Information about the Poodle

The Poodle is a breed of dog. The poodle breed is found officially in toy, miniature, and standard sizes, with many coat colors. Originally bred as a type of water dog, the Poodle is skillful in many dog sports, including agility, obedience, tracking, and even herding. Poodles have taken top honors in many conformation shows, including “Best in Show” at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1991 and 2002, and at the World Dog Show in 2007 and 2010.

The Poodle is believed to have originated in Germany, where it was known as the Pudelhund. Pudel (cognate with the English word “puddle”), is derived from the Low German verb meaning “to splash about”, and the word Hund in German means “dog”. The breed was standardized in France, where it was commonly used as a water retriever.

The European mainland had known the Poodle long before it was brought to England. Drawings by German artist Albrecht Durer established the breed in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was the principal pet dog of the late 18th century in Spain, as shown by the paintings of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. France had toy Poodles as pampered favorites during the reign of Louis XVI at about the same period.

The Poodle has been bred in at least three sizes, including Standard, Miniature, and Toy. According to the American Kennel Club, the Standard Poodle is the oldest of the three varieties, and was later bred down to the miniature and toy sizes. Despite the Standard Poodle’s claim to greater age than the other varieties, some evidence shows the smaller types developed only a short time after the breed assumed the general type by which it is recognized today. The smallest, or Toy variety, was developed in England in the 18th century. Today, there is a teacup poodle, not registered in the A.K.C.

Poodles are retrievers or gun dogs, and are still used by hunters in that role. Their coats are moisture-resistant, which helps their swimming. All of the Poodle’s ancestors were acknowledged to be good swimmers, although one member of the family, the truffle dog (which may have been of Toy or Miniature size), it is said, never went near the water. Truffle hunting was widely practised in England, and later in Spain and Germany, where the edible fungus has always been considered a delicacy. For scenting and digging up the fungus, the smaller dogs were favoured, since they did less damage to the truffles with their feet than the larger kinds. So it is rumoured that a terrier was crossed with the Poodle to produce the ideal truffle hunter.

The Poodle is a very active, intelligent and elegant dog, squarely built, and well proportioned. To ensure the desirable squarely built appearance, the length of body measured from the breastbone to the point of the rump approximates the height from the highest point of the shoulders to the ground. The eyes should be very dark, oval in shape, and have an alert and intelligent expression. The ears should fold over close to the head, set at, or slightly below, eye level. The coat should be of naturally harsh texture, dense throughout.
Most Poodles are solid-colored, and many registries (notably the AKC) allow only solid colors in conformation shows. Poodles come in a wide variety of colors, including white, black, gray, silver, brown, silver beige, apricot, red, cream, sable, phantom, and brindle.

The coat is an even and solid color at the skin. In blues, grays, silvers, browns, cafe-au-laits, apricots and creams, the coat may show varying shades of the same color. This is frequently present in the somewhat darker feathering of the ears and in the tipping of the ruff. While clear colors are definitely preferred, such natural variation in the shading of the coat is not to be considered a fault. Brown and cafe-au-lait Poodles have liver-colored noses, eye rims and lips, dark toenails and dark amber eyes. Black, blue, gray, silver, cream and white Poodles have black noses, eye rims and lips, black or self-colored toenails and very dark eyes. In the apricots, while the foregoing coloring is preferred, liver-colored noses, eye rims and lips, and amber eyes are permitted, but are not desirable. Incomplete color of nose, lips and eye rims, or of wrong color for color of dog are considered major faults.

Poodles also come in parti, tuxedo, and mismark. All three mean white paired with a solid color. Parti is when the Poodle has colored spots over a white coat. Tuxedo is when the dog has a large amount of white (40% or more of the coat), mainly on its throat, stomach, and legs, almost like it waded through paint. Mismark is like tuxedo, but with much less white, usually just a small amount on the toes or chest.

Unlike most breeds, Poodles can come in a variety of sizes, distinguished by adult shoulder (withers) height. The exact height cutoffs among the varieties vary slightly from country to country. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognizes four sizes of one breed, standard, medium, miniature, and toy. Non-FCI kennel clubs generally recognize three sizes, standard, miniature, and toy, sometimes as sizes of the same breed and sometimes as separate breeds. Only the FCI describes a maximum size for Standard Poodles. France is the country responsible for the breed in the FCI, and in this country, the puppies of all sizes are listed together. The terms royal standard, teacup, and tiny teacup are marketing names, and are not recognized by any major kennel club.

Comparison of poodle sizes defined by major kennel clubs
Size The Kennel Club (UK) Australian National Kennel Council New Zealand Kennel Club Canadian Kennel Club American Kennel Club United Kennel Club Fédération Cynologique Internationale
Standard, Grande over 38 cm (15 in) 38 cm (15 in) and over 38 cm (15 in) and over over 15 inches (38 cm) over 15 inches (38 cm) over 15 inches (38 cm) over 45 cm to 60 cm (+2 cm) (18 to 24 in)
Medium, Moyen not used not used not used not used not used not used over 35 cm to 45 cm (14 to 18 in)
Miniature – Dwarf, Nain 28 cm to 38 cm (11 to 15 in) 28 cm to under 38 cm (11 to 15 in) 28 cm to under 38 cm (11 to 15 in) over 10 in to under 15 in (25.4 to 38 cm) over 10 in to 15 in (25.4 to 38 cm) over 10 in up to 15 in (25.4 to 38 cm) over 28 cm to 35 cm (11 to 14 in)
Toy under 28 cm (11 in) under 28 cm (11 in) under 28 cm (11 in) under 10 in (25.4 cm) under 10 in (25.4 cm) under 10 in (25.4 cm) 24 to 28 cm (9.4 to 11 in)

All the Fédération Cynologique Internationale Poodles are in Group 9 Companion and Toy, Section 2 Poodle. All the Kennel Club Poodles are in the Utility Group. All three sizes of Poodles for the Australian National Kennel Council and the New Zealand Kennel Club are in the Non-sporting Group. The Canadian Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club place standard and miniature sizes in the Non-sporting Group, and the toy size in the Toy Group. The United Kennel Club places the miniature and toy in the Companion Group and the standard Poodle in the Gundog Group.

Unlike most dogs which have double coats, poodles have a single layer coat (no undercoat) composed of dense, curly fur that sheds minimally. They could be considered hypoallergenic (though not completely allergen free). The Poodle does shed, but instead of the fur coming off the dog, it becomes tangled in the surrounding hair. This can lead to matting without proper care. Texture ranges from coarse and woolly to soft and wavy. Poodle show clips require many hours of brushing and care per week, about 10 hours/week for a Standard Poodle. Poodles are usually clipped down into lower-maintenance cuts as soon as their show careers are over. Pet clips are much less elaborate than show and require much less maintenance. A pet owner can anticipate grooming a poodle every six to eight weeks. Although professional grooming is often costly, poodles are easy to groom at home with the proper equipment.

Many breed registries allow only certain clips for poodles shown in conformation. In American Kennel Club (AKC) shows, adults must be shown in the “Continental” or “English saddle” clips. Dogs under 12 months old may be shown with a “puppy clip”. The AKC allows the “Sporting” clip in Stud Dog and Brood Bitch classes, as well.

Some sources believe the show clips evolved from working clips, which originally provided warmth to major joints when the dogs were immersed in cold water. The rest of the body is shaved for less drag in the water. Others express skepticism at this theory, instead citing the French circus as the origin of the entertaining and unique clips.

The second puppy clip is also called the Scandinavian clip or puppy clip. It was invented by Swedish and Norwegian show groomers in the 1970s. It is the most common one in all sizes for shows in Europe, and is allowed for adult poodles to be shown in the FCI countries. The face, throat, belly, feet and the base of the tail are shaved five to seven days before the show to get a nice, smooth appearance of the shaved areas. The hair on the head is left to form a “topknot”, fixed in place using latex bands, because in most European countries, hair spray is banned. The rest of the dog is shaped with scissors. It makes the parts of the dog look fluffy.

In the continental clip, the face, throat, feet and part of the tail are shaved. The upper half of the front legs is shaved, leaving “fluffy pompons” around the ankles. The hindquarters are shaved except for pompons on the lower leg (from the hock to the base of the foot) and optional round areas (sometimes called “rosettes”) over the hips. The continental clip is the most popular show clip today.

The English saddle clip is similar to the continental, except for the hindquarters, which are not shaved except for a small, curved area on each flank (just behind the body), the feet, and bands just below the stifle (knee) and above the hock, leaving three pompons. This clip is now rarely seen in standard poodles.

Pet clips can be as simple or as elaborate as owners wish. The hair under the tail should always be kept short to keep feces from matting in the dog’s curls. Most owners also keep the feet and face clipped short to prevent dirt from matting between toes, tear stains on lighter-coated poodles and food from matting around the dog’s muzzle. Beyond these sanitary requirements, desired clips depend on owners’ preferences. Some owners maintain a longer clip in winter than summer, which they groom often with a wire slicker brush to remove tangles and prevent matting.

In most cases, whether a Poodle is in a pet or show clip, the hair is completely brushed out. Poodle hair can also be “corded” with rope-like mats similar to those of a Komondor or human dreadlocks. Though once as common as the curly Poodle, corded Poodles are now rare. Corded coats are difficult to keep clean and take a long time to dry after washing. Any Poodle with a normal coat can be corded when its adult coat is in. Corded poodles may be shown in all major kennel club shows.

Of note is this breed’s keen sense for instinctive behavior. In particular, marking and hunting drives are more readily observable than in most other breeds. Even Toys will point birds. Classified as highly energetic, Poodles can also get bored fairly easily, and have been known to get creative about finding mischief. Poodles like to be in the center of things and are easily trained to do astonishing tricks involving both brains and agility. They have performed in circuses for centuries, beginning in Europe, and have been part of the Ringling Circus in its various forms from its inception. The Grimaldis, the famous British clowns Kenneth and Audrey Austin, “developed a stronger circus act” with a clever Poodle named ‘Twinkle,’ the success of which allowed them to continue performing even as octogenarians.”

With proper care and nutrition, many enjoy life well into their teens. The Toy Poodle pictured above is 16, and with arthritis medication, still has an active life.

The most common serious health issues of Standard Poodles (listed in order of the number of reported cases in the Poodle Health Registry (as of August 20, 2007) are Addison’s disease, gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV = bloat/torsion), thyroid issues (hyperthyroid and hypothyroid), tracheal collapse, epilepsy, sebaceous adenitis, juvenile renal disease, hip dysplasia, and cancer. Standard Poodles are also susceptible to some health issues usually too minor to report to the health registry. The most common of these minor issues is probably ear infection. Ear infections are a problem in all Poodle varieties because their nonshedding coat grows into the ear canal, where it traps wax and dirt. Ear problems can be minimized by proper ear care, including regular cleaning and plucking of hair within the ear canal. A veterinarian should be consulted if the dog shows signs of an ear infection.