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Hi everyone,

I've been lurking for awhile reading experiences, stories, and just the general poodle shenanigans. I like to think I've tried to do everything right with my minipoo, but I am very aware I am a first time puppy owner. I've had dogs before, just not a puppy. They are two different worlds.

This will be a long post, and I hope someone can provide me insight, encouragement, or similar experiences because I am starting to feel as though I've done something incredibly wrong in my upbringing of him.

I made a couple wrong judgements calls along the way such as giving him roasted chicken from the store and he ended up with diarrhea. I rectified that by learning about plain foods, probiotics, and easing him into food and being aware of everything in the food - chicken sometimes isn't just chicken if it's flavored in broth.

I learnt that dogs at the park, while friendly, don't care as much for puppies and find them to be an annoyance more than anything so I tried to find him play dates. That was really hard. I knew straight way I wanted him to go to puppy school, find friends, and play with those more of his size, energy, and curiosity but we went into a hard covid lock-down the weekend of his first class. I didn't know what to do, so I socialized him by taking him out when there was a loud plane, when there were cars, when there were people and we were fine. I took him to the park often, twice a day sometimes, but we didn't do walks around the block until much later. At the park, everyone was friendly but I don't know if it's his temperament.... but compared to other dogs at 6 months vs when he was at 6 months... he was definitely more wary of people (I will go into more of this later, please bare with me). I almost always had him on a lead because nothing was fenced, and I didn't want him to get into trouble. We worked on a long line in the midday because I work from home on those days, and it was quieter. He recalls okay, but I had trouble if there were dogs passing by - I just couldn't capture his attention. We are getting better at that, but it is a journey and I understand that.

He goes to puppy school on Sunday, but when we were out of lock-down...and it was November. He's now 6 months and a half. He was days away from being eligible for puppy class but he was considered too old so he was sent to the classes of all ages, temperaments, and sizes. Again, unfortunate. But we went, and we worked hard. I didn't realize how important heel to learn... and it was the one command I didn't know to teach him. He knew about 30 commands by now, just not this one... and this one was very hard. I felt... like I failed him when I saw other handlers and their dogs with a FOCUSED heel. Which is even harder than a heel by itself! I remember a comment by a handler, and he said, he walked every day with his dog. They did a lot of walks in general. And the trainer said everything is all about practice, and the amount of practice. So we set out with walks, no longer did we go to the dog park as much, we just walked. Twice a day, three times a day, four times a day. I didn't realize at the time, but I accidentally signed up to the wrong level, so we skipped level 1, ended up in level 2, and was promoted to level 3 after two classes. I thought this was great, surely I was on the right track? Surely.

The promotion to level 4 has been difficult, I only went to one class after the summer break (they were closed) - and haven't returned since. Reasons were because I felt inadequate, and I think it taught him to not listen more than it did for him to listen. The energy in level 3 is different. The dogs were older compared to him, and while I knew there were concerns of him being in level 3 at his age because it's a lot... I think I understand why now. He was the worse in level 3, he had problems paying attention, classes were less "fun", and he was easily tired out compared to the rest. The biggest test for us in level 3 as the trainer has laid out was "friendliness" ie. being handled by another person without reacting. I always felt my heart race when we had to do that test, and I always warn the trainer that he is reserved and it's best not to reach out to touch him. All the other dogs were fine, they loved the touching, but he didn't. We did have an incident (very minor) on our orientation day. A male (this is important) came up behind me, and tried to touch his collar to check if it was lose and all I heard was a growl - and that's when I realized there was a problem. He doesn't lunge, but he definitely gives a warning. I thought this warning wasn't necessarily bad? I mean, the guy did come up behind me and my puppy barely knows him if at all. It was a trainer mistake.

He went to grooming once, but I haven't taken him again. I've taken it upon myself to groom him, not because of the money but because of the worry that he'll bite my groomer. I told her that I didn't mind if she didn't finish the groom, I just prefer him to have a positive experience of being handled, but I knew what she meant when she said he growled. She commented that he was a bit funny with his back legs (he was desexed weeks before) and around 6 months at the time. Days before that someone at work accidentally opened the door against him as well. I would've given him to a groomer earlier, if I was able, but everywhere was closed. The whole state was closed for most of the year except for essential services. I tried desensitizing him with grooming since I got him at 8 weeks. I touched his paws, I shaved his face, but the paws... I only trimmed when he was asleep because I wasn't confident in taking a trimmer to his pads. We didn't train every day for this, but I did groom a part of his body every week. I bathed him every week to two weeks. I have gained better confidence taking a trimmer to his paws now, but it's a work in progress for the both of us. I do notice that even as a puppy, he just doesn't have the stability on all the legs if I pulled one up to groom. Is this normal? It's why, I think, he can be reactive when it came to certain parts of his body. He still is, but I am working every time to counter condition him but I also have to pick the right time, energy, and mood he is in to ensure a more successful outcome.

He goes with me to work every Monday, other days I work from home. I am in construction, a PM role but I also handle almost everything in the business, so he's exposed to machinery, coworkers, and lots of men (again, important). He loves going to work, he loves loving all over my bosses, and we joke how he's our emotional therapy dog because of how stressful construction can be. He seems to have done a lot of good for all of us; everyone seem to explode less and they're happy to play with him for 5 minutes, in my boss's case - 20 minutes. He isn't scared of the vacuum cleaner, drills, but sometimes he'll freak out at a machine because he hasn't seen it from a DIFFERENT angle. He's a little weird like that. There are times he'd react to a person, especially when it came to loading. I suppose he doesn't understand why they're taking things from us so he goes mental at the window. I'm located on the second floor, but my window can see everything that's happening. So I taught him, with more practice, "quiet" and "be nice" and he's picking it up but ...the hyperventilation of WANTING to bark is real. I can see how much he struggles. But this is a command he needs to learn well for him to have a good life in our world, and he is, it happens only 20% or so now. Is this a struggle other people have with a 10mo or are they all incredibly obedient, and quiet? Somehow, I get the impression of the latter when I speak with people from the dog park.

On days I am on site, I drop him at day care and rarely it'll be with my sister. He's only with my sister for an hour or two if I need to drop into a store to buy something, if I go with her, then he'll be alone and I monitor him through the camera to see how he's coping - not very well. The intention with daycare was to get him time away from me, due to working from home and my tendencies to online shop than leave the house... we spend a lot of time together. Wherever I go, he goes, and I know that's not the best thing but he's starting to get the gist that I can be in a different part of the house to him unless he thinks I am leaving but generally, he likes to be with me in the same room. I have read poodles being like this, so I thought this was okay. He is still adapting to daycare, I think he is overwhelmed with how many dogs there are and the amount of different personalities. The dogs are separated by temperament than size, and I was allowed to walk around everywhere. The other day, I even sat in with the quiet dogs for half hour at least and interacted with them. I wanted him to know that it was okay, and he seemed to have more confidence and started playing. I chose this day care specifically because of their reviews, and when I took him for an assessment, and the owner was male (again, important). The owner gave him a pat before we left, and I was very much surprised. While my puppy wasn't exactly excited to be patted, he wasn't reactive either. He goes to day care, so far only twice, but he I think he will be going 3-4 times a month at least. The owner told me he's more of the anxious, reserved, and very watchful type. He told me an employee gathered that if she picked him up, he'd bite her. I told him I'd advise against that, and that's a very likely scenario. My puppy doesn't like being picked up except by me or unless he wants to. He gets carried everyday, but only by me. I have to lift him up into the car because it's a big SUV, I lift him up to my lap because he wants cuddle, and sometimes I pick him up because he's being naughty and I'm removing him from the environment (he doesn't always like this, and can react with a growl or bit but I say a firm "NO" and he settles better). Is this also bad?

I took these comments to heart. It's also not the first time I've received them by a couple of others at the park. Lately, I've been hearing comments like "unfriendly", "what's wrong with him", "anxious", "aggressive". They are few, but they are few enough to get to me. While I can provide all the context to these comments, instead.. I'll try to explain why they get to me.

When I first met him, this little guy squared me up in the hallway and we just connected. I saw him, and still do, as confident and curious. He definitely wasn't a "I tolerate what you do to me" sort of puppy; he hits back (I will explain this further below). Perhaps it was my mentality, but I thought he should be able to defend himself and know how to defend himself if someone was wrong. We had many great moments together as I raised him, I set out to give him a positive experience every day and to make him feel like a winner. We have done road trips, hiked, went into the water, strolled the beaches while there were hundreds of others about but I can see and admit that he does bark, and growl at people. He can even snap at their limbs, if provoked.

He is a mixed bag when it comes to being touched by strangers and sometimes, even people he's known (my family).

He has problems with men particularly, tall and big people, people who are are acting suspicious or different (it can be the way they walk, the way they're stopping and just...acting weird. I can list the amount of strangers able to touch him on one hand, and we've met hundreds. In some ways, I know he's being protective of me in some scenarios especially when someone is walking behind - he'll constantly look back to see what they're doing - and prefer it if they walk past (much like myself). He tends to spot something off around the same time I do, such as someone hovering about in the bushes with a stroller than the footpath. He has plenty of faults too. He will bark at people if they walk in a certain manner either a disability or old age from what I've noticed (I do not mean any offence here), he will bark if he's in the front yard at people (something I am working on with him by interrupt the behavior and rewarding when he calms down), he will bark if someone suddenly reaches for me (to which then might also surprise me), he will bark if someone comes up to my car out of nowhere (delivery man, click and collect).

I have been more exhausted correcting people, interrupting their behaviors than I have with him if I am to be absolutely honest. My sister have told me that he needs to learn that whatever happens to him, he can't react. My sister likes to pull on his legs, and I have mentioned that he's sensitive about his legs. The rest of my family is very similar with this mentaility. He growls as a warning but she keeps doing it and calls him aggressive... this is where I don't blame him? What am I meant to do? Teach him to possibly be hurt and abused by others and it's okay? She told me that if he ever lays his teeth on anyone, they'll put him down, I understand this - I really do, but I do not agree on the premise that it's all being built on.

They all like teasing him physically. And I hate it. I hate it, I interrupt it, and sometimes I have to nudge them out of the way and pick him up. It's just wrong. I believe that they need to respect his space, but my family is very traditional and the dogs we've had growing up were very docile in comparison to him. He's had a go at my Mum. He's had a go at my nephews. He likes to take masks, and stringy things and run off. There's some resource guarding behavior that I'm working on, and it was triggered by him running off with some foil during a BBQ. I knew the moment I reached for him, he'd bite me. And he did. But it was either that or he swallows foil which could be even more detrimental. So that started our journey with undoing an accident. How I deal with him resource guarding is I take what he finds valuable (treats, food, toys) and return it to him. And reward him for good behavior. I notice it's all about the approach, not necessarily the items though it is a variable. He reacts to energy, he seems to be very sensitive. If someone physically corners him, or corners him with their energy (ie. they have an intent to do so) then he'll be ready to react. I've always approached him calmly, "Hey what are you doing now? Give it to me please." And he sometimes drop it or we get involved in a little tug but he does not bite. I know when not to reach for him because I want that area to be a "safe" place as much as possible. When he's in his play pen, if he managed to get in there; I tend to let him have what he already has unless I can tell it's okay. He once took a face mask from my Mum, ran into the playpen and I knew that mask was gone... so there was no point creating a fuss or stress about it. Face masks are replaceable. I told her I'll get her another one. She started raising her voice saying he's inappropriate, he's a bully, and look at his behavior. It was bizarre. She wanted to get her face mask back, I was... in the middle of working on some numbers, but I can tell in the corner of my eye with her body language... she was about to reach in some twisted dominance game. I told her to not, and leave him alone. He lunged out from the playpen with a warning bite. She called him aggressive, and that she didn't do anything. I thought she did do something. And he's done it before with her when she did the same behavior. Pointing, raising her voice, being a bit hysterical.

My Dad... he likes to stomp his feet to scare my puppy. He thinks it's funny. I've called out his behavior to be bullying, dominating, and frankly rude and annoying. He's doing it less, so that's a positive.

My Nephews... they all like to jump behind him and press down on his back and give lots of scratchies to his butt. He...doesn't like that either.

We lost our 12.5 shihtzu during covid. Everyone seems to still think he's her. I can see it in the way he's touched, and interacted with. I don't want to step on their grief, but I do remind that he isn't her and he comes with his own preferences and individuality. She was very affectionate, kind, quiet, and patient. He is very affectionate to those he wants to be affectionate with, a little jealous, extremely smart (he knows over 40 commands and some hand signals. He generally picks it up in a couple of goes), protective and vocal.

Please keep comments about my Mum polite, she's... going through dementia and isn't herself sometimes. That doesn't excuse her behavior, but she is a very kind person all her life.

Someone please give me insight on this. He's always been a mouthy boy, he is still mouthy at 10 months but he is learning and he's a lot better but if he's overtired - yes, it can be a bit uncontrolled and I either go home or try to get him to sleep. How do I go about navigating all of these accusations of anxiety and aggression? What can I do better? Should I be concerned? Is this a phase? Is it too late? I want to do better. I want him to have a good life.

Thank you to those that managed to read to this point. I appreciate your time, and look forward to your insights and help.
 

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It's so obvious that you and your dog love each other. You're not a bad owner and I don't think that he's a bad dog. It does sound as though you both can use some help from a good trainer. Not from a class, but from a few individual lessons.

If he gets along well with the people you work with, then the problem with your family seems to be their behavior. Frankly, I'd avoid taking him to visit them. Teasing a pet - or a person - is actually hostile behavior. If I were a dog and someone pulled at my legs, I'd growl too.

We have several trainers and experience owners here who usually offer good advice. I'm sure they'll step in soon. But just let me assure you now, no dog is perfect or easy. You're doing a better job than you think.

Being a good owner isn't easy, but you're motivated to do a good job. Perhaps you need a little outside help.
 

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Oh boy, that's a lot to unpack. I think your instincts are absolutely correct when you want to protect your pup from being bullied by your family. How would you feel if you were in a nightclub, and some dude who wasn't your boyfriend stuck his hand down your trousers? You'd probably feel perfectly justified in telling him to sod off and sending him home wearing whatever he was drinking. Your family is acting like that dude, and your dog hitting them with ice cubes and little pink umbrellas.
 

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Hi and Welcome to PF.

You have given a very thorough description of your and your boys challenges along with a number of roadblocks, not of your making.

I'm not one of the trainers but most of this sounds like different facets of a primary issue. Your boy is very uncomfortable in certain circumstances and lets people know by his growling. If they don't respect his discomfort he's left with no choice but to move from sound to action.

Has he been vet checked to make sure there is no physical condition or injury for the pain responses?

It sounds like you've had a lot of input from trainers and classes, probably using various methods, and hardly time to settle in to any of them. It's no wonder you're both unsettled.

If you're living with your family, that's going to be a challenge to get them to see him as himself. I'd just limit their interaction for a bit, if you can. As for the labels people are applying to his behavior, unless they're certified trainers or certified canine behaviorists, what they say is only their personal opinion.

Until some others come by to offer their knowledge and experience, I'm going to link our Pandemic Puppy Primer with a lot of resources. Your boy may not be a baby puppy anymore but he's still immature and there will be some help there for you.

I'm directing you specifically to the training section, and if I have my flag right here, a link to certified trainers in Australia

If I've got your country wrong, you can search the site for the site one

In that same section of the Primer, for online training, I'd suggest starting with SpiritDog and Dr. Ian Dunbar first. Read thru all you can of those to get the overall feel. You'll find some differences in details but positive reinforcement is underlying in all of them.

Again, I'm not a trainer but I've read nothing here that sounds insurmountable, with the possible exception of your family's behavior.

Take heart.
 

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Welcome to the forum. What an excellent trainer and owner you are to your pup and he is still a pup and is still learning. A poodle personality is totally different than a shih tzu personality. Shih tzu are mostly quiet, laid back and you can do anything to them a poodle thinks and frankly isn't laid back. Now he may not be the dog for your family , I would never pull on legs or push on their back, its not healthy for the dog and it may very well hurt and he is reacting to it. There are some dogs that will be reactive and it seems you have learned already the best way to circumvent his reactions. Positives reactions from his will make him better in the long run. I think you are doing all the right things, your family not so much. He may not be a "family" type dog because of this. In addition he is still young so he will continue to learn with all the positive things you do with him.
 

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It's okay to not bring your puppy over to your family. If they ask why it's because, "I don't approve of the decisions that your making while handling my puppy." It would be like if you had a special needs child, and your babysitter kept teasing and poking him/her.. you would find someplace else to go...

I don't remember exactly why, but I had to do something similar when my Dad, 65, was doing something that made me question her safety, "Basil is less safe here and more safe being in my apartment by herself." He fixed his behavior pretty quick because Basil's a privilege to be around.

Sometimes you have to remove family from the equation for a little bit.
 

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Oh boy. Your little puppy is okay. He is just acting like the poodle that he is. Poodle are highly intelligent and voice their opinion on what they like and don’t like. We as people have to come up with different tactics to train them that certain behaviour is not accepted. Your family needs to stop all the bad teasing and treat him as the sensitive, intelligent little puppy that he is. Don’t stop taking him to the groomer and get him out walking and expose him to as many people as possible. They don’t have to touch him until he comes to them. If you worry about him he senses that and he will be confused.
My little poodle Darla is sensitive so I began taking her to the groomer and she has come out of her shell. She absolutely loves people but hates big dogs. I don’t pick her up anymore and if she is being bossy to my other poodle puppies I put her down on the floor and cuddle with the other puppies. She quickly got the hint that bad behaviour gets her nothing. Honestly I am outsmarted daily by my poodles. 😂😳🤪
 

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Hello! Great advice so far. I would like to add that I firmly believe you should take some beginner obedience classes with him even if he knows everything in them. The reason is because learning in a class environment is very different from learning elsewhere. More dogs, distractions... everything is new. You want to be able to focus on getting him used to things first. I have had an experience where a trainer bumped me to the next class with a dog that wasn't ready. It was a disaster. I felt like I was behind which made me nervous and the dog nervous and I felt my dog was so poorly behaved. Maybe find a different class where the trainer will get to know your dog better.

Heeling is SO HARD. Don't beat yourself up. My dog took around a year of work with the heel command just to understand proper positioning and the verbal cue. Now we are working on learning to walk at heel which is even harder for him. Start slow with hand gestures and just work on getting him to understand where he should be positioning himself.

Also he is a young puppy and they go through fear periods which are natural and they can react weirdly to things you think they are familiar with. Add to that the recent neuter... which causes a drop in testosterone which can cause many dogs to lose confidence and become more fearful of things.

Try to stop evaluating your dog in comparison to other dogs. He is an individual. If he doesn't want strangers to touch him, that's OK. Would you like strangers coming up and touching you all over without consent? Probably not. Some dogs are the same. You will have a better relationship of you meet him where he is and not where you think he should be.

A last question... did you meet his parents? Fearfulness and anxiety can be genetic and it would help to understand if that's what you are dealing with.
 

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I will be honest and say that I didn't give your whole post a deep read because I actually think your interpretations of some of the behaviors and events you describe are not so important as the bottom line. Lots of explanation doesn't really give insight into how your dog feels. Only your dog really understands how they feel. You are not a bad owner, but by your own admission you are not so experienced with puppies and you have made some (potentially serious) mistakes. These things can be fixed but you need seriously good help to fix them. Since your dog is being tortured by your family, keep him away from them for a start. And since clearly dog parks are not a happy place for your pup, stay out of them.

Next hire a really good certified behaviorist (not a trainer). This organization is one of the most rigorous certification agencies for trainers and behaviorists and has a global reach. Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant Directory - CCPDT I am a CPDT-KA certified trainer and I certainly could help you with most of your dog's challenges, but probably not all of them. A trainer not certified at all is not necessarily going to be able to do anything constructive to fix these sorts of problems. Be very patient with the work a behaviorist recommend. None of this will be fixed in a flash. It will take many months to undo his past poor experiences and replace his defensive responses with appropriate behaviors.

I am sorry to be blunt and a downer but this is not good at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It's so obvious that you and your dog love each other. You're not a bad owner and I don't think that he's a bad dog. It does sound as though you both can use some help from a good trainer. Not from a class, but from a few individual lessons.

If he gets along well with the people you work with, then the problem with your family seems to be their behavior. Frankly, I'd avoid taking him to visit them. Teasing a pet - or a person - is actually hostile behavior. If I were a dog and someone pulled at my legs, I'd growl too.

We have several trainers and experience owners here who usually offer good advice. I'm sure they'll step in soon. But just let me assure you now, no dog is perfect or easy. You're doing a better job than you think.

Being a good owner isn't easy, but you're motivated to do a good job. Perhaps you need a little outside help.

Thank you for your words, Diana. While I didn't reply straight away, I did see it, and it made me feel a lot less alone in all of this.

One of the reasons why I made this post finally was hitting a brick wall with my troubleshooting skills, and recognizing I need outside help both in breadth and depth. Last year, when he was 7 months old, I made the decision to contact a vet behaviorist and I think I called every single one in my state. No one wanted to take me on as a client because they said it'll cost too much for their services compared to what I am dealing with. One of the services I asked was a temperament and personality evaluation as well. I was recommended to a couple of trainers that worked closely with vet behaviorists, and it has been very difficult to get a consultation with the one I picked. I'd ask for one, then I get a time, and by the time I reply back the time slot is gone. This was going through from January to February.

I have offered our apprentice money (he's a big guy) to just play with my puppy so he can be desensitized by the size. He still barks at him depending on what's happening, but it is getting better. He doesn't react to him when he sees him in the lunch room sitting down.

Now that I have a bit of breathing window with work, a week or so, I'm hoping to focus back on getting a trainer that's suitable for the both of us.

Oh boy, that's a lot to unpack. I think your instincts are absolutely correct when you want to protect your pup from being bullied by your family. How would you feel if you were in a nightclub, and some dude who wasn't your boyfriend stuck his hand down your trousers? You'd probably feel perfectly justified in telling him to sod off and sending him home wearing whatever he was drinking. Your family is acting like that dude, and your dog hitting them with ice cubes and little pink umbrellas.
That's quite an image.😅 While it's justified, is it a good response? Can that be trained? It's a question I've been asking myself. I don't want him to be bullied, but I do want him to have a bit better tolerance. It's easier to train him than my nephews to be perfectly honest.

Hi and Welcome to PF.

You have given a very thorough description of your and your boys challenges along with a number of roadblocks, not of your making.

I'm not one of the trainers but most of this sounds like different facets of a primary issue. Your boy is very uncomfortable in certain circumstances and lets people know by his growling. If they don't respect his discomfort he's left with no choice but to move from sound to action.

Has he been vet checked to make sure there is no physical condition or injury for the pain responses?

It sounds like you've had a lot of input from trainers and classes, probably using various methods, and hardly time to settle in to any of them. It's no wonder you're both unsettled.

If you're living with your family, that's going to be a challenge to get them to see him as himself. I'd just limit their interaction for a bit, if you can. As for the labels people are applying to his behavior, unless they're certified trainers or certified canine behaviorists, what they say is only their personal opinion.

Until some others come by to offer their knowledge and experience, I'm going to link our Pandemic Puppy Primer with a lot of resources. Your boy may not be a baby puppy anymore but he's still immature and there will be some help there for you.

I'm directing you specifically to the training section, and if I have my flag right here, a link to certified trainers in Australia

If I've got your country wrong, you can search the site for the site one

In that same section of the Primer, for online training, I'd suggest starting with SpiritDog and Dr. Ian Dunbar first. Read thru all you can of those to get the overall feel. You'll find some differences in details but positive reinforcement is underlying in all of them.

Again, I'm not a trainer but I've read nothing here that sounds insurmountable, with the possible exception of your family's behavior.

Take heart.
I did consider having him vet checked, but didn't move through with it because he jumps like a horse over a fence and loves running around. I gathered that if there was a pain response, those activities were less likely. I have called my vet after you mentioned it again, and I was advised that it doesn't sound like a problem and some dogs can be particular about their legs being touched. We agreed that this will all be checked, and advised upon during the annual check up unless something happens and I wish to escalate the situation.

A couple of months back I employed a "no touch" rule upon all my nephews. As you can imagine this is hard with the adults, and it did a lot of good. They were all able to mend their relationships with him, and I'm slowly easing it back into allowing touch - if they understand what's appropriate and inappropriate. I think this was one of my biggest mistakes, if I can do it all again, I'd have change this. I'd never have allowed my nephews to touch him. They are too rough, too careless, and while he was very young - they only touched them in my supervision, because I was training both them and him bite inhibition on how to handle animals... I saw that they saw it as a game to see who can agitate him to get bitten. Even after they were bit, they still did the same behaviors. I've lectured them, I've shown them, I've explained it to them... I don't understand what I can do with them to allow them to understand to treat animals with care and respect. I am not talking about children at the age of 4. The children actually do better with him, and one of his human best friends is my smallest nephew at age 4. It's the teenagers he has a problem with, and I would've thought they were the ones who should've known better. But my observations says otherwise.

I'll reach out to one of the trainers on your list, and start a conversation. Thank you for the resource.

Welcome to the forum. What an excellent trainer and owner you are to your pup and he is still a pup and is still learning. A poodle personality is totally different than a shih tzu personality. Shih tzu are mostly quiet, laid back and you can do anything to them a poodle thinks and frankly isn't laid back. Now he may not be the dog for your family , I would never pull on legs or push on their back, its not healthy for the dog and it may very well hurt and he is reacting to it. There are some dogs that will be reactive and it seems you have learned already the best way to circumvent his reactions. Positives reactions from his will make him better in the long run. I think you are doing all the right things, your family not so much. He may not be a "family" type dog because of this. In addition he is still young so he will continue to learn with all the positive things you do with him.
Thank you for the compliments even though I do not feel it deserved considering the dilemma that I am in. He is the perfect dog for me, but he is not perfect for my family. I think my family can only have a rock as a pet. I would like to point out one of the reasons why they fixate on his back/butt area is because my shihtzu loved scratches there. It was her favorite area, belly rubs but reversed.

Neighbors have been coming over more, and I've been working very hard to counter condition and positively condition him. They are old and very kind people who understands that he's a puppy and don't mind his barking when he does get one out. It's a much needed opportunity, and I'm so appreciative of them for giving it to me.

I did recently watch a couple of videos on owning a shihtzu, where one trainer mentioned he rarely gets to train with shihtzus because they owners are very "Oh my dog doesn't sit, oh well". So they never saw the need for a trainer. Another video showed how a shihtzu was happy to lounge about by the window, walk, whatever. They weren't picky. This was exactly how my shihtzu was.:ROFLMAO:

It's okay to not bring your puppy over to your family. If they ask why it's because, "I don't approve of the decisions that your making while handling my puppy." It would be like if you had a special needs child, and your babysitter kept teasing and poking him/her.. you would find someplace else to go...

I don't remember exactly why, but I had to do something similar when my Dad, 65, was doing something that made me question her safety, "Basil is less safe here and more safe being in my apartment by herself." He fixed his behavior pretty quick because Basil's a privilege to be around.

Sometimes you have to remove family from the equation for a little bit.
Thank you for the validation. I admit it is not an obvious option in my head. I was raised in a very inclusive family ie. to not allow or to isolate was a crime. I have always fired back at my family, and while it doesn't get heated...I do see they don't like it. The weirdest part, which I guess I am unsure of the why(?), is that he does love my sister. Even with her leg pulling. He loves to cuddle her when he wants to. He likes playing with her by stealing her slipper so she'd chase him everywhere. I am not sure if he loves my nephews, because I haven't had many opportunities to see them together lately. Is that normal?

Oh boy. Your little puppy is okay. He is just acting like the poodle that he is. Poodle are highly intelligent and voice their opinion on what they like and don’t like. We as people have to come up with different tactics to train them that certain behaviour is not accepted. Your family needs to stop all the bad teasing and treat him as the sensitive, intelligent little puppy that he is. Don’t stop taking him to the groomer and get him out walking and expose him to as many people as possible. They don’t have to touch him until he comes to them. If you worry about him he senses that and he will be confused.
My little poodle Darla is sensitive so I began taking her to the groomer and she has come out of her shell. She absolutely loves people but hates big dogs. I don’t pick her up anymore and if she is being bossy to my other poodle puppies I put her down on the floor and cuddle with the other puppies. She quickly got the hint that bad behaviour gets her nothing. Honestly I am outsmarted daily by my poodles. 😂😳🤪
I worry about the ones that touch him when he isn't ready for it because I do see people reach out for him, but he just moves out of their way so they manage to touch only a bit of his tail. Yesterday we went to the dog park, and it's a new dog park I found - it's fenced - there's a small dog area. There were about 10 owners around, he stuck around him and did the widest circle around everyone and slowly coming closer for a sniff. I thought this was good for him to be honest. He loves the dog parks, fenced ones even more. And he's extremely good with all types of dogs, very very very tolerant (though big ones intimidate him a bit, because he thinks he'll die from a step of their paw); whether it's dogs pinning him down to be humped, 6 month puppies mouthing at his ears, others jumping at his face - he's never reacted or bit or growled. I think this speaks truest to him because it removes the human element. Of course this is my perception, and I'd like a correction if it's wrong.

He's very vocal. The wind moved a bag and that bag doesn't belong in the yard? Bark! There's a sound that's different to usual? Bark! I don't mind it, as long as he knows how to stop. When we play together and he gets really riled up, he's basically barking at me in such a way where it sounds like we are having a conversation. o_O He is a dork.

I hope you don't mind if I ask more questions because that sounds really good. Did you find a groomer that was appropriate for your dog? Did you have a conversation about the sensitives and possible reactions?

Hello! Great advice so far. I would like to add that I firmly believe you should take some beginner obedience classes with him even if he knows everything in them. The reason is because learning in a class environment is very different from learning elsewhere. More dogs, distractions... everything is new. You want to be able to focus on getting him used to things first. I have had an experience where a trainer bumped me to the next class with a dog that wasn't ready. It was a disaster. I felt like I was behind which made me nervous and the dog nervous and I felt my dog was so poorly behaved. Maybe find a different class where the trainer will get to know your dog better.

Heeling is SO HARD. Don't beat yourself up. My dog took around a year of work with the heel command just to understand proper positioning and the verbal cue. Now we are working on learning to walk at heel which is even harder for him. Start slow with hand gestures and just work on getting him to understand where he should be positioning himself.

Also he is a young puppy and they go through fear periods which are natural and they can react weirdly to things you think they are familiar with. Add to that the recent neuter... which causes a drop in testosterone which can cause many dogs to lose confidence and become more fearful of things.

Try to stop evaluating your dog in comparison to other dogs. He is an individual. If he doesn't want strangers to touch him, that's OK. Would you like strangers coming up and touching you all over without consent? Probably not. Some dogs are the same. You will have a better relationship of you meet him where he is and not where you think he should be.

A last question... did you meet his parents? Fearfulness and anxiety can be genetic and it would help to understand if that's what you are dealing with.
He does go to group classes, and there's always hundreds of dogs and people on the ground on Sunday. I am sorry I didn't clarify this. He isn't reactive to them, bark excessively, or jumps. He sniffs, and goes back to where I am. What distracts him at these classes if he spots someone outside the fence. We have only been to a total of 2 level 3 classes, and both times there was a person standing near a bush at some point mid-class...and it just seems off. Both times different people, but very far away from everyone and any classes so it didn't even look like he was there for someone on the ground. My puppy has a tendency when he spots something like that, because even I thought it was off, that's his only fixation. And since I can't distance far enough, we are stuck, and I just try to minimize problems. Since I know he's fixated, I stop calling commands as much because all it'll do is teach him to ignore me.

I will be honest and say that I didn't give your whole post a deep read because I actually think your interpretations of some of the behaviors and events you describe are not so important as the bottom line. Lots of explanation doesn't really give insight into how your dog feels. Only your dog really understands how they feel. You are not a bad owner, but by your own admission you are not so experienced with puppies and you have made some (potentially serious) mistakes. These things can be fixed but you need seriously good help to fix them. Since your dog is being tortured by your family, keep him away from them for a start. And since clearly dog parks are not a happy place for your pup, stay out of them.

Next hire a really good certified behaviorist (not a trainer). This organization is one of the most rigorous certification agencies for trainers and behaviorists and has a global reach. Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant Directory - CCPDT I am a CPDT-KA certified trainer and I certainly could help you with most of your dog's challenges, but probably not all of them. A trainer not certified at all is not necessarily going to be able to do anything constructive to fix these sorts of problems. Be very patient with the work a behaviorist recommend. None of this will be fixed in a flash. It will take many months to undo his past poor experiences and replace his defensive responses with appropriate behaviors.

I am sorry to be blunt and a downer but this is not good at all.
There is nothing wrong with being blunt, and you're not being a downer. I would like to ask what you saw as potentially serious mistakes so I can understand better?
 

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Hello! Great advice so far. I would like to add that I firmly believe you should take some beginner obedience classes with him even if he knows everything in them. The reason is because learning in a class environment is very different from learning elsewhere. More dogs, distractions... everything is new. You want to be able to focus on getting him used to things first. I have had an experience where a trainer bumped me to the next class with a dog that wasn't ready. It was a disaster. I felt like I was behind which made me nervous and the dog nervous and I felt my dog was so poorly behaved. Maybe find a different class where the trainer will get to know your dog better.

Heeling is SO HARD. Don't beat yourself up. My dog took around a year of work with the heel command just to understand proper positioning and the verbal cue. Now we are working on learning to walk at heel which is even harder for him. Start slow with hand gestures and just work on getting him to understand where he should be positioning himself.

Also he is a young puppy and they go through fear periods which are natural and they can react weirdly to things you think they are familiar with. Add to that the recent neuter... which causes a drop in testosterone which can cause many dogs to lose confidence and become more fearful of things.

Try to stop evaluating your dog in comparison to other dogs. He is an individual. If he doesn't want strangers to touch him, that's OK. Would you like strangers coming up and touching you all over without consent? Probably not. Some dogs are the same. You will have a better relationship of you meet him where he is and not where you think he should be.

A last question... did you meet his parents? Fearfulness and anxiety can be genetic and it would help to understand if that's what you are dealing with.
Sorry, I realized I didn't answer your question. I didn't meet his parents, the breeder brings in a puppy or two to the city to sell. I have been in contact with him even after the sale as the paperwork I previously filled in for him required a lot of background information that I didn't have. And he gladly helped me.

During our group classes, he doesn't get much attention because he's generally well behaved and does all the exercises. I go for the exposure to dogs and people.
 

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Hello there. Yes to answer your question about the groomer. I found a lady that grooms from her home. She is a fantastic person. She only has my dogs in when she is grooming them. My dogs are done quickly and don’t have to be placed in crates for long periods of time. Charlie Brown my little male poodle gets so excited to see her when I drop them off. 😊👏
Sounds like your little poodle did great at that dog park. Continue to go to that park. 👍🙂
You may never get him totally the way you want him to be? Although with positive reinforcements he will adjust and learn.
 

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Something I was thinking about today is trigger stacking. It's a concept worth thinking about when one is dealing with a reactive dog. Here is an article explaining how it works.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hello there. Yes to answer your question about the groomer. I found a lady that grooms from her home. She is a fantastic person. She only has my dogs in when she is grooming them. My dogs are done quickly and don’t have to be placed in crates for long periods of time. Charlie Brown my little male poodle gets so excited to see her when I drop them off. 😊👏
Sounds like your little poodle did great at that dog park. Continue to go to that park. 👍🙂
You may never get him totally the way you want him to be? Although with positive reinforcements he will adjust and learn.
Thank you for the reply. I think it's a journey, but a journey I'm willing to take with him. Covid really threw a wrench into everything, but we'll find ways around it. That's the one thing that he's really good at. Learning. Impulses take a bit longer to learn to control, but I do see him trying and that's the max I can ask of him.

Something I was thinking about today is trigger stacking. It's a concept worth thinking about when one is dealing with a reactive dog. Here is an article explaining how it works.
Thank you for the article. I am glad to know the term. I think of trigger stacking similarly to over stimulation.
 

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Trigger Stacking=Overstimulation. Solution: be aware of triggers and work to stay under threshold. Countercondition too.
 
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I wanted to do a mini update:

1. Got a groomer, and the feedback was that he was the most calmest dog he's had. There was no resistance. I almost choked on my food. It made my heart very full to hear that.

2. I have a session one on one with a dog trainer day after tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

3. He let a lady cuddle him at the park. She was already sitting on the ground with me, this might be why.

4. He took food from another dog owner (when I passed treats over).

I think he's going through another reactive phase. He's been in the car with me since he was a baby, but only recently has he been barking at everything around him while we drive. He's still not the best with men in general, but we are working on that.

Thank you for everyone with the insights and advices, I have implemented what I can.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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What a great update. :)

Adolescence really is very much about progress in one area, setbacks in another. Or big progress one day followed by exasperating regression. Consistency from the human is so important, but it has to be tempered with flexibility. For example, Peggy went through a wildly destructive phase shortly before her first birthday. We scaled her freedoms back, treated her like a puppy again for a week, and we all came out the other side unscathed.

Do you know much about your new trainer?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Sounds like you are getting progress. Congratulations 👏
I think I was very stressed at how to navigate my family, especially seeing the impact it has on his confidence. Flinching instead of playing for people's amusement... rubbed me the wrong way. I'm very thankful for the improvement, and everyone's advice.

What a great update. :)

Adolescence really is very much about progress in one area, setbacks in another. Or big progress one day followed by exasperating regression. Consistency from the human is so important, but it has to be tempered with flexibility. For example, Peggy went through a wildly destructive phase shortly before her first birthday. We scaled her freedoms back, treated her like a puppy again for a week, and we all came out the other side unscathed.

Do you know much about your new trainer?
Thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I forget that since he's generally well behaved, and haven't had any severe regression but this barking on in the car - wow! He's about to turn 11 months, so that timing seems similar to Peggy's?

I don't know a lot about her, except the reviews, and the verbal recommendations I've had from people who are in the industry. She came highly recommended. I needed someone more available, and easier to book even if it's $200 or so a pop for an hour.

Another mini update, 2 weeks since post:

1. He humped a stranger/client's leg - something that he'd never have done before. I have very mixed feelings about this, while I was happy for his ability to interact, I also corrected the humping.

2. I am getting a quote for boarding school, min. 2 weeks if it means he'll have more exposure/training than what I can provide for him to grow.

3. I have bought an apartment with a private courtyard, and I am staying away from my family moving forward. This seems very fast, and severe course of action but everyone is right. I don't have to tolerate it, and I have the funds to leave - I stayed for my parents' health, and other family matters but the cost of my pup's well being is not something I was willing to do.

I didn't make this decision lightly. There was an incident between the time of my post, and today, where my Dad scared him off and grabbed an empty soda bottle and went after him to physically hit him. I came out just in time, stood in the way, and stopped him. He almost fell when he knocked against me, and I do feel absolutely bad about it.

But no one raises a hand to my dog.

I have tried again to approach my family about how they treat him.
My Mum: I requested her to speak reason with my Dad.
My Dad: He hasn't done anything since almost falling.
My Sister: She almost got him ran over.

I was met with excuses, amusement, denial and blame on my pup. I can't tell if my family has gone insane or what. And since they didn't understand - I was done. I won't keep my pup around to be mistreated.

I will organize for a trainer to help him and I adjust to apartment living since he is vocal, and can be a barker at foreign noises.

I settle for the apartment in May.

Thank you for allowing me the space to get this off my chest.
 

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Wow. I'm glad you have some clarity on a course forward and are taking the opportunity to improve the situation. I hope he continues to improve his relationship with men once you are able to get him away from your family. Clearly hitting him with a bottle is abuse & revenge, not training & discipline.
 
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