The Poodle is a truly underappreciated breed. They epitomise brains and beauty, and love being part of the family – good luck finding anything this dog can’t do!
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- For novice owners
- Apartment living
- Exercise needs
- Family friendly
- Stranger friendly
- Dog friendly
- Overall health
- Amount of shedding
- Grooming needs
- Ease of training
- Prey drive
- Watchdog ability
The history of Poodles; What were Poodles originally bred for?
Despite the Poodle’s association with France, historical findings suggest the versatile Poodle is originally from Germany, being mentioned and depicted as far back as the 1400s. Thought to have descended from curly-coated Asian herding dogs, the breed’s keen intellect and natural affinity for working with humans allowed it to be one of the first recorded water retrievers. The people of France soon took notice of this capable hunter and quickly adopted it for themselves.
In France, The Poodle was used primarily for duck hunting, earning its new name – the Caniche (from the French cane, a female duck). Originally available only at their Standard size, Breeders began producing progressively smaller Poodles as companions. Non-hunters soon discovered the Poodle’s great trainability and began working them in other avenues, such as truffle hunting and circus work.
The UK’s Kennel Club registered the first Poodle in 1874, and the AKC followed suit, registering its first Poodle 12 years later in 1886. Poodle popularity was low for the first half of the 20th century, before skyrocketing to the top spot in the 1950s. The Poodle is still one of the most popular breeds around and continues to excel at a number of roles, including hunting, entertainment, military, service work, and competitive sports.
The Poodle is a squarely built, deep-chested breed of dog with long, feathered ears, dark eyes and a fine, lengthy muzzle. They are well proportioned, with a curly, dense coat and an active, intelligent expression.
Poodle sizes; How big to do Poodles get?
Poodles are unique in that there are 4 distinct, approved sizes (3 in the U.S.) for the same breed.
There is only one breed standard for all sizes of Poodle. This means that as far as appearance, expression, proportions, colours and temperament go, all Poodles should be consistent, with the only difference being height. The Poodle breed standard does not specify weights.
Types of Poodles
Toy Poodles refer to Poodles who are 10 inches (25.4cm) or under at the highest point of the shoulder (the withers) at maturity.
Miniature Poodles refer to Poodles who are between 10 and 15 inches (25.4-38 cm) at the withers.
By FCI standards, Medium Poodles (also known as Moyen, or Klein Poodles) refer to Poodles who are between 35 and 45 cm, or 13.8-17.7 inches, at the withers. Medium Poodles are uncommon in the U.S., as they are not recognised by the AKC.
Standard Poodles refer to Poodles who are taller than 15 inches (38 cm) at the withers at maturity. Many reach closer to 20-24 inches (51-61 cm).
Unofficial types of Poodles
The term Teacup is given to Poodles who remain under 6 lbs (2.7 kg), or 9 in (23 cm) when fully grown. Unsuspecting buyers fall for the promise of a permanent puppy, but sadly, the reckless breeding of undersized dogs (often runts) to produce miniature puppies has largely resulted in sickly offspring riddled with congenital diseases, structural deformities and dramatically reduced lifespans.
Supporting breeders of Teacup breeds perpetuates the suffering, as puppies born through undersized parents have higher incidences of respiratory issues, heart defects, liver shunts, brain abnormalities and more.
Of course, not everyone who buys a Teacup Poodle will experience the heartache (and vet bills!) of a chronically ill pet, but discerning buyers may appreciate being aware of what they’re potentially getting themselves into.
King Poodles, Giant Poodles and Royal Poodles
While there is no upper limit to the Standard Poodle size, King, Giant and Royal Poodles are marketing terms used similarly to Teacup. They often refer to over-sized Standard Poodles, but prospective buyers should proceed with caution, as intentionally breeding over-sized animals at the expense of other attributes (such as health and temperament) can lead to equally devastating outcomes as seen in Teacups. Keep in mind that no reputable breeder uses marketing ploys to sell their well-bred puppies.
If you’d like to view the full-length AKC breed standard for the Poodle, click here.
Poodles are known for being bright, social and proud.
FAQ: Are Poodles smart?
Especially eager-to-please, Poodles are renowned for their great trainability. Poodles of all sizes can excel in obedience, agility, hunting, service work, therapy work and more. Generally considered to be sensitive animals, fair, force-free methods of training such as positive reinforcement are advised.
FAQ: Are Poodles mean? Do they make good family dogs?
If raised with children, Poodles can make great family dogs. They are social and affectionate with their loved ones and thrive on attention. Toy and Miniature Poodles are more fragile than their Standard counterparts and may do better in a home with older kids, however. Supervision around children is always recommended, regardless of breed.
Poodles are quick and alert, making them top-notch watchdogs. They tend to be reserved with strangers, preferring the attention of their loved ones. Some may take a few moments to warm up to guests, however, there should be no sign of snappiness or aggression toward non-hostile strangers.
Poodles tend to get along well with other animals, including other dogs and the family cat.
A few anecdotal differences
Miniature and Toy poodle temperaments
Toy and Miniature Poodles are said to be less patient with children than Standard varieties, perhaps because of their smaller size, and more delicate frames. In addition, some claim they are more likely to display nervous and neurotic behaviours.
Standard poodle temperament
Standard Poodles are allegedly more docile and kind than their Toy and Miniature counterparts, however, this will largely be dependent on bloodlines and breeder goals.
Owners of all breeds are urged to socialise and expose their pups to a number of people, sounds, children, animals, surfaces and other scenarios while they’re young, curious and impressionable. Ensure their experiences are safe and positive, to prevent negative associations later on.
Energy and exercise needs
Poodles are an active breed, requiring daily exercise.
While Toy and Miniature Poodles require a daily walk to burn off any excess energy, Standard Poodles tend to require more vigorous daily exercise, ideally with the opportunity to run off-leash. Poodles are natural retrievers and many maintain their age-old love of water.
In addition, Poodles are a bright breed, who love to be challenged and require regular mental stimulation.
Hard exercise should be avoided in young Standard Poodles until they have finished growing, in order to prevent structural issues further down the line.
The Poodle coat
The Poodle coat is perhaps its most iconic trait. Unlike most other dog breeds, Poodles have hair that grows indefinitely and sheds minimally, as opposed to fur that sheds constantly. In addition, there is less dander being shed day-to-day, with most of it being trapped within the dense collection of hair. As a result, many pet allergy sufferers claim they have an easier time around Poodles than most other breeds. This has earned Poodles the title of hypoallergenic, although there is still much debate as to the accuracy of this term.
The Poodle breed standard recognises a number of solid colours for the Poodle, including:
Apricot, Black, Blue, Brown, Cream, Gray, Red, Silver, Silver Beige and White
Parti-coloured dogs (those with more than one colour) are prohibited from competing in conformation, although there is nothing restricting them from being excellent family pets and sports competitors.
While Poodles are low shedders, they have high grooming needs. Be prepared to pay a professional groomer to spruce up your Poodle every 4-6 weeks, or educate yourself on how to do it at home. Even low maintenance haircuts require regular brushing to remove dirt and prevent matting.
Avoid bathing too often with harsh shampoos. Instead, opt for gentle dog-specific shampoos to preserve natural protective oils on the skin.
Inspect ears, nails and teeth as part of your regular grooming routine, maintaining as needed.
Poodle clips and hair cuts
What puts most potential Poodle owners off the breed, is the dog’s image as a dainty fashion accessory with high maintenance haircuts. Only a fraction of Poodle owners opt for these styles, many of whom are required to do it for conformation events. Everyone else is free to style their Poodle any way they prefer! A few popular styles include:
The Continental & English Saddle clips
Used largely in conformation, these two styles are similar in that face, throat, feet and base of the tail are all shaved.
In the Continental clip, the hindquarters are also shaved (some leave pompons on the hips) and bracelets are left on the hind- and forelegs.
In the English Saddle Clip, the hair is clipped short on the hindquarters, with two shaved bands on each leg.
The Puppy clip
In the Puppy clip, only the face, throat, feet and tail base are shaved.
The Sporting or Utility clip
In the Sporting clip, the face, throat, feet and tail base are shaved, as above. In addition, the rest of the hair on the body is clipped to follow the dog’s outline, roughly 1 inch (2.5cm) in length, or less.
While generally a healthy breed, Poodles are known to suffer from a few conditions, including:
- Addison’s Disease. Insufficient adrenal hormone secretion, leading to lethargy and low appetite. This condition can be fatal if it’s not caught early enough but can be managed well when it is.
- Cushing’s Disease. Excessive production of cortisol, usually marked by increased thirst and urination.
- Hip Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy. An incurable condition involving the gradual deterioration of rods in the retina, most often leading to blindness.
- Sebaceous Adenitis. An inflammatory skin condition which can lead to raw, dry, itchy skin and hair loss.
- Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This deadly condition can appear suddenly, particularly in large, deep-chested dog breeds. To prevent bloat, feed your dog 2+ times per day, as opposed to than one large serving, and avoid physical activity for at least an hour after each meal.
Many diseases faced by Poodles are inherited, and therefore avoidable. By choosing a good breeder, who conducts relevant screenings and health clearances, and only breeds physically and temperamentally sound Poodles, you are dramatically improving your chances of having a strong, happy, healthy Poodle of your own.
On average, Toy and Miniature Poodles live 13-15+ years. Standard Poodles tend to live between 10 and 13 years.
What is it like to live with a Poodle?
Poodles enjoy using their paws, much like cats, to investigate and interact with their environment.
If training isn’t clear and consistent, some Poodles can become nuisance barkers. This could become a problem for owners living in close proximity to other people, such as apartment dwellers.
Standard Poodles are often calm in the house, while Miniature and Toy Poodles are known for being more lively. Outside of the house, however, Standard Poodles love the chance to run free.
Temperaments can vary wildly from Poodle to Poodle when it comes to sociability. Some love all people, kids and dogs. Others are more reserved, or selective with which individuals (and species) they prefer.
Some Poodles can be picky eaters.
As such a bright, and fastidious breed, Poodles are remarkably easy to house train.
What does Poodle mean?
In Germany, the Poodle is known as the Pudelhund. Hund simply means dog, while pudel comes from pudeln – to splash about. In fact, the English word puddle has the same origin. The Poodle’s name is, therefore, a direct reference to its history as a water dog.
Interesting Poodle facts
- Poodles are one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S!
- While many turn their nose at the fancy Poodle haircuts, they originated to serve a function, rather than please the eye. Areas were shaved to improve buoyancy, while vital patches around joints and organs were left intact to protect from cold and rheumatism (pain, affecting joints and connective tissue)
- Famous Poodle owners include John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Betty White, Ellen Degeneres, Jackie Kennedy, Robin Williams, Katharine Hepburn, Kirk, Douglas and Sir Winston Churchill (to name but a few!).
- In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia published a book in which he explored the intelligence of different dog breeds. Through his own metrics, he found the Poodle to be the 2nd brightest of all breeds evaluated – one step behind the Border Collie, and one place ahead of the German Shepherd.
Buying a Poodle from a breeder
If you’d like to get a purebred Poodle as a puppy, be sure to look only at reputable breeders who care for the welfare of the puppies they breed. You can determine whether a breeder is reputable by observing whether they go through the effort of health testing their breeding stock for hereditary conditions like those above, and only breed dogs who are physically healthy, and emotionally sound. They should be involved in particular avenues with their dogs – be it conformation, hunting, obedience, service, therapy, or any other activity that showcases their dogs’ temperament and suitability for work and breeding.
Often puppies from reputable breeders cost more money upfront due to the breeder’s high expenses. However, poorly bred dogs from breeders who do not conduct health screening can have hidden costs in the form of silent (at the time of purchase) health and mental conditions that should never have been allowed to be passed on. This can be heartbreaking, and terribly expensive to deal with as an owner, on top of causing unnecessary suffering and a shortened lifespan for the dog.
As one of the most popular breeds around, Poodle and Poodle-mixes are not hard to find in rescues and shelters. If you would like to adopt a Poodle in need of a new home, search for Poodle rescue organisations in your area. Alternatively, you could take a look pet-rehoming websites like Petfinder.
References and recommended reading:
Heutelbeck, A. R., Schulz, T., Bergmann, K., & Hallier, E. (2008). Environmental Exposure to Allergens of Different Dog Breeds and Relevance in Allergological Diagnostics. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 71(11-12), 751-758
- Coren, S. (1994). The intelligence of dogs: Canine consciousness and capabilities. New York: Free Press.
- Kalstone, S., & Kalstone, L. (2001). Poodle clipping and grooming: The international reference. Foster City, CA: Howell Book House.
- Hopkins, L., & In Irick, M. J. (1969). The new complete poodle. New York: Howell Book House.
- DVM, MS, DACVO McCalla, T. L. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Dogs: No longer a helpless disease. Retrieved from http://animaleyecare.net/diseases/pra/
- Cassidy, K. M. (2008, February 1). Breed Longevity Data. Retrieved from http://users.pullman.com/lostriver/breeddata.htm
- Cassidy, K. M. (2008, February 1). Weight and Lifespan. Retrieved from http://users.pullman.com/lostriver/weight_and_lifespan.htm
- Spencer, J. (2011, September 6). Gun Dog Breeds: Standard Poodle. Retrieved from http://www.gundogmag.com/breeds/gun-dog-breeds-standard-poodle/
- AKC – The Dog’s Champion. American Kennel Club. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org
- PCA. The Poodle Club of America. Retrieved from http://www.poodleclubofamerica.org/