A poodle? Hard to miss. With their sleek physique and curly, often well-groomed hair, many people mistakenly write off these popular dogs as high-maintenance homebodies who spend more time at the beauty parlor than in the great outdoors. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Read on to learn more about what makes the poodle dog breed unique, beyond its striking appearance, and why a poodle might be the perfect companion for you or your family.
The poodle is a classic European dog breed with its origins as a 15th-century hunting dog, specialized in waterbird retrieving and upland bird hunting.
The exact starting point of the poodle breed is up for debate, with some asserting that the poodle originated in France, and is descended from a French water dog known as the Barbet. Others say the poodle was originally bred in Germany, from another water dog. The breed name poodle comes from the German word Pudelhund, meaning “splashing dog.”
In the United States, poodles are categorized into three sizes. The standard poodle is the closest to the classic and is a member of the sporting group in the American Kennel Club (AKC).
The miniature and toy poodles were bred down from the standard to be companion dogs, and are members of the companion and toy groups respectively. The standard poodle was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1887 and the miniature and toy types followed quickly behind.
The standard poodle was originally bred for a life splashing through rivers and lakes. Webbed paws and a dense waterproof coat make for a strong swimmer. The poodle is also eminently trainable, thanks to a high IQ and an eager-to-please personality.
Although breeders since the 19th century have aimed for a companion temperament over a working temperament, some poodle breeders have chosen to specialize in reawakening the hunting instinct in their dogs, and have gone on to win titles at field trials. Some poodles even give Labradors a run for their money.
A standard poodle usually weighs between 40-70 pounds, with females being smaller, and a miniature poodle usually weighs between 10-15 pounds. Life expectancy for both falls between 10-18 years. Toy poodles usually weigh between 6 and 9 pounds and have a life expectancy of 14-16 years.
This mixed breed was inspired by the idea of creating a hypoallergenic seeing-eye dog. Since then, Goldendoodles (golden retriever cross), Bernedoodles, and every-other-breed-crossed-doodle have taken the world by storm.
One thing that’s undisputed is the poodle’s intelligence. They’re ranked the second most intelligent dog breed, second only to the border collie. Their ability to learn quickly can make them charming dogs to train. But perhaps even more delightful is the poodle’s desire to be social.
Their patient, friendly, and playful personalities make them great family dogs, and well suited for families with children. While small dogs like toy and miniature poodles may feel threatened if children pick them up, a standard poodle will nearly always be ready to play. Just be sure to give your poodle a place to calm down and be alone if they’re feeling overstimulated.
Poodle owners will find that training their dogs is relatively easy, especially if they use positive reinforcement. Because of their intelligence, poodles often don’t respond well to punitive or physically rough training. Harsher methods will make them more anxious and reluctant.
To keep a poodle happy, make sure you give them enough physical and mental exercise. Their working heritage and high energy levels give them the capacity for any kind of activity or training you can imagine. You can please their inner water retriever by swimming for tennis balls, play hide and seek, or invite the dog on your own adventures.
Or take the leap and try some dog sports, like dog surfing, dock diving, or disc dog. And if you’re up for it, poodles are a perfect breed of dog for showing, excelling in agility challenges. Poodles also excel as service dogs.
Poodles possess a bountiful, water-resistant, curly coat of hair (not fur). It needs regular grooming, plus trimming, every six weeks or so.
In recent times, the poodle’s coat is best known for its ‘hypoallergenic‘ properties. Because poodles lack a fluffy undercoat and are tightly curled, their dander is less likely to spread all over your home.
Regular bathing removes dander buildup, which means fewer allergens for those who are prone to dog allergies.
Though many stylish and fanciful show cuts are available, a do-it-yourselfer with a nice pair of clippers can keep a poodle tidy with practice. Poodles who are show dogs typically sport a show clip inspired by their water dog history, with puffs of hair to keep joints warm in cold water, and shaved areas for faster drying time.
Corded coats are allowed in the show ring, but take a lot of time and effort to maintain.
Check out our list of popular poodle clips here.
If you’re looking to add a poodle to your family, make sure the parents are tested for the most common genetic health issues with poodles, including Addison’s disease, sebaceous adenitis, progressive retinal atrophy, and gastric dilatation-volvulus (torsion).
Hyper- and hypothyroidism and tracheal collapse can appear in some breeding lines, as well as some more common issues in large breed dogs such as cancer and hip dysplasia.
If a real poodle isn’t enough, and you want everything with a poodle on it, check out our list of poodle-themed gifts (it’s OK; you can also buy for a friend).
Featured image: Pixabay