The poodle is a much underrated dog. Often viewed as a frilly “fru-fru” dog, the breed is active and very intelligent. They know they’re special. With three varieties and a rainbow of colors this is a breed that truly is more than looks.
The standard poodle is a large water dog developed as a retreiver of waterfowl. Over 15 inches at the shoulder with an average size of 22-26 inches, the standard poodle may be any solid color. Daily brushing and regular clipping is needed to keep the coat in good condition, whether as a pet or show dog. They can require special care of the ears, but their clean habits and willingness to please make for a wonderful house dog. This large variety is better suited to a home with more exercise options. There are breeders still today that maintain their poodles for water retrieving.
For those wanting a smaller dog but loving the poodle breed there’s the miniature poodle – a middle sized dog that is 15 inches or smaller at the shoulder. As with the larger poodles, intelligence makes up this breed with an eagerness to please. Poodles have also been used as circus and other performing dogs.
Need a smaller dog still? Look at the toy poodle! Like the larger cousins, the distinct look is uniform from toy to standard – a poodle is distinctive and easily identified. The smallest variety, the toy poodle is 10 inches or under. Those in apartments or smaller spaces may find this intelligent, loyal dog to be just the ticket. Although not a dainty dog, this smaller one has a harder time with rough housing of younger children.
The poodle as a breed maintains traces of his history. The distinctive “poodle cut” often shown in competition in all three varieties shows a practical use. The hair around the legs and on the hips help protect the dog from cold water, as did the longer coat around the chest. The coat is non-shedding, a trait that in some ways has been the poodle’s downfall as they have been crossed on other breeds, a practice that some indicate can bring out the worst of the poodle traits.
Some breeders also produce a smaller version still, the “T-cup” which are advertised as true to type but maturing at 3-1/2 to 4 pounds.
Proper grooming is essential although, like most breeds, not as particular for pets as it is for show. Reknowned poodle handler Kaz Hosaka has been quoted as saying “Only one perfect trim exists for each dog.” Kaz certainly knows his poodles, coming to America from Japan to learn the dog business, and creating a success with several special dogs. Then on a trip to Japan he saw a dog that would bring him to greater heights, a white Toy Poodle now known as “CH Smash JP Win A Victory”. “Vikki” was a Japanese Champion before coming to the U.S. and this pint sized superstar has turned the Poodle Club records inside out. She is the top-winning Toy Poodle in history with over 81 Best in Show wins and is just three years old. She is an icon for Japanese fans, with an unofficial fan club in her homeland and the respect of many in the U.S. who have seen her light up the ring. Vikki was recently honored by Purina as top Toy and Best In Show among those in their “ProPlan” club.
Not to be outdone, the non-sporting was also topped by a white poodle, a standard named CH Brighton Minimoto, call name “Remy”. From a family of champions, this beautiful and high energy dog is what Poodles are all about – beauty for the show ring and hunting with her owners after her retirement, slated for after the 2008 Westminster dog show.
As with other breeds, genetic testing of breeding dogs is an asset to eliminate breeding weaknesses into the dog. Among the problems that affect the breed (some not affecting all varieties while others equally affect all sizes): Addison’s, chronic active hepatitis, Cushings, ear and eye issues, epilepsy, bloat, thyroid issues, patellar luxation, eye problems, Von Willebrand’s disease and hip displasia. Standard Poodles are widely affected by Sebaceous Adenitis, with some estimates up to half the dogs are carriers or affected. A skin biopsy tests for this, and should be done for all breeders.
Litter sizes will vary depending on the variety. The Toy Poodle normal is 2-5 while the standard is 3-8. The teacup, due to their small size, has 1-2 pups per whelping.
Among the celebrity owners of this breed is Winston Churchill and John Steinbeck. Prince Rupert of the Rhine is said to have taken a large poodle into battle with him.
Far more than a film star and show dog, the Poodle has served us in another capacity. In a call for dogs to assist soldiers in World War II initially held no breed restrictions. Although many picture the Doberman and German Shepherd, there were 32 official breeds classified as war dogs – a list that included the standard Poodle. A year later the list was trimmed to 18, still including the Poodle. In 1944 the breeds were narrowed to five, which eliminated the breed.
Protection of defense plants, military installations and our nation’s coastal areas fell to these war dogs. The Poodle as a military dog was 50-75 pounds, clipped and allowed to grow a coat of 1-2 inches. The disadvantage was that beautiful coat, but the breed proved invaluable for agility, training retention, courage and versatility. Employed as sentries and messengers the breed was pushed into a new job.
Proving it doesn’t take size to be a hero, a five pound Poodle named Ty saved a stranger’s life. While on his daily walk with his owner in a new neighborhood when they were stopped near a house by a little boy looking for his mom. Ty pulled his owner onto the property, a move that is uncharacteristic of a well-trained dog, and between the house and a hedge a woman was passed out after being stung by bees. Without Ty’s insistance and sitting at the stranger’s feet the reaction to the bee venom could have been fatal.
Yet another miniature poodle, Andriette, drew attention with frantic barking when her elderly owner fell down some stairs outside her home and sustained broken ribs. Initially unsure what to do, when someone came down the sidewalk the little dog ran to them barking madly then ran back to her owner. Move over Lassie!
Aside from show dog, entertainer, hunter and military dog the Poodle wears other hats. Certified Therapy dogs, agility competition and other dog sports are other activities Poodles excel in.
The Poodle is a perennial favorite in the AKC world as well as in several cities. They’ve taken a solid hold on the 8th spot for several years. For 22 years they topped the popularity charts at the AKC and are third on Washington D.C., Salt Lake City’s and San Francisco’s most popular list and fourth on Pittsburg’s list as well as in the top ten for several other cities.
Those who have been around Poodles can testify they are so much more than a show dog. They can live well into their teens with good care. They are wonderful dogs for families and a regular quick grooming keeps that pet coat under control.