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I just want to put this out there for anyone who needs to hear it: I tolerated Peggy for much of her first year. Horrible, right? Cute little puppy, wholly dependent on me. But it’s the truth.

Between her behaviour challenges, the gaps in my poodle knowledge, and the grief I was still navigating from the loss of my last dog, that first year was all about putting one foot in front of the other and just doing what needed to be done: A lot of educating myself. A lot of time spent observing and picking the brain of a brilliant trainer. A commitment to honouring the responsibility of animal ownership and treating Peggy’s needs as my own. And soooo much Poodle Forum.

I’m typing this now with a gorgeous almost-adult poodle stretched out at my feet. Every once in a while she’ll gaze up at me and I’ll gaze right back at her. I smile. I stroke her chin and her silky ears. My heart swells and I’m pretty sure hers does, too.

Now her head’s navigated to my lap. She rests against me and I rest against her. We were always family, but we are, finally, a team.

My best advice for anyone struggling with a challenging poodle, or just feeling a normal case of the puppy blues: Play. Play every single day. And let your poodle pick the rules sometimes. They come up with some wonderful games and they’ll delight you if you let them. The fun is a welcome break from putting one foot in front of the other.

Also: Share with others as you learn. Be a sponge, but be generous with all that knowledge you’re soaking up. For every question you ask, try to help someone else find their own answers. We’re all in this poodle life together. :)
 

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I feel this! Misha was such a terror when young. I expected it but it's hard to love something that is constantly chewing on you or peeing inside or zooming like a madman when on leash or refusing to return inside and making you late. I liked him but I didn't feel bonded to him the way some people seem to feel instantly. People talk about falling in love with their puppies immediately. I didn't feel that extreme attachment until he started to get more mature and started showing me how much he trusted me and how much he was willing to tolerate simply because I asked. He started constantly checking with me to see my reaction to things, and really trying to be a good dog. That really helped to build a real relationship. Puppies are hard hard work. They are frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. Awesome when they belong to your friend. But rough to have 24/7. Eventually you are rewarded with a well behaved companion that you share a deep bond with. But it takes so much work.
 

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I bonded fast and strong with Oona and it's clear that in our family dynamic, we belong to each other. The frustrating parts are there alongside everything but I've so far felt sufficiently rewarded that they haven't felt overwhelming (knock wood). My husband feels differently. He isn't really bonded (though they like each other plenty). I think it would help if he practiced more training with her or had a special activity they did together, but he treats dog stuff like my thing. I love the reminder to let them teach you the rules of their games. Oona and I invented a chasing game together. Our puppy class teacher warned against EVER chasing your dog since it's so rewarding for them and so annoying for you, but Oona showed me a clue and we compromised. She started to beckon me to chase her after she would pick up a stick in the yard. Now, I will chase her when she's holding the stick (often after I give it to her). And we added in that she intermittently has to come to me to "touch" in order for me to resume chasing.
 

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I bonded to Pogo pretty quickly. He was such a good puppy, and he approached the world with such a sense of wonder. I remember watching him, as a tiny puppy with traces of blue puppy haze still in his eyes, focusing on a gnat circling in front of his face. Totally adorable. It was harder to bond with Galen. He was a much more difficult puppy than either Pogo or Snarky. Additionally, I still missed Snarky terribly, and then we lost Pogo when Galen was six months old.
 

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Fenris and I didn't have an instant bond. Back when he was at the breeder's there was no "you are my chosen one" moments like a lot of people write about. But he is 4.5 months now and we are bonding quickly. There were hiccups and puppy blues during the first month, but since we've gotten into a groove. He is a very good puppy, has his issues of course and is still a puppy with puppy energy, but based on what I've read online (true it may just be horror stories that I am basing this on), he is so well behaved for his age. His "leave it" works at 99%, which just amazes me. And he is a super cuddler, which I love. I'm not saying that there aren't issues, he still hasn't gotten the hang of the bell, leash walking is going to be a long road, and leaving him home alone is traumatic for the both of us, but he checks in with me all the time, listens the vast majority of time as long as he understands what I want, is perceptive of when I'm feeling ill, even helped me with my anxiety (I get panic attacks sometimes and he came up to me with no prompting and started licking my hand before my anxiety could get out of hand). There are moments of frustration when our communication breaks down but we are working on it. I really feel lucky that he is in my life, would not trade him for anything at this point.
 

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Thanks for starting this conversation! I feel like when folks go through a hard time at the beginning, it can be hard to talk about because they might fear being judged. But it is so common for folks to take a bit more time to bond with their new pup.

I had the opposite problem with Ziggy. I brought him home when he was 6 months old and he had no socialization, no exposure to anything, and 0 training outside of crate training and a bit of grooming training. He was so scared of people, dogs, noises, movements, stairs, new places, everything!

It took days before he would let me touch him and when I finally pet him he would just freeze and tolerate it with this 1000 yard stare. I was instantly bonded to this sweet, shy, and terrified pup. He was so scared of everything, but never showed his teeth once. But I was really worried he would never bond with me.

I lost so much sleep wondering if he would ever cuddle with me or be a "normal dog" but now I can't get through a work day without him trying to crawl into my lap during a zoom meeting!

While I am no expert, I'm always happy to talk to anyone who has an extremely shy or nervous dog that has been rehomed. It can be a frustrating, sad experience and you feel like every move is potentially wrong.
 

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Interesting topic.

In our early days I read a lot about the 3-3-3 guidelines in regards to bringing home a rescue dog. I was a bit concerned as we were progressing slowly. I’m not worried anymore, just conscious that he’s on his own timelines. After more than 6 months he still hasn’t bonded with some individuals in our home. He’s the type where you get out what you put in, he and I bonded quickly but it took a lot longer for my husband and still iffy with one of our teens (they like each other but neither is going to go out of their way to interact).
 

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Normie was one of the easy ones. The first night he was with us he slept on my foot while we ate dinner. A year later he still does.

But there is no way I could have looked at his litter and said - that's the cuddly one.

For those of you with shy or reserved dogs, there will be such a sense of pride and accomplishment when you reach your level of bonding. Normie came to us ready to bond; you've taught your dog how to be close.
 

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Hudson is a bit reserved and dislikes eye contact. He has discovered the joys of puppy biting. He is out of control at puppy kindergarten, mauling me while the other pups are sitting and looking expectantly at their people. On the other hand, he is increasingly receptive to cuddling when we catch him in a calm state of mind, and in the morning when we open his pen, he climbs into our laps and asks to be petted. He also loves to lick our hands and faces.

Bonding wasn't instantaneous as I'd somehow expected, but it's happening gradually. It's more difficult for my husband as he takes the biting personally and feels hurt by it. I can definitely say I love Hudson, and I think he is beginning to love us back.
 

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I knew Starla was “the one” at 7 weeks. My breeder had 5 black girls, and I had first pick. She was joy brought to life, and I knew as soon as I met her she was the one. I met and played with all 5 though and eliminated them one by one like I had planned. In the end, she was still the one.
It took her a few weeks to decide I was worth bonding with though! She was such a tough cookie. She liked us all well enough, but it was like she was keeping a distance. She wouldn’t be silly and play like what I think of as a typical puppy. We would get down on the floor to entice her, and she would look at us like we were nuts.
now though... my husband commented this weekend that Starla is my BFF. She is always with me and will do anything to please me. She climbs up on my lap when we watch tv at night. She’s still a pita sometimes, don’t get me wrong. She took an opportunity last night while my back was turned to put a huge hole in my garden (I still need to go see if the carrots and radishes can be saved), she will not leave the stuffing in the couch if she manages to con someone into letting her up there, and it’s been much harder than I thought to get her to see my kids as human people and not puppymates that should be roughhoused with.

All that said, I’ve never known a person who wanted to have a dog to not bond with their pet eventually. Bonding right away and bonding after some time are both normal, just like with human children.
 

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Asta and I bonded very quickly to me - always at my side confidently - loved trotting with me and those early fun games that he initiated. Took a bit longer to bond with my DH but he is now comfortable with him. It is obvious to me that they have bonded. This is great as Asta had two caregivers during puppyhood.
As an adult, Asta is still training me on what he can do for me and how to go about it to get the positive results I am looking for. Poodles are amazing, aren't they?
 

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This is an amazing post! I've enjoyed reading all of the responses.

I felt my bond with Topper was pretty shaky for the first two months we had him. Topper is my first puppy - our previous dog came to us when he was 5 years old. He's also my first poodle. There is just so much potty training, desensitization, socialization, etc. in those first weeks, and I felt I was always getting in my puppy's face about something. My husband is very helpful and does a lot with Topper, and sometimes I've been jealous of Topper's willingness to snuggle with my husband but not with me. I sensed that he felt safer with my husband because he didn't ask that the puppy get used to the scary hair dryer, nail grinder, clippers, etc.

Now that Topper is nearly 5 months, our bond is stronger. We're both much better at reading each other. I feel the strongest bond with Topper when we're playing training games on in training class. Recently I have started to feel it on our walks, when he offers automatic sit (sometimes even when I'm not stopped!). Or when he leaps playfully right at my side to remind me that he's there and not pulling on the leash.

I expect that the bond will grow stronger and deeper as we continue training classes, and once weather gets warmer and we can go on more and longer adventures together.
 

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I definitely didn't bond instantly with Annie. I felt guilty for it for a long while. I still missed and compared her to previous dogs whom I adored and had lost.

Our bond grows every day, just a little bit more.

I imagine by time she is a senior, and passes on, and I have a new puppy, I will think 'why can't I have the same bond I had with Annie with this new dog!"
 

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What a great thread, Robin. Thanks for starting it. All the stories make me a bit wistful for Mia's puppyhood, when every day was an adventure, and as a friend, who owned Mia's best friend, said about her own relationship with her puppy: "I love and am in love with her." That's exactly how I felt.

Mia and I had a rare benefit, in that her breeder lives about 45 minutes away from me and allowed me to come to the farm several times before I took her home at 9 weeks. I believe Mia was six weeks old when I first met her: she was female and in the middle of her pack in terms of boldness, and that's what I wanted. I came back about a week later and played with her both with her siblings and one-on-one, though she was hesitant to go too far from her siblings. When I came to pick her up at nine weeks, I was familiar and she was happy to see me. I don't know for sure how much of a difference it made to her (or me) over those first few days, but everything with dogs is about acclimatization so I figured it was worth 2 hours of my time.
 

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I feel as if our puppy bonded with me right away. I picked this boisterous, energetic, outgoing boy because I thought he’d be a family dog and I have two boisterous tween sons. But by the end of the car journey home, he was a huge mama’s boy, and was glued to my side. He’s four and a half months old now and certainly likes the rest of the family, but when I get home, I feel like the Beatles arriving in America. And he’s just as deliriously joyful to see me if I just went away and showered for twenty minutes.

I’ll admit I was a little taken aback when he was vocally miserable every time I left the room - even when he could see me through a baby gate, and the rest of the family were fussing over him. It felt like an awful lot of pressure suddenly to be The Person for him. But oh, he is SUCH a sweet boy. Impossible not to have thirty-odd pounds of adoring poodle attempting to curl up in your lap like a small baby, and not fall in love. (We will be a SIGHT when he is fifty pounds...)
 

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Happy bonded with the entire family pretty quickly and she and I enjoy that special bond. I expected the puppy antics so the biting and house training didn't bother me. I was really worried we wouldn't connect the way I had with my Ginger who passed last April. Within a couple day of Happy arriving home, she was my dog. That said, she has something special for everyone in the house.
 

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This thread takes me back. We drove approximately 400 miles, round trip, to collect Buck and he was watching the road, on my lap, for the final 200. We stopped, of course along the way, but he held it until we got home. He’s still that way: watchful and very fastidious. He was cute as can be, but we had a bad patch with the Tasmanian Devil interlude, and then the stubborn, forgot everything tween, and then the college frat boy stage. He was a time. A boy with a curl in the middle of his forehead, but I figured it was my fault if he was horrid. Our work together, every day bonded us. He’s a good time now:)
 

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I just want to put this out there for anyone who needs to hear it: I tolerated Peggy for much of her first year. Horrible, right? Cute little puppy, wholly dependent on me. But it’s the truth.

Between her behaviour challenges, the gaps in my poodle knowledge, and the grief I was still navigating from the loss of my last dog, that first year was all about putting one foot in front of the other and just doing what needed to be done: A lot of educating myself. A lot of time spent observing and picking the brain of a brilliant trainer. A commitment to honouring the responsibility of animal ownership and treating Peggy’s needs as my own. And soooo much Poodle Forum.

I’m typing this now with a gorgeous almost-adult poodle stretched out at my feet. Every once in a while she’ll gaze up at me and I’ll gaze right back at her. I smile. I stroke her chin and her silky ears. My heart swells and I’m pretty sure hers does, too.

Now her head’s navigated to my lap. She rests against me and I rest against her. We were always family, but we are, finally, a team.

My best advice for anyone struggling with a challenging poodle, or just feeling a normal case of the puppy blues: Play. Play every single day. And let your poodle pick the rules sometimes. They come up with some wonderful games and they’ll delight you if you let them. The fun is a welcome break from putting one foot in front of the other.

Also: Share with others as you learn. Be a sponge, but be generous with all that knowledge you’re soaking up. For every question you ask, try to help someone else find their own answers. We’re all in this poodle life together. :)
 

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Thank you for this beautiful description of your experiences with bonding with your poodle.I instantly realized that’s me and that’s it okay to feel how I’m feeling about this new little brown poodle puppy I now have in my home... I too feel I am just tolerating her and am not bonding with her. She has been such a wonderfully behaved little girl since we brought her home, but I just don’t get why I’m not feeling it. I’m still trying to name her. I was hoping to make that bond instantly with my new puppy after being without for so long. I read everyone’s stories about their wonderful poodles, thinking; Will this ever be me? I admit I’m thinking and missing the love of my life in my last dog of 15 years and her being such a different breed. Perhaps it will take more time, perhaps one day it just happens... reading all these posts definitely has given me much encouragement as to what most likely lies ahead for me and my poodle.
 
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