How to be a Great Poodle Owner Right from Day One

How to be a Great Poodle Owner Right from Day One

Standing by Your Expectations

When bringing your Poodle puppy home, it’s important to consider your expectations for the following weeks and even months. Some puppies adapt quickly and develop a daily routine rather quickly, while others may struggle a bit in the change from living with their littermates to living with a human family. You need to keep your expectations low in order to make the best of a complicated and potentially difficult situation. Do not expect your puppy to sleep through the night during the first several weeks and do not expect house-training to progress quickly. If things go well, you can celebrate your puppy’s progress, but if training and socializing take longer than you expected, don’t be disappointed.

Patience is Key

It can be easy to become frustrated with an energetic, unfocused puppy, but patience and understanding are key during the first few months. Terri Creech of Bear Cove Standard Poodles advises:

“This puppy’s world has been turned upside down. Find a routine and stick to it.”

If you find yourself becoming frustrated or upset with your puppy’s progress, don’t hesitate to contact a professional trainer immediately. A trainer can help you solve your puppy’s problem behaviors before they become unmanageable. They may also be able to help you develop a training plan and offer advice to help you reach your goals with your new family member.

How to Crate Train

dog crate in homeEven if you don’t plan on using a crate when your Poodle reaches adulthood, crate training is an essential part of your dog’s education. If you take your dog to the vet, groomer, or boarding kennel, he will need to know how to wait patiently in a crate without excessive barking or destructive behavior. A dog with poor crate manners is a danger to himself and others. He may become fearful and nervous, or even aggressive when placed inside a crate for the first time during a stressful situation. Dogs with no crate experience may destroy bedding or soil the crate. They may also try to escape the crate by chewing or digging, potentially causing permanent damage to their teeth and nails. It’s unfair to expect your groomer or veterinary team to deal with this behavior when it can be prevented with regular training at home. Additionally, crate training can make house-training progress much quicker, with fewer messes and setbacks.

Make the Crate a Fun and Safe Space

If your Poodle is not used to spending time in a crate, he may become upset at first. To prevent this, try encouraging him to enter the crate on his own by tossing a few treats inside. Praise him whenever he enters, especially if he stays inside for any amount of time. As he becomes more comfortable, you can begin shutting the door behind him, if only for a few seconds at first. Praise him excessively for remaining calm and quiet. Slowly increase the amount of time you leave him in the crate. As he becomes more comfortable, you can try offering him his favorite chew treats or toys as a reward and to keep him distracted while inside of the crate. Until you know how your Poodle will behave in a crate, it’s best not to leave him unsupervised for any significant amount of time until you know he’s not a danger to himself. Crating your puppy while you do household chores is a great opportunity for your dog to become more comfortable in the crate since he can still see and hear you.

Toys and Blankets – Potential Crate Dangers

Once you get to know your new Poodle better, you can use your best judgment as to whether you should leave beds, blankets, or toys in the crate with your dog. Some dogs may become destructive out of frustration or boredom, but it may comfort less destructive dogs. Crating your dog while you work around the house is a great opportunity to test your Poodle to see if he can be trusted with items in his crate. If you see him chewing or attempting to rip his bed or blankets, remove them immediately. If this were to happen without your supervision, he could accidentally swallow a piece, potentially choking or creating an intestinal blockage. If he remains calm and relaxed with items in his crate, you can begin leaving them inside for longer amounts of time. It’s not recommended to leave food or water inside your dog’s crate, as he can accidentally knock over the bowls and make a mess of himself and the crate. If he is still in the process of house-training, it can throw off his daily routine and may encourage him to soil the crate before his next bathroom break.

Chewing

chair legs chewed by poodleOne of the most destructive and dangerous bad habits a dog can develop is chewing. Dogs who develop this habit may chew on shoes, children’s toys, furniture, and even walls. Their destruction can create tension within the family and possibly even resentment toward the new puppy. Chewing will not only cause problems among family members, but it can also put your Poodle’s life at risk. Dogs who chew may purposefully or inadvertently swallow pieces of whatever they are chewing. Splinters of wood, chunks of plastic, or pieces of drywall can all become intestinal blockages. Without surgical intervention, an intestinal blockage can be fatal.

Chewing is Normal with Poodles and to be Expected

However, puppies do not chew on inappropriate items because they want to be bad. Much like human babies, they explore their world by putting things in their mouth. As they begin teething, chewing can help relieve some of the discomfort, so they may pick up the nearest object to chew on, even if it does not belong to them. Poodle puppies who chew must be supervised at all times when out of their puppy-proofed designated area or crate. Consistency in correction is the only way to solve this habit. If your puppy is allowed to chew on shoes when he’s not supervised, but gets scolded when in your presence, he’ll only learn not to chew when you’re around.

Curbing Excessive Chewing

poodle chewing messThere are many ways to handle a dog who chews. Your local pet store or favorite online retailer likely has a variety of sprays that can be used on inappropriate items such as furniture. Typically, the sprays are either an extremely sour flavor, such as apple, or a spicy flavor, such as pepper. The unpleasant taste will discourage your dog from chewing on the item that has been sprayed. Remember, you will likely need to reapply the spray after a certain period of time to make sure your dog understands that he shouldn’t chew on those items. Another option is to provide your dog with appropriate objects to chew on such as toys or treats. If you catch your dog in the act, rather than punish him, simply swap out the items and praise him for chewing on the correct object. There is a huge selection of chew toys on the market, from toys that can be filled with food to more natural choices, such as hooves and antlers. There are even when not in use to provide a cooling sensation for teething puppies with sore gums. It may take some trial and error to find what type of toy your Poodle prefers, but once you do, reward him with praise every time he chooses the toy over the shoe. However, it should be noted that even chew toys can be chewed down or have pieces broken off that can become choking hazards or potential intestinal blockages, so always keep a close eye on your puppy’s toys.

Growling and Barking

stop poodle barkingAlthough it may be cute to see a tiny, fluffy puppy barking and growling aggressively, this type of behavior must be discouraged from the start. As the dog grows, the behavior can escalate if it’s not corrected, resulting in a difficult and potentially dangerous dog. Not all dogs who growl or bark at other people or dogs are acting out of aggression though. It’s not uncommon for fearful or shy dogs to react aggressively out of fear, and once they see that their behavior keeps others at a distance, they’re more likely to repeat it. This is why socialization is so important. The more people and dogs your puppy meets, the more confident he will be in new situations, making him less likely to react out of fear or aggression.

Correcting the Behavior

If your puppy growls or barks at a stranger or another dog, you need to correct this behavior immediately. A sharp clap, stomp, or yelp will surprise and distract the dog, hopefully discouraging the unwanted behavior. Never yell or hit your dog as a correction. Not only can you traumatize the dog, but in his escalated state, he may react aggressively toward you out of fear. It’s also unhelpful to coddle the dog or try to comfort him when he’s afraid. This will only let the dog know that he has a reason to be worried and it will encourage him to be fearful the next time he experiences something new. Instead, remain calm, quiet, and confident. Poodles are experts at body language and they’ll understand that there’s no reason to be concerned. If you find yourself struggling to correct this type of behavior, don’t hesitate to contact a professional trainer. The sooner you can get help, the less likely it is that the behavior will escalate.

Digging

Hole dug in the yard by poodleA Poodle who develops a habit of digging is not only a danger to your landscaping, but also to himself. The unsightly holes all over your yard may eventually result in him digging his way out of the yard. He may also damage his nails or paw pads digging through hard soil. Some dogs who dig may also end up ingesting small amounts of soil or various objects they find underground, resulting in digestive problems and potential intestinal blockages.

Redirection – Finding a Safe Digging Area

Some owners allow their dogs to embrace their love of digging. Rather than discourage the behavior, they try to redirect the dogs to dig in an appropriate place. Instead of digging up the flower bed, owners may set up a sand box or a fenced-off area containing soft soil where the dog can dig as he pleases, without the risk of injury or escape. If you would prefer your Poodle didn’t dig up any part of your yard or garden, discouraging the behavior is relatively easy, but constant supervision and consistency are essential. Never let your dog roam the yard without supervision until you are confident he has dropped his bad habit.

Stopping Your Poodle from Digging

As with aggressive behavior, when you see your dog start to dig, a sharp “No!” or a clap or stomp should be enough to surprise and distract your dog. As long as you are consistent in your corrections, your dog should eventually get tired of being startled every time he tries to dig and move on to other activities. If you have a particularly large yard, it may also be worth your while to invest in a louder correction in case your Poodle wanders far enough that your correction becomes less effective. Many pet stores sell whistles or small air horns that are loud enough to surprise your dog from any distance. If you have close neighbors, they may not appreciate your training tactics, so you may need to just keep your dog close enough to you to be corrected without tools. A long leash or tracking lead is a great way to give your dog enough freedom to explore without being able to get too far away from you.

Separation Anxiety

poodle scared afraid

You must be mindful of the way you greet and say goodbye to your dog to prevent separation anxiety. It can be difficult and frustrating to curb this type of behavior. Dogs who exhibit separation anxiety typically whine, bark, or howl when left alone. They may also become destructive and chew up things around the house or soil their kennels or on the floor. In extreme cases, they may even try to escape their crate, house, or yard. It’s easy to imagine how harmful these behaviors can become. Your neighbors certainly won’t appreciate listening to your dog bark while you’re away from home, nor will you appreciate coming home to a mess after a long day at work. It can also be dangerous for your dog, who may injure himself as his behavior escalates. In some cases, a professional trainer may need to be called to help the situation.

Make Transitions Calm instead of Stressful

The first step in preventing separation anxiety, as well as fixing it, is to remain calm when leaving or entering the house. It can be difficult not to join your dog in excitement when you’re reunited, but for your dog’s well-being, you must remain calm. If you get excited when you come home or give him long, drawn-out goodbyes, you’re just confirming that there’s a reason for your dog to act out. This doesn’t mean that you can’t show your dog affection, but you must wait until after he’s calmed down. After coming inside, take your time putting your things away and by the time you’re done, your Poodle will likely be calm enough that you can pet him and say hello. Practice entering and leaving the house for a few seconds or minutes at a time, each time ignoring your dog completely. Your dog may become anxious the first few times you do this, but eventually, he should understand that you’re coming right back and there’s no reason to become excited. As his training progresses, you can leave him for longer periods of time and his level of anxiety should lessen as he understands that he’s not being abandoned.

Running Away

poodle running away from homeNo matter which size Poodle you bring home, running away is an incredibly dangerous habit for your dog to develop. Dogs may bolt out an open front door and potentially run into the street. Smaller Poodles may also become prey for wild animals or stray dogs. The world is a dangerous place for an unaccompanied puppy, so it’s essential that you put in the time and effort to teach him a solid recall.

You First, your Poodle Second

It’s good practice to ask your dog to sit and wait politely before walking through any doorway. A dog who pushes past humans to get through the door first is disrespectful and must be taught that humans always go through first. It can be helpful to keep a short leash on your Poodle as he wanders through the house. This will allow you to grab him if he tries to squeeze out an open door or simply won’t listen to you. Some owners also opt to stick a few treats in their pockets and occasionally call the dog to them. By practicing your dog’s recall at random times and rewarding him with a delicious treat, you are reinforcing the desired behavior. You can also reward your dog for waiting politely at doorways. For outdoor practice, invest in a tracking lead, which is just a long nylon or leather leash. This allows you to give your dog some freedom outside, but will not allow him to run away if he tries to do so.

Bedtime

poodle potty training at nightThe most important aspect of developing a bedtime routine is consistency. If possible, try to do the same things every night at about the same time. The sooner your puppy understands the routine, the sooner he will calm down and sleep more quietly through the night. You must also decide where your Poodle will sleep and commit to that decision. Whether you ask him to sleep in a crate in your bedroom, or in his own space in another part of the house, you need to stand by your decision no matter how much he protests in the beginning. After several nights of a regular routine, he’ll begin to understand what is expected of him and he should settle down quickly.

Winding Down

In order to encourage your puppy to get ready to for bed and sleep quietly, try to discourage him from any roughhousing or exuberant play before bed. Make sure the focus of his nighttime walks is going to the bathroom, not exploring or playing. The calmer you can keep him before bed, the more likely he is to go quietly to bed. Ideally, you should exercise him enough earlier in the day so that he is tired and ready to sleep.

Night Schedule for Potty Training

In the beginning, you will probably be taking your puppy out for bathroom breaks throughout the night, but developing a regular food and potty break schedule can help reduce the frequency of his nocturnal outings. Be sure to feed him dinner early enough that he can begin to digest his food and take his post-dinner bathroom break well before bedtime. If you choose to free-feed your Poodle, pick up his food dish a few hours before bed to limit his intake. Most dogs will need to go outside soon after meals, so if you can develop a regular feeding routine, you can begin to predict when and how often your dog will need to go out. Limiting your dog’s water intake before bed can also help your dog sleep longer through the night. As with food, picking up your puppy’s water dish an hour or two before bed may discourage him from asking to go out during the night as frequently. No matter what your bedtime routine is, the final task before bed should always be a trip outside. The later you can take your puppy out, the longer you’ll be able to sleep before he needs to go out again.

Leaving Your Poodle Home Alone

During the first few months after bringing your Poodle home, it’s not recommended to allow him to have access to the entire house. Allowing your dog too much freedom will only result in soiled floors and chewed-up personal items. It can be incredibly difficult to house-train a dog that is allowed to eliminate wherever he pleases when no one is home. By keeping your dog contained in his designated area or crate, you can discourage him from eliminating in the house and chewing on inappropriate items. You’ll also be able to leave knowing he’s safe and secure in his own space.

Crating in their Safe Space

To encourage your dog to rest quietly while you’re gone, try leaving him in his crate or secure area for short periods of time while you’re home. Keeping him contained will help you accomplish household chores without being disturbed and he’ll become more comfortable in his space without worrying that you’ve left him. This can help build his confidence and reduce the likelihood of him developing separation anxiety.

person monitor pets with phoneCameras and Pet Monitors

If you have any concerns about leaving your dog at home, you have a few options to give you peace of mind. First, there are many companies that make cameras specifically designed for pet owners. These cameras allow you to view your home on your computer or smartphone at any time while you’re away. Some cameras even allow you to speak to your dog or toss him a treat. Another option is to hire a dog walker to check on your dog and take him out for a potty break during the workday. This may be the best option for owners who work long hours or those who don’t want to leave their dog alone all day.