Update January 2011
PUPPY TRAINING TIPS
LEASH TRAINING TIPS: We prefer the Hound collar for our standard and miniature poodles. These are available now through several distributors (see our links page) and are the best collar for poodles as they are wider at the front and narrow at the back and also acts as a mild choke collar. They also have extra padding to protect the throat on your poodle, which helps to prevent chronic coughing. The poodle has a soft silky skin which is thinner than many breeds of dogs, and leaves more chance of damage to the esophageal passage if a regular choke chain or narrow collar is used. The Hound collar from Fidogear comes in several sizes, however they will also custom make them for your poodle without extra charge. They also make leashes to match. For a leash I prefer an 18" lead for initial training and whenever doing obedience work, or walking a poodle in a heavily trafficked area. Long leashes and retractables are only for play times or potty times. When walking your new puppy never let them sniff the ground. Sniffing the ground leads to picking up bacteria from other dogs urine. This is how Parvo and Corona, both deadly diseases, can be picked up. Never walk your new puppy on a school playground or a rest area doggy area - they are the most contaminated by dogs who have not been vaccinated. Some puppies, indiscriminate as they are will also eat the feces (poo) of other dogs, cats or other animals. This is how they pick up parasites - stomach worms, tapeworms, etc. They will also drink contaminated water and pick up parasites such as coccidiosis and giarrdia. We use a "head up" command when walking the puppies, and a "walk" command. When you get into technical obedience training you use the "heel" command. Do not just snap a leash on a new puppy and start pulling on it. Our puppies are trained from 3-4 weeks on with a "come" command with a soft clap, and from 4-5 weeks on with a "let's walk". Attach the leash and walk backwards giving a soft clap and "Come, baby" command. As soon as the puppy starts toward you, turn and give the "let's walk" command. If the puppy gets startled and balks momentarily stop and pet the puppy, and start the procedure over again, encouraging the puppy with each step forward that it takes. If you just pull on the leash the puppy is not sure enough of itself or you to recognize what you want of it. Be very careful in heavily trafficked areas of busses and trucks with hydraulic brakes - they hiss - which can scare a new puppy badly. Make sure the collar is tight enough that it will not slip over the head if the puppy tries to back up quickly. If your puppy feels apprehensive or gets badly startled immediately get down on its level and give it reassurance. In this way you will build it's confidence.
PIDDLING PUPPIES: Puppies do not piddle on purpose. They can lose confidence which can cause submission piddling, or they can be over excited which can cause excitement piddling. Female pups are a bit worse for this than male pups. Both are caused by a weak or untrained sphincter, and more and more control comes as the puppy gets older - just like potty training a child. In the female puppy we lightly tap the vulva - to teach them to tighten the sphincter, in male puppies we tap the sheath. The more you actually discipline a puppy for this the worse you can make it. Poodles that are "thinkers" are very sensitive to discipline - a firm word is all they need. This was "Raven" - a firm word and he would go sit in a corner all on his own - he felt remorse. Poodles that are "clowns" can be disciplined with a firm word, and just become more of a "clown" - this was "Saxon" - he would run around in circles - sorry in his own way, but not with remorse. The more confidence building encouragement puppies get the quicker they will outgrow the piddling stage. It is also very important to realize that puppies that are piddling constantly, or go out and urinate and then come in and piddle can have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Sometimes a single bacteria can be picking up in the sheath of male puppies or vaginal canal of female puppies during the birthing process. The bacteria starts to grow, but does not become a visible problem until puppies are approximately 14-16 weeks of age. Female puppies can also have a white creamy discharge from the vulva anywhere from 16 weeks to 30 weeks, as they have a silent heat cycle at the same time as their dams first heat cycle post whelping. If not kept clean this can increase the chance of UTI's or vaginal infection. Diagnosis and treatment are very simple - just a urinalysis and antibiotics, and usually the piddling will cease as the UTI is cured. It is really important to finish a complete prescription of antibiotics so that infection does not recur. ***Infections not treated can cause bladder and kidney damage.
CRATE TRAINING: We use crate training for several purposes. Our favorite crate is the Furrari - it has the "click-it" system of latches on the sides and back, very easy to dismantle and put together. It is heavier built, has a gate that opens either direction or can be lifted off at any time - very handy once your poodle is trained and past it's teething stages. We do not use the wire cage crates. The Ferrari is also very safe for transporting by car or by air. For small miniatures we suggest the #250, for larger miniatures the #350, for our smaller standards the #450, for our largest standards the #550. The Ferrari's are two toned - sand colored on the top, and dark colored on the bottom (colors seem to change each year for the different sizes). For teething puppies we suggest the cheapest bedding you can find - they will chew it up (check out blankets/towels from Goodwill, garage sales etc). For the mature pups and adults we love the Quiet Time pads (now several brands out) - no zippers, no cedar for pups under 6 months (they will potty on it as the resin smells like pup potty training aid), and they are made of heavy imitation fleece, with heavy duck backing, and have a rolled pillow edging. These will take hundreds of launderings and hold up. Some of the copycat brands are not made quite as well. Check them out at Petco, and then order the brand you like best from your Pet Edge or Care-A-Lot catalog. The trick to effective crate training is to have tiny puppy biscuits available. Our puppies are put in their crates at night and are given 1 biscuit and told to "hush, it's bedtime". In a minute or two I give them a 2nd biscuit, and a couple of minutes later - their last biscuit. This teaches them patience, and I also use the "wait" command combined with the "hush" command. "Hush, now - you Wait". We always give the puppies a special touch or hug before they go into their crate and when we get them out in the morning. This helps to prevent the submission piddling or excitement piddling because we are taking a moment to encourage the puppy and tell them what a "Good, baby" they were. Once the puppies are crating well at night, we do the same for naptimes in the daytime. We try to never crate more than two hours at a time. It's important to get your puppies outside almost immediately on removing from the crate, to prevent the piddlling. Once puppies are well trained to the crate they love having their crates as their dens - even with the doors open many will find their favorite crate - to stash their toys, their bones, special treats. In large gatherings when they might feel overwhelmed - they love having their open crates to go to. Crating is not cruel.
TEETHING: Crating during the teething stages is also important, as it prevents damage to household goods, and it keeps the family from having to discipline a puppy too much. It can also help to prevent puppies eating something they shouldn't (small toys, underwear, socks, cell phones, remote controls, poisonous house plants, etc) that can block their intestinal passages and result in very expensive surgery or even in death. The main teething stages are usually about 16-20 weeks when the baby teeth fall out and the permanent teeth come in, and then at approximately 10-14 months when the 1st year molars come in. Teething for 2nd years molars is usually at about 22-26 months and doesn't seem to be as bad. We do not use Greenies or Bouda Bones. We do use plain large white rawhide bones or retriever rolls, or large leg beef bones (organic). Dry kibble and chew bones help the puppies teeth to come in, as well as massage the gums, and help to prevent tartar on the teeth, and also help to prevent anal gland infections. All of our pups have also liked to raid the kindling box for a favorite piece of wood to chew on - and it's never hurt them a bit. Better than your dining room table leg.
DISTRACTION METHOD TRAINING: Poodle puppies are highly intelligent and raising them is much like raising a child. Our standard poodles especially develop almost 21 years in their first year of life - from infancy, to toddler, to pre-school, to school, to pre-adolescent, to adolescent, to teenager, to young adult. What a lot of physical and mental development in one year. Then in their 2nd and 3rd years they almost stay the same. Then the general rule of thumb of 1 year of a dogs life is equivalent to 7 years of a humans life seems to apply. Distraction method correction is often used in young children, and we apply it to raising our young standard and miniature poodles. Save the cardboard rolls from toilet paper, packing tape, aluminum foil, etc. Also small boxes and medium size boxes are good. Just like toddlers tend to need to go through a destructive stage (remember the towers of blocks knocked down over and over again) so do poodle puppies in their own way. We give them cardboard rolls - they are very light and easy for very young puppies to carry around, squash flat, chew up, tear apart - and they won't hurt the puppies and the pieces are easy to clean up, and they are free, and the puppies absolutely love them. And since I have done this my puppies have never touched the roll of toilet paper. Another thing to get at Goodwill is an old leather pair of boots or shoes. They will not smell like yours. Never, ever give your puppy your old shoes to chew on. When the puppy gets one of your shoes, gently take it away, and give it the Goodwill shoe saying "this is your shoe". Have a container for the puppies toys. Corner feed bins for horses are great (check your local feed store) - large enough, come in many colors, aren't too deep for a puppy to reach into and fit nicely in a corner to hold toys and bones. Whenever your puppy picks up something it should not have, gently take it away and give it something similar that it can have. Never hit your poodle puppy in the face - remember this pup has to have it's face groomed it's entire life. I have rescued several poodles that have been hit in the face with the object they were not supposed to have. Head shyness in a poodle creates great problems and is not a normal condition.
MOUTHING: Remember the poodle is a retriever, and like all retriever breeds, may tend to mouth the hand - this is not the same as biting, although a puppy who is used to playing with it's siblings may actually nip a bit as they are trying to resolve what part a human plays in its life. A gentle muzzle squeeze combined with the term "Be Easy" or "Be Gentle" is usually all that is needed. In a pup with a bit more stubborness or independence sometimes a little firmer squeeze is needed. We use a gentle squeeze for the first stage, a firmer squeeze for the 2nd stage (gently pinching the lips against the teeth and causing a whimper), and an inner mouth hold (be careful of the canines) for the third stage. In the third stage the hand is inserted into the mouth and either the upper muzzle held trapping the tongue up, or the bottom muzzle is held, trapping the tongue down. They really don't like this - and if you do it right putting your hand to the rear of the canines, it will prevent them from biting you. We have hardly ever had to go to third stage. Most puppies learn very quickly that you are not another puppy, and that you are not going to tolerate a rough "hold". The same method is used for pupppies that start to grab clothing. If you let a puppy get away with this as a new puppy, you are leaving yourself open to bigger problems later on.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: THE TEASING PUPPY: At about 12-16 weeks puppies decide "game playing" is fun. The first command to teach your puppy is the "Sit" command - and we do use treats for this. It is the most common command used with dogs, and one of the most essential for safety. The "sit" command should become so automatic to your puppy that it is like driving a car, riding a bike, typing - for a person. Once learned - not forgotten. A puppy will mind a sit command faster than a "stop" or "stay" command, because it hears it the most often. When a puppy gets to the teasing stage if they know their "sit" command and obey it instinctively it gives you a chance to control a situation. If a puppy goes to dash out into the street a "sit" command is often more effective than a "stop" or "stay" command, and can keep the puppy from harm. The same if you see a puppy start to pick up something that might be dangerous to it. The puppy is also expecting a reward for it's response to the "sit" command. The 12-16 week old puppy is highly curious, starting to be independent an character. All of a sudden this puppy that was glued to your side and watched your every move decides it has confidence and can do it's own thing. If you try to catch it, it keeps moving further away or around an obstacle. All of a sudden they won't automatically come to be loaded into the car (especially if they suspect they are going to the vets) and you end up playing "Catch me if you can" around and around the car. If you let this start this games gets worse and worse. Give the "Sit" command with a firm but loving voice, go up to the puppy and praise it for taking a "sit" position. Then take ahold of the puppies ruff (skin and hair at the shoulder - don't pinch) and shake it, make eye contact and say "when I say COME, you COME". This really needs to be nipped in the bud, or you will have a puppy who makes a constant habit of this behavior. But it should still be done with love and soft hands and a soft but firm voice. Scare or hurt your puppy, and you will cause loss of confidence, submission and piddling, encourage your puppy to good behavior and you will both be winners.
ROUGH HOUSEING WITH A PUPPY: This is the biggest complaint I get from wives. More men tend to get down on the floor and wrestle with the new puppy. This can start more aggressive and or dominant behavior in a puppy, just as it can with some children. A puppy can then take this dominant alpha attitude and turn it toward the children in the family - especially the younger, smaller children. A poodle is a natural herd dog - in some respects this is good - as a poodle will herd small children away from danger - or put themselves between the child and what they perceive as danger. The bad thing is that most adults don't understand this attitude and misinterpret it as threatening to the child. The puppy that is rough housed with may become too dominant in it's herding and also in it's mouthing, not comprehending that it can be rougher with an adult than it can be with a child. Also if the man of the family works he isn't always available for this rough houseing game, so the pup tries to play it with other family members - and then gets scolded - creating confusion in it's mind as to what is right and what is wrong in it's behavior.
CORRECT RETRIEVER TRAINING: This is the next biggest complaint. When a toy is just thrown, or held and the pup is teased before throwing it this can teach the pup to jump for the hand holding the toy. Again this might be all right with a pup playing with the man of the house, but not with children or other members. Also in two cases of traumatic bloat 1) the object was thrown straight up in the air on very wet muddy ground (typical of Oregon and Washington) and the poodle caught the item but came down hard on his side when his feet flew out from under him - he torsioned his stomach (he was in a "medical" family who recognized the symptoms and had a $2000.00 emergency surgery and lived; 2) the object was thrown over a deck wall - the poodle slipped on wet decking and slammed into a post - after a heavy meal - and again torsioned his stomach (this family did not recognize the symptoms quickly enough and lost their beloved poodle. In correct retrieving always make sure the surroundings are safe for your poodle. Do not feed a large meal before any play time, poodles are nibblers and should have kibble free choice, and their soft feed in a small portion either A.M. or P.M. when fully grown. Correct retriever training is done in steps. With a puppy we start by playing with toys on the floor and throwing the toy a short distance and having them return with it. Then we teach the sit command. At approximately 16 weeks we start the formal retriever training. This combines a sit, stay, wait, watch, retrieve, bring it, and give it sequence. The puppy should sit at you side, be given a stay command (hold the collar or muzzle gently), prepare to throw the toy - give a "wait" command, throw the toy give the "watch" command. When the toy stops bouncing give the retrieve command. When the puppy picks up the toy give the "bring it" command, and when the puppy returns to you give the "give it" command. When your puppy learns this sequence well, he will have wonderful behavior no matter what age he is playing with, and people will be impressed with its obedience to signals.
I've only taken the time to write about a few of the basics that we are constantly asked about. Let me know if there is something you would like to see added here. We have a very common sense approach to training our puppies and believe in lots of loving touches and loving words, and training with very few treats. In most situations I am not going to have a pocket full of treats, and I want my poodles to be good examples of behavior with just a loving pat and a loving word. We do a lot of commendation and scratching of the breast bone (tranquilization point) as they can't scratch it for themselves.
PUPPY TRAINING CLASSES: We encourage you to take puppy training classes with your puppy. I don't suggest the "kindergarten" class for your puppy, however I do encourage those who have not experienced an obedience class and who have very little dog training understanding to attend and observe a "kindergarten" class. I feel that what is taught in a "kindergarten" class is better taught at home, rather than vaccinating puppies at too young an age as possibly compromising their auto immune systems, or triggering a seizure pattern. Over vaccinating, giving too many vaccinations at the same time, or vaccinating too young or without enough time in between for proper antibodies to develop without being in conflict with each other has been determined to be part of the cause of triggering seizures or compromising auto immune systems, leaving the puppy susceptible to a number of health problems at a much earlier age than we would normally see any problems. No matter how safe a breeder tries to be other sources can influence the health of your puppy both now and as an adult. Puppies should be started in an obedience class at about six months of age - poodle puppies not so much for the actual training, which can be taught easily at home, but for the socialization of your puppy with other dogs and other people. It's good to do this before the puppy goes into it's second boogyman stage (usually about 8-14 months for a standard, about 7-11 months for the miniatures). Please always be aware of the other dogs and owners in play parks, doggy care centers, training classes - not everyone has control of their dogs, and some trainers are not always as careful as they should be. The worst injuries to some of our puppies have been under these conditions, and not only have the puppies been traumatised but also the families.