Properly Socializing Your Poodle with Other Pets

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

Introducing Your New Poodle to Other Animals

The most important aspect of introducing your new Poodle puppy to other animals is to respect each animal’s boundaries. Some animals may be perfectly comfortable with a bouncy, exuberant puppy, while others may become fearful or irritable. Likewise, your puppy may not be entirely comfortable getting too close to certain animals. Careful supervision and a basic knowledge of body language can help prevent any unnecessary accidents.

Be Cautious at First

As with any other introduction, approach the situation slowly but calmly and with confidence. Most animals are experts in body language and will be able to tell if you are acting nervously. This will cause them to approach the introduction with anxiety, increasing the chances of a negative experience. Depending on the type of animal you are introducing your Poodle to, you may need to keep your puppy at a comfortable distance at first. Certain prey animals, such as sheep or horses, react to dogs as if they are predators, so until they realize the dog is not a threat, they may need a little extra space. Dogs can also become uncomfortable around especially large animals, such as horses or cattle, so only allow the animals to be as close as they are comfortable. Restraint is also an important aspect of a proper introduction. This will allow you to remove each animal from the situation quickly and easily should something go wrong. If you are introducing your Poodle to livestock, this may be as simple as keeping your dog on a leash and the other animals behind a fence.

Every Interaction is Different – Use Your Best Judgement

Toy poodle on sofa
Photo Courtesy – Betsy Johnson

As your Poodle becomes more comfortable around other animals, and vice versa, you can make the decision whether to allow the animals to interact freely, without restraint. In some situations, this may never be a good idea, but it’s up to you to decide. Toy and Miniature Poodles are quite small and can be stepped on by an angry or unaware horse, so allowing your puppy to roam freely in the stable may not be the best idea. Poodles with high prey drives may also find it difficult to interact with poultry without chasing or attacking. As you work with your puppy, you’ll get a better idea of his personality and will be better able to predict his behavior in certain situations. You should also have some idea of how the other animals will react to your Poodle after they get used to him, so use your best judgment to decide when and how they will be allowed to interact with each other.

Pack Mentality

It may be difficult to look at your Poodle and believe he is the descendant of wolves, but his behavior in regard to his pack definitely reflects his wild heritage. Dogs, like wolves, are social animals and conduct themselves according to a strict hierarchy in their group. Dogs are most comfortable as followers but will take over the position as leader if they are not provided with proper boundaries and guidance. Some dogs are naturally more submissive then others and will fall into line much more easily. More dominant dogs may constantly challenge the leader and may need more work to keep them in place. It’s important to be aware that this hierarchy is dependent on a dog’s individual personality, rather than size. A Toy Poodle is just as likely to challenge you as his pack leader as a Standard Poodle. Whether you have an entire pack of dogs or other pets, or just a single Poodle, it’s important that you set clear boundaries and maintain your position as leader of the pack. A dog of any size without rules and limitations can easily become unmanageable or even dangerous.

Small Dog Syndrome

For small dogs, such as Toy and Miniature Poodles, it’s even more important to make sure that they understand their place in the pack hierarchy. Little dogs are often allowed to get away with more inappropriate behavior because they aren’t considered to be as dangerous as larger dogs. This type of behavior is often referred to as ‘small dog syndrome’ and can be a challenge to correct if it isn’t prevented. Behaviors such as resource guarding, jumping on people, refusing to obey commands, and being overly protective of his owner should be corrected each and every time your dog attempts them. This type of attitude is rarely tolerated in large dogs, but since small dogs are generally viewed as cute little stuffed animals rather than the descendants of wolves, they tend to get away with more bad behavior. If your Poodle starts to exhibit any of these behaviors, it needs to be corrected immediately to prevent it from escalating. If you are having trouble recognizing or correcting behaviors associated with small dog syndrome, contact a professional trainer or behavior specialist as soon as possible.

Be a Confident Pack Leader

In natural pack settings, the leader of the pack is allowed to do as he pleases. He is the first to eat and can sleep wherever he wants. He never moves out of the way of other pack members and puts others in their place with growling, snapping, or showing his teeth. As the leader of your pack, it’s essential that you act appropriately. If your Poodle is sitting in your favorite chair or in your spot in the bed, you must be willing to do what it takes to move him out of the way. When you feed your dog, try asking him to sit and wait politely, rather than diving into the bowl immediately. You must also be the first to walk through doorways and not allow your dog to shove his way past you. If you must correct your dog, never hit, yell, or kick your dog. This will only frighten your dog and will not establish your position as leader. Remaining calm, assertive, and consistent in your leadership will help you maintain a stable and manageable pack.

Fighting/Bad Behavior

Poodle standingIf your puppy begins to exhibit any aggressive or inappropriate behavior, it’s essential that you correct it immediately. If your corrections are inconsistent or nonexistent, this behavior will likely escalate, potentially leading to a fight. Your puppy must understand that this behavior will not be tolerated. This also applies to any other dogs already in your household. Older dogs should be allowed to correct an overly exuberant puppy, but they should never act aggressively. Terri L. Creech of Bear Cove Standard Poodles explains, “Understand that the puppy is coming into a home with pets that have been there for a while. An older dog may not want to be pestered by a puppy. They will correct the puppy, and as long as the older pets doesn’t hurt the puppy, they are acting within their rights. Make sure they can get away from an annoying ‘little brother’ and have some quiet time alone.” During the first few weeks or months after bringing your puppy home, it’s important to supervise your pets during all interactions to make sure they are behaving themselves and that you can correct them if they are not.

Control the Enviorment

Once your dog has begun to exhibit aggressive behavior, it’s important to properly manage him and his surroundings to help prevent him from getting into a fight. In combination with proper training, his bad behavior may eventually disappear, but it will take time and effort to accomplish this. If you know your dog is a resource guarder, try to avoid situations in which he may feel the need to protect his possessions until you have better control over his behavior. You may want to remove toys from the house or feed the dogs in their own crates. If you cannot seem to get control over your dog’s aggressive behavior, or have doubts about your abilities to do so, contact a professional trainer immediately. The sooner you get help, the better, because aggression will likely escalate over time and may result in tragedy.

Stopping a Dog Fight

If your Poodle does end up in a fight, take care in breaking up the fight to prevent yourself from being bitten. Never grab a dog by the collar as he can easily turn around and bite you. Even a dog who is not usually aggressive toward humans can bite during times of stress and extreme emotion. This is one of the only times that yelling at your Poodle is appropriate. Loud noises such as yelling, banging food bowls, or stomping can help distract the dogs and break up the fight. If you have water near you, throwing water on the dogs can also surprise them and end the fight. If you absolutely must physically intervene, try using an item such as a board, playpen panel, or even a blanket to separate the dogs. If you are still unable to separate the dogs, decide which dog is the aggressor and grab him by the back legs and pull him away from the other dog. You must do this quickly, however, so that he doesn’t have the chance to turn around to bite you. Once you have the dogs separated, it’s crucial that you restrain both dogs immediately to prevent another fight.

Be Willing to Get Expert Help

Aggressive behavior can be incredibly dangerous and difficult to correct, so you need to be willing to admit when you need help. If you have any doubts about your ability to handle an aggressive dog, you need to contact a professional trainer immediately. A trainer will not only help you learn techniques to correct aggressive behavior but will help you learn to manage your dog and his surroundings to prevent fights. Dog fights have serious consequences and must be taken seriously, so don’t be afraid to seek help as soon as possible.

Raising Multiple Puppies from the Same Litter

Dogs are social animals and are generally happy to share their home with other dogs. It might be reasonable to assume that they would be even happier to grow up alongside one of their littermates. However, there are important factors to consider when deciding whether or not to bring home two or more puppies from the same litter. Not only will you be cleaning up more messes, but two puppies will cost you more money, though your puppy will have a constant companion, which may help in preventing separation anxiety. If you do decide to adopt multiple puppies, carefully consider whether or not you are willing and able to take on the extra work and responsibility.

It’s Like Growing Up with a Twin

Raising multiple puppies from the same litter can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll be able to see them progress alongside each other in their training. You will need to take them for daily walks, of course, but having multiple dogs means more opportunities for them to exercise themselves. Puppies love to play, and multiple puppies are guaranteed to wear themselves out if allowed to play as much as they like. You will also worry less when leaving your dogs home alone, knowing that they have companions to keep them company until you return home. Additionally, adopting littermates solves the potentially complicated situation of introducing dogs who do not know each other.

The Work Multiplies

Poodle in park
Photo Courtesy – Nick and Krysta Ventriglio

Unfortunately, bringing home littermates also presents quite a few problems. Multiple puppies can get into trouble much faster and be more destructive if left unsupervised. You will also have to dedicate a significant amount of time to training multiple dogs. Each dog will need regular individual training sessions, so be prepared to spend more time working with your dogs. Dogs who are raised with littermates can also develop severe anxiety when separated if they aren’t regularly allowed to be on their own. Taking your dogs on individual walks and leaving each of them home alone on a regular basis can help them gain the confidence to be on their own. House-training will also be significantly more difficult with more than one dog. You will need to supervise multiple dogs in the house and yard as well. You must also consider the financial burden of multiple dogs. You will be buying more food and paying for more veterinary care and grooming appointments. Raising littermates can be a rewarding experience, but you must decide whether you are ready for the commitment.

Options if Your Pets Don’t Get Along

When you’re introducing your new Poodle puppy to your current dogs or other pets, don’t be too concerned if they do not get along right away. Older pets may be set in their ways and resistant to change and may need extra time to adapt to living with a puppy. You may need to keep them separated for a few weeks or months until they get used to each other. It’s essential that you remain calm and patient throughout this introductory phase and do not rush the natural progression of your pets’ relationship. Some animals just need more time, but on occasion there may be pets that simply don’t want to live together.

No Easy Choices

Giving up a beloved pet is a heartbreaking decision, so carefully consider whether this is the best option for your circumstances. Some owners love their pets dearly and are willing to manage their household in a way that limits the animals’ interactions, rather than giving one of them away. Understand that keeping and managing two animals who don’t get along is a lifelong responsibility, especially if their behavior toward each other is aggressive. It can be time consuming and exhausting to feed, exercise, and groom two or more pets that can’t be trusted to be together. You will need to provide them with separate, comfortable accommodations where they cannot access each other. It can also be difficult to ensure that each animal is given enough attention and affection to keep it happy. It may be possible to work with a professional trainer who can help familiarize the animals over time.

Re-Homing Your Poodle or Other Pet

Another option is to find a new home for one of your pets. This is a decision not to be taken lightly, but if it necessary for the animals’ well-being, then it may be your best option. Some animals are happier as single pets, while others simply need a companion with a different temperament. If you’ve exhausted your other options and can see no way to manage your pets’ dislike for each other for the next 10-15 years, it may be time to call it quits. It’s a heartbreaking decision to have to make, but as a pet owner, your pets’ well-being is your responsibility and you must do your best to ensure your pets’ needs are being met to the best of your ability.

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