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot a too-large remote collar, outside of simply replacing it.
If you have a remote collar that is not specifically designed for dogs as small as yours, such as the ET-300 Mini Educator (an awesome unit for most pet dogs), you can typically find a set of comfort pads that can make your remote collar unit work for you.
Comfort pads will not only reduce the amount of friction from a slightly too-heavy e-collar receiver by distributing it over more surface area, but it can also make the levels on the remote a little more nuanced as a result of that distributing of the stim. This is great for small dogs who might benefit from a more gradual jump between levels.
My personal dogs both wear the Micro Educator with wing-tip comfort pads. The wing tips help me get a really consistent level with my two small dogs, which is especially helpful for my Pomeranian’s thick double coat. The wings stick out the sides of the comfort pad and help distribute that stim further, and they also do an amazing job of getting through thick fur.
If you’re just starting to look for a remote collar for your small dog, I actually recommend getting all of the above: an e-collar specifically designed for small dogs, with an appropriate comfort pad to help get the best contact possible.
The Micro Educator, comfort pads, and wing tips are all available at www.ecollar.com.
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