By Dan Stevens
Getting to know your dog starts by getting to know its breed, and that includes getting a better idea about its appearance, personality, and health requirements. Here’s what you need to know about the Poodle:
The Poodle is considered one of the smartest dogs in the world. In addition, this breed is exceptionally easy to train. What many people do not know is that the Poodle has been around for centuries, originally being a large dog used for hunting. The exact origin is controversial, some historians believing this breed comes from Germany while others believe it comes from Denmark, France, or even Piedmont. Regardless, the French are now considered the official claim to fame regarding this breed, which is why sometimes the dog is referred to as the “French Poodle”.
The Poodle, being a descent of the Hungarian Water Hound and Barbet, loves water. Therefore, the actual name is a derivative of the German word “Pudel, which translates to “one who plays in water.” With exceptional swimming and retrieving skills, this breed was at one time used to fetch waterfowl. To keep the dog from becoming waterlogged, giving it more flexibility to swim, the hunters would clip the coat, leaving only hair around the legs as protection from the environment. Today, we still see the Poodle clipped in this traditional fashion.
Realizing just how smart the Poodle was, the French began using the breed to perform in the circus, which led even further to popularity. The large, Standard Poodle was eventually bred down to what we see more of today as the Miniature and Toy Poodle. Keep in mind that the Standard variety is still available although not as widely chosen for a pet. In addition to excellent family additions, the Poodle is a great show dog and performer. When showing, all three varieties are scored the same.
The Standard Poodle is the largest of the three varieties, followed by the Miniature version and then the Toy version. All three are graceful, lively, and elegant. The Poodle is also shaped much the same, only different according to size. This breed is also a part of many hybrids to include Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle) and the latest, the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever and Poodle).
All poodles have long ears that are flat and wide. The eyes are almond-shaped and the face generally has an alert expression. On this particular breed, you would find the head to be slightly rounded and the teeth have a scissor type bite. The Poodle’s feet are oval and webbed, making it a powerful swimmer. Depending on the owner, some will have the tail docked and dew claws removed.
A great benefit to owning a Poodle is that this dog does not shed. Therefore, people with allergies, respiratory problems, or even people with a disability that would find cleaning up after a dog difficult would love owning this breed. The hair of the Poodle is another important aspect. The hair is curly and therefore, must be brushed and clipped on regular schedules.
Typically, a Poodle would be one color such as brown, black, white, blue, apricot, or gray but you will also find parti-colors, sometimes referred to as “phantom colors”, which means black and red markings. While the hair on the Poodle’s body is tightly curled, you may find your dog’s ears curly or straight. When visiting a dog groomer, you will find there to be many different cut options. However, for show purposes, just three cuts are acceptable. These include:
1. Puppy Clip
2. Continental (Lion Clip)
3. English Saddle Clip
If you plan to use your Poodle as a working dog and not a show dog, then you could go with any clip you like. However, most often, the hair would be kept short as a means of reducing tangles and water remaining on the animal if used for fishing or hunting. Unfortunately, if a Poodle is not properly clipped, the hair can cause serious problems. As the hair grows, it begins to cord. When this happens, it can pull on the skin, causing lesions, sores, infection, and so on. At this point, the only solution is to have the coat completely shaven off.
To give you an idea as to size, the original Standard Poodle would measure more an 15 inches at the withers, the Miniature Poodle 11 to 14 inches, and the Toy, less than 11 inches. Additionally, a Toy Poodle must be 10 pounds or less to qualify for this class. Keep in mind that the FCI and AKC have slightly different regulations so you would need to follow closely to the one you wanted to use for show.
Temperament and Personality
The Poodle is an exceptionally bright dog. The breed is active and alert, loving, and loyal. In addition, the Poodle does very well with children if socialized when young and in most cases, handles other animals quite well. This particular breed will often go to great lengths to please its master and many times, is a one-person type dog. Although the Poodle is typically mellow, they can become bored and mischievous. Therefore, it is important to exercise your pet and spend some quality time playing.
You will also find the Poodle to be a sensitive dog. In fact, when caught chewing on something or getting into something he or she is not supposed to be in, you may even notice slight embarrassment. This breed is comical and makes a great watchdog. The one thing to remember is that if you find your particular Poodle is a little on the high-strung side, proper training, and socialization will reduce the risk of sapping dramatically. Then, if you have smaller children, they would need to be taught how to respect this breed, meaning no sitting on the dog, and no pulling of the ears or tail, etc.
Poodles will often have hyperactive tear ducts, meaning they have streaks of brown running down the eye area. Sometimes, keeping the eye clean with a cotton ball dampened with water is enough but if you find the problem to be constant, your veterinarian may prefer to check for a clog, which can be corrected. Then as mentioned, it is imperative that a Poodle have proper grooming. When buying this breed, the expense and time associated with grooming should be considered.
Most Poodles will live to around 14 to 16 years of age. Although typically a healthy breed, you should know that some health risks exist, which vary depending on the variety. For instance, things such as Entropion, Cataracts, Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, Epilepsy, Legg-Perthes, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Luxating Patella, Urolithiasis, and Trichiasis are all possibilities for the Miniature and Toy Poodle.
Then for the Standard Poodle, the above-mentioned risks exist along with small potential for Canine Hip Dysplasia, Addison’s Disease, Gastric Torsion, Sebaceous Adenitis, and Von Willebrand’s Disease, a hereditary protein deficiency. In addition, all varieties of the breed are predisposed for mammary tumors. With good care and regular checkups, a Poodle should live a long, healthy life.
About the Author: Daniel Stevens is the renowned dog trainer and author of SitStayFetch, a leading dog training guide having sold over 21,000 copies. See http://www.kingdomofpets.com/dogobediencetraining/dogbreeds/poodle.php for more on dog breeds.