How To Teach Your Poodle Seven Common Training Commands

How To Teach Your Poodle Seven Common Training Commands

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Poodles" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

Benefits of Proper Training

One of the greatest benefits of properly training your Poodle is the mental stimulation your poodle derives from his training sessions. Poodles are intelligent dogs that need to use their minds regularly or they’ll gladly find less desirable ways to entertain themselves. Training sessions do not need to be lengthy to provide mental stimulation and strengthen the bond you have with your dog. Sessions as short as five minutes can be held throughout the day. These short sessions are enough to work your dog’s brain without overwhelming him. Regular training sessions will result in a calmer, happier dog who is eager to learn anything you want to teach him.

Training Sets Your Poodle up for Success

Poodle in training
Photo Courtesy – Emil Friberg

Proper training will also help your dog learn how to behave himself in new situations. When combined with proper socialization, proper training can help you create a dog that can go anywhere and handle anything. Whether you plan on traveling with your dog or competing at dog shows, you can be confident that your dog will be on his best behavior. Being able to go everywhere with you will also make your Poodle happier and will provide him with even more mental stimulation. Poodles love spending time with their owners, but it’s your responsibility to make sure that your Poodle is well-behaved and can accompany you to work or on your errands without causing any disturbances.

Different Training Methods

If you were to ask ten different dog trainers about their training method of choice, you would likely get ten different answers. There are many different methods and each trainer will typically do things a little different from the next. It’s up to you to do your research and try out different methods to see what works for you and your dog. What works for your neighbor and her Poodle may not work for you and yours. There is likely to be some trial and error in finding your ideal method, so don’t be afraid to try out different methods. You may need to try out a variety of treats, toys, or reinforcements. As always, if you have any doubts about your abilities or simply need some professional advice, don’t be afraid to seek the opinion of a qualified professional.

Basic Commands

The commands you can teach your Poodle are limited only by your imagination. Your Poodle will happily work with you to learn anything you want to teach him. As Mary Ann Riess of Vision Red Standard Poodles puts it, “Poodles are incredibly intelligent. They really do love to learn.” Teaching your dog new commands is also a great form of mental stimulation and it will strengthen your relationship. To start with, there are a few basic commands that every dog needs to know. These commands will be easy for your Poodle to learn, but they will make life with your new dog much easier. Basic commands are not only the first step in training for any sport, but they also teach your dog good manners. Whether you are raising a future obedience show-ring star or simply a family pet, your Poodle will need to know simple commands such as sit, lie down, and walking on a loose leash.

Sit

poodle sitThe ‘sit’ command is one of the first commands that most dogs are taught, simply because it’s one of the easiest. It can be used as the starting point for many other commands and tricks as well. It also puts your dog in a position where he can look up at you more easily, allowing him to see your next instructions. When combined with a ‘stay’ or ‘wait’ command, ‘sit’ can be used to teach your dog patience when eating dinner or exiting the house.

There are a few different methods of teaching your dog to sit. You can use each method separately or combine them in a way that works best for you and your dog. The first method is a type of positive reinforcement. You take a high-value treat and hold it just above your dog’s head, but not so high that he feels that he must jump to reach it. Most dogs will quickly learn that they can put themselves at the right angle to reach the treat by sitting down. You can also use two different types of negative reinforcement. You can either put gentle pressure on your dog’s hips with your hand as you give the treat or gently pull up on your dog’s leash as you give the sit command. As soon as your Poodle sits, be sure to release the pressure immediately and reward him.

Stay

poodle staying on commandThe ‘stay’ command is an especially useful command for any Poodle to know. It teaches your dog patience and self-control. The stay can be performed sitting, lying down, or standing. Some Poodle owners use two different commands, depending on how long they want their dog to wait and how they plan on releasing him from the command. ‘Stay’ can be used for long periods of time and you will typically release the dog by returning to the same position in which you asked the dog to stay, for example, by his side or in front of him. ‘Wait’ can be used for short periods of time and the dog can be released from anywhere. You can use this command when working on recalls or when asking your dog to wait politely for his food dish. As the dog progresses in his training, you can ask him to stay for longer periods of time and you can gradually increase the distance between you and the dog. You can also introduce distractions and perform the command in new locations.

Stay can be taught more easily once your dog knows how to sit and lie down. Ask your dog to sit, stand, or lie down and give him the ‘stay’ or ‘wait’ command. Pause for a second or two and if he stays in place, you can reward him. If he moves out of position, simply put him back in place and try again. Corrections are not helpful in the beginning stages of ‘stay,’ so it’s best to just start over. As your dog begins to understand what you are expecting of him, you can increase the time you ask him to stay. You can also begin taking a step or two away from him and even leave the room as his training advances. You can also use distractions, such as rolling his favorite ball across the room or tossing treats onto the floor out of his reach.

Lie Down

poodle lie downLying down is a useful command for your dog to know, both at home and out on the town. You may need to ask your dog to lie down in the car, at the vet, or when he becomes a little too excited about meeting new friends. It’s typically the second command, after sit, that puppies learn because it’s easy to progress to the ‘down’ command once the puppy knows how to sit. It’s a requirement in competition obedience and agility, and is also the precursor to many tricks, such as ‘roll over’ and ‘crawl.’

As with the sit command, you can use positive or negative reinforcement, or a combination of the two. With positive reinforcement, you simply lure the dog into position with a treat. Ask your Poodle to sit and hold a treat in front of his nose to draw his attention. As he tries to reach for the treat, lower your hand to the ground. He should follow the treat with his nose into the correct position. If he doesn’t lie down, or he stands and puts his head down instead, simply start from the beginning. To use negative reinforcement, ask your dog to sit while wearing his collar and leash. Put gentle downward pressure on the leash and release as soon as he begins to lie down. Once he’s lying down, you can praise and reward him.

Come

Poodle coming when calledThe recall, or ‘come’ command, is one of the most important commands you can teach your Poodle. It is essential for any dog, whether he’s a show dog or a beloved pet, to reliably come when he’s called. If you ever plan on having your dog off-leash at a dog park or while hiking, he will need to have a solid recall to prevent any tragedies from happening. Most dog sports require dogs to be off-leash at the more advanced levels, so the recall will be a necessary part of your future competitors training. Even dogs who are not off-leash regularly can benefit from learning how to come when called, just in case of emergencies.

This command is best taught using two people, so if you have a friend or family member that can help you, you’ll find that your dog will progress much more quickly. It’s also best to work on your recall in an enclosed space, such as a large room or yard, to begin with. If you want to work on this command in an unfenced area, it may be worthwhile to invest in a tracking lead, which is simply an extra-long leash that will allow you to give your dog some freedom but won’t allow him to run away. Have your assistant hold your dog while you stand some distance away. This is one command where it’s okay for your dog to be a little excited, so don’t be afraid to act a little silly to entice your dog. Ask him to come. Then pat your knees, or whistle if you have to. Your puppy should be excited by this and will struggle and try to reach you. Ask your helper to hold onto the dog for just a moment to help build the excitement. When your helper releases the dog, back up a few steps as he runs toward you. This forces your dog to chase you, if only for a few steps, and it can increase your dog’s energy and level of excitement. Once your puppy reaches you, praise him and reward him. Don’t be afraid to be a little over the top during these initial training sessions. Now that the dog is with you, you can hold onto him while your assistant asks him to come. You can do this back and forth for a few minutes, but your puppy may get tired quickly. As your Poodle advances in his recall training, you can increase the distance he has to cover to reach you. You can also practice in more distracting environments such as a park or field.

Off/Down

poodle on couch downThe ‘off’ or ‘down’ command is an essential part of your dog’s training, as it will help you to establish and maintain your position as pack leader. The leader of the pack gets to choose where to sleep or sit, so use this command confidently when asking your Poodle to move out of your favorite chair or side of the bed. This is also a useful command when teaching your dog the rules of the house. Some Poodles may try to jump onto tables, countertops, or the laps of your guests. Remember to differentiate this command from the one you use to ask him to lie down. If you use ‘down’ for lying down, try to use a different word, such as ‘off,’ when asking him to get back onto the floor.

There are a few different methods you can use to encourage your dog to get off the furniture. First, you can try to lure him off with a treat while giving your chosen verbal command. Once all four paws are on the ground, you can reward him. You can also use a collar and leash or slip lead. Use gentle pressure on the leash to encourage your dog to move off the chair or sofa. Again, once he’s on the ground, you can praise and reward him. You can also try using your hand to gently push him off, but use caution with dogs who have aggression or resource-guarding problems, as they may try to bite you. If your dog displays this type of behavior, you should also avoid grabbing his collar to pull him off.

Give/Drop

poodle dropping ballPoodles are retrievers, so they have a tendency to pick things up and carry them in their mouth. Unfortunately, they don’t always choose appropriate items. The ‘give’ or ‘drop’ command is crucial to your dog’s training. If you plan on competing with your dog, he may need to know this command in the show ring. It’s also helpful to discourage your dog from picking up things off the sidewalk on walks or around the house. Mischievous Poodles sometimes try to steal things around the house and can be stubborn about giving them back. A solid ‘give’ or ‘drop’ command also discourages your dog from developing resource-guarding issues.

It’s important that you avoid trying to take the item directly out of your dog’s mouth. He may try to run from you, or he may try to snap at you. Instead, give him your chosen command and offer him a treat. Once he drops the item in favor of the treat, you can quickly grab whatever you’ve asked him to drop. If it’s an item he’s allowed to have, you can simply give it back to him. Eventually, the dog should learn that if he drops whatever is in his mouth, he will be rewarded.

Walk

Walking a dog who is constantly pulling on the leash can be stressful and exhausting, especially with a larger dog such as a Standard Poodle. Additionally, the dog may be able to hurt himself by pulling too hard on his collar or harness. Dogs who pull on the leash are also more likely to develop other behavior problems, such as excessive barking or aggression toward other dogs or strangers. No matter how cute or friendly your Poodle may be, strangers are unlikely to be charmed when they see him straining on the leash and lunging toward them, even if it’s out of excitement rather than aggression.

It can be helpful, especially with energetic and excitable puppies, to hold a quick play session before practicing good leash manners. Otherwise, your dog may be too excited to focus on you and what you’re asking of him. For this reason, it’s also best to begin working on leash manners at home in a controlled environment. As your dog advances in his training, you can begin practicing around the neighborhood or at the local park or hiking trail. Begin walking with your Poodle on the leash and the moment he begins to pull, simply stop walking. He will likely turn around to look at you, wondering why you’ve stopped. Ask him to come back to you and reward him when he does so. Once there is slack in the leash again, try walking for a few steps. If he begins to pull, repeat the process. In the beginning, you may not be able to go more than a few steps at a time before your Poodle starts pulling, but eventually you will be able to go further without stopping. After a few sessions at home, you can try taking your Poodle out for longer walks around the neighborhood and introduce more distractions.

Advanced Commands

The sky is the limit when it comes to teaching your Poodle more advanced commands. They are such intelligent dogs; they will learn anything you want to teach them. You can increase the challenge of any of the basic commands by increasing the distractions or practicing in different environments. Try working on your down-stays at the local park or practice loose-leash walking at the local farmers market. If you plan on competing with your dog, try working on commands that are specific to your chosen sport. If you are not interested in competition, you can try teaching him a few tricks. The AKC even offers a trick dog class if you want to combine your love of competition with your desire to teach your dog interesting commands.