Category

Poodles

dressage, dressage training, natalie perry dressage, Poodles, training

Of Ponies & Puppies

Less than a week ago, we brought a new puppy into our lives and the training has begun in earnest. As I watch my dear husband puzzle through the process, it strikes me just how much we equestrians learn about training from our trainers and horses. The insights and experiences are as relevant with household pets as with our barn buddies.

Alert & energetic, it will take careful training to develop our puppy’s best self.


On day three of new puppy parenthood, we overtired our puppy, underestimating how much sleep she needs. As a result, I headed off to an evening get-together with girlfriends only to receive a string of texts from my husband indicating that our 10 pound ball of fluff was out of control: jumping, biting, and unable to calm down. Of course Whimsy fell promptly to sleep minutes before I returned home, presenting a picture of angelic sweetness.

While Al claimed to have a wild child on his hands, I came home to an angelic ball of fluff.


As Al and I sat on the couch, enjoying a moment of peace, I described to him the process we use with horses. The trainer teaches the horse to be manageable, then teaches the owner how to achieve these results themselves.
While that’s how it’s supposed to work, it’s not an easy process and tends to move forward in fits and starts since most owners lack the quick reflexes and physical skill of a professional trainer, as well as a thorough understanding of why horses respond the way they do. Looking at our sleeping puppy, it struck me how thoroughly training can improve or ruin an animal.
Having ridden horses for years and raised several puppies, much of Whimsy’s training is intuitive for me. Al, however, was a newbie —inadvertently bring out her wild side — flashing, razor-sharp puppy teeth enthusiastically applied. While I could calm her down, Al was at a loss.
“Just as my horse trainer can bring out the best in my horse, she can’t do it for me,” I said. “You have to learn the skills and practice them.”
We watched several training videos as Whimsy dozed peacefully and developed some training ideas for the following day. I left Al with the goals of bite inhibition and stopping play before it escalated, then headed to the barn for a riding lesson.
During my lesson, Natalie encouraged me to be more firm with Micah when he ignored my leg aids. As it turned out, it was just the right advice. Being tentative is one of the most damaging things you can do in your animal/human relationship. A horse or a dog will look for a leader and if you don’t insist on the leadership position, you’ll quickly lose it. After a couple of firm canter/walk transitions, Micah shaped up and gave me more prompt, correct responses.
I was fortunate that Natalie was there to strengthen my resolve. It’s hard to exude confidence when you’re not quite sure what to do. As riders, we’re lucky to have trainers to guide us, telling us when to be firm, when to give, when to repeat an exercise, and when to move on. They help us choose which battles to fight and when to wait another day. We gain confidence from our trust in them … although at times we need to fake that confidence until we have enough experience to make it real.
At home, Al is learning the skills and developing the confidence to keep our bundle of joy from turning into a tiny terror.
“Imagine what it’s like to deal with a 1,000-pound animal when you’re feeling unsure,” I said. “Now that’s scary!”
As we correct the problem of over-tiring our puppy, letting her settle into our household routine, we’re all working things out. Training is a big job, requiring thought, consistency, and diligence — the time spent is well worth it.

Note: In September we lost our 16 year old Standard Poodle, Skittles. She loved going to the barn and visiting with the other dogs up until her final month. She was truly an exceptional dog. Little Whimsy is also a Standard Poodle, and I have high hopes that she’ll one day be barn-worthy. Her joyful presence has filled a hole in our lives.

Related posts
Barn Dogs, dressage, Poodles

A Preponderance of Poodles

I love how barns go through phases of doggy preference. Corgi’s were once all the rage and I admit that when it comes to cuteness, they are right up there at the top of my list. For a while Jack Russell terriers (aka: Jack Russell Terrorists and/or Snack Russell Terriers) were the barn dog of choice, often making the rounds in miniature Baker blanket dog-wear.
My current barn shows a fondness for poodles and poodle crosses. Perhaps this is because these dogs don’t shed and none of us like to vacuum any more than we have to.
My own dog, Skittles is a standard poodle and she makes an excellent barn dog except for the fact that shavings stick exceptionally well to poodle hair (hence the nickname: Velcro Dog).

Barn poodles set up camp outside the restroom, making sure everything works out alright.

Barn poodles set up camp outside the restroom, making sure everything works out alright.


Poor Skittles has been banned from the barn lately. A laceration on her hind end required several stitches and came with strict instructions regarding cleanliness. Just imagine the bacteria club your average barn floor entertains! Skittles stays home and wonders why she’s been banished.
Skittles & Collie (a schnoodle) sniff noses. Being an older dog, Skittles doesn't approve of rough-housing and has been dubbed 'the barn police' for her tendency to rein in rambunctious young-dog behavior

Skittles & Collie (a schnoodle) sniff noses. Being an older dog, Skittles doesn’t approve of rough-housing and has been dubbed ‘the barn police’ for her tendency to rein in rambunctious young-dog behavior


It’s very strange arriving at the barn without my dog. As I gather my belongings from the car, Skittles typically wanders ahead and greets her friends, letting everyone know we’ve arrived. I truly miss my other half and look forward to her return to the barn kingdom.
The pint-sized Jenny (aka: Fluffy) has adapted well to barn life. Jenny especially loves rolling in manure, much to her mother's delight.

The pint-sized Jenny (aka: Fluffy) has adapted well to barn life. Jenny especially loves rolling in manure, much to her mother’s delight.


In the meantime, here are some photos of several of the other barn dogs, with their varying degrees of poodeliciousness.
Just as with horses, there’s a breed for nearly every temperament and lifestyle.

Related posts