cowpony: I do not have the option to return her to the breeder. Whether it is true or not, I have heard a bad ending comes to her older pups that do not sell. When I had trouble with car sickness, I emailed her about Dramamine and she never responded. I think she is just in the business of selling right now. Thanks for the heel game suggestion. She loves games and so do I. Can’t find enough for us!
And, after reading some posts in the adolescent poodle discussion, I feel in many ways I have got it lucky. She is really a dear thing. This all started so abruptly after a difficult grooming and because the lady said I could ruin her if I didn’t do better by her or give her away. I never imagined ruining her. I had only imagined that it might harm her little soul if I DID give her away. Funny. I will see how the trainer goes on Monday. That is my short term plan right now...make it to Monday. But, she is being a sweet pup today so far, not a crazy adolescent, so I have hope. Thank you for that!
Ewww, it's too bad the breeder is less than stellar. If she regards the puppies as only a cash stream, she probably didn't bother doing any of the early handling that would make grooming much easier now. That's not fair to you or the pup. I'm glad you are getting a trainer involved.
As you are playing games, remember that puppies go through moods throughout the day, as their energy wanes and gets replenished by naps. Between 6 and 8 PM I really can't do much of anything that requires my boy Galen to have self control. He's tired and cranky and hyper. We call it the witching hour. I play games like fetch and the heeling game, as they let him burn off energy while still giving him a bit of strucure. Once he wears out he goes into his crate for the night with a snack.
In your case it sounds like you have a special challenge around handling, grooming, and possibly interactions with strangers. Getting held down at the groomers might have been a setback. That's a problem. Poodles need a lot of grooming, and you don't want this escalating to the point where you need to sedate the dog to give her necessary care. I would use clicker training to reinforce that handling is a Good Thing.
During a mellow time of day (not the witching hour) take 20 treats and practice touching her. Start by calmly touching her shoulder. Before she has time to react, click, take your hand away, and give her a treat. Repeat. Touch her other shoulder. Click, treat. Slowly switch towards more controversial body parts. Do not click and treat if she mouths you or shifts away. Start over with the shoulders.
Withers, click, treat. Head, click, treat. Ears, click, treat. Neck, click, treat. Point of hips, click, treat. Work your way towards touching her most ticklish and sensitive spots: her muzzle, her chin, between her toes, the insides of her hind legs.
Once she tolerates you touching her all over, increase the duration. Rest your hand on her shoulder for a full second before clicking. Then two seconds. Then five. Again, no click and treat if she mouths you or shifts away. Switch back to a short touch.
Work your way towards being able to wrap your hand around her muzzle and to spreading her toes apart without her pulling away.
Add grooming tool sounds and feels as she gets used to you. Turn a hair dryer on and off. Click, treat. Turn a shaver on and off. Click, treat. Leave the devices on for a full second, then two. Point the hairdryer at her shoulder for an instant. Click, treat. Touch her paw with the vibrating shaver. Click, treat. Return to a less intrusive activity if she pulls away.
The idea here is to build trust and confidence. She should feel like she has the choice to permit handling, or not, and that allowing handling is always more rewarding.
Finally, once she is good with you, have your husband (if he will agree) and/or a cooperative friend start the same process. Start from the very beginning, with your helper priming the dog with the clicker. Remember, just because the dog agreed to be handled by you doesn't mean she agrees to be handled by anyone else. Do you let strange people put their hand on your butt? Work her up from the basics.