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Instilling Good Manners in Your Poodle

In This Chapter

Dogs are pack animals, which means, in report-card language, that they “play well with others.” Dogs don’t function well as loners; they do well with structure, routine, and rules. You want your Poodle to be a socialite, but you don’t want her to be the boss or to annoy your acquaintances. An untrained dog may be an unhappy dog, because she doesn’t know what you expect of her. Your Poodle doesn’t have to be a champion obedience dog, but she should have good manners — for your sake and for hers.

This chapter gives you some training tips to turn your Poodle into a model citizen. I also tell you when and how to get professional help if you need it. For more information, check out Dog Training For Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Jack and Wendy Volhard (Wiley).

Getting a Grip on Some Disciplinary Basics

There are many different ways to train a dog, and not all methods work with all dogs. You may find that part of one training method works well with part of another. The following list gives you basics that will help you no matter what particular method you choose:

Have your equipment handy. A plain buckle collar and a lead are all the equipment you need, and for some training, you can work without them. (I discuss collars and leads in the next section.) If you decide to train with food rewards, have a good supply of treats on hand, and keep them small. Your objective is training, not overfeeding.

Keep your training sessions short. You can make more progress if you train four times a day at five minutes per session than if you hold one 20-minute training session.

Have a release word that tells your dog she can stop acting on your command. Make the release word short, and say it happily. Many owners use “okay.” No matter what word you choose, be consistent. Don’t say “okay” today and “good job” tomorrow.

Try not to laugh at mistakes. Poodles are very intelligent, and they have good senses of humor. They seem to enjoy making people laugh; therefore, if you laugh at your Poodle during training, you’ll find that she’s likely to repeat whatever behavior made you laugh.

Be flexible with your training methods. Not every training method works for every dog every time (which is why I list many in this chapter). Be consistent with your commands and methods, but if a technique isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something different.

Never punish your dog for obeying. You may be furious that she ran away from you, but you need to praise her if she obeyed your “stay” command. Poodles aren’t stupid. They won’t obey any command that gets them punished.

No losing your temper, and no hitting, ever. Don’t scream uncontrollably or hit or kick your dog. If you get frustrated, take a break. Go somewhere far away from your Poodle. Take a walk. Count to 100. Meditate. Distract yourself until you can approach your dog calmly.

Always end on a positive note. For example, if your Poodle knows the “sit” command and always follows it promptly, but she hasn’t quite mastered “down,” end your session with a sit.

Handling a Collar and Lead

A collar and lead (also known as a leash) are the first, most basic training tools you need. You can train your Poodle with many commands that don’t require a collar and lead (see the later section “Training Your Poodle with Basic Commands” for details), but she needs to be able to accept a collar and walk nicely on a lead.
Otherwise, trips to the vet’s office, obedience class, or just around the block will be pretty darn difficult, if not impossible. In the following sections, I explain how to navigate collar and lead training with your Poodle. Chapter Choosing the Best Poodle for You has the full details on buying specific collars and leads.

Collaring your Poodle

A collar is an essential part of your Poodle’s wardrobe. She will wear a buckle collar with her ID tags all the time. If the worst happens and she gets lost, those tags will help see that she gets home. The collar also gives you an opportunity to accessorize. Poodles are often considered glamour dogs, so have fun with velvet and rhinestones, or a little something from Tiffany’s. However, the collar serves a functional purpose for your Poodle, and the one you choose and train with depends on many factors. I explain how to fit your Poodle with different collars in the following sections.

Beginning with buckle collars


You should start with a simple buckle collar for your Poodle puppy. The collar should be tight enough that your dog can’t paw it off over her head, but not so tight that it chokes her or rubs a sore on her neck. Here’s a good test: You should be able to slide two fingers between her throat and the collar. And remember, your puppy is growing all the time, so a collar that fit her perfectly last week may be getting too tight this week. You can leave a buckle collar on your dog all the time, so make sure she’s comfortable!


If your Poodle always wears a buckle collar, think about adding a small bell or two — especially if you have a Toy or a Miniature Poodle (see Chapter Socializing Your Poodle for more on the distinctions). Small dogs have to worry about people stepping on them or tripping over them. A bell announcing your dog’s presence may help reduce injury risk.

Fitting other types of collars

A martingale collar is made with two loops. The loop that goes around your Poodle’s neck stays loose. Another loop is attached to the loose loop, and you secure the lead to this loop. When you pull the lead on the smaller loop, the loop around your Poodle’s neck tightens, preventing escape. Many owners like martingale collars because they can be tight enough to give a correction and to keep the dogs from pulling out, yet they can’t strangle the dogs.


On the negative side, that extra loop can easily catch on something, or your Poodle could get her paw or jaw tangled in the loop and injure herself. You should use the martingale collar only when you’re with your dog on a walk or during a training session. Take it off afterward.

All this advice is doubly true for training collars (also called slip collars). Training collars are lengths of chains, leather, or fabric meant to tighten around your dog’s neck to give a correction. This type of collar gives you more control over your Poodle, and if she has figured out that she can pull out of a buckle collar, you can use a training collar and pull it tighter.


If you leave a training collar on your Poodle, and the ring on the end of the collar catches onto something, your dog could die. Never tie your dog outside with a training collar, and never leave your dog unattended while she’s wearing a training collar.

You must put on a training collar properly in order for it to work. If you put the collar on backward, it will tighten around your Poodle’s neck. In that position, it will be uncomfortable, and it won’t work as intended. With your dog sitting on your left, hold the collar so that it looks like the letter “P” on its side. The loop of the letter hangs in front of your dog’s head, and the long side runs parallel to the ground. Slide the loop over your Poodle’s head. See Figure 10-1 for an illustration of the correct way to put on a training collar.
Figure 10-1: You must put on a training collar properly for it to work.
It’s also important to fit a slip collar correctly. When you gently pull it snug, it should have no more than 21⁄2 inches of excess length on a large poodle, and no more than two inches on a small one, so that it will tighten and instantly release as it should.

Gaining control with harnesses or halters

Many small dogs have problems with their tracheas, so a training collar could cause more problems. To combat this, some owners of Toy Poodles don’t like to put any kind of collar on their dogs. If you don’t want to put a collar on your Toy or Mini, you need to use a harness.
A harness can be made of leather or fabric, and it adjusts around a dog’s chest and legs, generally fastening with a strap around the body as well. It should have a ring on the back for attaching your lead. The most important thing is to find one that fits snugly. If the harness is too tight, it will pinch; if it’s too loose, it will chafe.
Another option for training is a head halter. These devices fit on your dog’s head and over her muzzle. You attach the lead to a ring on the halter. Head halters can give you more control during training — especially if you have a larger, more exuberant Poodle (probably in the Standard category) that’s difficult to handle with a collar and lead. The halter should fit very snugly. There should be no looseness, as with a buckle collar, but it shouldn’t be so tight as to cut into the flesh or leave an indentation or ridge.


At first, dogs fight head halters. The secret to faster acceptance is to keep your Poodle’s head up as she tries to paw off the halter. Try not to let her succeed; if she knows she can get it off, it will take longer to convince her to leave it alone.


Head halters come with detailed instructions on their use, which should be followed carefully. Head halters should never be pulled or jerked with the leash, as this action can jerk the dog’s head around and cause serious neck injury. An injury can also occur if the dog makes a sudden lunge that causes her head to be pulled back or to the side. It’s best to learn the use of a head halter under the direction of an experienced trainer.

Leading on

The lead (or leash) is what connects you to your Poodle and keeps her safe during walks while giving her some freedom to move around. When your puppy is ready to head out into the great outdoors, try to familiarize her with the lead first with these steps:

1. Start by attaching a lightweight, short lead to your puppy’s collar (collars come with a ring just for this purpose).

Many show leads are ideal for puppies, because they’re lightweight and shorter than a regular lead.

2. Let your puppy drag the lead until she gets used to it.


Always supervise when the lead is attached to your puppy’s collar. You don’t want it to catch on an object and panic your puppy.

3. After your puppy gets used to dragging the lead, pick the lead up and walk with her.

The desired position when you walk a dog is to have the dog on your left side, but at this point, don’t worry about that. You want the dog walking on a slack lead and at this point, that’s all.

4. If your puppy keeps getting distracted, encourage her to walk with you by slapping your leg and calling her.


Having a treat or two on hand is also a good idea. Here’s a tip to teach your Poodle not to pull or to follow you when you want to change directions: Every time she wants to go somewhere you don’t, stop. Just stand still. She’ll likely look back to see what’s going on, and then you can start walking again. Or, after you have her attention, you can turn and head in the direction you want.

When your Poodle gets older and has figured out the concept of walking nicely, you can get a longer lead; six feet is a good length. If you have a Toy or a Miniature, get a lighter, thinner lead so the clasp isn’t dragging at the dog’s neck. You can get a heavier lead for a Standard.
You also can walk an older Poodle on a retractable lead, but be courteous if you use one. Be aware of other people and dogs, and don’t let your dog dash up to strangers, just because the lead is long enough to allow it. You have much less control of your dog with a retractable lead, although they do have the advantage, in an open area, of allowing your dog more freedom.

Training Your Poodle with Basic Commands

Basic commands can help keep your Poodle safe and make her a pleasure to be around. In the sections that follow, I describe a variety of commands you can teach to your Poodle to become master of your domain. (At least you’ll think you’re the master. Poodles tend to teach their “masters” quite a bit.)


Come is the first command you should teach your Poodle. You’ll need it in many everyday situations, whether you’re in your home, on a walk, or at the vet’s office. Before you start training, though, remember these tips:

 Always praise your Poodle for coming to you.

– Never call your Poodle to you for punishment or for any activity she may find unpleasant, like nail clipping. For these situations, go and get her.

– Never call your Poodle if you can’t enforce the command. For example, if your dog is bounding across the yard after a squirrel, don’t start hollering “Come!” Doing so just teaches her that she doesn’t have to obey.

In the following sections, I explain how to use treats and train outside when working on the “Come!” command with your Poodle.

Tempting with treats

Start your “Come!” training with treats; most dogs have never met a treat they didn’t like. Just follow these steps:

1. Start with your dog on lead.

You can use a long rope as the training advances, so you always have the option of reeling your dog in. That way, she learns that even at a distance, she must obey the command.

2. Train close up at first so your Poodle can see and smell the treat.

Don’t pull her in with the lead unless it’s absolutely necessary.

3. When your Poodle reaches you, take hold of her collar before you give her the treat.

If you really need to catch your Poodle, you don’t want her to run in, snatch the treat, and take off again, so include holding the collar as part of the deal. If you want to, you can let go and allow her to go back to whatever she was doing before you called her. Mix the training up so that the command to come doesn’t always mean that playtime is over.


If your dog is less than enthusiastic over the treat you’re using, switch to something more tempting, like a ball or a squeaky toy. Use whatever it takes to get your Poodle running to you when you say her name and “Come!” 

It’s a snap: Clicker training

Clicker training is a technique that uses the sound of a clicker and positive reinforcement to produce a desired reaction in an animal. The sound of the clicker marks a behavior the minute the behavior occurs, and the sound is followed by the giving of a treat. Soon, the animal discovers that she gets a reward when she follows an order like “Sit!”
The advantages of clicker training include the lack of delay in the process, and the fact that the clicker sounds the same to the animal every time. Giving commands with your voice can be inconsistent, because you may produce variations in volume or tone that will confuse your Poodle. You also use the clicker only for training purposes, unlike your voice.
One disadvantage is that you need to have your clicker with you at all times, and it can take awhile to be coordinated enough to click and then give your dog a treat. Many beginners treat and then click, or they click too late. Don’t worry; dogs are forgiving, and soon both you and your Poodle will master the process.
If you’re interested in using clicker training with your Poodle, you first must get her used to the idea that the sound of the clicker means a treat is coming. Click the device and give a treat several times. It shouldn’t take long for your Poodle to make the connection. You can buy clickers at pet-supply stores, from catalogs, or online. You also can use the top of a ballpoint pen. It doesn’t produce as loud a sound, but it does work.
You have three ways to train your Poodle with a clicker:

– To lure a dog into an action like sitting, take a treat and hold it over her head, moving the treat back out of her sight. As your dog goes into the sit position, click and treat.

– To shape a desired behavior, watch your Poodle and click when she begins to do something you want her to do. For example, if you want her to lie down on her bed on command, click and treat when she walks near or over her bed. After she realizes that being near her bed gets her a treat, treat only when she actually moves onto the bed. After that, treat only when she sits. Finally, give out a treat only when she lies down.

– When you capture, you click for a final result. Say your Poodle does something cute, like sneezing just before you set down her food bowl. Arm yourself with your clicker and treats just before you feed her. As you set the bowl down and she sneezes, click and treat! Every time she sneezes, click and treat. Name the action, and with click training, your Poodle will be doing it on command.

As with all training techniques, you need to be patient and consistent with clicker training. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t seem to coordinate clicking and treating all the time. It isn’t unusual for owners to treat and then click at first, but you’ll get it eventually.
Note: You’ll need many treats for this training, so cut them up small when you get them. Your dog will work just as happily for a tiny piece. The idea is to train your Poodle, not make her fat!
Check out Dog Training For Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Jack and Wendy Volhard (Wiley) for more details on clicker training.

Moving to the great outdoors

When you’re ready to move your “Come!” training outdoors, keep your Poodle on lead and follow the steps in the previous section. Use lots of praise and treats, and let her go back to playing after she’s come to you.
Don’t rush the training. A dog in hot pursuit of a squirrel isn’t going to listen to you. Keep a lead or a long rope attached to your Poodle’s collar until you’re certain that she’ll obey the command to “come.”
Another technique you can use to get your Poodle to come when you’re outside is to play the chase game. Follow these simple steps:

1. Wait until your Poodle becomes interested in something else around her.

2. Call her name and then say “Come!”

3. When she looks at you, turn and run the opposite direction.

It’s a rare dog who won’t dash after you at this point. When she catches you, praise her and hold her collar. Then, either snap on the lead or release her for another play session. Your Poodle will think this is a wonderful game.


Years ago, my family lived near a schoolyard that offered plenty of room for an early morning romp. To get to the schoolyard, though, we had to walk a short distance up a busy road. One morning, our two dogs got loose and started for the yard on their own, trotting right down the middle of the road. They were too far away to grab, so I yelled their names to get their attention and then turned and ran back to the house. My heart was in my mouth, but I didn’t stop until I reached the house. When I got there, both dogs were dancing around my feet, excited to play this great new game.


“Sit!” is another basic, useful command. You have many reasons to want to teach your Poodle to sit:

– You’ll have an easier time putting a collar or lead on a dog that’s sitting rather than bouncing with excitement at the thought of a walk.

– Having your Poodle sit before you put down her food dish reduces the risk that she’ll jump up and knock the dish out of your hand.

– A sitting Poodle is much nicer for guests to pet than one that acts like she’s on a pogo stick.

To train your Poodle how to sit, follow these simple steps:

1. Grab a small treat from your collection.

2. Hold the treat in front of your Poodle’s nose, move it back over the top of her head, and then tell her to sit.

She should sink into a sit as she lifts her nose to follow the treat. Don’t hold the treat too high, though, or she may try to get it by jumping.

3. The minute your Poodle sinks into a sit, give her the treat and praise her.


“Down!” is a basic command you can use if you want your Poodle to lie down. If you plan to do most of your Poodle’s grooming yourself (see Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet), teaching her to lie down on the grooming table makes the process easier for both of you. She doesn’t have to stand the entire time, and you can reach all of her body more easily. Also, when you combine “Down!” with the stay command in the next section, you can leave your Poodle for an extended period of time and be sure that she’s in a comfortable and relaxed state.
You can teach most anything in multiple ways, so if one method of teaching “Down!” doesn’t work, try something else. Here are a couple of methods you can try:

– Take a treat, put your dog in a sitting position (see the previous section), and then lower the treat in front of her while simultaneously moving it slightly forward. Say “down.” Ideally, your Poodle will sink into the down position as she follows the treat. If this works for you, terrific!

– I’ve found that with smaller dogs, as their heads move forward, their rears pop up. So, in this position with a smaller dog, show her a treat and then bring your closed hand down. If she slides into a down position, terrific! If not, keep your closed hand, holding the treat, on the floor. Your Poodle may paw or nibble at your hand, but be patient. Eventually, she’ll lie down. The minute she does, praise her and give her the treat. It won’t take her long to figure out that down is where she needs to be if she wants a treat.


“Stay!” can be just as important as “Come!” You’ll be happy to have a dog that will sit and lie down on command, but “Stay!” can save your Poodle’s life! How, you ask? Here are a few examples:

– You can teach your Poodle to stay when you open a door so she won’t bolt out into traffic or go after another animal.

– If your Poodle does get away from you and crosses the street safely, you don’t want to call her back through traffic. Give the “Stay!” command so you can go and get her.

– I use “Stay!” to keep my dogs at a safe distance when I’m removing food from a hot oven.


“Stay!” can also serve practical purposes. For example, you can combine “Down!” and “Stay!” so you don’t have to banish your Poodle to another room when you put snacks on the coffee table.

You can teach “Stay!” with your Poodle in a standing, sitting, or lying position. I’ve always started with my dogs sitting, so that’s how I describe the steps here, but the choice is yours:

1. Attach the lead to your Poodle’s collar and have her sit by your left side.

2. Holding the lead in your right hand, extend your left arm so that your left hand, palm facing the dog, is in front of your Poodle’s muzzle.

3. Give the “Stay!” command, and take one step in front of your Poodle, pivoting as you step so that you’re standing directly in front of her and facing her.

4. Step back into your original position: beside your dog and facing forward.

If your Poodle stays, praise her and give her a treat.

Gradually, I increase the amount of time between when I give the command and when I give the treat. I also try to take an extra step or two back. As your Poodle gets better at staying, you can start to move around before you return to her side.
When you feel that your Poodle fully understands the “Stay!” command, start trying it with her off the lead. Leave the room for a second or two and then return. Just remember not to rush the training.


If you plan to compete formally in obedience (see Chapter Showing Off and Enjoying Your Poodle’s Talents for details), start walking all the way around your Poodle. Walk past her left side, behind her, and then stop next to her right shoulder.

Leave it!

I couldn’t live without the “Leave it!” command. Okay, I could live, but life wouldn’t be as pleasant. You can teach your dog to “leave it” so she doesn’t eat or carry around undesirable items. When she drops something she shouldn’t have to the floor, you can get rid of it right away. I can think of many situations that “Leave it!” rescues:

– When your Poodle has one of your best shoes in her mouth, she’ll spit it out before she takes another bite.

– You can prevent an episode from turning into a lovely game of chase or a tug-of-war with your lingerie.

– When the day comes that your precious darling tries to bring a dead chipmunk into the house, you won’t have to pry the animal from her jaws.

– I also use the command when I’m playing fetch with my dog. I prefer having her drop the ball at my feet instead of wrestling the slimy thing away from her.

An easy way to teach “Leave it!” is with a trade. Have some kind of yummy treat ready; when your Poodle has a toy in her mouth, tell her to leave it at the same time that you show her the treat. She should willingly trade! After she eats the treat, give her the toy back. If she has a piece of clothing like a sock in her mouth, make the trade with the treat and then substitute an acceptable toy for the sock. For these situations, some people teach the word “trade” as well so their dogs know for sure that they’ll replace whatever they have in their mouths.


My male dog knows the “Leave it!” command, but he also knows a toy when he has it clenched between his jaws. He enjoys destroying stuffed toys, so when I want to end a play session, I tell him I want to “trade.” If he obliges, I get the toy and he gets a dog biscuit. He’s gotten so clever, though, that he sometimes picks up a toy, goes over to the counter, and looks up at the treat jar, waiting for a trade!


“Heel” is a formal position, where your Poodle appears at your left side with her muzzle even with your knee. Your dog should maintain this position when you walk, run, or halt. When you stop, your Poodle should do an automatic sit, without hearing the command. You may not need your dog to heel in most situations, but it can be a useful command. When you’re walking in a crowd or near other people and dogs, having your Poodle next to you makes it easier to avoid others. If you need to go up an escalator or ride in an elevator, you’ll want your Poodle at your side.
Follow these steps to teach your Poodle to heel:

1. Start with your Poodle on your left side in the sit position.

2. Give the command to “Heel!” and start walking.

When you first start out, you can hold a piece of food in your left hand to keep her in position. If you’re coordinated enough, you can drop a piece of food into your Poodle’s mouth every now and then as you go along.

If your Poodle lags, speed up the walk. If she forges ahead, stop dead or turn around and run in the opposite direction. Change direction without warning. All these behaviors make her keep an eye on you to see what you’re going to do next.

3. Whenever you stop, even if only for a moment to get her to stop walking ahead of you, tell her to sit.

Eventually, your Poodle will sit automatically, because you always tell her to sit when you stop. Praise for the automatic sit, but keep it low key. This isn’t the time for a “dance of joy.” That would make your dog break the sit. A pleasant “good dog” will do.


If you’ve taught your Poodle to sit by standing in front of her, you may need to teach her to sit all over again for the heel command. To a dog, sitting in front of you and sitting beside you are two entirely different behaviors.

Overcoming Common Canine Behavior Problems

As much as we all want to believe that our wonderful dogs are perfect, we know that none of them are. You don’t want others to expect you to be perfect, so you shouldn’t expect the same of your Poodle. I discuss some imperfect behaviors in the following sections.


You can correct many of the behaviors, or at least lessen them, with training. If you can’t seem to do it yourself, and none of the methods are working, you can find a professional who can help (I cover getting help in the final section of this chapter).

Barking at the mailman, at neighbors, at squirrels, at . . .

Dogs bark for many reasons. Sometimes, you want your Poodle to bark to let you know if a stranger is walking in your yard or if an unwanted animal is digging through your trash. Other times, though, your Poodle’s barking can get out of hand. It can annoy you and your neighbors if your Poodle barks at every jogger or squirrel in the yard. If the bad outweighs the good, you need to figure out a way to lessen, if not stop, the barking. The following sections cover ways you can curb outdoor and indoor barking.


Some people have had luck with bark collars; these devices release a puff of citrus scent every time the dog barks. The theory is that the surprise, plus the smell that many dogs dislike, will correct the habit. This may work, but some dogs are smart enough to catch on that the collars have a limited supply of the spray, so they just bark nonstop until they use up the spray. At that point, they’re free to bark as much as they want. If your dog figures it out, you have one smart puppy!

Outdoor barking

Your dog may love to bark at animals in the yard. If you have rabbits, squirrels, or other critters on your property, try to supervise your Poodle’s yard time. Join her for a game, or give her a toy packed with treats to draw her attention away from the bunnies.
Animals aren’t the only things that trigger barking, though. The following list gives you some causes and tips of outdoor barking:

– Your Poodle could be bored. Your solution may be a game of fetch. If you play hard enough, she may want to find a shady corner and snooze. Another trick is to not leave your dog outdoors for so long that she gets bored. If you suspect this is the case, when she starts barking, call her in at once.

– If your Poodle barks every time someone walks by, consider erecting a solid fence. Dogs are less apt to bark if they can’t see what’s on the other side of a fence.

– Maybe your Poodle is barking because she wants to come inside. She may be hot, cold, wet, or lonely. Let her in!

Indoor barking

Indoor barking may not drive the neighbors nuts, but it will test your sanity. A frequent culprit is noises outside. A loud truck may be rumbling by, an emergency vehicle may have its siren going, or children may be playing in the street. A softly playing radio or television may be enough to mask the sounds, and drapes or blinds may help to prevent your Poodle from barking at the kids.
Another frequent culprit is the doorbell, which tends to set most dogs off. Even a doorbell ringing on TV can start my dogs woofing. Just about every dog-training book ever written has a solution for this problem. You may have to try more than one method before you find the one that works for you and your Poodle.
Here’s my two cents: When the doorbell rings and your Poodle barks — or, if you’re fast, just before she starts — tell her to bark. When she follows your command, which is to bark, praise her and give her a treat. Soon, she may stop barking in anticipation of the treat. Otherwise, after she knows the command “bark,” add “quiet,” “stop,” or whatever word you want to use as the command to stop barking, and give the treat when she stops.


What worked for me with my male dog was to have a handful of treats in my closed hand. When he started barking, I held up my fist, said “Quiet,” and released a treat when he looked at me. It didn’t take him long to make the connection between my raised fist and a treat, and he was more than happy to stop barking.


It’s also helpful with many Poodles to put them on a down and stay when the bell rings. Most won’t bark under this command. You may release your Poodle to calmly greet the visitor when he enters.

If you’re at home and your Poodle is barking, you can distract her with an indoor game, or you can run through the obedience commands she knows. However, if your dog is indoors and you’re away, she may bark because she’s suffering from separation anxiety. Videotapes of dogs left alone have shown that they’re most anxious during the first 10 to 15 minutes of alone time. Before you leave home, try to give your Poodle some strenuous exercise. Go on a brisk walk, or play a game of fetch. When you finish, give her a treat-stuffed toy just before you leave. The combination of fatigue and having something to occupy her while you’re gone may be enough to keep her calm.


If your Poodle isn’t anxious and just loves to bark, try these steps:

1. Go through your normal routine of getting ready to leave the house.

2. Leave.

3. Count to ten and then go back in the house.

4. Leave again.

5. Try to gradually extend the amount of time you’re gone.

6. When your dog starts barking, go back in immediately; otherwise, continue to extend the time.

This procedure may take days or even weeks, so be patient.

I beg you — no begging!

Begging, to me, is worse than barking. Begging means you have a dog in your face just when you want to enjoy a meal or relax with a snack. At best, begging takes the form of a silent stare with those big pathetic eyes. At worst, your dog is pawing at you, jumping on you, or actually stealing a morsel from your hand. As Barney Fife used to say, “Nip it. Nip it in the bud!”
Unfortunately, begging is a hard habit to break. Canine survival over the years has been dependent on knowing where the food is. If you catch a rabbit once by the pine tree, that’s the spot to revisit. If you feed your adorable little puppy once from the table, you’ll have an uninvited dinner guest forever. You may think, “Oh, just this once won’t hurt,” but once is all it takes to start the begging habit. You need to follow Barney’s advice and nip it in the bud.


The best approach to overcoming a begging problem is to not let the begging habit start in the first place. Make it a firm family rule to never feed your Poodle from the table. If you absolutely must give the little dear a taste of your Thanksgiving turkey, add the treat to her food bowl; don’t slip it to her under the table. The same goes for evening snacks in front of the television.

If the begging habit is in place, you can break it, but it will take time and patience. Stop feeding whatever the Poodle is begging for. The dog will make a pest of herself and may increase her begging behavior. She may jump up, bark, paw at you, and whine, but don’t give in. It’s common for the behavior to get worse before it’s eliminated. It’s up to you to stop rewarding the behavior. Then all you can do is live through your dog’s efforts for that reward. Eventually, she’ll stop trying.


It also helps to put your Poodle on a down and stay if she begs, and then ignore her. For the very persistent beggar, simply remove her from the room at the first sign of begging.

Chewing on everything

Dogs love to chew on most any object. Why a dog chews may depend on her mood. Some dogs chew because they feel relaxed and happy (think a bone by the fireplace). Some dogs chew because they feel anxious (think your new shoe by the front door). Young dogs chew because they’re teething, and the act of chewing massages their gums and makes them feel better. Chewing is natural, so you don’t want your Poodle to never chew. What you want is to make sure that what your Poodle chews, she doesn’t choose the fringe on your rug, the rung of an antique chair, or your good pair of shoes.


No matter how old your Poodle is, supply chew toys for her. Some dogs enjoy stuffed toys; some prefer nylon bones; and others like the hard, rubber toys that you can stuff with peanut butter or cheese. Having acceptable chew toys on hand gives your Poodle more appealing options. If you find your Poodle in the act of chewing on something off-limits, trade him for an acceptable toy (see the earlier section “Leave it!” for more on trading). You should also make sure the shoe’s owner doesn’t leave the shoe where the dog can reach it. (There’s nothing better than a puppy to teach everyone in the family to pick up all items of clothing!) See Chapter Choosing the Best Poodle for You for examples of good chew toys.


A teething dog benefits from anything cold, so to supply acceptable chewing objects, wet and freeze a tennis ball or an old washcloth. You also can give your Poodle an ice cube now and then.

Nipping and mouthing

Nipping and biting aren’t the same actions. Biting implies an act of aggression (which I cover later in this chapter). Nipping also can indicate aggression, but I think of nipping in a separate, more benign category. That doesn’t make it pleasant, however — just less Cujo-like.


Puppies nip. Most likely, they learned not to bite too hard while they were still playing with their littermates. However, their play bites may be too much for a human hand or ankle to handle, due to their needle-sharp baby teeth. If your Poodle puppy nips you, say “Owww” in a high-pitched voice. Stop playing. Your pup will soon figure out that if she bites, the fun stops.


If your adult Poodle, who has always been well mannered, is now nipping, schedule a visit to your veterinarian’s office to make sure she has no physical problems. An older dog with arthritis in her joints may start nipping when you touch her, because the touch hurts. If she’s fine physically, you may need to consult an animal behaviorist (see the later section on finding professional help).

You may have a Poodle that mouths, which can certainly startle people who don’t know what your dog is doing. Some dogs just like putting their mouths around hands or wrists. I have a dog, who, when excited, grabs my hand. To prevent her from mouthing on a guest’s hand, and to prevent her from accidentally tearing skin when she falls back, I’ve trained her to get her toy when she gets excited. This game is a variation of fetch. She knows the word “toy,” so getting her to retrieve it was easy.

Digging up some trouble

Poodles aren’t diggers in the way that other dogs, such as terriers, are diggers. The activity isn’t their life work. Your Poodle may, however, be a recreational digger, for many reasons:

– Poodle puppies often dig and then outgrow the practice.

– A Poodle may dig if she’s hot, because lying in a cool hole is a real treat in the summer.

– A Poodle may dig if she’s chasing a rodent or any critter that disappears down a hole or under a fence.

– Heck, maybe your Poodle is just bored!

If your Poodle digs only now and then, you can just fill in the holes and forget it. You also can keep a sharp eye on your Poodle and, if she starts to dig, distract her with a game or a trade (see the earlier section “Leave it!” for more on trading). Telling her no in a firm voice is fine, too.


If your Poodle seems to have a passion for digging, you should consider giving your dog her own special digging spot. Follow these steps:

1. Select a fitting area of your yard and mark it off with low boards.

2. Add sand or soil to the boarded area, or dig up the area to provide your Poodle with some digging material.

3. Bury your Poodle’s favorite toy or some tasty treats in the area, and guide her to her new digging spot.

Another trick is to drip a bit of bacon grease on the surface.

4. If she starts to dig up another part of the yard, bury a few more treats and guide her to the spot.

It shouldn’t take long for your Poodle to figure out that the boarded area is her own private excavation site.

Jump, jumping around

Most dogs are great jumpers; otherwise, you wouldn’t see those cool animal-trick bits on late-night television shows. If you have a Toy or Miniature, you may not consider jumping such a terrible habit, but even smaller Poodle varieties can get mud all over good clothes or ruin a pair of nylons. Standard Poodles, however, can knock people over with their exuberance. You may love the joyous leaping greetings your Poodle gives you, but not all your visitors will feel the same way — especially if a child or older person gets injured.
The simplest way to teach your Poodle not to jump is to ignore her when she jumps up, starting when she’s a puppy. It’s hard to ignore an adult Standard when she jumps! When you walk in the door and your Poodle jumps up to greet you, turn sideways and totally ignore her. Don’t pet her, talk to her, or make eye contact with her. Don’t even push her away. When she doesn’t get the attention she wants, she stops the ineffective behavior; that’s when you use the sit command (which I cover earlier in this chapter) and pet her. Giving the cold shoulder is tough, but you’ll be glad you did!


Make sure everyone in your family understands the no-jumping rule. It isn’t fair to your Poodle to be allowed to jump up sometimes but not always. She’ll get confused. Explain your system to any visitors ahead of time to make sure that they, too, ignore your Poodle when she jumps up.


When your Poodle understands that she must sit for attention, you can teach her to jump up on command. Lure her up with treats held to chest level (or whatever height your Poodle can reach), or pat your chest or leg, while giving whatever command you choose, such as “hup” or “stand tall.” Give plenty of praise and a treat when she obeys.

 Aggression against others

Aggression against a burglar is something you’d approve of in your Poodle, but unprovoked or indiscriminate aggression is a problem you can’t condone. Generally, Poodles, as a breed, don’t show aggression for no reason, but any individual dog can have a problem. The dog’s personality and the way she was or wasn’t socialized can have a bearing on how aggressive she is (for more on socializing your Poodle, see Chapter Instilling Good Manners in Your Poodle).


If your Poodle shows unprovoked aggression toward people, get professional help, as I explain later in this chapter. You’re not going to be able to correct this on your own.

On the other hand, your Poodle may be fine with people and still show aggression toward other dogs. Toys and Miniatures can go on the offensive against larger dogs out of fear. A male of any size that hasn’t been neutered may show aggression toward another male. You can nip the problem in the bud with early socialization around other dogs, or you can count on a good obedience class to lessen, if not eliminate, the problem. For more on finding the right class, see the following section.


If you decide on training your Poodle with a class, make sure the instructor knows that your dog is aggressive toward other dogs. You also should make sure that the instructor has experience dealing with this problem and is comfortable with the situation. If you enter your Poodle in the class without divulging all the info and a fight erupts, your Poodle may be seriously injured or even killed, not to mention that a lawsuit is possible if your dog attacks another. If you let the instructor know, the worst that could happen is that he’ll refer you to someone else.


If your Poodle has always been a lover but is now showing aggression for no apparent reason, you need to rule out any physical problems by visiting your veterinarian. At that point, you should run, not walk, to the nearest source of help.

Finding Professional Help

You can find many wonderful books that deal with the subject of training your Poodle, as well as training DVDs that aim to help you mold a well-mannered canine companion. I include extensive advice on training techniques throughout this chapter (and book, really). However, you also have other training options at your disposal, such as classes, lessons, and visits to animal behaviorists. I describe these options in the following sections; you shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of any of these options. I’ve always used a combination of classes and books. Find out as much as you can in any way that you can.


If you have a problem of any kind with your Poodle, act to correct it before it grows to uncontrollable proportions. The sooner you deal with a problem, the less likely it is to grow worse.

Attending classes

You can find all kinds of formal classes to enroll your Poodle in, from puppy classes (see Chapter Instilling Good Manners in Your Poodle on socializing) to novice obedience to advanced training. For Poodles old enough for formal training, as opposed to puppy classes that are for socialization, you should look for an obedience class. Most instructors won’t accept a dog in class until she’s had all her shots, which is generally by the age of three months. An obedience class helps your Poodle adjust to other people and dogs and teaches her the basic commands that will make her a good citizen (see earlier sections in this chapter for more on teaching commands).


You should be able to find an obedience class for your Poodle at one of the following places:

– Your local YMCA or YWCA

– Your community’s animal shelter

– A boarding kennel (also a good place to get a referral)

– A local pet-supply store

– The bulletin board at the local pet-supply store or the one at your vet’s office

You also can ask your veterinarian, your breeder, and your friends for recommendations.
The price of a series of classes varies, and classes generally run for eight weeks. Look for small classes; the larger the class, the less personal attention you and your dog will receive. And always observe an instructor at work before you sign up.

Taking private lessons

If you have a specific problem with your Poodle’s behavior, such as dog aggression (see the earlier section “Aggression against others”), you may want to hire a professional trainer to come to your home for some one-on-one attention. In a classroom setting, the instructor won’t have the time to focus on specific problems; the goal of a class is to teach everyone particular behaviors.
To find a qualified trainer to come to your home, ask for recommendations. Many people may know how to train basic commands, but if you’ve got a problem, you need someone experienced in dealing with that problem. Get references and check them out. A qualified trainer may be a member of a professional organization, such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT;
Look for a trainer who is calm; he shouldn’t yell or scream. Some trainers use only positive reinforcement; others may tell a dog “no” or give a collar correction. There should never be a correction until the dog knows what she’s supposed to do. Dogs shouldn’t be forced into positions.


If any instructor, whether from a class or in the personalized field, tells you to hit, drag, or “hang” your dog, look for another trainer.

Seeking out animal behaviorists

Most Poodles have stable temperaments, but if you’re having problems with your Poodle — problems that go beyond high spirits and annoying habits that you can correct (or have corrected) with proper training and regular exercise — you may want to consider hiring an animal behaviorist.
An animal behaviorist helping your Poodle is a bit like a psychologist or psychiatrist helping a person. His job is to figure out the reasons behind your dog’s behavior and to work to modify that behavior, based on the causes. A behaviorist, like a psychiatrist, should look at the possible causes of bad behavior, not just trying to train your dog not to engage in that bad behavior. He works with you and your dog in your home.


You can talk to your veterinarian for a referral to an animal behaviorist, as well as other dog owners who may have consulted with behaviorists. No national standards govern animal training, but here are some sources that may help you locate a behaviorist:

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): This organization consists of a group of veterinarians who share an interest in teaching training techniques and treating behavior problems in animals. Head to for more info.

Animal Behavior Society (ABS): Members of the Animal Behavior Society have degrees ranging from psychology to biology, zoology, or animal science, but they all have demonstrated expertise in understanding and treating animal behaviors. Go to for more details.

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC): This organization works to help animals and their people by teaching people how to correct behavior problems. Head to for more information.


A trainer also may be an animal behaviorist but not necessarily. A trainer may have trained hundreds of dogs, and he may call himself a behaviorist, but that doesn’t mean he is one. Make sure you check the credentials of the supposed “therapist” so you aren’t duped into paying high fees for amateur help.

by Susan M.Ewing

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