The Poodle is generally considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds and was originally bred as a water spaniel and retriever. They are a very active breed that need lots of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. So it's not unusual for Poodle owners to end up with an over-excited, unruly and sometimes aggressive dog.
So, how do you get your Poodle to calm down? The best way to get your Poodle to calm down is to exercise him regularly, stimulate his brain and feed him a healthy diet. It's also a good idea to teach him how to relax through training and games.
Basically, the best way to calm down your Poodle (and most dogs) is to wear them out physically and mentally. Poodles love all sorts of activities and games and are known to excel at agility, retrieving game and obedience trials. They also love learning new tricks and playing mentally stimulating games. So calming down your Poodle is actually a lot easier than you might think.
How To Get Your Poodle To Calm Down
It's normal for a Poodle (and most dog breeds) to be a bit hyper for the first year of their life. Some dogs grow out of the puppy stages and calm down quicker than others. But some dogs continue to be hyper long after the puppy phase ends.
An overexcited, out of control dog is not usually a happy dog. The reason why high energy dogs like Poodles become over excited and unruly, is because they are bored and under-stimulated.
We all know that dog breeds like Border Collies, German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers were bred to be working dogs. This means that they have an innate desire to do something and they don't like being couch potatoes.
Many Poodle owners don't realise that Poodles too, were bred to be working dogs, specifically water retrievers, way back in the 15th and 16th Century in Germany.
Today there are three main Poodle types, the standard, the miniature and the toy poodle. It can be difficult to visualize them retrieving game from a river or lake. But Poodles still have that drive to be doing something, and if it's not properly channeled, it can lead to destructive and hyper behavior.
So, how do you get your Poodle to calm down and act like a normal dog? Here are a few effective ways to help your Poodle to relax and to generally be a happier and healthier dog.
1. Take Your Poodle outside Off Leash
One of the best ways to calm down any dog is a good run in the park or a local field off the leash. Most dogs, especially working dogs like the Poodle love nothing more than a thirty minute sprint around, sniffing and exploring something that they don't usually encounter in your backyard or house.
It's amazing how much energy a dog can use up in a short space of time. Many dog owners forget that dogs evolved to be sprinters. They naturally move faster than we do, and as such, they need to be let off the leash regularly so that they can move at their own pace.
Another aspect to running around somewhere like a field or a beach is the mental stimulation. Dogs love to find and follow new smells. In fact, their sense of smell is around 10,000 times greater than ours and the sheer fun of figuring out, and mentally dismantling a field of new smells will wear out most dogs.
This is because, as suggested in a recent study, dogs build up a picture of what they smell, and if it is one that they have encountered before, they will have a mental representation of the object that is creating the smell. So clearly, taking your Poodle outside for a run is going to help him mentally as well as physically.
2. Take Him to an organised physical activity
Organised physical activities such as agility, flyball or even an obedience class is another great way to teach your Poodle to be calm.
Organised activities involve a lot of interaction between the Poodle and their owner. It's a great way to build a bond and to get your Poodle to focus on one thing at a time, namely you.
There's also the social aspect to being around other dogs. Dog's are pack animals and do everything they can to fit in with the rest of the pack. This includes imitating the actions of other dogs. Most dogs naturally calm down just by being in the presence of other calmer, well behaved dogs, especially in a setting such as a training class.
So before you even teach your Poodle any commands, just being around other dogs should calm him down.
3. Train your Poodle to relax
A great way to get your Poodle to calm down is by teaching him to relax and to not care so much about what is going on around him. In my experience, many out of control dogs are also scared, anxious and generally over excited or over aroused.
Teaching your Poodle (or any dog) to settle himself and to calm down, especially in a noisy or distracting environment is an excellent tool when it comes to controlling unruly behavior. Just like the sit command, you can easily teach your Poodle to 'settle' if he wants your attention. It's also a useful command for getting your Poodle to settle down in public places such as a restaurant or a cafe.
Here's a cool video by expert dog trainer Nick Benger, showing you exactly how to teach any dog (including a Poodle) to settle down and relax.
4. Spend Time Teaching your Poodle some tricks
Another great way to mentally tire out a Poodle, is to teach him some tricks. Poodles are smart, and love one-on-one interaction with their owners. Regularly teaching your Poodle some new tricks will keep him interested and will help you to build up a repertoire that you can call on when he needs calming down.
Start with the basics such as sit, shake paws, roll over and lie down. Poodles usually get the hang of basic commands like these very quickly, and with a bit of repetition will be happy to perform them for treats.
You can also make a game out of it. Most dogs love to play games where they can use their strong sniffing skills. Try hiding a few treats around the garden or around your house that your Poodle can sniff out. You can also play hide and seek. Get your Poodle to sit and stay while you hide in a different room, then call his name and see how long it takes him to find you.
5. Use chew toys or bones
A good quality chew toy can be a great way to calm down your Poodle quickly or keep him entertained for a short period of time. I often use a Kong toy to keep my Springer Spaniel entertained if I've got guests, or if I need to get some work done and he just wants to play.
When choosing a chew toy, be very careful. You should only give your dog a good quality chew toy that is manufactured by a reputable company. Make sure that it is an appropriate size and strength for the breed. If it becomes damaged then throw it out and replace it with a new one.
Another option is to give your Poodle a real bone. Large, uncooked bones are a wonderful treat for dogs. Most medium to large dogs love nothing more than chewing on a bone. It's great for cleaning their teeth, releasing some pent up energy and for making them feel happy (their brain creates endorphins when they chew bones).
Just be careful when giving your dog a real bone. Never give them cooked bones as these are rubbery and they can choke on them. You should only ever give them large weight bearing bones like animal leg bones. These are very strong and will provide hours of chewing for your Poodle.
6. Crate train your poodle
Another way to get your Poodle to settle is to crate train him. Most non-dog owners and people who have never had a dog that sleeps in a crate think that crates are cruel.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Most dogs (not all), absolutely love having a safe place to retreat to when they need a time out or a nap. Instinctively, dogs love to curl up in a corner or tight space where they know they are safe and can relax.
Have you ever approached your dog when you think he is sleeping for him to jump up or open his eyes when you get close? Dogs don't sleep the same way that we do. They are always listening out for a possible threat or a strange noise that may need their attention.
By crate training your Poodle (or any dog) you are providing them with a safe place that they can relax in. Once they realise this, then you can use the crate at any time of the day to get them to calm down and to take a nap.
Can A Bad diet make a Poodle hyper?
Yes, feeding your Poodle a cheap, dry (or wet) food diet is going to affect his behavior.
Many people don't realise the amount of carbohydrate (which is essentially sugar) there is in cheap dog food. That supermarket food that your dog loves is not what's best for him.
I personally recommend feeding a dog a raw food diet. From my experience, it's the most species appropriate food you can feed a dog. It's well known these days that dogs, if given the choice, would choose to be carnivores.
Not only is it their preference to eat meat, but it is in fact better for them. Their entire bodies from their jaw structure, teeth shape, short digestive systems, acidity of their stomachs and the type of enzymes that their bodies produce are built to eat meat.
Poodles can suffer from allergies (or food intolerances), more so than some other breeds. So it's important to get them eating the correct diet. Food intolerances usually present themselves as itchy rashes, reoccurring ear infections, weepy eyes among other things. Behavioral problems can also be caused by a bad diet, but they are just more difficult to diagnose.
If you think that your Poodles' diet is causing his behavioral problems, you don't have to feed him a raw diet. A grain free, dry food is a good start.
You should also cut out any store bought treats. Raw vegetable treats and raw or cooked meat treats are a great alternative, and most Poodles will love them.
What can you do if your Poodle still won't calm down?
If after trying some of the suggestions I have talked about, your Poodle is still hyper and over excited then I recommend taking him to a professional trainer or dog behaviourist.
Some dogs (and their owners) just need a bit of extra help when it comes to training their dog. You may be missing something when it comes to teaching a command, or you may be inadvertently giving your Poodle the wrong signals.
Most over excited dog breeds can be calmed with the right technique and with a bit of patience and perseverance.