This article appeared in the July 1994
issue of the Pom Registry and is reprinted by permission of the
Editor Phyllis Ripley and the author.
It goes without saying that it takes more than a good quality
dog to make a good show dog. It takes pizzazz; that extra spark;
an attitude that says, "Pick me!" But how is that
It is never too soon to start
conditioning a puppy. If the puppy is one you have bought from
someone else, the early conditioning the pup has received may be
unknown to you, so the sooner you start your conditioning
process, the better. If you have a litter of puppies, or puppies
of different ages that you have bred, individual attention for
each puppy is critical. All puppies benefit from early
socialization, show prospects and pets alike. Your show puppy
buyers will appreciate the effort you have put into their future
winner; your pet puppy buyers will have a happier, safer
companion with whom to live. They will recommend your dogs to
their friends and your reputation for providing both physically
and mentally healthy Pomeranians will flourish. Early
socialization of puppies is never time wasted.
Handle your puppies a lot at an early age. Turn them over on
their backs and rub their bellies. In picking up a young,
squirming puppy, use both hands. Put one hand underneath the
puppy, behind the front legs. Because Poms are so light, you
won’t need your other hand until the pup is in your arms, but
once there, use that hand to steady and calm the puppy. When you
turn them over onto your lap, put one hand behind their head,
keeping the other hand on their chest.
The more your puppies are handled, the less they will squirm
when they are picked up, because it will be a pleasant
experience for them and something they will invite. But Poms can
really squirm and may try to wiggle out of your arms. There is
never a reason to let go of a squirming puppy, no matter what!
If a Pom falls or jumps from your arms, it can be seriously
injured or killed. Even adults have had such disasters happen,
so don’t take this precaution lightly. Friends who are not
"doggy" will think your puppy is adorable, but may not
be good candidates for holding your puppy until you are sure it
is dependable in someone else’s arms. A policy of mine is to
never allow anyone to hold my dogs. The risks are too great.
Children can be terrific at socializing puppies. They love to
play and puppies love to play with them. Children have a high
tolerance for doing things over and over, which puppies also
love. However, no matter how responsible you may think they are,
children must always be sitting on the floor on their bottoms
when holding a puppy. They must not pick up puppies in any other
position. If the puppy wants to walk away, the child must
respect the puppy’s desires and allow the pup to go. The puppy
has the option of coming back to play, but the child must not
chase the puppy. Fur and tails must not be pulled. School age
children who understand the rules may be dependable enough to
leave with puppies for short periods. Pre school age children
must be supervised constantly.
Once the puppy is on its back, lay it on your lap as you sit
on a couch or easy chair. The first few times, the puppy may
squirm and struggle, but talk gently and reassuringly to it.
Tell him what he wants to hear - he’s the cutest puppy in the
world. If the puppy continues to struggle, gently but firmly
insist that it settle down. No puppy gets to get up while it is
struggling. The reward for settling down is being allowed up. If
it gets up when it is struggling, you have just reinforced
struggling. Guess what the puppy is going to do the next time
you put it on its back. Don’t let this bad habit begin!
As soon as the puppy relaxes on its back, brush its chest
gently and continue to reassure it with your voice. On its back,
the puppy learns to trust you to take care of it so that nothing
will hurt it. This is not a natural position for a dog and it
must trust you completely. Firmly discourage a puppy that tries
to nip the brush or your hands. Unless your puppy has developed
a bad habit, a verbal reprimand will be all that is necessary
and he will quickly learn that biting and nipping is reserved
for play with other puppies. It is never acceptable with humans.
An older puppy with a habit of nipping, either out of aggression
or fear may need to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck or nose
and told, "No" very firmly.
When a puppy has learned that being on its back is a pleasant
experience, I begin to clip nails in that position. I just take
off the tips of their nails so that the puppy is never hurt, but
begins to accept the sensation of having its nails clipped.
Later I introduce the nail grinder. All my dogs’ nails are
done while they are on their backs.
Eventually, the Poms learn to lie on their sides so they can
be line brushed (a subject for another article), but for right
now, just brush through the puppy quickly so they get the idea.
This individual attention should be fun for the puppy. He
gets a lot of loving hands all over his little body, completely
away from the other puppies. Devotion to the pack must be
transferred to you. Each and every puppy is special and this
kind of attention lets them know that they are. The puppies are
also separated in their crates and learn to sleep by themselves
so that the dependence on littermates begins to diminish. Once
their shots are complete, take them places with you and begin
training classes where they will meet other dogs and people.
Since Poms are baited in the ring, Pom
puppies benefit from learning to take food from your hands at an
early age. Don’t let them pick up their treats off the floor.
A Pom that doesn’t bait just doesn’t have a prayer in the
show ring, so this training is critical to their future. And
certainly all puppies love to get treats. My puppies are started
on Nutri-Cal at a very early age. They come running when they
see the tube. They know that my fingers will have wonderful
treats on them and they get very excited. Encourage this
excitement. We want wagging tails and paws prancing in those
early training sessions.
Again, with one puppy at a time, show the puppy that you have
something for it. Call its name and the instant the puppy looks
at you, reward it for its attention. The puppy needs to make eye
contact with you. Teach the puppy that you are the object of its
attention, not the food. The food is the reward for his
Tiny bits of cheese work very well as bait. They are sticky
and can be gobbled quickly so that you can continue the training
without waiting for the pup to chew up his treat. You want him
coming back for more.
At first, reward the puppy for looking up, no matter how
it’s standing. Gradually, even with the second bite, encourage
the puppy to stand on four feet. Give the command you are going
to use, either "Stay" or "Stand" and
withhold the bait until all four feet are on the floor. As time
goes on, you will make minor corrections in how the puppy is
standing, but only as he can handle it. You will begin to ask
him to stand still for longer and longer periods. Make the
baiting sessions lots of fun with lots of encouraging words and
happy talk. There are no corrections here. As long as the puppy
is taking food from your hands, he can’t loose. As you talk to
the puppy, you’ll see that it will start to use its ears. The
tail must be up.
Puppies that like squeaky toys can be excellent show dogs
because when they don’t feel like eating or you have run out
of bait, pat your pocket with the squeaky and you’re back in
business. Letting puppies play with and chase toys is great fun
and has good long-range benefits.
These early sessions can be off lead, because there is no
real need for control. You will find though, your work off lead
will be a real asset when it comes time to use the lead because
you will already have what you need most - the dog’s
attention. He will be happy, enthusiastic and wanting to please
you and the lead will be incidental. It will only be there to
guide the puppy. When puppies are bouncy, they can be guided and
taught to behave. When you have a deadhead puppy that doesn’t
care to play, it can be extremely difficult to teach that puppy
In teaching the puppy to gait on lead,
play is again the best teacher. Toss a squeaky toy and let the
puppy bound after it. Call the puppy’s name as you are walking
and when he looks up, toss some bait ahead of where you are
walking to encourage him to move out ahead of you. Running is
not corrected now. We just really want the puppy to be happy.
Gradually, as the puppy learns to walk out on the lead, let
the lead guide the puppy into walking in a straight line.
Learning to walk in a straight line yourself is extremely
helpful! (You know what they say, the first thing to know before
training a dog is to know more than the dog!) I tighten the lead
enough to guide the puppy when we are beginning a gaiting
pattern, but as soon as he is moving, I give him a slack lead
and simply use bait or call happily to him to keep him looking
up. A loose lead is the most desirable way to show a Pom. It
shows them to their greatest advantage.
The squeaky toy can be an excellent tool for getting ears up
in the show ring. Sometimes a dog will tire of food when it’s
in the ring, but the squeaky introduced at the right time can
bring him around. Let the puppy play with the toy and squeak it.
When he baits for it, praise him. Throw the toy around and let
him go after it. When you are in the ring, however, save it as a
last resort. Don’t squeak it the entire time you are in the
ring. This not only disturbs all the other dogs, but also the
judge. The more you squeak the toy, the less effect it will have
on your puppy. Don’t over-do a good thing! You’ve probably
seen the handler who squeaks a toy from the minute he walks in
the ring until he walks out. But what’s the dog doing? Looking
bored, of course.
Introducing the puppy to the table is
much the same as the bait training we just did. Put the puppy on
the table often. Play with him there. Feed him there. This is a
good time for Nutri-Cal. Let him mouth the squeaky. Let him get
very comfortable being on the table. Show him where the edges
are and be sure you are very, very close. Never walk away,
assuming that the puppy will have sense enough not to jump. Keep
one hand on the tabled puppy at all times.
When your skills at teaching baiting on the floor have
developed a bit, begin using the same techniques on the table.
Hand stacking is begun and perfected here. Teach the puppy early
to accept having his legs put into position and its bite
examined. You are above the ground, so keep the puppy on lead to
prevent accidents. Eventually he will be groomed on the table
also and you’ll be transferring the good experiences you have
taught the puppy on his back in your lap to the table.
A mirror behind your grooming table can be a great help. You
can quickly assess the puppy’s outline as it’s baiting, your
skill at hand stacking, as well as those final grooming touches
which may "make the difference".
Above all else, don’t let anything negative happen on the
table. A judge once said gave me a piece of advice: never give
shots on the table. It makes sense! We don’t want our little
"stars" to think someone is going to pinch them when
they stand up! What could possibly be more impressive than a Pom
that stands up proudly, posing like a statue and baits on the
table? He’ll make a good and lasting impression on the judge,
I think! Your few minutes of examination on the table is your
time to impress the judge. Make it count!