The Poodle is a very old breed, and has been popular in Europe since the 16th century. Many people believe that the breed originated in France; after all, they are often referred to as the French Poodle. However, they are actually a German breed, and one of their major uses was as a gun dog for retrieving fallen game from lakes and streams.
The French also took advantage of the Poodle’s hunting and retrieving instinct, but on land rather than in water – they used the breed to find truffles that were growing underground. France adopted the Poodle as their national dog, and were responsible for creating the breed standard. The Poodle made its way to Great Britain in the 1870’s, and from there to the United States where the first Poodle was registered in 1886.
These days, Poodles are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. They are often used to create “Designer Dogs” – mixed breeds such as the Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle) and Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle).
No need for a “one size fits all” approach if you are thinking about buying a Poodle. This breed is available in 3 different sizes. The Standard Poodle is the biggest of the three, and is over 15 inches, or 38cm at the shoulder. The smaller sizes were developed by selectively breeding smaller Standard Poodles, until there was some consistency in the size of the dogs produced. The Miniature Poodle stands between 10 and 15 inches (25 to 38cm), while the tiny Toy Poodle is no taller than 10 inches.
There is no shortage of color choices either, as the Poodle comes in a variety of solid colors – black, white, silver, brown and apricot are very popular shades. Their fur is more like hair, and is dense and curly. They don’t have any undercoat, and they are thought to shed less than other breeds of dog.
Floppy ears, a long nose and soft dark eyes give the Poodle an endearing expression that is hard to resist!
Style is important to a Poodle owner. This breed has hair rather than fur, which grows longer than an average dog coat. This means that it needs to be clipped, and there are a number of ways this can be done. Your Poodle could look like the typical show Poodle, with the bouffant fur on the forequarters and a neatly trimmed legs and rump. Alternatively, for a low maintenance style, you may prefer to just clip the hair short all over.
The Poodle is an energetic and clever breed. In fact, it is believed to be one of the most intelligent dogs in the world. This means that if you don’t give your Poodle something to do to keep its mind occupied, it will entertain itself and create its own amusement. Couple this with the fact that many Poodle owners feel they don’t mature until they are 2 years old, and you can see why you must invest time into training this particular breed of dog right from puppy hood.
These dogs are loyal, and love being with their people. Their willingness to please, coupled with their intelligence and agility, mean they are great performers in dog sports such as obedience, agility and flyball. They are protective of their family, and while not aggressive, they will bark and let you know if someone is at your door.
Even though they are small and very cute, Miniature and Toy Poodles must be treated like a dog, and not like a child substitute. They need firm, fair and consistent training, otherwise they may become bossy, possessive and stubborn.
Poodles do have some hereditary problems that potential owners need to be aware of. If you do want to add a Poodle to your family, ask breeders for the results of any testing they do on their breeding stock. They should be very willing to discuss the health issues of their breed, and help you to make an informed purchase.
All three sizes of Poodle can suffer from Progressive Retinal Atrophy and cataracts, both of which can lead to blindness. Regular eye examinations can identify this in individual dogs, and these dogs shouldn’t become parents.
The Standard Poodle is at risk of developing bloat, a potentially fatal condition that can occur in any deep chested dog. After a big meal, the stomach distends and may even twist, which can cause circulatory collapse and death. To avoid this happening to your Standard Poodle, feed them several smaller meals a day, rather than just one large bowl of food.
The Standard can also be prone to hip dysplasia, a painful arthritic condition of the hips. Smaller Poodles may have luxating patellas, also known as slipped kneecaps. Legg Perthe’s Disease is a hereditary hip condition in smaller dogs, and it too can make walking painful.
Epilepsy is another hereditary condition in this breed. Epileptic seizures can be controlled with lifetime medication, but it’s better to prevent the condition in the first place. There is no specific test for hereditary epilepsy, however good records will help to indicate which dogs may be carrying the gene, and they should be removed from the breeding program.
The coat of the Poodle makes them one of the higher maintenance breeds of dog.
When the Poodle’s hair falls out, it gets tangled in the surrounding curls. This can cause the hair to form mats, which are very uncomfortable for the dog. These dogs need a regular and thorough brushing once a week.
If you like to keep your Poodle in a neat and tidy clip, you’ll need to spend some of your hard earned money on a professional groomer every 6 weeks. Alternatively, you can learn to do the job yourself. You’ll need to invest in some grooming equipment, but over time these will pay for themselves in savings.
For a lower maintenance coat, some people choose to clip their Poodle’s hair reasonably short all over. They still needs regular brushing, but it’s not as big a job.
These active dogs also need regular exercise, so a daily walk or jog, or visit to the dog park is essential. The smaller Poodles will often burn off all their excess energy in a good play session, but they still enjoy exploring the scents of their neighborhood as they go for a walk.
The Poodle is an ideal family dog, as they love children, and they love a game. However the Miniature and Toy Poodle isn’t the best choice for families with young children as the dog could get injured by an over affectionate child who just wants to hug them.
Because of their unique coat, these dogs are considered to be hypo-allergenic, and particularly suitable for people with allergies. It’s important to remember that all dogs shed some hair, and they also shed skin cells and scurf which can cause reactions in people. There is no guarantee that an allergic person won’t still react to a Poodle, but this breed may be less likely to cause problems.
If you have the time to care for their thick coat, the Poodle makes a great companion. They will happily accompany you on a walk, then enjoy cuddling up to you on the couch. Your Poodle will share your life for 12-15 years.