Although today’s Poodles seem to epitomize a life of leisure and luxury, make no mistake: These are real dogs bred to do real jobs. Although it hardly seems possible when you look at a primped-up Poodle in the show ring, the breed was originally a water retriever, a job that requires jumping in the water to fetch waterfowl for hunters.
In fact, the English name poodle is derived from the German word pudel, or pudelin, which means to splash in the water. And in France, Poodles are called Caniche, a name derived from chien canard, meaning duck dog.
Poodles are renowned for a playful but dignified personality and keen intelligence. When it comes to training, this is an “A” student, and the Poodle excels at performance sports such as obedience, agility, and hunt tests.
Despite his regal air, the Poodle is no snob. These are people-friendly dogs who want to stay close to their families — they get lonely when left by themselves for long periods — and are always up for a good game.
- If you spoil your Poodle and don’t train him, he’s likely to conclude that he’s the alpha dog of the family. This is especially common among the smaller varieties — Miniature and Toy Poodles — who are more likely to be coddled and untrained. Teach your dog good canine manners, and then insist that he use them; it shows him that you’re the leader of the pack.
- Because of their intelligence and playful nature, obedience training is essential to keep your Poodle’s mind active. A Poodle who is thinking and learning isn’t bored, and therefore won’t find destructive ways to occupy himself.
- The Poodle coat needs a lot of upkeep to stay beautiful and healthy. Most Poodle owners take their dogs to a professional groomer every three to six weeks. If you want to save money on grooming expenses, you can learn to do it yourself, but it takes time and effort.
- Poodles have weepy eyes that can stain the surrounding hair. To cut down on stains, gently wipe down the face daily with an alcohol-free pet wipe or washcloth dipped in warm water.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Poodle is one of the oldest breeds developed especially for hunting waterfowl. Most historians agree that the Poodle originated in Germany, but developed into his own distinct breed in France.
Many believe that the breed is the result of crosses between several European water dogs, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Hungarian, and Russian water dogs. Other historians think that one of the Poodle’s ancestors is the North African Barbet, which was imported to the Iberian Peninsula. After that, the breed arrived in Gaul where it was used for his hunting abilities.
Although some say that the Miniature and Toy Poodles emerged shortly after the Standard, many believe it wasn’t until the 1400s that breeders began producing smaller versions of the Poodle — first the Miniature, then the Toy — to delight the Parisian bourgeoise. The Toy and Miniature varieties were created by breeding small Poodles to each other, not by breeding Poodles to smaller breeds.
The French used the larger Standard Poodle for duck hunting, and the mid-sized Miniature Poodle to sniff out truffles in the woods. The tiny Toy Poodle’s main job, on the other hand, was to serve as a companion to the nobility and wealthy merchant class. Well-to-do owners in the Renaissance often carried their Toy Poodles in their large shirtsleeves, leading to the nickname “sleeve dogs.”
Gypsies and traveling performers learned that Poodles excelled in another canine profession: circus dog. They trained Poodles to perform tricks, dressing them in costumes and sculpting their coats into fanciful shapes to add to their stage appeal. Wealthy patrons took note and started clipping, decorating, and even dying their own Poodle companions.
The Kennel Club in England registered their first Poodle in 1874, with the first British club for Poodle fanciers arriving on the scene two years later. It’s not known for sure when Poodles arrived in the U.S., but the American Kennel Club registered their first Poodle in 1886. The Poodle Club of America was founded in 1896, but disbanded shortly thereafter. Poodle enthusiasts reestablished the club in 1931.
Poodles were fairly rare in the U.S. until after World War II. By the mid-1950s, however, the Poodle had become the most popular breed in the country, a position he held for more than 20 years.
There are three sizes of Poodle: toy, miniature, and standard. These aren’t different breeds, just different sizes of the same dog. The Toy Poodle stands up to 10 inches tall, and weighs about six to nine pounds. The Miniature Poodle stands 11 to 15 inches tall and weighs 15 to 17 pounds. The Standard Poodle stands 15 inches and taller (usually 22 inches); males weigh 45 to 70 pounds and females weigh 45 to 60 pounds.
Intelligent, loving, loyal, and mischievous are four words Poodle enthusiasts commonly use to describe the breed’s personality. The Poodle is also known for what his fans call “an air of distinction”: a dignified attitude that’s hard to describe, but easy to spot in the dog.
Despite his regal appearance, the Poodle has a goofy streak and loves to play — he’s always up for a game of any kind. He’s also very fond of people and eager to please. Combine that with his legendary intelligence, and you’ve got a dog that’s highly trainable.
A good Poodle who’s been taught canine manners has a calm disposition, especially if he gets regular exercise to burn off his natural energy. Some owners and breeders think the smaller Toy and Miniature Poodles are a bit more high-strung than the Standard; however, other breeders and owners disagree with this theory.
The Poodle is protective of his home and family, and if strangers approach your house, he’ll sound a warning bark to let you know. And although he’s affectionate with his family, he may take a while to warm up to new people.
An outstanding trait of the Poodle is his intelligence. He is often said to have human-like intelligence, an amazing cleverness that astounds his owners. Of course, smart dogs can be difficult to live with. They learn fast — good habits and bad — and they remember everything.
Choosing a Poodle Breeder
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
The Poodle Club of America is a good place to start your search for a responsible breeder. Look for a breeder who abides by the club’s ethical guidelines, which prohibit the sale of puppies through brokers, auctions, or commercial dealers such as pet stores. Breeders should sell puppies with a written contract guaranteeing they’ll take back the dog at any time during his life if you become unable to keep him and with written documentation that both the puppy’s parents (and if possible, his other close relatives) have had their eyes, hips, knees, and blood (for von Willebrand’s) examined and certified by the appropriate health organizations.
It’s important to know that “royal” or “teacup” are marketing terms designed to fool you into thinking you’re getting a special or rare Poodle, when what you’re getting is a dog who is quite a bit over or under the usual size of the breed. Extremely tiny dogs in particular are often plagued with severe health problems and rarely live a normal lifespan.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Poodle might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Poodle may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.