The Poodle is an often-underestimated breed of dog. It is intelligent, athletic, obedient and happy natured. The Poodle has an unusual coat, which has a tendency to make the breed appear ‘less than serious’. The curly coat of the Poodle is continuously growing, and without grooming can turn into a long corded coat. Over the centuries, Poodle owners have experimented with grooming styles, which resulted in the elaborate decorative clips that Poodles are most famous for.When the tight Poodle curls are combed out, the result is either gorgeous or ridiculous, depending on your point of view. Regardless, under all of that hair is a very nice natured dog, and this is the reason that Poodle cross breeds such as Groodles and Multi-Poos (and many more!) have become so popular in recent times.
About & History
The history of the Poodle is not well documented – surprising for such a well-known breed. The Poodle became famous in France in the 1700s due to its popularity amongst the French aristocrats, however, it is unlikely that the breed originated in France. Attempts to trace the origin of the Poodle have led to a variety of locations, such as Germany, Spain, England, North Africa, and Asia.
Other curly-coated breeds of ‘water dogs’, such as the French Barbet, the Portuguese Water Dog, and the Irish Water Spaniel are likely to have similar ancestors to the Poodle, and these ancestors probably originated in North Africa or Asia.
The name ‘Poodle’ comes from the German word ‘Pudel’, which was thought to arise from the word ‘Pfütze’, which is German for ‘puddle’. The German Poodle Club (Deutscher Pudel Klub) believes the breed may have arisen from a combination of shaggy-haired sheep dogs and hunting dogs.
What is known, is that the early Poodles were water-loving dogs that were used as retrievers for duck hunting, and were also used for sniffing out truffles. Their long dense curly coats, or corded coats, were somewhat inconvenient when the Poodle was swimming through marshes after felled birds. Poodles were therefore often clipped in a variety of ways to minimize tangle and mess, and free up movement, but at the same time continue to offer some protection to the body and joints. These early, practical, clips were the prototype for the more decorative clips that Poodles became famous for. Poodles were eventually replaced as retrieving dogs by breeds with more convenient coats.
The Kennel Club (UK) places the Poodle in the ‘Utility’ group. The American Kennel Club places the Poodle in the ‘Non-sporting’ group.
The Poodle is bred in a variety of sizes. The kennel clubs consider the Poodle to be one breed, regardless of the size – so the Standard Poodle, Miniature Poodle, and Toy Poodle all share the same ‘breed standard’, except for the description of the height.
The description of the height for each of the Poodle sizes varies slightly depending on the kennel club. The United Kingdom and American Kennel Clubs define three Poodle sizes (Toy, Miniature and Standard), while the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) and the German Poodle Club defines 4 categories, adding an intermediate ‘Medium’ or ‘Zwerg’ size:
|Toy||Miniature||Medium / Zwerg||Standard|
|United Kingdom KC||Up to 11 inches
Up to 28 cm
|11 to 15 inches
28 to 38 cm
|Over 15 inches
Over 38 cm
|American KC||Up to 10 inches
Up to 25.4 cm
|10 to 15 inches
25.4 to 38 cm
|Over 15 inches
Over 38 cm
|FCI and German KC||Up to 11 inches
Up to 28 cm
|11 to 13.8 inches
28 to 35 cm
|13.8 to 17.7 inches
35 to 45 cm
|Over 17.7 inches
Over 45 cm
The descriptions of the weights of Poodles are a little less specific. In general, Standard Poodles weigh between 20-32 kg (females are usually less than 27 kg), Miniature Poodles weigh 7-8 kg, and Toy Poodles weigh 3-6 kg.
Poodles are fine-boned and relatively long-limbed dogs, and have an elegant shape. They are described as having a head that is long and fine with a slight peak with eyes that are almond-shaped and dark. The ears are long and wide, and are set low and hang close to the face. The muzzle is long, straight and fine, and the jaw is strong with a scissor bite. The neck is carried high with a dignified appearance. The chest is deep and moderately wide. The legs are well muscled, with small feet that are oval shaped, point straight ahead, and have arched toes. The tail was previously docked, but in many countries, this is no longer common practice.
The Poodle coat is usually curly and dense with a harsh texture, and it grows continuously. If left ungroomed, the continuously growing coat can intertwine into long cords. Some Poodle owners prefer this appearance and will assist the cording process.
By the breed standard, Poodles should only have solid coat colours. The exception is during the first 18 months when the shade of the coat might show some variations as the puppy coat transitions to the adult coat.
Below is a list of the basic coat colours approved by the kennels clubs, along with a description of the appropriate eye colour, and colour of the ‘points’ (nose, lips, eye rims and toe nails):
- White coat – black points
- Cream coat – black points.
- Red coat – dark eyes, black points; or deep amber eyes and liver points
- Apricot coat – dark eyes, black points; or deep amber eyes and liver points
- Brown coat – dark amber eyes, dark liver points
- Black coat – black points
- Silver coat – black points
- Blue coat – black points
Poodles that have mixed coat colours are disqualified from showing, however, they are perfectly cute and acceptable as pets. These coat colours are given entertaining names, such as:
- Parti – white base with large irregular patches of colour
- Abstract – a non-white base with irregular patches of white
- Phantom – one solid base colour with tips of another colour
- Tuxedo – a type of Parti colouring (no surprise, it looks a bit like they are wearing a tuxedo)
Character & Temperament
Despite its elegant appearance, and its fancy-looking coat, the Poodle is a ‘light-hearted’ breed of dog that is friendly, high spirited, happy, and home loving. It can make an ideal companion animal.
The Standard Poodle has been reported to be more outgoing than the Miniature Poodle, however, the Miniature is reportedly the more affectionate of the two. Both are considered to be good with children, and good family pets. The Toy Poodle is less suitable as a child’s companion, as it may have more of a tendency to snap at the child if irritated.
Poodles are often underestimated for their intelligence by people unfamiliar with the breed. Poodles are smart, eager to please, and are versatile – they excel in obedience training and canine sports, and can master many tricks. They seem to enjoy showing off, and have been featured in circus performances.
The life span of Poodles is often older than 12 years. The Toy Poodle is one of the longest living pets that I have personally seen in veterinary practice, some reaching well into their late teens.
Like most purebred dogs, the Poodles can suffer from some health problems related to genetically inherited diseases. Some of the diseases that can occasionally affect the Poodle are listed below:
- Pancreatitis – especially overweight Miniature Poodles
- Haemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (Miniature Poodles)
- Hip Disease – Hip Dysplasia (Standard Poodles), Legg-Calve-Perthes (Toy and Miniature Poodles)
- Patellar Luxation (Toy and Miniature Poodles)
- Osteochondrodysplasia/Dwarfism (Toy and Miniature Poodles)
- Dental issues – especially Toy Poodles
- Eyes diseases – Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Cataracts
- Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) in Standard Poodles
- Skin Diseases – Sebaceous Adenitis
- Heart disease – Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease (DMVD), Atrial Septal Defect (Standard Poodles)
- Endocrine diseases – Hypothyroidism, Adrenocortical Insufficiency (Addison’s Disease), Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
- Neurologic disease – Epilepsy, Neonatal Encephalopathy and Polymicrogyria (Standard Poodles)
- Bleeding Disorders – von Willebrand’s disease
- Liver Disease – Chronic Active Hepatitis, Portosystemic Shunts (Miniature and Toy Poodles)
Exercise and Activity Levels
Poodles can be energetic dogs, and require up to 1 hour of exercise per day. As an intelligent breed of dog, they would also enjoy any form of exercise that encourages mental stimulation, for example, being given the opportunity to explore off lead (in a safe environment), agility training, obedience training and dog parks.
Poodles have continuously growing hair – it does shed, but because of the tight curls in the coat, the dead hair will remain entangled in the curls. Poodles are therefore often said ‘not to shed’, which is not true – some hair will end up on the furniture. The entangled dead hair should be removed by daily or weekly brushing, or else mats will form. This is particularly important when a puppy is transitioning from its puppy coat, to the adult coat, which occurs between about 9-18 months of age.
Poodle coats usually need to be regularly clipped in order to keep them in a manageable state. The style of the clip depends on the preference of the owner. Show dogs, however, are required to have specific clips: Poodles less than 12 months of age are required to have a ‘Puppy Clip’; dogs older than 12 months are required to have an ‘English Saddle’ or ‘Continental Clip’; while stud dogs and brood bitches may have a ‘Sporting Clip’.
If the Poodle coat is allowed to grow, and is not brushed, it will form into cords. Some Poodle owners like the corded look, and will carefully prevent mats from forming and encourage the coat to grow into cords. Grooming a corded coat also takes considerable effort.
The curly coat can trap dirt, sticks and leaves amongst its folds, and so regular bathing is required.
The Poodle breed is very famous for its elaborate coat, however, individual Poodles have rarely hit the limelight.
- Many famous people have owned Poodles over the years, including Grace Kelly, Barbara Streisand, Bob Hope, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill.
- Poodles have occasionally held ‘supporting roles’ in movies, but they rarely have the lead role.
- Poodles have featured in many circuses – if you Google ‘Poodles and Circus’ you will find photos of some very colourful performance Poodles.
- A Poodle is featured on the packaging of an organic brand of coffee, called ‘Poodle’.
There are literally oodles and oodles of Poodle cross breeds! The Poodle is currently enjoying a surge of popularity as a mixed-breed dog, and has been mated with a diverse array of breeds. The curly Poodle coat is a fairly dominant hereditary trait, and so most mix-breed offspring will inherit it. The coat is desirable to many people, as it tends to shed less hair throughout the house, and it has a reputation for being less allergenic to people who are allergic to dogs. The other advantages of the Poodle cross breeds includes fewer genetic diseases, and the ability to combine the intelligence and trainability of the Poodle with basically any other breed that a person likes the look and/or temperament of. Some of the most popular mix breeds include:
- Groodle – Golden Retriever crossed with Poodle
- Labradoodle – Labrador crossed with Poodle
- Moodle or Malti-Poo – Maltese Terrier crossed with Poodle
- Cockapoo – Cocker Spaniel crossed with Poodle
- Cavapoo or Cavoodle – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel crossed with Poodle
- Yorki-Poo – Yorkshire Terrier crossed with Poodle
There are many more! Some of the less common mixes that have very entertaining names include:
- Giant Schnoodle – Giant Schnauzer crossed with Poodle
- Great Danoodle – Great Dane crossed with Poodle
- Foodle – Fox Terrier crossed with Poodle
- Saint Berdoodle – Saint Bernard crossed with Poodle
- Doodleman Pinscher – Doberman Pinscher crossed with Poodle