Available in miniature and standard varieties, the Poodle is a breed belonging to the non-sporting classification. Though its direct origin is questionable, it was the French that first bred its different types. Originally used as an aid for duck hunters, the Poodle has become a circus performer, a frequent dog show winner, a guide dog, and a loving pet.
Originating from the working retriever breed, the Poodle’s body type is a reflection of its athletic root. The square-proportioned Poodle has a graceful appearance and a proud carriage. Its gait is springy, effortless, and light. The coat is dense, curly, and harsh; if corded, it hangs tight. Traditionally the clips (or hair styles) were used for ornamental and functional purposes. Puppy, Continental, English saddle, and sporting are the types of acceptable clips for Show Poodles.
The Standard Poodle is one of the most obedient and smartest dogs, which combines a playful enthusiasm and an adventurous spirit. Preserving its love for hunting, it is fond of swimming, running, and retrieving. Although it is shy with strangers, it gets along with familiar people and is very good with children.
Poodles require a lot of socialization and interaction with humans, as well as physical and mental exercise. A short and challenging play or obedience session, in addition to a walk, is required everyday, although, poodles should not be allowed to live outdoors. Standard Poodles require more physical activities (e.g., they love swimming).
Show Poodles require daily hair brushing, however those with shorter coats need only a weekly brushing. During shedding, a poodle’s hair does not fall, but instead gets trapped in the adjoining hair, causing matting. Therefore, it should be removed at all costs. This can be done by taking the poodle for a pet clip (or haircut), which can be done once every four to six weeks.
The Standard Poodle lives on average for 10 to 13 years, and may suffer from serious conditions like gastric torsion, Addison's disease, and sebaceous adenitis, as well as minor concerns like distichiasis, entropion, epilepsy, cataract, and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). Eye, hip, skin biopsy, and DNA tests are some of the tests which can be used to identify these conditions.
The earliest ancestors of the Poodle were said to be curly-coated dogs of central Asia, but it is also identified with France. Many rough-coated water dogs are also associated with the dog’s ancestry. The earliest dog breed of this group was the Barbet, a type of curly-coated dog, which was seen in Hungary, France, and Russia. However, the German strain of the dog exerted maximum influence on the Poodle we know today. The German word pudel, meaning to splash or puddle, is the source for the Poodle’s name and reflects its water abilities.
In France, the dog was also named chien canard or caniche, indicating its duck-hunting qualities. Therefore, from its water and herding roots, it became an excellent water-hunting companion. It was also used as a guide dog, guard dog, military dog, circus performer, and wagon puller for entertainers. Its coat was clipped to help it swim, but was left sufficiently long on the chest to keep in warm in cold water. Some believe that puffs of hair surrounding the tail tip and leg joints were meant for protection during hunting, but stronger evidence implies that it started as an adornment during the dog’s performing days.
Fashionable women in France carried poodles as elegant companions, as did the French aristocracy, making it the official national dog. The typical clip of the poodle was accentuated in France, and there was a concerted effort by poodle fanciers to perfect the smaller varieties. In the late 19th century, poodles gained access to the show ring. Some early show dogs had corded coats which had long matted or thin tresses, instead of well-brushed coats. This made the poodles look very impressive. But as a style, it was difficult to maintain and the trend ended in the early 1900s. Soon, the bouffant styles replaced it and became fashionable. However, the popularity of the Poodle waned in the United States and by the 1920s, North America hardly had any dog of this breed. The Poodle made a successful comeback after a decade or so, now becoming one of the most popular dogs in the U.S.