STANDARD POODLE ADVICE
Note: Since first writing this, I have another female Standard Poodle, which has been quite different than our first dog Lambert. It is hard to make generalizations about any breed, so keep in mind that your Poodle may vary ;-)
Standard poodles are NOT large versions of Toy or Miniature poodles. If you want a cuddly, sweet, stuffed animal, please buy one. The Standard is a real dog. He’s a hunting dog by nature and loves to be outdoors. He lives for exercise, play and hunting. He has a high prey drive, a physique like a greyhound, and stamina that goes on forever. They are aloof at times, independent, and prefer to sleep in peace and quiet. They mature slowly, both physically and mentally. Don’t expect him to learn to jump high fences and swim in the first year of his life. He will become a great jumper and swimmer, but on his own time. He’s very cautious and shy. He’s also very curious and social. He needs and craves play with other dogs.
Having said all that, after a few years he will get sweeter and love people more and more. And he’ll get really smart and jump and swim with the best of them. I suggest not trying to break him of these important instincts like being cautious and careful. It helps him not get injured or fight. He will avoid trouble, and learn slowly in his own way. If you require a dog that just MUST obey you each and every command, maybe you should look at a Doberman or Shepherd. A Standard sometimes has his own agenda. Allow him plenty of freedom and don’t be always issuing commands at him for no reason. He will obey you if he wants to. I’m not saying not to train him, far from it, but if you want a dog that jumps everytime you snap your fingers, you’d best look elsewhere. I’m not saying a Standard can’t be trained to do this, either, it’s just that he will be much happier when you give him more freedom and allow him to do his own thing.
A Standard is much more like a human than a dog to me. He will be easily trained, in fact he won’t need a lot of formal training. He naturally will learn what he should and shouldn’t do from your actions, attitude, and tone of voice. He’ll be your best friend for life.
A Standard has unusual hair for a dog, and they DO shed. It just doesn’t come off every time you pet them. It’s a double layer coat that’s naturally curly and fine. Hairs that fall off are trapped in the inner layer and form matts or thick pads of hair. You must avoid this by combing your dog every day. It’s difficult because they like to romp in the woods, roll in the weeds, and generally live an outdoor life. That is why you have to groom him for the type of life he will lead. If you want a show dog, please read somewhere else. I feel sorry for those poor Standards that lead their lives in a showring. They live a very sorry life. If you’re like me, and want a good pet that you can hike with, jog with, and generally hang out with, then read on. I let my dog’s hair get quite long at times, and he’s real cute. But I like to keep it short for ease of maintenance. I’ve tried letting it grow in places and creating a styled cut. It takes too much time combing and picking out weedseeds for our lifestyles. So I cut it often, but not to short, and on his feet and tummy I keep it quite short. This makes your lives easier and more hassle free. Lord knows these dogs are plenty of hassle, so it’s best to minimize it as much as possible with a proper active dog haircut.
Grooming Equipment: Note: I recently bought a new cordless clipper, see the review here.
First off, you need equipment, and you will want to buy only professional equipment. These dogs live a long life, so do not buy poor quality grooming equipment. I bought the Golden A5 dual speed clipper by Oster. It comes with a short cut #10 blade that's perfect for the face and feet. However, you will want to get a blade for the general body that leaves the hair longer. I got a #4 skiptooth blade. This is a thinning blade that will leave the hair about a half inch long. This blade has a low double comb built in that you can get under matts and snaggled hair better. You also need good scissors, a stainless double comb, and cool lube clipper spray. Clipper oil and grease comes with the clipper.
Note: I now use a #30 blade for face and feet, and a #3 3/4 blade for general body cutting.
The clipper gets hot pretty quick and you will have to stop and take a break. The cool lube helps a bit to keep the blades lubed when hot. I always clean and oil a blade before using it. Use only a drop on each side of each running surface, never near the blades. Every year or so, I open the top plate of the clipper and check the grease. You want to make sure it doesn’t get too dirty and stays on the moving parts. Every few years you will have to clean it out and apply fresh grease in there.
If you have a back porch or some other place you can cut him, great. I would recommend you get a large grooming table and set yourself up like a professional groomer. I cut him on the kitchen floor, and spread it over two days. It's a lot of work! When your dog’s hair is long and shaggy, it will be impossible to cut easily. You will have to scissor it off shorter first. Be careful. If you can't comb it, you can't use the trimmer on it. The #4 blade will get under quite a bit of snaggled hair, but it’s slow going and you want to avoid any discomfort and pulling. Shampoo first to keep dirt from the blades and they will stay sharp for years. The stomach and legs are the tough parts. Under the pads is also tricky, and my dog hates it cause his feet are very sensitive. Get your dog used to this as much as possible. You just have to be very firm with him. He won't want to be cut. I usually have to yell at him and let him know he's not getting out of it, then he settles down. I give him a treat every so often as a reward for letting me cut him. Always cut with the grain of the hair. Sometimes you have to cut against it, but you cut shorter then. Hold the clipper almost at 90 degrees to the body to cut. The #4 blade can be held much lower when you’re going through some snaggled hair. If you want to cut some areas like the face and neck shorter, go lightly with the #10 blade, it does cut very close to the skin. By keeping it off the skin, you can get a good cut there. I do like his facial hair long, it's cute, but eventually you have to trim it. Along the lips is important to keep trimmed, even when his hair is longer, cause he has to eat and hair gets in his mouth there. Do not use the #4 blade near places like this, it can grab the edges of the skin. It's for open flat areas of the body. I keep the hair close to his feet cut fairly short about 3 inches from the bottom like boots. I cut him every two months or a bit more. I try and comb him every couple days, but it's a big job. It's much easier when the hair is shorter.
There's plenty of good books in the library about grooming, and we found one poodle grooming video or two there.
I got a bottle of ear cleaner from my Vet and use it every two weeks or so to keep his ears infection free. It's important. EPI-OTIC is the name of the stuff I use, and it's good stuff. As to the forest of hair growing in there, pluck it out a little bit at a time with a pair of surgical clamps. He won't mind. I do use a numbing solution but have usually done without it.
I have recently discovered a wonderful ear treatment that you can make yourself from ingredients found at the drugstore. This treatment cures all ear infections and keeps your poodle’s ears from getting infections. Here’s the recipe:
16 oz alcohol, 4 tablespoons Boric Acid powder, 16 drops of 2 % gentian
violet (or 32 drops of 1%) shake well before each use.
SCHEDULE of treatment is as follows:
Treat 2x per day for the first week to two weeks depending upon severity of ear problem.
Treat 1x per day for the next 1-2 weeks.
Treat 1x per month (or even less frequently, depending on the dog.
Lambert is about 60 pounds of lean hard muscle. He doesn’t like baths very much so we have to be very firm with him about it. Bathe only every two weeks, no more. It dries their skin too much. I use baby shampoo on his head, and a flea and tick shampoo I got in a big bottle for the rest of him.
How to Shampoo a Dog:
IMPORTANT! - Start by wetting the dog’s head. This is necessary, since you won’t be able to put the strong flea shampoo around his eyes. Any fleas will then leave the head area. Shampoo the head with a mild baby shampoo, then wet down the body and apply liberal amounts of flea and tick shampoo, massaging in well. Work your way down to the feet. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes, while you rinse the head, then rinse the rest of the body really well. Rinse twice, as shampoo left on a dog will make it itchy.
I have used a cheap flea and tick shampoo for years now as my ONLY flea preventative. You do not need those expensive flea remedies! I use a cheap shampoo that even comes in refills. My dogs get no ticks either! Forget special collars, pills, and yucky treatments on their backs each month - you don’t need them!
The hair under the ears, between the legs, and on the tummy can be a real problem so I keep it short there. Trim it well around his ‘pooper’ to avoid clumps of poop. The only place I grow it long is on the top of his head and the end of his tail. I keep the hair above his eyes from getting in this eyes by trimming it up from the eyes to a taper. Having long hair right above the eyes means you have to tie up his topknot so he can see properly and on an active dog, this is not practical. Be careful trimming his eyelashes. They need to be long enough to keep the hair out of his eyes, but they grow very curly and so I trim them a bit to avoid curling.
Now for the yucky part. After it's a year old, your dog will likely need regular anal gland squeezing. Get your Vet to show you how, and to open up the glands the first time. I do it when I’m bathing him, it seems to come out easier when you soak it with some hot water back there. It's the stinkiest stuff you’ve ever smelled and I get quite a bit out every two weeks. Push up and pull out with your thumb and forefinger to release it. I use my left hand to hold the tail up and forward, while using my right hand to slowly but firmly squeeze out the yucky stuff. You have to apply quite a bit of pressure but it gets easier with time. Do not force it too hard, you can rupture and injure your dog! If you have trouble, go back to get the Vet to do it a few more times until it’s easier for you.
Food - I have decided Eukanuba dog food is good stuff. It's got lots of skin conditioners in it, and he likes it. Minimize your dog’s human food intake to small tastes and licking plates. But only after you have finished eating. Don’t hand him tidbits as you eat. Make your dog lie down while you are eating. Like all dogs, they are excellent beggars and at the first sound of a snack being opened they will appear.
Teeth - I give my dog rawhide ‘bones’ to help keep his teeth clean, but only allow him to eat a small amount at each session. I get fairly large ‘bones’ of good quality that have thick rawhide. I do not give him real bones after watching the way he chewed a few when young. These bones are just too abrasive, and will wear down his teeth. I also scrape his teeth regularly with my thumbnails to get rid of tartar buildup. Scrape down from the gum and it will flake off easily. Brushing is not an option for me.
Puppies are so cute, it’s easy to overlook their bad habits. It’s also easy to get angry at what they can do. I won’t go into crate training much here, but it’s a good idea if you have the room to have a crate where your puppy can stay when no one’s home. My dog grew up in an apartment but fortunately we had no expensive furniture or things to really worry about. He chewed everything in sight anyway. He chewed the plastic pedals off of my bicycle. He chewed a couple of video cassettes. He loved to chew wicker baskets and leather things. Sometimes we came home after a short shopping trip to find the apartment looked like we’d been looted, with things laying everywhere in chewed up pieces.
And you will have to get him used to being alone. You can’t stay home with him forever. Your dog will likely tend to bark when you leave. My dog would bark for the first 10 minutes, then stop and start chewing. Start off with very short periods of leaving, then come back and scold him for barking. Let him know he’s not to bark. Make the periods of absence longer until he’s used to it. He just needs to know that you’re coming back and not leaving him. It’s tough being away from your Mom and stimulation.
Although part of his role is watchdog, you don’t want him going nuts every time the doorbell rings. Let him give you a warning but scold him when he goes into a rage of barking. You won’t likely need a doorbell anymore, cause he will sense someone coming well before they come. The problem lies when he barks at everyone walking past on the sidewalk, or everyone he sees out the window. This behaviour must be avoided.
Of course as a puppy he will need plenty of toys and things to play with. My dog was very good with stuffed animals that are made for dogs, but never leave those types of toys with him. In fact, always take away any toy when playtime is over. It’s part of the alpha dog thing you need to do with him. It’s strange that a dog will want to play with some things sometimes, but other times won’t be interested in them. Tough rubber toys like Kongs and Nylabones are great, just get one big enough that he can’t swallow it.
Training: Note, see this link for more dog training info.
If you haven't neutered your dog yet, just do it. Otherwise he or she will lead a sorry life. Males will constantly be spraying on things, licking females, licking urine whenever they find it, and generally not being much fun to own. And of course there's always the time he will smell a female across the road. Females will come in heat 2-3 times a year and so they won’t be able to go on their regular plays and will have to stay home. Poodles have a high prey drive, so avoid encouraging them to go after squirrels and cats. Also we found Lambert wanted to horde balls and other dogs' toys. Do not let him. If you do, he will become very possessive of these things to the point of biting you or other dogs that try and take things away from him. Get him used to giving up everything he gets in his mouth early in his life.
There are a set of rules to become the alpha dog. If you don't become the alpha of your house, he will rule your house and drive you crazy. Don't let him go through doors first, feed yourself first, don't let him sleep on your bed, etc. He absolutely rules my wife, but obeys me without pause. You will find these dogs grow up slowly and learn stuff late. They will not be sweet and cuddly until they're 3 or 4 years old. They are independent, intelligent creatures so don't over apply petting, etc. unless the dog likes it. Let the dog come to you. It learns much from the friends it plays with, and it lives for that play. Find some good friends, and don't let your dog get bad habits from dogs with bad owners.
Never hit your dog. He won’t want to come to you if you do, and he won’t like you either. Speaking harshly of course is sometimes necessary. Poodles are very sensitive to that, so don’t overdo it, or your dog will be nervous for a long time afterwards. If I yell ‘drop it!’ he immediately drops anything he has in his mouth. When I say ‘NO’ in a voice above normal, he stops doing what he’s doing.
So we come to commands. I have created a special new page listing all the basic dog commands here. Command words are special words, and should only be used when you are issuing a command. Never repeat a command. Use those words that are consistent with dog training worldwide. Command words need to be short, and each with a different sound so your dog can differentiate between them easily. Here are some important command words I use: COME, SIT, STAY, NO, DOWN, FETCH, and OK.
My dog is the best behaved dog of any dog I have met. He comes to me when I want him to come, he does not stray far from me, he would never bite anyone, and he would never fight another dog. But when he was young I really had to keep him away from people, he always wanted to play with them and a few times he nipped someone playfully. Teach him not to go to every person he sees. They are cautious and careful when they get older, but when young, they want to play with everything and everyone. No matter how old, or well trained though, they are still part wild animals and can be freaky at times.
Poodles are surprisingly protective of their owners. My dog is especially alert and ready to protect when we see someone doing something strange, or when he is surprised by someone while walking at night. If someone’s on my property, my dog will attack that person. While he hasn’t injured any mailmen yet, he has scared some people pretty badly. I have no fear of anyone entering my home while I’m away and my poodle is on guard. As well, he is very defensive when in the car.
My dog gets in ‘zooming’ moods, especially when he hasn’t had a play for awhile and will go a bit crazy at times. He is spooked sometimes by people who stop and stare at him. They are very playful creatures, and jumping up and nipping someone is a dog’s idea of play. Sometimes I think he just wants to scare people or test them. It’s up to you to let him know what’s acceptable and what’s not. But don’t expect him to know which people it’s OK to greet, and which people it’s not OK to greet. Be consistent and he will realize that people he knows that are friends are OK, but strangers aren’t OK. It’s difficult to control all your friends though, but try and get them to help you. Even though they like to give him an excited greeting, keep him from jumping up on people and your life will be easier.
Lambert was a puppy from hell, but grew up to be the dog from heaven.