According to the American Kennel Club's registration statistics, poodles have consistently ranked in the top 10 most popular breeds since 1999. Poodles are one of the most frequent breeds to win dog shows. They are available in standard, miniature and toy sizes. Though classed in the non-sporting and toy groups, poodles were originally bred for water retrieving. Regardless of size, play and social interaction are important for optimum poodle puppy development.
Birth to Two Weeks
Poodle puppies weigh about 4 to 6 oz. at birth and are blind and deaf until about two weeks old. During this time, puppies are completely dependent on their mother for everything, including body temperature regulation. According to the Cesar's Way website, this two-week period is the most important time for puppies to learn motor skills and behavior from their mother and their litter mates.
Two to Four Weeks
During this period, a poodle puppy's teeth begin to develop and he may experiment with trying his mother's food, but puppies at this age are not ready to switch to a solid diet. His senses and motor skills improve greatly during this time, and most poodle puppies will begin to explore the area around the whelping box. This is a good time for puppies to bond with humans through daily touch and gentle interaction.
Four to 12 Weeks
This is an important time period for house training and basic obedience. At around four weeks, the mother poodle will stop cleaning up the puppies' elimination. Some breeders, such as the owner of the website Poodle Junction, begin litter box training at this time. Poodles are also weaned from their mother starting at around five weeks. This process usually lasts until seven or eight weeks, by which time they should be eating solid puppy food exclusively. Puppies should be examined by a veterinarian and de-wormed at around six weeks, and most vets start the puppy vaccine series by eight weeks. At eight weeks, the puppies are old enough to go to new homes. During weeks eight to 12, the poodle puppy is adjusting to his new home, bonding with his owner and making associations between commands and rewards.
Three to Six Months
This age is the puppy equivalent of "the toddler years" in humans. During this time, puppies learn by testing their boundaries. Some poodle puppies may seem to regress in training during this time, but this is temporary and a normal part of development. It is important to be patient with a puppy and remember that he does not speak your language or understand all of your rules. Poodle puppies also begin "teething" during this period, as they lose their baby teeth and grow adult teeth. Address issues like hand nipping with a verbal reprimand. Give the puppy an acceptable alternative, like a chew toy, and reward him for playing with it. Because poodles are an energetic breed, lots of play and exercise are important. This is a good time to start a daily routine that includes walks and games like fetch.
Six to 12 Months
During this time, a poodle puppy may challenge your dominance as he nears sexual maturation. Remain firm and consistent in your training. If you give in to dominance at this point, it will be difficult to regain the leadership role and your poodle's dominant behaviors may escalate to aggression. As your puppy nears the one-year mark, you can start transitioning him to an adult formula of dog food. Gradually replace some of his puppy food with the adult food over a period of several weeks. A rapid switch will cause digestive problems. This is also an ideal time to have your poodle neutered or spayed if you do not intend to use the dog for breeding. This helps reduce certain health risks and often eliminates some dominant behaviors. Talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of sterilization and the best time to perform the operation.