These fluffy dogs weren’t always the delicate beauties they are today. Poodles were once natural-born hunters and were originally bred as water retrievers. These prim and proper pups are still excellent swimmers with a knack for anything that involves using their brains as well as their brawn. Named after the German word for puddle, this breed’s webbed feet and water-resistant coat make them great lake and pool companions who love the challenge of obedience training at the highest levels.
Elegant. Proud. Clever. Poodles are impressive dogs, as the many best-in-show winners from this dog breed can attest. Behind the blue ribbons, impressive hairdos, and regal attitude, you’ll find an affectionate family dog with an ancient history and many talents.
Although today’s Poodles seem to epitomize a life of leisure and luxury, make no mistake: These are real dogs bred to do real jobs. Although it hardly seems possible when you look at a primped-up Poodle in the show ring, the breed was originally a water retriever, a job that requires jumping in the water to fetch waterfowl for hunters.
In fact, the English name poodle is derived from the German word pudel, or pudelin, which means to splash in the water. And in France, Poodles are called Caniche, a name derived from chien canard, meaning duck dog.
Even the elaborate coat styling that the breed’s known for once had a practical purpose: trimmed areas lightened the weight of the dog’s coat and wouldn’t snag on underwater debris, while long hair around the joints and vital organs protected the dog from the cold water.
There are three sizes of Poodle, all considered part of the same breed: going from smallest to largest, these are the Toy, the Miniature, and the Standard. The Standard is probably the oldest of the three varieties, and some still carry on the Poodle tradition of working as a water retriever.
No matter the size, Poodles are renowned for a playful but dignified personality and keen intelligence. When it comes to training, this is an “A” student, and the Poodle excels at performance sports such as obedience, agility, and hunt tests.
Despite his regal air, the Poodle is no snob. These are people-friendly dogs who want to stay close to their families — they get lonely when left by themselves for long periods — and are always up for a good game.
- If you spoil your Poodle and don’t train him, he’s likely to conclude that he’s the alpha dog of the family. This is especially common among the smaller varieties — Miniature and Toy Poodles — who are more likely to be coddled and untrained. Teach your dog good canine manners, and then insist that he use them; it shows him that you’re the leader of the pack.
- Because of their intelligence and playful nature, obedience training is essential to keep your Poodle’s mind active. A Poodle who is thinking and learning isn’t bored, and therefore won’t find destructive ways to occupy himself.
- The Poodle coat needs a lot of upkeep to stay beautiful and healthy. Most Poodle owners take their dogs to a professional groomer every three to six weeks. If you want to save money on grooming expenses, you can learn to do it yourself, but it takes time and effort.
- Poodles have weepy eyes that can stain the surrounding hair. To cut down on stains, gently wipe down the face daily with an alcohol-free pet wipe or washcloth dipped in warm water.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
- The Standard Poodle was originally bred in Germany as a duck retriever; he is still capable of performing that task today.
- The crazy haircuts seen on today’s show Poodles have their roots in the dog’s hunting roots; the thick, curly coat was cut in a way that allowed him to swim but also kept his chest and joints warm.
- A Poodle’s intelligence can translate into stubbornness, so be kind but persistent with training.
- Boye, pet of Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619–1682), was killed at the Battle of Marston Moor.
- Charley, pet of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, a black (referred to as “blue” in the book) Standard Poodle, played Charley in the TV miniseries “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”, based on Steinbeck’s 1961 book of the same name.
- Derek, pet of Patrick Swayze
- Rhapsody in White (“Butch”), the Standard Poodle featured in the movie “Best in Show”.
- Roly was featured in the BBC’s “EastEnders” for eight years.
- Atma and Butz, poodles owned by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
- In Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles first appears to Faust in the form of a black poodle.
- Darla the Poodle who plays Buffalo Bill’s poodle Precious in The Silence of the Lambs (film).