Poodles – Oodles of poodles!

Breed facts: Utility group

In association with the Kennel Club, Dogs Monthly provides you with all you need to know about Poodles. Could one of these curly ‘can do anything’ canines be your new best four-legged friend?

Elegant, prancing, graceful, but above all fantastic all-rounders, Poodles are, quite simply, the ideal pet – providing you are prepared for the high maintenance and expense involved in maintaining their gorgeous curly coats. Carol Harwood, secretary for the North Western Poodle Club, has researched the breed and says: “There can be no doubt that the Poodle, one of the most intelligent and devoted of all dogs, is also one of the oldest breeds. “The first illustrations of Poodles were carved on Roman tombs and other monuments of about 40 AD, but the first known printed mention of them was made by Conrad Gessner in 1555. Clipped Poodles appear in French, Dutch and Italian paintings as early as 1454, and even earlier in illuminated manuscripts.”
Poodles have been the adored pet of kings and queens – Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, had a white pet Poodle; while, as Carol Harwood has researched, the last king of France, Louis Philippe I (ruled from 1830- 1848) had one also, and fled the French Revolution with his queen and pet! “Perhaps the most ancient of the breed’s varieties,” continues Carol, “is the small white Toy, called for many hundreds of years the ‘Petit Barbet’. Illustrations of early Barbets include a picture by Jacob Da Emploi (1575) and one by Cima (1470). “The larger Poodles were called, in France and elsewhere, the Grand Barbet, Caniche, Mouton and Moufflon, and, in Germany, Pudel. The early English ‘Water Dog’ was another branch of the family.


Early writers treated the woollycoated dogs as separate from the corded varieties. “While many persons credit Russia with the origin of the corded Poodle, Dr Fritz Inger, a German authority, believed the Poodle originated in Africa, either in Morocco or Algiers, and that the corded varieties had a Spanish, Portuguese or Greek origin. This theory is unlikely as no trace of such an indigenous breed exists there today. “All authorities agree that there were three continental varieties – the German, the Russian and the French – and that all three were to be found in small, but not Toy, medium and large sizes. Earlier writers classify the Poodle among the Spaniels. “The Poodle was not only used as a retriever,” says Carol, “he was also valued by soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars, and one – called Moustache – was decorated for bravery in battle by General Lannes in 1860. Another ‘war Poodle’, Morfino, was the pet of a young Italian officer who fought in the campaign against Russia. Morfino was separated from his master at Berezina, but faithfully followed the trail of the army for thousands of miles and was reunited with his owner, albeit in a pitiful state of weakness and starvation. “In the latter part of the 18th century, Poodles were popular pets of the aristocrats of France and England. The Duke of Argyll’s Poodles portrait is still in the family collection. Prince Rupert is said to have had a Poodle by his side while fighting Cromwell. “Research papers state that the earliest importations of white Miniatures into the UK came from France, and that many of the present-day white Miniatures are of German extraction. “No doubt remnants of all the various types of bygone Poodles are to be found in our modern show dogs, which still vary as to stature, texture of coat and other items of conformation. Modern methods of breeding and the breed standards, laid down in England and America, have consolidated the type so that show dogs are now comparatively uniform in their structure; variation is largely confined to size and colour.”

‘Duck dog’
With such a special history as mainly sports dogs, as well as pets in the smaller types, it’s small wonder Poodles have retained their hunting drives and will ‘point’ anything they view as game – even Toys, the smallest of the three types. Although some people think the Poodle originated in France, it was actually developed in the 1400s as a water dog (pudelhund, ie splashing dog) to hunt game in Germany. It was the French, however, that developed the breed into the different sizes to suit different owners’ requirements as seen today, and it is known as the ‘Caniche’ (duck dog) in France. While Poodles enjoyed great popularity during the mid-20th century, the breed ranks only 33 (Toy), 47 (Standard) and 48 (Miniature) in the 2007 Kennel Club (KC) registration listing. These rankings, however, are an improvement on the 2006 listings, so could the publicly underrated Poodle be making a curly comeback? Let’s hope so!

Did you know? Because they are popular with allergy sufferers, due to their non-shedding coats, Poodles are used to create ‘designer hypoallergenic’ dogs, such as Cockerpoos (Cocker Spaniel cross), Cavoodles/Cavapoos (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross), Goldendoodles (Golden Retriever cross) and Labradoodles (Labrador cross). However, it’s not guaranteed that the crosses won’t shed the coats and cause allergy and, in some poor matches, you may get the worst of both breeds in one package instead of the best.


  • Small (Toy), medium (Miniature) or large (Standard) sized
  • Loves people & good with children
  • Loving and loyal
  • Fun all-rounders
  • Active & perky
  • Town or country living
  • Wonderful companions
  • Can be wilful
  • Moderate to high exercise requirement
  • Intelligent & eager to please
  • Highly trainable
  • High-maintenance coat

Lots of fascinating historical information on Poodles can be found on the Poodle History Project website at www.poodlehistory.org which is edited and co-ordinated by Emily Cain, a pet Poodle owner in Canada. Emily can be contacted via the website for contributions from interested parties.

Character & family life
Happy, full of fun, curious and good-natured, all three types of Poodle make good family pets if brought up properly, with the Standard being noted for his patience with and love of children. Poodles tend to get on well with other dogs and cats if introduced correctly, but they can be quite vocal if they get bored or left on their own for too long, or are allowed to become too dependent on their owners. Says Toy and Standard breeder and groomer Anita Bax: “The nice thing about Poodles is they are so adaptable and just adore being part of the family. They don’t moult so that makes them good for people with allergies to pet hair and, as they come in all sizes to suit everyone, they can adapt to being in apartments and houses as well as grand estates. “Poodles also make good guard dogs and can be fearless when defending their home and family – even Toys tend to guard you – but sometimes they like to take on more than they can handle, and that can be very worrying! “Poodles are people dogs. If you give them the choice of being with other dogs or being with you, nine out of 10 will choose being with you. Because of their preference for people, they have this ability to entertain you and seem to want to make you smile. They are the original party animal.”

“Nobody’s fool!”
Says the Miniature Poodle Club: “Miniature Poodles will be anything you want them to be. The media perception of the breed is misleading and unhelpful. They are supremely intelligent and, while they love to play the clown, they are nobody’s fool. They will happily walk miles up hill and down dale with you or snuggle up on the sofa when it’s raining and cold outside. Only if you are determined to make them into a spoilt, overweight and pretentious lap dog will they ever become one! “If you want a quiet and uneventful life, think of another breed. Poodles want to LIVE life with you, and never forget they need grooming regularly. It’s a commitment, but well worth it!” While Toys make fantastic companions and show dogs, they, too, love to play with toys and fetch things.

Standards need a considerable amount of daily exercise to remain sane and fit: at least two hours a day on-lead split into two or more walks. The other two types take as little or as much as you care to give them, but remember that all Poodles need lots of mental exercise so they do not become bored, therefore destructive and neurotic (as in any dog). Advises Anita Bax: “As puppies, Standards do not require too much exercise: they need to be fully developed before you start serious exercise as too much too soon could damage their joints. “Once mature, dogs in a group off leash will exercise themselves with running around and playing with each other, but make sure your dog is well trained and the dog owners you are walking with are as responsible as you are, and are capable of controlling their dogs at all times. “When my dogs are into they need a run. There is nothing more pleasing than a carpet of Standard and Toy Poodles in my kitchen and conservatory, all asleep exhausted on their backs with their bellies on show. Dogs that are well exercised usually eat well and are not destructive around the home – and once you get into the habit of walking your dogs you’ll feel better too.” Says the Miniature Poodle Club: “Mins do not require a lot of exercise daily, but hugely enjoy getting out and about with their owners and having fun and adventures whenever possible. If you are not in a position to offer your Min much freedom, he will make his own fun – running around the garden madly or even doing a few circuits of the lounge, including sofas and chairs, to let off steam when necessary.”

Because they adore being with people and are eager to please, all Poodles are generally pretty easy to train. They hate being shouted at, though – so, remember that kind, firm and consistent training will reap more rewards than getting cross and impatient. Be warned, though, sometimes they can be wilful and stubborn and, being clever dogs, will soon learn to become bossy if you allow them to be. “Where training is concerned,” says Anita Bax, “Poodles are the most trainable of all breeds – that’s why they were the preferred circus dog.” Says Miniature breeder and groomer Peter Young: “Being extremely intelligent and highly trainable, Mins are often quicker-thinking than their owners. While they excel at being a full-time companion, they can do just about anything you want them to do.
Being a game type, they are much more able than they look and enjoy activities such as obedience training, agility and flyball.” Activities Poodles enjoy, and do well at, include cani cross, agility, field trials, obedience, heelwork to music, tracking and flyball. Grooming “The tradition of clipping the Poodle seems to have come down the ages,” says Carol Harwood.” The reason is that as a water dog his large coat impeded his speed while collecting ducks, and during the summer, unless well groomed, it became matted, dirty and caused skin troubles. “The hair was trimmed from the main body but left covering the chest, head, ears and joints. This latter point was most important for the hair, being waterproof, prevented the joints from getting wet and cold thus causing rheumatism. The hair left over the neck and back prevented sunstroke. “A tail ‘pom’ was left on so that the dog could be seen through the marshes. Up to very recent years in the show ring, you could always see the Poodle with ribbons in the topknot. Originally the idea was that when the dogs were in the water, their owners could recognise them by the colour of the ribbons as mostly black or white Poodles were used; particolour black and white were used for truffle hunting.” Intensive care All three types of Poodle need a considerable amount of coat care to remain neat and tidy.
Although Poodles don’t shed hair, dead hair needs to be groomed out regularly otherwise the coat will become a mass of matted ‘wool’. It’s recommended you should have your dog attended to by a professional groomer every six to eight weeks, unless you learn to maintain a Poodle’s coat yourself and invest in the necessary equipment. The Poodle singlelayer curly coat is profuse and a dense, harsh texture is preferred in the show ring. For showing, it is strongly recommended that the traditional lion clip be adhered to in all types, but there is a variety of less work-intensive styles available for pet Poodles, with the lamb clip (uniform-length hair) being a popular choice. Says Anita Bax: “Grooming must begin when puppies are five weeks old. Poodles in pet trim can be groomed with a pin brush and metal comb, and a spray bottle with water containing a little squirt of leave-in conditioner, as the hair can break if you groom it while dry. “Grooming twice a week is normally enough for dogs with a shorter trim. Show coats need more attention and are more time-consuming – dogs need to be trained to lie on their side so the long hair can be layered and groomed in sections to ensure you have completed the whole dog. “You will also need to learn how to tie up the dog’s topknot and ears in a way that is comfortable for him, so he can lead a normal life and do all the running, jumping, swimming, hunting and digging that all dogs do.” “The cost of having a Poodle professionally clipped,” adds groomer and Min owner Lesley Wall, “varies from around £25 to around £45 for a Toy or Miniature and between £40 and £80 for a Standard, depending on the area where you live.” Feeding “Poodles are said to be fussy feeders,” says Anita Bax, “but in all my years with them I have only had one Toy who was fussy. “I find that plenty of exercise and not making an issue of it if a dog misses a meal encourages a good appetite. I never leave food down for longer than 20 minutes before I remove it, and I feed twice a day as I feel two smaller meals can be more appetising than one big one, and my dogs seem to eat better like that. “I’m old-fashioned with feeding and give my dogs raw beef, lamb or chicken with soaked biscuit meal in the evening, and raw breast of lamb or chicken wings in the morning. As my dogs all eat well, I don’t feel I need to give them any extra vitamins or other additives. With pregnant females I increase their intake and they have three meals a day.” Peter Young adds: “Miniatures can be fussy feeders if you let them, but they’ll do just fine on quality canned or frozen meat with biscuit meal. They love homecooked food, though, especially chicken and pasta. “As an approximate guide, the Standards cost around £6-£10 per week to feed, depending on what they are fed on, while the smaller Poodles usually cost less.” Fit and healthy Standards weigh in at 20.5-32kg (45-70lb) depending on sex and size, Miniatures at 12-14kg (26-30lb) and Toys at about 7kg (15lb). Health Standards are generally a healthy type. Incidences of Addison’s disease, sebaceous adenitis and bloat (gastric dilation and volvulus; GDV) have been reported, although the latter can occur in any large breed, while the reputable breeders are working hard to eliminate the former two ailments. Miniatures and Toys, too, are healthy in the main. The only major health issue with them worldwide is the genetic sight disorder progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). An increasing number of breeders, however, are having their breeding stock DNA-tested for the prcd (progressive rod/cone degeneration) form of PRA in efforts to eradicate it. Having drop-down ears, all types can suffer from ear problems if the ears are not kept clean and checked regularly – professional groomers normally do this as a matter of course when primping your pet, along with trimming nails and generally checking the dog over for signs of ailment. The Toy and Miniature average lifespan is around 14 years, while 10-13 years is the norm for Standards. l

Parti-coloured Poodles Today, Poodles come in a variety of beautiful solid colours – apricot, red, blue, brown, red, black, cream, silver and white – but to see a parti-coloured (such as black and white) one is unusual. Early on in the breed’s history there were more of them about, and were known as ‘mis-marks’, but in this country partis are ‘canine non grata’ as far as KC registering and showing them is concerned. In other countries, however, such as America and Germany, partis have their own recognised clubs and show classes, and are very popular. Says Lesley Garratt, groomer and owner of a parti-coloured Miniature Poodle: “There are not many parti-coloured Poodles around at the moment, but they are definitely becoming more popular – especially with groomers, as when groomed nicely, they look so stunning. “There are some poodle breeders who specifically breed parti-coloureds, but you have to be selective as unfortunately some people just see them as a way to make easy money. Having said this, there are of course genuine enthusiasts who breed for the right reasons – you just need to source a reputable breeder.” For more information on parti-coloured Poodles visit www.ukstandardpartipoodles.co.uk

Useful contacts
British Toy Poodle Club Mr L Harwood (secretary), tel. 01843 833631.
Eastern Counties Poodle Club Mrs P McGough (secretary), tel. 01638 577252.
International Poodle Club Miss K Rees (secretary), tel. 01623 861946.
London & Home Counties Toy Poodle Club Mr N B Cook (secretary), tel. 01634 241073. Mercia Toy Poodle Association Mrs H D Bakewell (secretary), tel. 01283 814876.
Midland Counties Poodle Club Mrs C Lawton-Anderson, tel. 01782 623955.
Miniature Poodle Club Miss J Kitchener (secretary), tel. 01778 348106.
Northern Toy Poodle Club Miss D Smith (secretary), tel. 01254 233422.
Northumbria Poodle Club Mr R McAuley (secretary), tel. 01287 281923.
North Western Poodle Club Miss C Harwood (secretary), tel. 01254 812121.
Poodle Club Mr & Mrs Butcher (secretary), tel. 020 8500 2335.
Poodle Club of Scotland Mrs M Munro (secretary), tel. 0131 666 2516.
Poodle Club of Wales Mr J R Stone (secretary), tel. 01278 760210.
Poodle Council Mrs C Lawton-Anderson (secretary), tel. 01782 623955.
South Western Poodle Club Miss Godfrey (secretary), tel. 01823 442919.
Standard Poodle Club Mrs S Vincent (secretary), tel. 01420 563376.

Thanks! Special thanks to the Standard Poodle Club, The Poodle Council, Carol Harwood and the North Western Poodle Club and the Miniature Poodle Club for help and information provided for this feature.