How to Obedience Train a Poodle

Medium
4-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

Jojo was Grandma's purebred Miniature Poodle. While Poodles have a reputation for being hyper, emotional dogs, JoJo, like all Grandma's previous Poodles, was beautifully behaved and listened well to obedience commands. He was a joy to be around, and great with the grandkids. 

So why do Poodles have a reputation for hard-to-control, excitable dogs?  It all depends on the training that their owners invest in them, and the environment they are raised in. Poodles are very smart dogs, second only to Border Collies, and they are high energy people dogs. This can make them easy to train obedience to, as long as they are kept calm and focused. Poodles do not do well in stressful environments where they can get confused and upset and have trouble understanding what is expected of them. Being firm, calm, and gentle is the key to successfully training your Poodle obedience commands.

Defining Tasks

The basic obedience commands are 'come', 'sit', 'stay', 'down' and 'heel'. You can use the English words, or the equivalent words in any language, it doesn't matter. Your Poodle will not understand the language or the words, he simply learns that when he hears that particular sound he is supposed to run over to you, sit his bottom down, not leave the spot he is in, lie down, or walk next to your left leg at the same speed you are moving. You should provide commands in a clear, firm, voice. Do not yell, as this is distressing to your dog, but make sure you speak clearly so your dog can hear you. Many owners find it useful to add hand signals as well as verbal commands to obedience behaviors. Hand signals give you an alternate way to command obedience and can be used when your dog is unable to hear you, or when you are trying not to make any noise. A Poodle can start learning obedience commands very young, as a puppy of 6-8 weeks. Your young Poodle may take a while to learn all the obedience commands, but never underestimate your smart little Poodle dog, he may surprise you with how quick he takes to obedience training.

Getting Started

Training your Poodle obedience will require treats and a leash for learning to heel. Be sure to train your sensitive, high energy poodle when you are in a calm, positive mood, and when your Poodle has had some exercise so that your dog is able to focus on training and not be distracted by excess energy or your mood. Always use positive reinforcement, not negative reinforcement, to obedience train your poodle. Keep training sessions short, especially for young dogs, so they do not become frustrated or bored.

The Capture and Shape Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Start with the simplest command
Have a clicker and treats available. Start with the simplest obedience command for your people-oriented Poodle: 'come'.
Step
2
Reinforce 'come'
Wait for your Poodle to run over to you. When he does click and treat, say “come”. Repeat frequently until your Poodle responds to the command “come”. Gradually remove clicker and treat.
Step
3
Reinforce 'sit'
Wait with a clicker in your hand. When your dog sits down, say “sit”, click and treat. Practice frequently.
Step
4
Reinforce 'down'
Once your dog has mastered 'sit', wait while he is in the sitting position for him to lie down, add the “down” command. Practice.
Step
5
Reinforce 'stay'
Teach the 'stay' command by saying “stay” waiting a few seconds while your dog is in place, then clicking and treating. If your dog moves, do not click and treat but position your dog again and repeat the “stay” command until your dog is successful at staying in place. Gradually increase length of time required for your dog to stay in place before clicking and treating.
Step
6
Reinforce 'heel'
Hold a clicker and treats while you walk your Poodle. When your Poodle trots along at your left leg, click and treat. Do not reinforce if your poodle lags behind or pulls in front.
Recommend training method?

The Lure to Obedience Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Lure to come
Hold a treat out and call your dog by commanding “come”. When your Poodle runs over to you, provide the treat, praise and affection. Repeat often.
Step
2
Lure to sit
Stand in front of your Poodle holding a treat above and slightly behind his head. In order to reach the treat, your dog will move back and onto his bottom. Say “sit” and provide the treat when your dog sits. Practice frequently.
Step
3
Lure to lie down
Ask your dog to sit, then hold a treat down on the ground in front of your Poodle until he lies down on the floor to reach the treat. Say “down” and provide the treat.
Step
4
Lure to stay
While lying down or sitting, ask your dog to “stay”. Hold a treat but do not provide it yet. Wait a few seconds, if your poodle remains in place then reward with the treat. If your dog moves, re-position and repeat until he is successful. Gradually increase the time your dog needs to stay in place to get his treat.
Step
5
Lure to heel
Hold a treat in a closed hand at your side and walk with your Poodle on your left side. Lure your poodle to stay at your left side by letting him smell the treat in your closed hand. Periodically provide the treat as your Poodle walks beside you. Replace with another, hold and continue.
Recommend training method?

The Hand Signals Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Pair hand signal for 'sit'
Hold a treat in your hand, palm up. With your Poodle in front of you, move your palm up to your chest. As your dog tracks your movement he will tend to sit down. Say "sit" and provide the treat when he is successful. Eventually you can stop using the treat and just say “sit” and use the hand signal.
Step
2
Add hand signal for 'down'
Hold a treat between your fingers with your palm facing down and your Poodle in front of you. Move your palm down to the floor and say “down”. When your dog follows your hand and lies down on the floor, provide the treat.
Step
3
Signal 'come'
Hold your hands out parallel to the ground straight out from your sides with a treat in one hand. Call your Poodle to come and bring both your hands together at your chest. When your dog runs over, provide the treat.
Step
4
Add hand signal for 'stay'
To teach your Poodle the hand signal for stay, hold your palm out toward your dog while he is sitting and say “stay”. Provide a treat when your dog stays for a few minutes. Gradually increase time, continue pairing the hand signal and verbal command.
Step
5
Signal and reinforce 'heel'
Tap your hip with your hand while asking your Poodle to heel. Reinforce heeling with treats, praise and affection.
Step
6
Alternate verbal and hand signals
Gradually practice using either verbal or hand signals individually. Decrease using treats and use praise and affection for reinforcement instead.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 02/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Billie
toy poodle
3 Years
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Question
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Billie
toy poodle
3 Years

How do I get my dog to stop barking at everything even when we are all at home? Also she thinks that she needs to protect us from everything and everyone at home or when we are out.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Grace, I suggest combining a few things in your case. First, you need a way to communicate with her so I suggest teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below - don't expect this alone to work but it will be part of the puzzle for what I will suggest next. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, once pup understands what Quiet means you will choose an interrupter - which will be a form of punishment - neither too harsh nor ineffective. An e-collar or Pet Convincer are two of the most effective types of interrupter for most dogs. A pet convincer is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air that you can spray a quick puff of at the dog's side to surprise them enough to help them calm back down. (Don't use citronella and avoid spraying in the face!). An e-collar, aka remote training collar, uses stimulation to interrupt the dog. Only use a high quality e-collar for this, such as E-collar technologies mini educator, Dogtra, SportDog, or Gamin. A good collar should have at least 40 levels, the more levels the more accurately you can train - finding the lowest level your dog will respond to, called a "Working level" so the training is less adverse. In situations where you know pup will bark or is already barking (catch them before they bark if you can), command "Quiet". If they obey, reward with a treat and very calm praise. If they bark anyway or continue to bark, say "Ah Ah" firmly but calmly and give a brief correction. Repeat the correction each time they bark until you get a brief pause in the barking. When they pause, praise and reward then. The combination of communication, correction, and rewarding - with the "Ah Ah" and praise to mark their good and bad behavior with the right timing, is very important. Most bark training only gives part of that equation. Fitting an e-collar - it should be put on while she is calm, just standing around - Ideally have her wear the collar around for a while before starting any training so she won't associate the training with the collar but just with her barking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Finding the level to use for her (sometimes you will have to go 1 or 2 levels higher during training while the dog is aroused but once she improves you can usually decrease back to her normal level again) - this training level is called a dog's "Working level": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing her a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever she DOESN'T bark around something that she normally would have, calmly praise and reward her to continue the desensitization process. An automatic bark collar can also be used during times when she likes to bark while you aren't there after the initial training is done - so she understands that the correction is for her barking at that point in the training. While you are not home, confine her in a crate or room that doesn't look out the windows right now - barking at things out the window lets her practice the bad behavior over and over again and barking is a self-rewarding behavior because of the arousing chemicals released in a dog's brain - so once a dog starts she is encouraged naturally to continue it and stay in that state of mind if you aren't there to interrupt. If she has ever shown any form of aggression toward you or redirected aggression toward you while aroused, I would also desensitize her to wearing a basket muzzle and work on building trust and respect calmly for you through adding in more structure to her day and more structured obedience practice with you, with the safety of a basket muzzle in place first, and consider hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to work with you in person. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ji-An
toy poodle
8 Months
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Question
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Ji-An
toy poodle
8 Months

My toy poodle became aggressive. I can't bring her outside or in the mall because she barks hardly to anyone. What can I do to tame her down?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aubrey, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have her mind on scanning the area in search of others. The walk should start with her having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if she isn't calm. She should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk she should be in the heel position - with her head behind your leg. That position decreases her arousal, reduces stress because she isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents her from scanning for others, staring down, and ignoring you behind her. It also requires her to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and aggressive she is - it makes her feel like the responsibility is on your shoulders not hers around others. Additionally, when you do pass others, as soon as she starts staring them down, interrupt her. Don't tolerate challenging stares - even if she is stressed. Remind her with a gentle correction that you are leading the walk and she is not allowed to break her heel or stare another down. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. This also makes the walk more pleasant for her in the long-run. Leading the walk this way can actually boost a dog's confidence in the long run around others because the dog feels like you will handle the situation so they can relax. Protect her from other dogs and inconsiderate people who rush her. If she feels nervous and someone wants to let her meet their rude, excited dog, tell the other person no thank you. A simple "She's in training" tends to work well. Be picky about who and how she meets others. Avoid dogs and people that don't respect her space, dogs who pull over to her, and generally are not listening to their owners well - those dogs are often friendly but they are rude and difficult for a nervous dog. Also, avoid greeting dogs who look very tense around your dog, who stare her down, who give warning signs like a low growl or lip lift, who look very puffed up and proud - that type greeting with a dog is likely to end in a fight since your dog doesn't know how to diffuse that situation. A stiff wag is also a bad sign. A friendly wag looks relaxed and loose with relaxed body language overall. A tense dog with a very stiff wag, especially with a tail held high is a sign of arousal and not always a good thing. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Reactive dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Severely aggressive dog – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiDe0GNnLQ&t=259s Outside of the walk you can work on building pup's trust and respect for you in other ways too to help her confidence. The following commands and exercises are also good for that: Agility/obstacles for building confidence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elvtxiDW6g0 Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Any tricks that challenge her mentally, require impulse control, and equal her learning new things successfully. A long down stay around distractions is a good thing to practice during walks periodically. A good way to do introductions with other dogs is to recruit friends with calm dogs and use the Passing Approach and the Walking together methods from the article linked below. You can also recruit people you know to do this as people, without dogs, practicing passing a person over and over again and rewarding calm responses from pup. After a few practice session of this, when she can walk calmly side by side with the other dog or person finally, go on walks together with both dogs in a structured, focused heel, or with the person with her in a heel. Repeat this with lots of different dogs and people, one or two at a time - you want other dogs and people to be associated with calmness, pleasant experiences, and boring things. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Sometimes you can even find others to practice with through obedience clubs, meetup groups, or hiking groups. When she does greet another dog nose-to-nose, give slack in the leash, relax yourself, and keep the greeting to a max of 3 seconds, then happily tell her "Let's Go" or "Heel" and start walking away, giving her a treat when she follows so that she will learn to quickly respond to that command in the future. Keeping the greeting relaxed and short can diffuse tension and give the dogs enough time to say hi before competing starts. When she greets people, take safety measures like a leash or basket muzzle that she has been desensitized to ahead of time, and have the other person toss her treats when she is being calm from a distance she is comfortable with. When she is okay with people approaching with lots of practice, then gradually decrease the distance between pup and the person during greetings as she improves. Once she can handle the person being close consistently and respond calmly, have the person give her commands, like Sit, and reward with a treat to increase trust and communication. Finally, when she isn't a bite risk anymore, and is interested in being petting by those she is more comfortable with, have the person briefly pet while feeding a treat at the same time, to desensitize her to being touched by others as well. Again, safety measures need to be taken into consideration and the training moved through gradually, the speed being based on how pup is responding to it, to avoid a bite risk for anyone involved. Ideally a training staff with a trainer you are working with, could help with this part of the training also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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T-Bone
Standard Poodle
1 Year
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Question
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T-Bone
Standard Poodle
1 Year

Always distracted and never listens

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicole, Has pup been through basic obedience training yet? The goal of basic obedience is for pup to learn what the commands mean and to be able to obey those commands in calm settings, what comes next is intermediate obedience. For intermediate obedience, you will gradually work up to distractions and pup developing the skills to obey in those situations too - at first the distraction might be someone walking through the room, a squirrel in the yard, a leaf blowing by, ect...Start with less distracting environments, then gradually move onto harder environments and spend intentional time practicing in each of those new environments until pup can focus there too. For example, in your home without others around is easiest, your backyard is a bit harder, your front yard is even harder, your neighborhood is even hard, your home with guests present is even harder, a pet store is even harder, ect...Go out of your way to practice at the current level pup needs to learn at and to create the distractions pup is ready to learn to overcome during training sessions when you can control things - so that pup can also respond when things are more out of your control in every day life, but keep the distraction level what pup is ready for at that point in the training so pup can still succeed with your help - the goal is to guide pup and provide consistent, calm boundaries at this point. Second, you may need to switch some of your training methods now that pup knows the commands and is sometimes choosing to disobey. For example, when teaching Sit I would first recommend using the Treat Luring method from the article linked below. Once pup knows that method well and has worked up to some distractions, I would enforce my command using the Pressure method from that same article when pup chooses to disobey something they know. The pressure method will still reward some but will also give a gentle consequence for disobedience to encourage pup to obey even when they don't find it as fun. Some other methods to help enforce commands when pup is ready: Reel In method for Come: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Turns method for Heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel The Leash Pressure method for down: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Sit: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit If pup doesn't know these commands really well already, start by using the treat luring methods with each command before using the slightly firmer methods to proof that command once pup has learned the command and just needs to be reminded. Right now you can also keep a drag leash without a handle (for safety reasons to get caught less around the house) on pup while you are home. That way when you give a command like Come and pup ignores you, you can calmly walk over to them and lead them back to where you were - gently teaching them that they need to listen in every day life too. If pup already has the skills and understanding to be able to obey, and you have already worked up to distractions and pup is simply choosing not to, check out the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you If pup has ever shown any form of aggression toward you, there could be a lack of respect that needs addressing or something else like fear or possessiveness of you. If that's the case, I would hire a professional trainer to help you with this in person, taking the necessary precautions to avoid a bite, like a basket muzzle, back tie leash, and crate when appropriate. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Harry
Standard Poodle
11 Weeks
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Question
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Harry
Standard Poodle
11 Weeks

Hi! We got our standard poodle puppy a few days ago. He learned new commands like sit and come very quickly. When we play with him (tug, throwing balls) he gets super excited and humps us. Is this normal behavior for a puppy? What can we do to stop this?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1105 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carol, Some dogs have a hard time managing their arousal, so it comes out as humping. I would work on things that build self-control in general and some spatial commands. To help build pup's general self-control, I suggest practicing something called "Jazz up and Settle Down". Which is a bit like red light, green light for dogs. During training, get him a little excited, then command "Stop" or something he knows like "Sit", and freeze. Wait and completely ignore him until he calms back down. As soon as he gets calm or sits, praise and give a treat. Tell him "Let's Play!" again, and start playing and getting him a bit excited again. As soon as he starts to get a little worked up (not too much at first), command "Stop" or "Sit" again, then wait, reward with a treat when he calms down, then continue the game after he is rewarded. Repeat this a few times each training session, then end the session (have lots of frequent shorter sessions throughout the day at his age). As he improves, and can really calm down quickly, let him get a bit more excited before calling Stop. Gradually work up to him becoming more and more excited and having to calm down quickly from a higher level of excitement as he improves. Also, understand that this will take some time and practice. Puppies have to learn self-control just like any other skill, while young. This game can help him develop it sooner though. For spatial commands, I also suggest teaching the Leave It command from the article linked below: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite As well as Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
George
Standard Poodle
10 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
George
Standard Poodle
10 Weeks

He loves to nip and chew on people rather than his toys, i have been using a clicker and he has mastered sit and stay, using lots of positive reinforcement and treats but at certain times of a night he has been biting lots and just wont stop so now i have been saying no and putting him in his crate to calm down. I'm hoping tbis helps. Its only been the last couple of days since his last set of vaccinations, I'm hoping he will stop it once he can go out for walks next week.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello. Here is information on nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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