When you bring home your new poodle, training is almost certainly on your mind. There are so many different philosophies of dog training that we cannot possibly cover them all in-depth, but here are some tried and true methods of training when it comes to curbing certain behaviors and promoting others. Whether you are looking for specialized training or simple obedience training, a poodle is smart enough to step into almost any role for which he is adequately trained. With poodles, the possibilities are almost endless. If you want a therapy dog, your poodle can do it. If you need a service dog, your poodle can probably do that, too. If you just want a good, well-behaved dog, your poodle can fill that role. Of course, some of these jobs require more extensive training than others, and if you plan to train your dog for service or therapy, you will need to be committed and put in the time and effort required to produce such a dog. Poodles are a very popular breed for these training programs, however, because they are usually eager to please and intelligent. When it comes to training for basic obedience and companionship, these traits come in handy as well.
Are Poodles Easy to Train?
Poodles are easy to train because they are very intelligent. Poodles are ranked second among dogs in terms of how obedient poodles are. Also, poodles have very good temperament. Poodles are very attentive. Therefore, if you put in the time and the effort to train your poodle, you will quickly see the rewards of the time and effort that you put into training your poodle.
However, for you to effectively training your poodle, you need to start training your poodle very early in life. As the saying goes, you can`t teach an old dog new tricks. For the best results, you should teach your poodle all the important commands and manners before your poodle reaches the age of 8 months. After your poodle reaches 8 months of age, it will become more difficult to train your poodle.
Different Philosophies of Training a Poodle
When it comes to dog training, there are many different opinions, and often proponents of a particular method insist that others are inferior. With each type of training claiming to be the best, it’s hard to know what approach you should take with training your poodle. The best thing to do is to understand a little bit about each philosophy of training and decide what best fits your personality. The best kind of training is the kind that you can be consistent with. You want to enjoy the training process so that you will be more likely to stick with it. Choose a philosophy of training that fits your needs and lifestyle. Here are few popular methods.
1. Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement training focuses on rewarding your dog for obedience. This type of training works best with dogs who are food motivated. If your dog loves treats, this training might work well for you. Some professional trainers stress the importance of keeping food out of reach when you are using it as a reward for good behavior in this kind of positive reinforcement training. You can still make sure your dog gets enough nutrition throughout the day without leaving food out for them. If you keep the food and treats with you, you are teaching your dog that good behavior is associated with food and that food is not free. If a dog is not particularly motivated by treats or food, clicker training may work. Positive reinforcement training focuses on rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior. You can also use praise as a reward if your poodle seems to respond to that. Critics of positive reinforcement training will mention that this is a difficult way to curb unwanted behaviors. You may be able to teach your dog basic commands using positive reinforcement, but it will be difficult to stop them from nipping, chewing, or barking when you are using only positive reinforcement.
2. Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning is a type of training that is derived from Pavlov’s famous experiment with his dogs. When he noticed that the dog’s would salivate when they heard the ringing of the bells because they had learned to associate the bells with food, he unlocked a method of training that would be used for years to come. We can teach our dogs to associate a noise with something else. You can use a bell or the sound of your voice saying certain commands. You can associate these sounds with treats or food so that your dog will eventually respond to your voice or to the bell without needing the treat.
3. Relationship Training
Relationship training focuses on building a trusting relationship between you and your dog. This type of training takes a lot of patience and commitment.
4. Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning using both positive reinforcement and punishment to reward good behaviors and correct bad behaviors.
Methods of Training of Poodle
Now that you know the main philosophies of training, you may be wondering how to administer these types of training. The methods of training are not limited to these, but
1. Electronic Training
Electronic training is also known as shock collar training, and it is a highly controversial form of training. Proponents of this method point to the fact that shock collars can be used on a low setting, and that they get the dog’s attention without causing much pain. Critics of this method do not think that it is ethical to use a shock as a way of training a dog, regardless of how well the method might work in curbing bad behaviors. Excessive barking is most often addressed with electronic training. A bark collar will automatically administer a shock when a dog barks. However, collars with a remote control that can administer a shock can be used to train your dog in other areas. When people use remote collars for training, they usually incorporate positive reinforcement by also carrying treats so they can give the dog a reward when they observe desired behaviors and, alternatively, administer a shock when they observe undesirable behaviors.
2. Prong Collar and Leash Training
Using a prong collar and a leash is one method that allows you to train your dog using both positive reinforcement and punishment. When you train with a leash and prong collar, you begin by keeping your dog on a leash with you, even in the house. Keeping your dog in this proximity to you will allow you to observe both desirable and undesirable behaviors. When you notice an undesirable behavior, give a quick pull on the leash. The prongs will grab your dog’s attention quickly but will not be painful. Keep treats on you to reward positive behavior. If you plan to use a clicker, keep that close by as well and use the clicker when you give your dog a treat so that the noise is associated with the treat. This type of training combines a variety of methods for optimal outcome.
Desired Outcomes in Training
Now that you know some philosophies and methods of training, we’re ready to talk about all the possibilities that are before you. And with a poodle, the possibilities are abundant.
The first training you are likely to focus on will be house training, especially if your new poodle companion is a puppy. House training is the first step toward a companionship, as you must be able to live with one another comfortably. The best way to house train your new puppy is to use positive +reinforcement in the form of treats, praise, or the clicker associated with both treats and praise. When your puppy relieves himself outside, use the clicker and a treat or your voice and a treat to make sure your puppy knows that he has done something good. Take your puppy outside frequently. The longer the time in between accidents in the house, the more quickly your puppy will be trained to know that outside is where he should go. If your puppy does have an accident in the house, move the poop outside. If he pees in the house, soak it up on a rag and move the rag outside. This will teach your puppy that those things belong outside, not inside. You should not yell at your puppy for an accident because relieving himself is necessary, and if he has had an accident it is likely because you did not take him outside often enough. It can be difficult to take your puppy outside often enough to reduce or eliminate indoor accidents. To make this process easier on you and your puppy, keep him on a leash next to you until he is house trained. This may seem excessive, but he will house train very quickly with this method. Your puppy is less likely to relieve himself while he is on a leash. Keeping him on a leash next you also ensures that you will notice when your puppy starts sniffing and acting like he needs to go potty. When you notice this behavior, you can put him outside immediately. If you have a safe, fenced in area for him, take the leash off him when you take him outside to go potty. When he does go potty, offer a treat and praise, and use the clicker if you are clicker training. When you do this consistently, your puppy will learn quickly. Larger breeds tend to house train more quickly than smaller breeds. There are a few reasons for this. First, larger breeds can hold their bladders longer, so you are more likely to take them outside often enough. Secondly, larger breeds view a larger area as their living space, and they do not like to go potty in their living space. A smaller breed may not see the back bedroom as his living space and will think it is a good place to relieve himself. It may take you longer to house train your toy poodle than your standard poodle, but this method will work when used consistently no matter what size your poodle is.
Most poodle owners just want basic obedience training. For obedience training, you’ll want to make sure your poodle knows her name. Professional Trainer and owner of BFF Dog Training, Linda Cree says that she teaches a dog his name first. She says that teaching a dog his name means teaching them to stop what they are doing and look at me and focus on me. You must teach them to relax and be calm, teaching self-control and how to relax. Once they learn to focus on you when you say their name, you will have a starting point. From there, you can begin to teach basic obedience commands, rewarding your dog with a treat and praise for every good behavior. Cree stresses the importance of not feeding your dog all the time or leaving food down for him. Food must be the motivator for training, and it should not be free. She says that many trainers don’t even own food bowls, because they feed their dogs by hand throughout the day as they respond to commands. With this method, you are teaching your dog that you are his source of food and that he must work to get that food. This keeps your dog motivated to hear and respond to your voice. Then when you teach commands such as “sit” “stay” “come” and “heel,” your dog will be eager to obey that command and receive the treat as a reward.
For poodles, it is essential that you begin grooming training early. If you wait until they’re six months old, they will be terrified of the groomer, and a bad experience at the groomer could result in further trauma. This will make it difficult for you or a professional groomer to care for your dog. You can start this process by conditioning your puppy to the sound and feel of grooming. For example, if you file one nail each day, your puppy will be getting used to the sound and feel of having his nails trimmed a little at a time. If you feed your puppy out of your hand while you trim each nail, she will associate the sound and feeling with something positive. Apply the process of grooming every day to acclimate them to the experience so it’s a happy experience. The key to grooming training is “early and often”. Start grooming your puppy at a young age, and work with him a little bit each day. When you do this early, eventually you will not need to continue this training because your poodle will associate going to the groomer’s (or being groomed by you) with positive feelings.
Common Behavior Problems in Poodles and How to Avoid Them
Begging for Food
You definitely do not want your poodle begging for food. For one thing, poodles can tend to have sensitive stomachs, and their digestive systems can become upset by human food and table scraps. If your poodle begs for food, you may end up with an uninformed but well-meaning friend or family member feeding your poodle human food. Teaching your poodle not to beg really starts with making sure she never does get table scraps. This can be difficult, especially with standard poodles who can reach countertops. By keeping food out of your poodle’s reach, you can prevent her from ever starting to beg. Maybe you didn’t know this, and you already have a poodle that begs for food. That is okay. It’s never too late to start your training. Poodles are smart, and they catch on quickly. You can start putting your poodle somewhere out of the way during family meals so that they are not able to beg for food at a time when you are not available to correct the behavior.
Make sure that all food is cleaned up and out of the way before you allow your poodle back into the area.
We mentioned earlier that one of the best ways to train dogs is to keep food, even dog food, out of their reach and reward them with dog food and treats for their obedience to commands. This is also a good way to make sure that your dog doesn’t beg. Your dog should not think that he gets food for free. This is a basic part of training. If your poodle associates food with his obedience to your commands, that will eliminate begging. A poodle who begs for food thinks he deserves that food just because he wants it. A poodle who has been trained to obey commands and receives food and treats as a reward will be eager to please their owner and will be looking for ways to earn is food rather than begging for it and expecting to get that food for free. So if you want your poodle to stop begging (or if you want to make sure he never starts begging) keep all food (human and dog) up and out of reach and only feed him as a reward for obeyed commands.
Jumping on People
Some dogs tend to jump when they see people. This is especially true of dogs who love people and excited when they see new people or when their owners come home from work. Some poodles are a little shy when they first meet people, and they tend to retreat when faced with new people. Others, however, are naturally friendly, and these ones can tend to jump up on people. You can curb this behavior by turning your back on your poodle when he jumps on you. A dog who jumps up is looking for attention and affection. Turning your back on him denies him this affection and teaches him that jumping is not going to result in affection. When your poodle does not jump up on you, have a treat and/or clicker ready to make sure your dog understands that he is being rewarded for approaching you without jumping.
Pulling on leash
If you want to take your companion for a walk, you’re going to need to train her how to walk on a leash. It’s totally normal for puppies to pull on their leashes and even try to work their way out of their collars when they’re first introduced to a leash. This is the last thing you want to deal with, especially if you’re walking in a neighborhood with high traffic. When you first start walking your poodle, you will want to have a harness and leash rather than just a collar. Some harnesses are designed to dissuade dogs from pulling. When you pull the leash back toward yourself, the harness will make cause your poodle to respond more quickly. It will also help make sure that you don’t accidentally choke them or hurt their necks by pulling on a collar too forcefully. Once your poodle is trained to walk using a harness, you may be able to use just a collar and leash. Use the command “heel” and tug on the leash, holding it so that your dog is on a short enough leash that she is walking right next to you. When she obeys, give her a treat or affection, with the use of the clicker if you are clicker training. When she learns to walk next to you, you can slowly give her more lead on her leash, rewarding her for sticking next to you and giving a gentle pull on the leash when she begins to pull.
Chewing and Biting
While you train your dog to obey your commands, you may notice that she engages in some undesirable behaviors as well, such as chewing. If you want to train your dog to stop chewing on items that are not chew toys, you will need to spend some time in direct supervision of your dog. When you are supervising your dog, and you notice he is chewing on something, you can teach the command “no” or “leave it”. You can leave out chew toys for your dog to find for himself when you have told him not to chew something else, but do not bring your dog a chew toy to replace what he is currently chewing on. Cree says imagine your dog is thinking, “If I chew this table leg, my owner will bring me a toy.” Your attempt to replace his chewing item is perceived as a reward, and your dog does not get the message that chewing on the table let was wrong. Instead, he feels that chewing on the table leg brought him attention and a toy. Have toys out that are accessible to them so that when you tell them “No” or “leave it” they can go choose something else themselves. Don’t bring them a toy or they will think they are being rewarded. If you catch them chewing something they should chew on like a toy or bone, praise them. In this way, your poodle will eventually learn that you are displeased when he chews on certain items but pleased when he chews on others. Poodles are smart, and they usually want to please their owners, so this method should work. Eventually, your poodle will only gravitate toward the items he knows he can chew.
Some poodles will bark more than others because of their temperament, but training can curb this behavior. It is important to note that poodles do have a high watch dog capability, and along with this comes the tendency to bark when they suspect an intruder. Many will bark when they hear people too close to the front door or yard. This is another behavior that requires close supervision to train. You can associate a word with a negative consequence for barking. For example, say “quiet” when you give a gentle tug on his leash and prong collar. If you choose to use an electric remote collar, you can administer a slight shock when your dog barks, associated with your command of “quiet”. If you do not believe in this method, you can use positive reinforcement by praising your dog when you notice he is not barking, although this method may require quite a bit more patience.
Dogs whine and cry for many good reasons. However, your poodles may cry and whine to get attention or to get his or her way. If your poodle cries and whines unnecessarily, ignore your poodle until your poodle stops the bad habit. However, make sure your poodle is not crying or whining out of pain or anxiety or stress before you decide to ignore your poodle.
Training Your Poodle for Special Purposes
If you have purchased your poodle with the express intent of training for service or therapy, you have likely done extensive researched and purchased from a breeder who conducted temperament testing. From there, you have either found and hired a professional trainer or you have studied how to train your dog quite extensively. There are a few different types of service dogs, and they all require extensive training, which is far more complex than what we can describe here. Service dogs usually complete a year of basic obedience training before they go on to be trained in a particular area of service. There are a variety of services poodle’s can perform from medical alert to seeing eye dogs.
Diabetic Alert training
Scent training. There are a lot of steps to scent training. For a full understanding of teaching your dog this skill, pick up a copy of How to Teach Your BFF to be Your Diabetes Alert Dog and a scent training kit.
Seizure Alert Training
Service dogs also need to be trained in how to behave in public, since they are likely going everywhere with their owners. They need to be trained to sit still and remain quiet in a movie theater, how to walk through a supermarket without being distracted by people, and how to respond. For more in depth descriptions of how to train a dog for seizure alert, visit Canine Partners for Life
Seeing Eye Dog Training
Seeing eye dogs go through some of the most intensive training before they go to their final placements with the owner they will guide. They start with puppy raisers, and when they are a couple months old, they go to their seeing eye trainers, where they will train for several months. To find a seeing eye dog trainer near you and to learn more about how seeing eye dogs are trained, visit Guide Dogs for the Blind
When you’re looking for a serious trainer to teach your poodle how to be a therapy dog, you really need to sift through the programs and make sure that you find a legitimate program and trainer. There are many programs out there claiming to be therapy programs and offering certificates of therapy to your poodle, but not all of them are legitimate programs. This is because there has been a wave of people seeking to get therapy certificates for their animals just so they can legally take their dog onto an airplane or into stores or so that a landlord cannot tell them they can’t own it in their apartment. This has caused significant issues for people with genuine conditions that require a real therapy dog, as the very term “therapy dog” has been watered down to mean a dog that makes someone feel better. That is not what a real therapy dog is. A real therapy dog is highly trained to respond to the needs of his owner. Therapy dogs have been extremely affective for people with moderate to severe PTSD and people who suffer from anxiety attacks. These dogs are often trained according to the specific needs of the owner. PAWWs (Paws assisting wounded warriors) is a legitimate program that works with Veterans with PTSD and trains their dogs to serve them as therapy dogs. In this program, the dog will undergo basic obedience training before being admitted to the therapy and service program. The Veteran will bring his or her dog to the training once per week where dog and owner learn together so that the owner can continue with the training throughout the week.
Water and Hunting Training
Some people are surprised to find out that poodles, particularly standard poodles, can make excellent hunting companions. If you intend to hunt with your poodle, it is best that you purchase a puppy that comes from field lines and has parents or grandparents who were successful hunters. If you have a poodle with hunting potential, it will still take time and effort to train your poodle to hunt with you. You can get your poodle to enjoy the water by starting out with warm water when your puppy is quite young. If you purchase from hunting lines, your breeder will likely have already started the water training with the puppies before they even leave their mother. When you get your puppy, you can begin getting him acclimated to water by going into the water with him and beginning with warm water. Gun Dog Magazine describes this process in greater detail. Along with water training, you will want to help your poodle get used to the sound of gun fire.
Show Handling and Training
The Whole Dog Journal has extensive descriptions of training your poodle for the show ring. If you’re thinking about showing your poodle, there is a lot to know. A lot of people who want their poodles to perform in shows will hire an experienced handler to train and show their poodles. Some will opt to train and show their own poodles. This requires a huge time commitment and extensive training and rigorous work. Often, showing poodles is more than just a side hobby. For many people, it’s a way of life. If you really want to get into showing your poodle, be prepared to sacrifice a lot of time and money. The basics of show training are gaiting and stacking. It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite complex. You will need to train your poodle how to stand for examination by the judges, and how to walk in a certain way around the ring (gaiting). For show handling and training, you will want to find a mentor who can teach you the specifics of showing your poodle.
Final Thoughts: Connect with a Trainer
When it comes to training your poodle, you need your companion to know that you are the one in charge, and that can be hard to establish without extensive knowledge of training. Luckily, there are ways to connect with trainers who will partner with you to train your dog. Some training programs require you to send your dog away for training, but the most sustainable and effective programs will work with you to teach you how to train your dog so that he learns how to respond to you, not just some other trainer. You can connect with trainers to learn the ins and outs of training your own dog. Having a good relationship with a trainer who can teach you how to train your own dog is the best way to keep your dog learning and growing in his training.