Standard Poodle fever hit me in early 2012. I wanted a poodle. A Big Poodle. And his name was going to be Perry. I don’t even remember what got the idea into my head. Since I am a person that refuses to wear makeup and believes that hair dryers should only be used quarterly, many people in my life felt that a poodle was entirely wrong for me. Poodles are prissy. Poodles are snobby. Poodles are willful and stupid. Poodles cannot do the rough and tumble things that I love to do with my other two dogs. I paid no mind to the breed prejudice thrown my way when I wanted a pitbull, and I had no intention of paying mind to this completely false and uninformed poodle prejudice either. Stubborn is as stubborn does.
And when I wouldn’t listen “to reason”, people asked me about the astronomical grooming bills. Is that what I wanted to “deal with”? I brushed that off (no pun intended). I was going to groom Perry all by myself. No big deal. After all, I groom my longhair cat, Smokey. This, rightfully so, brought about either laughter or horror. Each warm season, I shave Smokey’s beautiful long hair clean off. And each warm season, he looks like an uneven woven basket created by a three year old. Well, whatever. The clippers that I had cost 20 dollars, you get what you pay for! When I got Perry, I was going to buy some nice clippers and do the job right. Smokey was just the warm up.
I will save the details, but Perry finally came to me in the form of a 5 month old female parti poodle with a penchant for killing chickens on the farm where she was living. Perri the Poodle. And Perri was hairy. Hairy face, hairy ears, hairy body, hairy feet, hairy tail. Hairy, hairy, hairy. I have a good friend and groomer that took me under her wing and taught me the tricks of the trade. I also bought Poodle Clipping and Grooming by Shirlee Kalstone.
This post is to share a few things that I learned about both poodles and general grooming in the past year. I will allow that Perri’s grooming has been a complete experiment and learning experience. Professional groomers go to school for a reason, and I am in continued admiration of the talent and skill that goes into knowing how to groom poodles and any other range of breeds that go through a groom shop.
1. Poodles grow hair inside of their ears. I found this to be very odd, and it was indeed a complete surprise. Perri’s ears are hairier than a 90 year old man’s. The vet says that she has sheep ears. I knew that I would have to do a lot of work on Perri’s outside, but I did not realize that her insides would grow hair as well! My friend told me that the hair had to be plucked out, either by my fingers or with a hemostat. WHAT!?
Necessity called, though. The first few months of Perri’s life with me were coupled with a fight against yeast infection in both ears. Keeping her ears clean and hair-free were a must. So, we settle down with her head in my lap and the desk lamp shining in her ear while I pluck away with the hemostat. She is a good sport about it. For deeper in the ear canal I peer in with a flashlight to get those way-down hairs.
2. Proper grooming requires a lot of tools.
I was fortunate enough to be taken to a groomer trade show by my friend. She helped me select everything that I needed to groom Perri. I was a mixture of ambitious and confused afterwards, and certainly lighter in the wallet.
Clippers are complicated. My 20 dollar clippers were a solid unit. My friend and the groomers that she learned off of threw numbers like “a 10″ and “a 7″ around when they talked about clippers. I was a bit lost. I quickly learned that proper clippers are the machine itself, and then a variety of “blades” are to be interchanged on that unit. I am afraid that I will not be explaining every single blade and its use here today. I am simply not capable. What I do know is that there are certain blades that are “dummy proof”, and there are certain blades that can cut so close on the animal that she will bleed. I have the “dummy proof” sized blades. A “10 Blade” for Perri’s face, paws and tail – the 10 Blade leaves the hair 1/16″ long. And a “5 Blade” for the rest of her body – the 5 Blade leaves the hair 1/4″ long.
If that is not complicated enough, blades are also made out of different materials. Ceramic and steel are most commonly used, and it seems to me that groomers are very opinionated about which they prefer to use. I am staying out of that! Another surprise in the clipper department was that they get blazingly hot in no time at all, especially if you are an inexperienced “groomer”. If you do not have another blade of the same size to keep switching out, you will have to wait for your blade to cool down. Otherwise, the dog could get burned, and nobody wants that. It didn’t take me long to purchase another “10 blade”.
Scissors: Also Complicated. Scissors are also not optional, as I thought that they might be. And you need different sorts of scissors. One pair of scissors will not do. Since the scissors are used to shape the poodles poofs and puffs into tidy rounded shapes, like a topiary, I needed “curved scissors” and “straight scissors” for different parts of the dog’s body. Since I did not plan on shaving Perri’s entire body to the skin at all times, scissors were a must. “Scissoring” is a type of shaping, putting finishing touches on, and otherwise fine tuning certain areas of the coat and “topknot” (otherwise known as “head poof” or ‘fro.)
And that’s not all. A grooming table seemed unnecessary to me initially. Initially. After a few attempts to groom Perri at ground level, I changed my mind. And everything was better on the table. I was not hunched on the ground for one thing, and Perri’s poodle instincts kicked in. She stands quite still and lets me do my work.
In the past when I have given any dog a bath, I rub the shampoo into their skin with my fingers. I always had a difficult time getting my shampoo to every place necessary on the dog, because it would fall off, or get worked into the coat too quickly in the spot that I was working on. A lot of shampoo was used and wasted. When I participated in Project Liberty, I learned a new trick at the groom shop. Loofahs. Now I have my own loofah, and the dogs have one. I fill the loofah with shampoo and I have enough lather to scrub the entire dog down. I use less shampoo, and do a more efficient job! This is especially important when I use whitening shampoo for Perri.
4. Poodle Feet.
Pick up your dog’s paw. Look at the pads. All of those little crevices – on top and underneath. Now imagine shaving hair out from between there. If hair grows inside of a poodle’s ears, then it certainly grows in liberal amounts out of every bit of their paws. Left to its own devices, this hair will grow indefinitely and eventually mat and cause difficulty in walking.
“Poodle Feet” is the term used for a nicely shaved set of paws on a poodle. I am not alone in thinking that it is the most difficult body part to master. The dog doesn’t like that much paw handling. It is awkward and tedious. Many dogs don’t even like their nails clipped, let along having a clipper taken to the insides of their toes. The poodle grooming book that I linked to at the beginning of this post was and is my lifeline when it comes to grooming Perri’s feet. And, like everything else, we have come a long way. In the beginning, we would do one paw over two days. She would get lots of treats for being so tolerant. Soon we moved up to one paw a day. At this point, I am able to clip all of Perri’s feet in one session. Perri may still try to flick her feet away form me on occasion, but we are both becoming old hands. (again, no pun intended.)
5. Poodle coats are customizable.
Many people judge poodles on their beautiful and curly hair, or on the extravagant clips seen on show dogs. But for a pet quality poodle, there are endless options for your dog’s appearance. I love that about them. My personal preference for Perri is a clean face, clean paws, and everything but the ears and topknot clipped close and a poof on the end of her tail. The long hair on Perri’s head and ears is a stretch for our lifestyle and I do end up brushing it to keep it from matting. It is worth it!
The options are endless, and you can dramatically alter the appearance of your dog depending on what you choose to play with. Ankle poofs, moustaches, mohawks, total clip downs or total woolly bear looks. Fur can be dyed. Shapes can be clipped into the sides of the dog’s fur. Most everybody has seen the artwork that can be made out of a poodle’s fur, and if you have not, do a Google search for “Creative Grooming”. That is a bit out of my depth, but fun to look at! At this point, any customizing that I have done to Perri is all in the name of learning. Her ears and topknot have changed dramatically since she came home with me last August. It was not until even a few days ago that I finally scissored Perri’s “mad scientist” topknot into a respectable poodle-shape. I am learning my way around this dog’s always-growing hair at last.
I also learned a lot more than grooming about poodles. I learned that my poodle? My poodle is not prissy, she is a clown. My poodle is not overly stubborn, she learns obedience commands almost before I can teach them to her. My poodle can spar with my pitbull and hold her own just fine. My poodle can hike over 10 miles, on any terrain that nature throws our way. Poodles aren’t sissies. They are fabulous looking dogs with plenty of character and charm to match.
I remember it was a really warm day in April when I set off to pick up a dog in Rochester who was heading to a rescue in Vermont. I ended up on the transport almost by accident. I had been contacted to do it, but couldn’t. By the time the transport coordinator wrote to me, I was already signed up for two other transports. But as fate would have it, the other two disappeared off my plate the day before the transport started. One dog was adopted. The other dog was combined with a larger transport. I was off the hook for those and this transport still needed me. I signed on, the final piece of the puzzle that would get this dog from a place where she would have been put down to a place where she was safe, where she’d be taken care of, where she’d wait until she found that new perfect home she so deserved.
The dog in question was a BBD (a “big black dog”). In most rescue circles they’re most known for having the hardest time with getting adopted. They’re hard to read. They’re hard to photograph. They’re not flashy. They’re just black. And big. This dog was no different, though at only 50 pounds she was more of a medium-sized dog than a big one in my estimation. She was to be put down April 15. The rescue saved her life, got her spayed, and on transport.
It was lucky transport #13 for me!
When I met up with the transporter before me and she opened up the back of her SUV to reveal the dog in question, I knew almost instantly that this was the dog for me. I can’t really say why. I remember looking at her and leaning in to pet her and help her out of the vehicle (she still had spay stitches in!). She leaned forward and gave me a tentative lick on the cheek and stared at me with wide soulful brown eyes and I was smitten. I remember saying “If I could adopt this dog, I would.”
She and I set off for the ride to Syracuse and she settled so quietly and calmly in the back seat that it was almost like I didn’t have a dog in the car. We arrived early in Syracuse and I had a chance to spend about a half an hour with her just relaxing on the grass and letting her walk around and get her fill of sniffing some fresh air. I tried to call my partner but my cell phone had (as usual) died. He never got a chance to meet her that day.
When the next person arrived and took off with her, I felt incredibly sad. They were leaving with my dog after all. The next week she was up on Petfinder.
If ever there were a PERFECT companion dog–Dahlia is it. Which breaks our hearts, cause we pulled her one day before she was to be euthanized–the curse of the BBD… And what a LOVE!! She lives for love and affection, and while not a velcro dog, is a want-to-be-with-you-cause-that-makes-me-happy kind of dog. NO, none whatsoever, bad behaviors!! None of the Border needs for high exercise nor herding behaviors. She is house trained, leash trained, learning sit, sleeps right next to you, not barky (but will let you know someone is at the house), SWEET and LOVING girl. I fear she might be one of the many foreclosure dogs that are turning up in the shelters these days. She obviously came from a loving home and is of a very endearing nature.
She wasn’t on there for very long. David, my amazing partner, agreed to let me put in an application to adopt her. The rescue took her down off Petfinder almost as soon as they received it. After sitting on pins and needles waiting for approval from our soon-to-be landlord (who was sure Dahlia was a huge dog and was worried about barking), we finally got the official approval to adopt her.
We brought her home on May 17, 2008 and our lives have not been the same since.
Now I want to hear your stories. How did you get your dog(s)? Tell us their stories, whether they be crazy or not!
I have many, many things that I use to play with and train my dogs (seriously, they’ve got their own jam-packed closet in my house.) However, one of the best bang-for-the-buck things I’ve ever bought was a small set of lightweight, collapsible orange cones. Mine came from the Dollar Store (eight cones for a buck!); I have also seen them for pretty cheap at various big-box stores, hardware stores and online. Below the cut are eight different ways that I use my little set of cones when I want to stretch my dogs’ brains a bit. I took advantage of an unseasonably warm day and tried these exercises outdoors, but the great thing about these things is that they work perfectly well indoors, so if you’re currently snowed in and don’t want to take your pups for a long outdoor amble, this is a great way to get them thinking and tired out while avoiding the cold. I picked eight things that we do all the time, but I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface with these ideas. I bet you guys have some great ideas of your own; feel free to let us know in the comments!
I love Herbie very much, but she is not the brightest bunny in the fish bowl (and if there’s more than one, we’re really in trouble). I’m not being mean. She just isn’t a very intelligent animal. We put her through all the ‘dog IQ’ tests as a puppy and she failed consistently. Put a blanket over her and she’d be stuck for days. Place a dog treat under a cup and tell her to get it and she’d tilt her head at the floor as if to say, “What black magic is this?” It took her a year to figure out how to use her sniffer. She still periodically locks herself in the spare bedroom at my boss’s house.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I have a horse who is smarter than me. I don’t need any more wily animals in my life. Herbie would never think to dig out of the yard or jump over the fence. If you put something on the table, she will never get it. It wouldn’t occur to her to break the rules. She was easy to train. She’s easy to medicate. She’ll ‘fall for it’ every time.
But perhaps I’m not being fair. What Herbie lacks in ‘book smarts’, she makes up for in emotional intelligence. She is extremely intuitive when it comes to moods, emotions, and social interaction. Whenever there are raised voices, Herbie excuses herself and goes to hide under the bed, but when my roommate and I got into it one night and he was being unfair, she slunk into the kitchen, placed herself, shaking, between us and backed me up. When the same roommate’s father passed away in September, Herbie planted herself in his lap for days. When a client of mine brought her creeper husband to the barn with her, my dog instantly knew he was no good, and positioned herself between him and me, hackles raised.
I was told when I first got Herbie as a puppy that pit bulls were bred to be comfort dogs. We certainly see them used as therapy dogs quite often. Herbie is more of a farm dog than anything else, but sometimes I think she missed out on her true calling. She seems naturally inclined to be therapeutic.
When Herbie was just a pup, we went to a horse show in Pennsylvania. There we met a mentally handicapped woman who was instantly drawn to Herbie. Herbie spent hours with the woman, being kind, gentle, and obedient. Despite the fact that she was still a young dog and that the woman’s verbal commands were skewed and unintelligible, Herbie dutifully listened to one command after another, going through an endless repertoire of ‘sit, down, high five’. The woman’s face lit up and I gathered compliments on how well trained my dog was, but the fact was Herbie did it all on her own.
This week, I got to experience Herbie’s nursing nature first hand. On Saturday afternoon, a troubled client horse with a dark history of abuse flipped over on me during a training session. My leg got caught in the saddle and twisted as the horse landed on top of me. The resulting crush injury landed me in the hospital with a compound tib/fib fracture. Hours later, I was rolled into surgery where a titanium rod and four screws secured my leg into sort of its original position.
Mike stayed with me that night, snuggled up next to me in the tiny hospital bed. When we didn’t come home, Herbie knew something was up and paced the house for several hours before settling in my empty bed to mope and wait for me to return. She stared at our roommate as if to say, “They didn’t come home. They always come home. Where are they?” Worried dog knew something was up even before I hobbled home on crutches and the ‘good drugs’.
When they finally discharged me, our roommate locked Herbie in his room while I came through the door. Herbie is a high energy dog and an exuberant greeter. The last thing I needed was to knocked off my feet by a wagging, wiggling ball of pit bull. But I couldn’t wait to see my dog and I asked the boys to let her loose once I was seated safely in the kitchen.
Herbie bounded across the house, then slid to a stop in the kitchen. Her whole body wagged, but her ears were flat and her eyes were concerned. Instead of jumping on me like she usually does, Herbie circled, then sniffed my bum leg and laid down. It’s not exactly rocket science, figuring out that there’s something wrong with my right leg, but for a dog who can’t figure out a dog door, it’s kind of a big deal.
Herbie has been amazing through my recovery so far. My usually energetic dog has been laying faithfully by my side on the couch, in bed, or on the floor outside the bathroom door. Miss Endless Rounds of Fetch has taken to long naps and has proven to be an excellent arm rest through countless movies.
She is terrified of my crutches and has figured out that they’re coming out as soon as I start shifting into upright position, but she escorts me quietly through the house from a few feet away.
When the pain gets bad, she snuggles close, and when I cry from how hopeless the situation feels, she licks the tears off my face. She sniffs my leg carefully every morning, as if examining the doctors’ work, and she has taken to gently tip toeing around me in bed instead of flopping down in my lap as usual. She seems to know I’m vulnerable and that the leg is a no-touching zone.
It’s going to be a long ten weeks before I can put weight on my leg again, but Herbie seems like she’s ready to be in it for the long haul. I don’t know if pit bulls were actually bred to be comfort dogs once upon a time, but Herbie seems to be taking her new role as dog-nurse very seriously.
She may not be the world’s cleverest dog, but emotionally, she’s a genius.
Featuring some of the TU dogs along with some of the beautiful dogs of our readers!
I apologize that this post isn’t full of great information, but every blog has it’s “fluffy” posts, right? This is one of those.
Having been in the dog world and having owned a couple of dogs, I am always asked by friends and clients alike, “What should I name my dog?” or “How’d you come up with that name?” Usually, people are trying to think of a cute or clever name to go along with the cute puppy they just adopted – names like Max, Bella, or Baby are just so over-played.
Would you believe me if I told you that I did not name any of my dogs? I am horrible at coming up with names, and I refuse to name a dog Lucy, Molly, Cooper, or Charlie (no offence to those of you who do have dogs by those names, but I also named my daughter a traditional boys’ name to avoid her falling into a sea of Emmas, Amelias, and Emilys).
Howie was named by the friend I got him from, and I hated his name at first. My significant other and I toiled for days trying to think of the “perfect” name for him. Once we got him home, he was most definitely a Howie – he just embodied the name. And no other dog was named Howie, he was an original – in more ways than one. We don’t talk about his registered name because, well, it was my first attempt, and a pretty poor one at that. Later, after we started to compete in dog sports, it was copied, but I try not to have a grudge over it!
Jax’s name originally fit with his original registered (show) name – Cross’s Son of Anarchy (apparently, “Jax” is a character from this show. I don’t watch it to know). I did not like this name. Luckily, his breeder didn’t care one way or the other what his registered name was, and I changed his registered name to Cross’s Home Run Hitter – I’m a big baseball fan – and I justified his call name because Austin Jackson is an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers. Voila! No need for me to toil and think of a new name!
When asked for my opinion on names, my standard response is, “Live with the dog for awhile. They’ll tell you their name.” I suppose this is shorthand for, “I am not good a thinking of names, one will just eventually come to you if you wait long enough.” Though, I supposse I do believe there is some truth to them “telling” you their name – I never felt any overwhelming urge to change Howie or Jax’s name.
Of course, this doesn’t always work for me, either. I once had a cute little female pit bull that came to me with the name of “Sassy”. I hated this name, even though it fit her perfectly. I was determined this was not going to be her name and tried to think of something cute, clever, and girly. I loved the show name I had picked out for her – Cross’s Littlemisscan’tbewrong – but I was not about to name her “Spinner”, either. My significant other wanted to name her Kitty, so he could hear my yell out “Here, Kitty!” during training sessions. He has a cruel sense of humor. Three weeks later, she still had no name and it was quickly looking like she was going to be forever bound to the name of “Puppy”; but maybe this was fate, because she was not fated to stay with us much longer than that. She still taught me some very valuable lessons, but that’s a story for another time.
I love thinking of clever and original registered names. Just don’t ever ask me for a clever and original call name to go along with that registered name. That’s all on you!
But, this time around it’s different. I am getting a puppy. She was born on January 6th and should be coming home at the beginning of March. Her name is GSR’s Top40 Keep ‘Em Talkin’ and her call name will be “Rumor”. Her call name in itself is becoming a pretty popular name, but it “fits” with her registered name. I am not using “Gabby” because someone I know just got a puppy named Gabby, and I don’t like the way “Gossip” sounds when I say it aloud. Her name should be pretty self-explanatory.
Enough about my dogs. Tell me the story behind your dogs’ name!
I never could have imagined back when I first started training in agility that I would become the sort of student who would end up taking multiple classes and seminars both with my regular instructor and others. I started it for fun and somewhere along the line decided I wanted Dahlia and I to be as good a team as we possibly could be.
We’ve taken weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) classes at the same awesome training place since we began in 2010. The classes are fantastic and we’ve certainly learned a lot. But there’s a minor problem with classes: they’re fairly short. While each student gets their allotted time with the instructor, it still amounts to only about 10-20 minutes at most of the instructor specifically working with you and your dog. Yes, you learn a lot from watching the other students and their dogs and the mistakes they make, but nothing helps more than having the instructor specifically telling you what to do to improve your performance.
At first I wasn’t all that interested in taking seminars. They can be expensive. They’re time intensive (sometimes 4-5 hours, sometimes all day). And the idea just never really crossed my mind. But my instructor suggested I try one out and so I did.
The first seminar I learned to release Dahlia from her start line stay a little bit differently from most other people. Most dogs are raring to go off the start line. Dahlia is a little less confident and a little more mellow. So instead of putting her in her stay, walking away, then standing there and releasing her, I walk briskly away, start to jog and release her while I’m moving. She sees me moving, wants to chase, and takes off with a lot more pep!
The second seminar I did, which was with my regular instructor, I learned about keeping proper connection with my dog and how that can influence her speed and drive. I remember going home and writing of the experience and saying this: One minor little change and BOOM I had a dog who looked like a real agility dog. It was a minor change, certainly, but it took us several times through various sequences for the instructor to latch onto the problem we were having and to fix it.
The third seminar I did I learned about getting Dahlia really hyped up and ready to go. I walked out there with a handful of treats for the first course we did and simply put Dahlia in her stay and ran off to do the sequence. She did it, but she was fairly slow about the whole thing. She was in a low arousal state, which is not really conducive to working. The instructor had us come out again and get her excited and tugging. Each student had enough time to really work their dog up and get them ready. This was my description of Dahlia’s second time through: This time Dahlia was FAR more up…eyes bright, tail up, eyes focused on me. When we took off it was like someone had lit a firecracker up her ass. She was MOVING. I’ve used this in every class since that seminar. At trials, she won’t tug (usually), but I used treats and movement tricks (like standing on her hind legs, running after me, spinning, etc.) to get her up and moving.
The fourth seminar I did, I started to figure out how to trust Dahlia more and have begun to stop babysitting obstacles. Let me show you what “babysitting obstacles” really means. Here’s Dahlia and I at a trial in November.
Can you see how I hesitate and before each jump? I wait for her to get close and actually start to jump before moving away. What does this mean? Well, it means we got a Q. But it also means we were incredibly slow (36 seconds) and Dahlia wasn’t totally sure what I wanted from her. There were a few times (coming out of both tunnels, especially) where I should have kept back closer to her, run with her, and indicated the jumps as I kept going. But I slowed down and raised my upper body, which indicated collection (and turning!), which was confusing.
Compare that to this video, showing two clips of us at the last seminar we went to.
See how I’m not hesitating? See how she’s less confused, especially when coming out of tunnels to take the next jump? That’s the seminar talking.
Each and every seminar we’ve taken has pushed us forward by leaps and bounds. This is not because my instructor is anything but awesome and amazing. This is because at each seminar, you get a chance to really focus on the problems you’re having and fix them. Right there. That send to the jump from the dog walk? We did that several times, each time rewarding Dahlia for going out away from me and taking it and eventually worked our way to my turning and running when she committed to it. What you see in the video is the end product of several minutes of intense work on just one thing.
Were we perfect there? Obviously not! But it helped move us forward and we’ve been able to carry those lessons with us into our weekly lessons with our regular instructor. It’s completely changed how I run her in class and, I hope, will completely change how I run her at trials in the future.
Every dog sport has their seminars. This is not an agility-only phenomenon (in fact, every sport I know has their seminars!). There are seminars for obedience, rally, herding, tracking, you name it. If you’re involved in a dog sport and are getting serious about it, I cannot recommend going to seminars enough. Those moments of complete focus on you and your dog will push you to try new things and help to sort out the problems you’ve been having. They will make you a better team. That much I can guarantee!
So tell us readers, have you ever been to a seminar? What was your experience like? Come share your stories and your questions in the comments!