Thursday, June 4, 2009

Poodles: They Aren't as "Frue Frue" as You Think!!

Lately I have been running into a lot of people who make fun of poodles, and roll their eyes at me when I say I would love to own a Standard Poodle one day. It amazes me that people who love other retrievers (like Goldens and Labradors) would be put off by a Poodle and not be able to look past their fancy haircut. I often ask these eye rollers if they know anything about Poodles, and the response tends to be, “yes, they’re very fruffie dogs that people dress up, and they don’t really serve much purpose.” Boy are those people WRONG!

Did you know that the Poodle is the original retriever? The breed, which started in Germany, but was developed into the modern breed we know today in France, is bred to be a water dog used for retrieving. You can look at their coat (the texture and pattern) and their conformation and see a reflection of the purposes the breed was originally bred for. Poodles come in three sizes – toy, miniature, and standard – the toy and miniatures have been bred down from the larger Poodles (now called Standard Poodles), but despite their smaller size these dogs exhibit the same general characteristics as the larger Poodles.

So what should you expect in a Poodle? First, brains! These dogs are extremely smart, and regarded by dog fanciers as one of the most intelligent dog breeds. The Poodle Club of America explains, “The Poodle is an active, intelligent, ruggedly-built dog which is at the same time elegant and refined. Well-bred Poodles in all three varieties have steady, calm nerves, hardy constitutions and they can be easily trained.” Poodles are very people oriented, often thinking of themselves more as people than dogs, and they do expect to be treated in such a manner. This personality makes the Poodle a wonderful companion. If you own a Poodle you should raise the dog in the house, and give it plenty of love, affection, and mental and physical stimulation. If not properly stimulated Poodles are prone to getting into mischief, so be sure to provide this high energy dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. The good thing is their high intelligence makes the Poodle very easy to train, and they are one of the easiest breeds to housebreak!

Poodles excel in a variety of sports, and are still today used for their original purpose as retrieving dogs and gun dogs. Poodles are known to also excel in other areas where their sturdy build, physical endurance, and brains help them win titles in obedience, agility, tracking, rally and field trials. The Poodle is not just a sturdy well built athletic dog, but also has grace and beauty – it is this beauty that has helped Poodles win Best in Show titles at some of the most coveted dog shows in the conformation ring, including The West Minster Kennel Club Show (in 2002) and the World Dog Show (in 2007).

The Poodles coat is often referred to as hair, rather than fur. They have a single layer (with no undercoat) of dense curly fur (or hair). The texture of their fur ranges from coarse and woolly to very soft and wavy. Their coats shed minimally, making them ideal candidates for allergy sufferers who want to own a dog.

A lot of people who are prejudiced against Poodles often reference their hair cuts when talking about why a Poodle is not the breed for them. The cut or clip most people think of is the show clip, usually the “English Saddle” or “Continental” clips. This show clip takes many hours of grooming (think at least 10 hours a week) to maintain, but don’t let that stop you from getting a Poodle as a pet. Poodles can also be shown (in some breed registries) with a corded coat. Despite the Rastafarian look of this style, it is very time consuming and takes a lot of attention to detail, and diligent grooming to encourage the coat to remain corded neatly. It is much less time consuming to groom a Poodle in a pet clip, and often this can be done at home with the right tools – Poodles as pets usually require regularly brushings, and grooming only every 6-8 weeks.

This photo shows a Standard Poodle with a corded clip.

The show clip, which turns so many off to Poodles, is thought to have derived from their original use as water retrievers, because this clip provides warmth to major joints while swimming in cold waters, but the rest of the body is clipped to enable less drag while swimming in the water.

Another turn off to the breed, I think The Poodle Club of America is partially responsible for, is in AKC shows the Standard Poodle now competes in the Companion Category, rather than the Sporting Group category. Some critics suggest this is because the Companion Group is easier to win, while supporters suggest the Poodle’s human like temperament makes them more suitable as companions than sporting dogs.

To learn more about the Poodle and their breed standard in America check out

Take a look at these photos, and think to yourself, is this really a fruffy dog?

These photos demonstrate the variety of colors allowed in the Poodle breed standard, as well as their ability as true bird dogs.

Poodles were bred as water retrievers, and this ancestry makes them excellent swimmers. You can even find Poodles competing in Dock Diving competitions!

This Poodle seen here pulling a cart shows the tremendous versatility Poodles have.

Yet another color of Poodle. Poodles excel in agility, as seen in this photo.

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