Friday, January 17, 2014


Engraving by Wenceslas Hollar, 1649

If you think poodles got their start in France, you are wrong, because guess what!  The poodle breed began in Germany!  Or at least that's what historians think.  In Germany, these dogs were called the Pudelhund, which means "puddle dog" or "water dog."  They were used as hunting dogs who retrieved game from the water.  In France, poodles were also trained to be hunting dogs, except that some of the smaller varieties were likely just pets.  After a while, the French standardized the breed, and because they liked poodles so much, they adopted them as their national dog breed.

Miniature Poodle in show ring

There are three sizes of poodles:  Standard, Miniature, and Toy.  Also, there is one breed registry that recognizes a Medium Poodle, which is between the Standard and Miniature in size.  Poodles are very flashy and popular show dogs.  In  1991 and 2002, a Standard Poodle won "Best in Show" at Westminster.  And in 2007 and 2010, a Standard Poodle won the World Dog Show.  Toy Poodles won Crufts in 1966 and 1982, and Standards won Crufts in 1955, 1985, and 2002.

Other types of competition that poodles are good at include agility, obedience, tracking, and even herding.  They are also still used for hunting in some places.  During World War II, poodles were officially classified as war dogs by the Army.  And Toy Poodles have been used to hunt truffles and as circus performers.

Members of this breed are active, good-natured, and cheerful.  They are very smart and easy to train.  They get along well with children and with other pets.  If socialized properly as puppies, they are friendly with strangers.  Some poodles have mild protective instincts, but they are not usually aggressive.  Most of them make good watchdogs.  Standard Poodles are somewhat calmer than the smaller varieties.

Parti-colored Poodles

Poodles can be lots of different colors, including white, black, brown, silver, gray, silver beige, apricot, red, cream, and sable.  The AKC only recognizes solid colors, but other registries allow poodles that are parti-color, which means there are solid-colored patches over a white coat.  Other possible patterns include brindle or "phantom," which is sort of like the black-and-tan coloring of a Doberman Pinscher. Another color pattern is a "tuxedo," which would be like a Boston Terrier or a tuxedo cat.

Phantom Poodles
Photo by Andrea Brendemuhl

The coat of a poodle is dense and curly, but it is a single coat, not double.  This breed does not shed much, and it is sometimes thought of as hypoallergenic.  What happens with the fur is that instead of coming off the dog completely, it gets tangled in the hair around it.  Which means that poodles have to be brushed and clipped pretty often to keep their coats from getting matted.

It used to be common to show poodles with coats that are corded, like a Komondor's or like human dreadlocks.  But this is not done much anymore because corded coats are hard to keep clean, and they take a long time to dry after washing.

People who have poodles as pets usually just use a short, all-over clip for them, which is called a "pet clip," "puppy clip," or "lamb clip."  Popular show clips include the English Saddle and Continental clips.  In these clips, the back half of the dog is shaved, with bracelets left around the ankles, and pom-poms on the tails and hips.  Some people say that these show clips are like the old working clips that hunters used to give their poodles.  These clips were supposed to provide the dog with less drag in the water, except where warmth was needed over major joints.  Other people think it is more likely that the show clips came from the French circus, where toy poodles were dressed up to look cute and perform funny tricks.

Personally, I think that poodles that are groomed for the show ring look totally bizarre.  Poodles with a puppy clip look much nicer and more like real dogs.  I'm just glad that basenjis have short hair, so nobody has ever thought they should be given some kind of fancy haircut with pom-poms and a topknot!

Poodles are so smart that they can
run their own restaurants!

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