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Aggressive Behaviors In Poodles

Poodles are active, affectionate, and extremely intelligent dogs (arguably among the most intelligent of all dogs). Due to their naturally high-strung temperament, some Poodles are susceptible to neurotic behaviors such as fear-based aggression and snappiness. This article will deal with how to handle and prevent fear-based aggression in Poodles.

Note: any aggression aimed at humans is a very serious matter and must be dealt with immediately by a trained professional. If your Poodle is displaying aggression towards you or a member of your household, speak to your vet about a referral to a behavioral specialist straight away.

What Counts as Aggressive Behavior?

There are a variety of behaviors which an aggressive Poodle will display:

  • Look for lunging and snapping at other dogs. When off the leash, she might run up to other dogs and bully them by pushing and barking.
  • She may be skittish and snappy, cowering when other dogs or animals approach, and retaliating to any social overtures with a volley of barks and teeth-displays. She may play timidly for a short while, and then start nipping and snarling once she's progressed past her comfort zone.

How Can I Treat It?

  • You need to socialize your Poodle thoroughly, from as young an age as possible. If you've got an adult Poodle, don't worry too much; all dogs can learn new tricks, just as they can unlearn old ones.
  • Take your Poodle to puppy preschool, if she's still young enough (most classes will accept entrants of six months and under). While there, she'll get to play with other dogs, and will learn how to communicate effectively. Puppy preschool is an excellent way to allay any fearful behavior or shyness - traits the Poodle is, unfortunately, prone to.
  • If you have friends with dogs, invite them round and allow the dogs to play. Don't just chuck them all in the deep end together; if your Poodle is nervous or snappy, she'll be more comfortable with you around. Stay available and keep your eye on the dogs - they may need to be separated if things get too much.
  • Take your Poodle on regular walks in dog-populated areas. Poodles are too smart to simply sit in the back yard all day; it's a good idea to include her as much as possible in your day to day life. If you can take her to the park on walks, to the dog-area of the beach, even on walks through the city or around the neighborhood, these are all excellent ways to accustom her to the sights and sounds of normal life.
  • Make sure that you don't overwhelm her too soon. Whether young or old, introduce your Poodle to new sights, sounds, and dogs slowly and in a positive, controlled environment; Poodles are very sensitive dogs, and bad experiences early on will do more harm than good.
  • Make sure your Poodle is exercised sufficiently. Poodles have very high exercise requirements, and an excess of energy is a key component of any type of dog-related aggression. A tired-out Poodle is a happy Poodle, and one far less likely to initiate trouble with the next dog that looks at her cock-eyed.
  • Your Poodle may be aggressive towards other dogs because she's attempting to guard 'her' territory. If other dogs have access of any sort to your property, you can hardly blame her for feeling threatened: with a high-energy breed like the Poodle, your garden should be completely fenced to begin with, so fence it immediately. It will help if the fence is of an opaque material (not chain-link) that she can't see through; watching other dogs walk past is hardly conducive to a calm Poodle, if she's demonstrated problems with like situations in the past.
  • If your Poodle is male, consider having him neutered. At approximately six months, male dogs experience a rush of testosterone (the 'aggression hormone'). Getting him neutered will tackle the problem in a two-pronged approach: firstly, it will largely prevent him from initiating any problems, as he will have much less desire to fight; and secondly, it will prevent other dogs from perceiving him as a threat and acting accordingly, since he will no longer smell much like a male.
  • If at any time you start to feel that the situation is getting out of hand, it probably is. If your Poodle is threatening other dogs or making people uncomfortable, and nothing you're doing is having much of an effect, talk to your vet about getting a referral to a behavioral modification specialist; or at the least, a list of dog-socialization classes in your local area (like puppy preschool, but for adult dogs).

Poodles are, happily, usually quite sociable and polite with other animals. Although skittishness is a characteristic in some lines, the breed as a whole is generally pretty sound with other dogs and it shouldn't take too much effort on your behalf to have your Poodle socializing contentedly with other dogs.

For more information on how to prevent and treat aggression in your Poodle, check out section 202 of Secrets to Dog Training. It's packed full of information on a huge variety of problematic dog behaviors, and has some handy step-by-step procedures for treating unwanted behavior like aggression.

 

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