My Poodle is a Bully

All breeds have their PR challenges, but imagine walking down the street and people suddenly run out and hug your dog. Or when your dog plays with another dog they exclaim, “She’s like a real dog.” People think all Poodles are girls.

Poodles are real dogs.

-All Poodle owners ever

Charming, he’s the white Poodle, is the first dog I raised from a puppy. I wanted another black one, but Charming had a great temperament and I’ll pick temperament over color any day of the week.

Charming all fluffed and puffed at about 5 months

He is Cute

I planned to attend the Dog Bowl in Frankenmuth, Michigan, on Memorial Day weekend when Charming would be 5 months old. It was important he walked well on a leash.

The first time I took him around the block the people on the corner had their son’s dog staying with them and it scared the crap out of him. The dog is marked like a Boarder Collie. After this, Charming barked at any dog marked like a Border Collie–and not a normal bark; a rolling alarm bark only a Poodle can do.

I socialized him with other dogs and he was always good. He went to the Dog Bowl and was great. He went with his dog buddies, Gunner and Grinder. Gunner is the same age as Charming. The only incident was when we walked up a hill and there was a Boarder Collie at the top. Charming went off—Ra Ra Ra RAAAAA! Ra Ra Ra RAAAAAAA! About six times. Everyone stopped and looked at me. The Boarder Collie didn’t know what to do.

The Dog Park

The real problem began at the dog park when Charming was about a year old. I want to be clear. Charming is not dog aggressive and has never started a fight or attacked another dog. However, his behavior, if allowed to continue, could lead to a fight.

All my dogs learn to walk off-leash because I hike though the woods with them. There isn’t a need to take them to a dog park for exercise. I joined in order to go with the friend who owns Charming’s buddies, Gunner and Grinder. And to meet other local dog owners.

There was a Weimaraner puppy at the dog park about 8 months old. The two dogs played together fine several times. They were about the same size, but the Weimaraner outweighed Charming by about 20 lbs. One day, the Weimaraner attacked Charming and to my surprise Charming stood his ground and the Weimaraner backed-off. Unfortunately, the Weimaraner’s owners saw it as ‘playing.’ I knew it wasn’t and stayed clear of the Weimaraner.

When Standard Poodles play they do this thing where they spin in a circle and hit each other with their noses. It’s not so pronounced when they play with other Poodles because the other Poodles are hip to the move. But when they play with other breeds it is very pronounced. They go faster and faster and it scares the crap out of dogs not used to it.

Poodles are very light boned dogs. A Standard Poodle may appear bigger than a Labrador Retriever, but the Poodle will weigh 50 lbs and the Retriever 70 or 80 lbs. The spinning action is a great defense because with their fluffy coats they look like a very strange animal. Poodles use their brains to get the better of other dogs at play or in a fight.

After the encounter with the Weimaraner, Charming went on the defensive with all smooth hair dogs at the dog park. He’d show them who’s boss first. Charming is a very confident dog who will submit to a more confident dog. Unfortunately, there were none in the Woodhaven Michigan Municipal Dog Park.

He’d play with the Pit Bulls and do his spin and poke and they would not know what to do. They’d run, he’d chase; it was big fun for Charming. Soon he’d have them hiding under benches. He’d peak under the bench like, “Well, are we playing or not?” This is when I’d intervene.

It wasn’t long before he learned he could intimidate dogs twice his size. Ever see a Great Pyrenees try to hide under a bench? The more they ran from him, the bolder he got. It became self-rewarding. I was unable to stop him. When he started intimidating dogs entering the park, I decided to no longer take him there.

I read posts on the Dog Park’s Facebook page about The White Poodle. The Pit Bull owners were the maddest. Not because of any real safety issue, but because their Pit Bulls were afraid of a Poodle.

“I will not have my Pit intimidated by a F____g French Poodle!!” one person wrote. I laughed. My little Charming was infamous.

It’s not MY Dog

At first I thought it was just that dog park and those people, it can’t be my sweet puppy Charming. My sweet little puppy could not be a bully. He is just playing. It’s not his fault the other dogs are afraid. Charming loved the dog park. The photo at the top of the page was taken at The Woodhaven Municipal Dog Park.

I tried him at another, smaller dog park with dogs he knows and he started to bully his buddy, Gunner. It was because Gunner was neutered, I told myself.

Charming would pick-out what he believed was the leader of the ‘other’ pack (GG, Henry, Gunner and Grinder were Charming’s pack) and pick on the leader mercilessly. He’d follow them around and spin and poke and spin poke until they were cowering under their owner’s feet. Sometimes he would nip them because he wanted them to run.

I had to admit it…

My Poodle is a bully.

The only time Charming does not do this is if my sister’s dog, CBGB, is present because Charming acknowledges CB as the ultimate pack leader. CB once made a horse go away and Charming has worshiped him every since. I often wonder if Charming would bully other dogs at the dog park if CB was there. I’ll never know. CB is dog aggressive and cannot go to dog parks.

CB–Charming’s idol

I no longer bother with dog parks. GG never liked them and Henry, my black Standard, could care less as long as he goes where I go. They can be a good thing if you don’t have a yard and you’re not comfortable with allowing your dog to run loose in unfenced, open spaces.

Charming runs with a pack of hounds owned by me, my sister and our friend Sue. We meet at Field of Dreams (FOD) Flying Field on Sanford Road Park, Milan, Michigan. I don’t usually have an issue with Charming, but CB is present.

The Pack; Charming, Henry, CB, GG, Binky. (Not pictured: Maggie and Max.

Just today we introduced a new member to the pack, Max, Maggie’s Puppy. Charming had to be on a leash because Max was afraid of both Poodles. He had never seen fluffy dogs before. Charming was going to take full advantage of his fear. CB was ready to intervene, but we thought it best to put Charming on leash and let them get used to each other in stages as Max was ready. By the end of the walk, Max played with Henry.

To this day Charming is not aggressive and often visits in hospitals. It is important to know your dog. This bulling behavior could start a fight in a dog park and as a dog owner it is your responsibility to recognize it and act accordingly.

As I write this Charming is 5 years old and has never started a fight, but he has also never backed down from one. He still does not like Border Collies.

Meet Max the newest member of the pack.

Have you ever had to admit “It IS your dog?”

Let me know in the comments below.


12 responses to “My Poodle is a Bully”

  1. I was intrigued my your article of the pull overs. I also own a black standard Poodle and Nick is a lover but very outgoing and social. He loves riding in the car. I have never been pulled over but I have been followed more times than I care to count. Maybe my being a white man the authorities are not so quick to step in. I have actually had it happen I have opened the back window and he has stuck his muzzle out and the officer has turned off. It all makes sense now reading your story. I also realized the spinning move you have talked about. Nick loves the dog park and sadly I don’t take him enough to play but when we do he plays and he plays hard. His best buddy is Apollo a Pitbull Great Dane mix. I have seen my Nick use the spinning move but its never been any kind of problem. If the other dog run he moves on to the next dog and they chase each other. Running has to be his favorite thing. When his tongue hangs out of the side of his mouth I know he is having a good time. Thanks for writing and I would love to follow your blog if I knew how to do it. I would love to post a picture of my Nick but don’t know how to do that here.


  2. Great article! I am always shocked at the people that do not pay attention to their dogs at dog parks sometimes. I am always with my two. One is a Great Dane/Boxer mix and he is scared of everything, and loves to run really fast. He usually is fine, but can get humpy. Which can obviously cause problems! My other is a Rottweiler/German Shepard mix and she is so bossy. She can’t let anything go, and while 90% of the time it’s good, if a dog starts barking at her or wants to be dominant she keeps it real. I guess I just always assume it’s my dogs! I let them play a bit with other dogs, then i just keep my guys moving.


  3. My dog is also a bully. She will often ignore other dogs at the dog park, will sometimes play with a puppy or a bigger dog who challenges her. She will absolutely pick on smaller dogs if given the chance, she seems to especially hate schnauzers and small poodles. She has attacked small fluffy dogs many times! We got her a smaller brother to try to break the habit, and it happened less but still, every once in a while a smaller dog would give her the stink eye and she’d bitch them out. It happens about 10% of the time we go to the smaller (still large) city dog park. She’s 8 now and I just keep a good watch on her to divert if her body language tells me there’s going to be a problem.


  4. I recognized the spin-poke move! My timid Japanese Spitz puppy had it done to her by a very old mini who wanted her to play… and he whined & bugged her until she came out from under the table & played chase with him! His owner said that the spin poke really annoyed other dogs, but I always think of that sweet arthritic old mini as the grandpa dog who taught my pup how to play.


  5. Hi, Cynthia,

    Thanks for your essays! I appreciate your writing style, and can be reading along happily—and then, wham! A misspelling rises up like a police barrier. The very smart dog that’s usually white with patches of various colors is a Border Collie, not the denizen of a rooming house.

    While I realize that English is a fluid language whose rules of spelling only settled down within the last 200 years, and that spellings will change over time, at this point in history, spellings can affect the entire meaning of one’s writing: We play “peek-a-boo” with babies and dogs peek under benches; we climb mountain peaks, with or without dogs in tow, who may or may not give us a fit of pique.

    Most of all, though, as a poodle person myself, I am entranced by your stories of Merlin, Henry, and Charming. Most especially, thank you for the post of 1 June about Merlin and the police pullovers.

    Best regards,
    Meredith Lane Brown


    • Thank you. I should have caught that because I do it all the time. I haven’t been able to use my proofing software because of a change WordPress made to their editor, it doesn’t catch everything, but it would have caught that. It is incredible hard to proof read your own work.


      • Lovely cautionary tale. Thank you. We also have a bully who should have been named Napolean. A singleton with an attitude problem, she does not go to parks, nor big box pet stores, after that rumble with a Great Dane who ran away in fear. Well socialized, well bred and who learned early it is FUN to get your way we monitor her world to prevent takeover attempts. Wire fox terriers are not known to back down or for the ability to understand size differences.


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