I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.
Let alone other dogs, sometimes even I wonder if poodles are the prophets of the canine-kind! What with their elevated hairdos, cloak-shrouded get-up, and an overall air of calmness and serenity about them, it seems like a poodle, while being walked on a leash, will suddenly stand up on its hind legs, join the fore legs in a devotional stance, and embark upon a full-fledged sermon in soothing tones. Well, jokes apart, behavior wise, poodles usually are what they look like―sensitive, refined, calm, peace-loving, friendly, and quite timid. Behind all that aristocratic look and fashionable bearings, they are very intelligent breeds, who are extremely gentle, yet fun at the same time. Despite their designer look, grooming them is one of the easiest things you can do, and they shed way lesser than all other breeds. In fact, their coat is the most hypoallergenic of all pets. However, if not treated with sensitive care, and if handled roughly, these gentle, friendly creatures can develop a few unpleasant behavioral traits, that can cause considerable concern to the entire family.
The Whys and Hows of Behavior Problems in Poodles
Their very sensitive nature and peace-loving temperament can become their biggest behavioral issue. When we talk about poodles being sensitive, read it as hypersensitive. Sudden noises, rough handling, a loud environment, and unexpected touching can easily startle these gentle creatures. If a poodle belongs to a family that has kids in the house who are extremely active and always up to all sorts of pranks, I wouldn't be surprised if the poor canine exhibits signs of stress and regressive neurotic behavior, such as hiding behind furniture, shying away from people, keeping to quiet corners, etc. Also, a hyperactive surrounding can cause emotional unease to them. Say, for instance, if you and your family keep moving from one place to another, or are the type that feel more at ease trekking and camping, instead of taking quiet, domestic vacations, taking your poodle around is likely to unsettle it, and it may start showing odd behavior, like barking continuously or sulking all the time.
Also, leaving your dog with someone else while you're away to pursue your outdoorsy adventures is likely to make it suffer from separation anxiety, and cause it to go into depression, and indulge in undesirable activities like chewing on furniture or tearing at draperies. So, while too much of cuddling, fondling, and rough housing is bad for it, leaving it alone or keeping it away from you for a long time is not good either. With these sensitive and high-strung dogs, it's all about balance and refraining from overdoing anything.
How to Train a Poodle
Contrary to the soft and sissy image that you may have conjured up about poodles after reading the preceding segment, these dogs are way easier to train than most other breeds. Being highly intelligent and extremely attentive, they take to obedience and other trainings better and faster than most other dog breeds. Behind that prim-and-proper-designer appearance, this dog is a very agile and energetic creature, which picks up retrieving and jumping skills as easily and effortlessly as any hunting or sports breed. However, when embarking upon behavior training, keep it gentle and totally avoid shouting or rough handling. Being naturally more attentive than most breeds, they pick up training without much exertion from the trainer's side, and a little patience and oodles of gentleness is all that is needed to train them to fit in with an average human family.
Although you should be gentle around a poodle, that doesn't mean you pamper it silly. Be firm during the training, albeit assuming a quieter manner. Make the dog understand that you are the alpha of the pack (a dog considers even its human family as a pack, and its behavior towards different members is based upon its perception of the pecking order of each member within the pack), and that it ranks the lowest in the family hierarchy. Strange and somewhat rude as it might seem, this is the best way to ensure that the dog refrains from showing aggressive behavior towards any member of the family, no matter how ruffled or stressed it is. Early socialization, gentle, yet firm house training, and a loving and calm environment are the keys to keeping behavioral problems at bay. Understand that the lofty appearance is an external sign of its inner wisdom, which is characterized by sensitivity and an aversion towards excesses, and take pride in being the owner of a higher canine, no matter what people say about poodles being more of a home décor than a canine companion.