December 23, 2011
Poodles: Getting Past the Poof
To many people, the word “poodle” conjures up images of a posh, pampered, Park Avenue pet with bows in its hair and bling on its neck; a dog that is suited for little more than lounging on a chaise or walking the urban runways with its equally posh owner. This image couldn’t be further from the truth; in reality, poodles are highly intelligent, determined, athletic dogs that love the water and love hunting – two things you most definitely WON’T find on Park Ave!
There are three distinct poodle sizes that are currently recognized by the American Kennel Club®: the standard poodle, the miniature poodle, and the toy poodle. The standard and miniature breeds both compete in the non-sporting group, and the toy (not surprisingly) competes in the toy group. A standard poodle should stand over 15 inches tall at the shoulder and has a life expectancy of about 12 years; miniature poodles should stand over 10 inches, but not more than 15, and live to 14 or 15 years old; and toy poodles should stand 10 inches or under, and live to 14 or 15.
Poodles are avid water dogs; they love it and will charge right in. They have an instinctive hunting and retrieving drive (many will “point” birds and other critters), and a fairly high energy level. They are also highly intelligent and versatile and generally very easy to train; in fact, poodles have been used in circuses and dog shows for years due to their ability to quickly learn and successfully perform all manner of complicated tricks and maneuvers. This intelligence and versatility makes them great at agility and obedience pursuits, and has also led to them become commonly used as service and therapy dogs.
Social dogs, poodles are eager to please, which can make them a great family pet. It’s important to note that poodles require daily exercise and stimulus; without that, their energy and intelligence can lead them into considerable mischief! If you plan on letting your dog exercise outdoors unattended, we highly recommend installing a dog fence, as poodles’ inquisitiveness can cause them to roam. Electronic dog fences, such as the DogWatch Hidden Fence, are perfect for poodles; with their intelligence, training them is a breeze, and they’ll be frolicking safely outside in a matter of hours.
The poodle’s great temperament and intelligence has made it a favorite for cross-breeding; many poodle mixes exist, such as the labradoodle (lab mix), schnoodle (schnauzer mix), golden doodle (golden retriever mix), and cockapoo (cocker spaniel mix). While we may not know all the poodle mixes out there, one thing we know for certain: with the poodle’s fluffy coat, it makes just about anything you breed it with that much cuter! And, the big bonus is that, like the poodle, the poodle mixes do not shed! We’ll have more about Poodle mixes in future posts.
The poodle’s coat is, without question, its best-known attribute and the reason behind much of the misperception of the breed as a fancy, frou-frou dog. While fancier clips and styles are not uncommon, in its natural state, a poodle has a dense, even, curly coat of only one layer. This single-layer coat leads to very minimal shedding, and has perpetuated the perception of the breed as hypoallergenic. In truth, no dog is hypoallergenic; some, like the poodle, trap the hair and dander they shed in their coats, rather than releasing it into the air (or onto your furniture). With the hair and dander trapped, allergens are not as readily released into the air, and allergies are not generally triggered. It is important that the coat is properly maintained to prevent the mats and tangles that may occur from the hair that has been trapped.
The coat can be any of a number of colors, including white, black, gray, blue, silver, brown, cafe-au-lait, apricot, and cream. It can be clipped in many different ways; the most recognizable of which is the Continental clip, the clip seen most frequently on show dogs. According to the AKC®, “In the Continental clip, the face, throat, feet, and base of the tail are shaved. The hindquarters are shaved with pompons (optional) on the hips. The legs are shaved, leaving bracelets on the hindlegs and puffs on the forelegs. There is a pompon on the end of the tail. The entire shaven foot and a portion of the shaven foreleg above the puff are visible. The rest of the body is left in full coat but may be shaped in order to insure overall balance.” This clip did not arise out of vanity, but rather functionality. It removed hair where it could, reducing drag in the water, and left dense patches of hair over vital organs and joints, helping to retain the dog’s body heat. The bow often seen in poodles’ topknots served a purpose as well; it allowed owners to easily recognize their dogs in the water from a distance.
In terms of show clips, there is also the puppy clip (a variation on the Continental clip), the English Saddle clip, and the Sporting clip. Many owners who do not show their dogs choose the pet clip, which is simply trimming the coat to a manageable length so it does not mat, tangle, or otherwise hamper the pet. A poodle with a pet clip generally only needs to be trimmed every 6-8 weeks; regular brushing will keep its coat in check in between trimmings.
The poodle is predisposed to some serious health issues that owners (current and prospective) should be aware of. Among these are Addison’s disease (a disorder of the adrenal glands), gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV or bloat/torsion), thyroid issues (hyperthyroid and hypothyroid), tracheal collapse, epilepsy (seizure disorder), juvenile renal disease (kidney disease), hip dysplasia, and cancer. Ear infections are also common, because the poodle’s minimally shedding coat can grow into its ear canal and trap wax and dirt there.
As far as the poodle’s origins, there is some debate; most agree that it is descended from Asian herding dogs, but what happened after that is subject to a certain amount of speculation. Some believe that it made its way west and was embraced by Germanic tribes the Goths and Osgoths, where it eventually became a German water dog.In fact, the name “poodle” is believed to be descended from the German word “pudel” or “pudelin,” meaning “to splash in water.” Others believe that North African Berbers brought the poodle out of Asia and into Portugal, making it a relative of the beloved Portuguese water dog. Still others claim it has Russian influences. One thing we know for certain is at some point the poodle made its way to France, where the breed was refined and standardized and made the country’s national dog. It is in France that many of the fancier (non-show) clips and styles originated, including dying white poodles’ fur, as a way of pleasing the vanity of the lords and ladies of the court.
The poodle made its way to England in the late nineteenth century and was recognized by the Kennel Club of England in 1874. It achieved recognition by the AKC in 1886, and the Poodle Club of America was founded 10 years later. The poodle’s popularity has continued to soar in the last 100+ years, and we expect it will be nestled in family’s hearths and hearts for centuries to come.
Have a poodle in your life? We’d love to hear your stories, and especially see your pictures! Comment below, email Heidi.firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them on our Facebook wall. And don’t forget about our 2013 Calendar Contest!
From all of us at DogWatch, a very happy holiday to you and yours!
AKC Breed History: http://www.akc.org/breeds/poodle/history.cfm
AKC Breed Bio: http://www.akc.org/breeds/poodle/
Poodle Place: http://www.poodle-place.com/poodlehist.htm
Poodle Club of America: http://www.poodleclubofamerica.org/health.htm
Photo credits (top to bottom):
Brandon Burns via Flickr
Martin Bishop via Flickr
A W (Living in Monrovia) via Flickr
Andy via Flickr
Perry McKenna via Flickr
Images are cropped in Featured Image.