The public's love affair with the Poodle is one of the worst-kept secrets in the dog world. Whether you prefer them little or large, this breed has been a mainstay in the list of the top 10 favorite dogs for decades.
Origin and History
Poodles were originally developed as water retriever dogs in Germany in the 19th century. The early popular name of French Poodle is inaccurate, even though the French did take the breed to heart. This utilitarian purpose for the dog greatly influenced the development of this breed's most recognizable attribute -- their coat.
Poodles are known for their lively but dignified personalities and sharp intelligence, regardless of size.
The Poodle is a square-built dog with an upright carriage. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) Standard, the head is fairly rounded with flat cheeks and a little chiseling under the eyes, and a long muzzle with a slight but well-defined stop. The ear leathers are fairly long and hang down.
The Poodle has a scissors bite, which means the top teeth close just in front of the bottom teeth. There should be just enough chin to keep the muzzle from looking snipey, or overly thin and pointed. The eyes are dark, oval, and should display an alert expression.
The head flows into a long neck and strong shoulders. The chest is deep with well-sprung ribs. The back is just long enough to create a square outline with the length of the legs.
The front legs are straight with strong pasterns. The rear legs have sufficient angulation to balance with the front legs. The feet should be well-arched with thick pads and form a tight oval. Splayed toes would be considered a fault.
The tail is set high and is carried up. It's fairly straight and is typically docked to help create a balanced outline.
Poodles have a coarse and tightly curled coat designed to be water-resistant and to act as a thermal insulator. This makes them the ideal dogs to jump into a chilly lake and retrieve downed game. These elegant animals are mainly kept in three acceptable trims, with many variations of each for pets:
- Puppy trim: The hair is trimmed close over the entire body with the extra fluff kept on the head, ears, and part of the tail.
- English Saddle clip: This is a longer but slightly more tailored version of the puppy trim that strategically removes hair from a few areas on the back and legs.
- The Continental trim: Developed to best fit the breed's water retrieval use, areas of the head and joints are grown long and full to protect internal organs and joints from being cold, while unnecessary hair is removed to help the dogs move more freely in the water.
These dogs come in a number of solid colors, including:
Some shading is permissible in lighter colors.
- Toy: Height of 10 inches and under
- Miniature: Over 10 inches tall and up to 15 inches
- Standard: Over 15 inches tall
Except for size, each of these varieties should be of the same type and personality.
Poodles are loving, outgoing, intelligent dogs who are always up for an adventure, but they love snuggle time, too. They make wonderful family pets and are good with children, so you can basically decide how much dog you can accommodate and choose your preferred variety.
You really can't put a limit on what you can train a Poodle to do because they are so intelligent and cooperative. House training is relatively easy, and obedience and agility trials are filled with top-performing dogs of this breed. These fluffy dogs also make terrific guide dogs for the blind, as well as therapy and search-and-rescue dogs. If you can think of a use for these dogs, you can likely train them to it.
Owners of toys and miniatures under the age of 1 year, as well as standards under the age of 18 months, must be careful when exercising their puppies. Brief walks are a great method for the puppy to expend some of their pent-up energy. However, for puppies, surpassing their exercise restrictions might be harmful to their development.
The main drawback with this breed is health issues. The breed bloodlines are riddled with a number of genetic disorders that keep true breeders on their toes trying to eliminate these from their breeding stock. These disorders require a mountain of testing to rule out, which is why a well-bred animal costs so much. According to the Poodle Club of America, some of the most prevalent diseases to be aware of include, but are not limited to:
- Sebaceous Adenitis (SA): A skin disorder evidenced by foul-smelling, crusty lesions, and hair loss, it can be diagnosed with a skin punch sample. However, dogs who have tested clear for years can suddenly develop the disease. Treatment mainly consists of management, with no current cure.
- Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD): A blood disorder similar to hemophilia, VWD is currently untreatable, but it can be diagnosed with a blood test before or after onset.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia: A crippling malformation of the ball and socket joints that is detectable by X-ray; surgery may be helpful in some cases.
- Progressive retinal atrophy: Also known as PRA blindness, this is a degenerative disease of the optic nerve.
- Bloat/torsion: This is a painful twisting of the stomach that cuts off the blood supply and locks digestive acids, food, and gases into the stomach, which then bloats like a balloon. The cause is not completely known, but treatment usually involves surgery to prevent death.
Responsible breeders have their work cut out for them, and will usually give you a genetic health guarantee on your purchase.
Poodles have an average lifespan of 11 to 15 years, depending on their size and health, with smaller Poodles living longer than standard.
Poodles require quite a lot of grooming to keep their coats in good condition. Most owners opt for a regular trip to the groomer about twice a month. Do-it-yourselfers can expect to brush every other day, bathe once a week, and give a clean-up trim twice a month.
Fun Facts About the Breed
The Poodle is often thought of as an uptight dog without much of a story to tell, but this is a misconception. Little-known facts include:
- Although the Poodle is the national dog of France, the breed actually originated in Germany.
- They were originally bred to be water retrievers.
- Poodles were among Elvis Presley's favorite dog breeds.
- The average dog can learn about 165 words throughout their lifetime. A Poodle can learn up to 400.
- In 1988, a musher named John Suter entered the Iditarod with a sled team made entirely of poodles.
Purchasing or Adopting a Poodle
A bargain Poodle is no bargain at all. The price for a well-bred, fully examined, tested dog seldom dips below $1,000, mainly due to assurances that you're getting a quality dog with no serious health issues that can plague poor-quality Poodles. If you're looking to purchase a Poodle puppy, begin with the Poodle Club of America.
If you're searching for a rescue dog, you can begin looking through the directories on Save-a-Rescue and Petfinder. You can also search the following breed-specific rescue organizations:
- Carolina Poodle Rescue: A non-profit organization that takes in all Poodles, including those with special needs.
- Toy Poodle Rescue: This organization adopts senior toy Poodles for elderly people.
- Poodle Rescue of New England: A non-profit rescue organization adopting Poodles of all ages and sizes to the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and upstate New York.
Is a Poodle the Dog for You?
Whether you want a devoted family pet or champion show dog, the Poodle is a good choice for most families. With three sizes to choose from, this dog is truly an all-around, wonderful canine companion.