What do you think of when you hear the word “poodle”? You may think of poodle skirts, of fancy Paris streets, or of a silly-looking dog with pom-poms. And while perhaps related, these things by no means define the Poodle breed.
While funny, these unfortunate stereotypes can cause some potential dog owners to pass up the breed without a second thought.
But let me ease your mind right now.
A Poodle doesn’t have to have pom-poms. Or any part of the traditional Poodle cut for that matter. You can make your Poodle look however you want!
So please give the breed a chance.
The Poodle is an amazing dog for the right family. They come in three different sizes (Toy, Miniature, and Standard), so you can pick which one is right for you. They’re also eager to please, insanely intelligent, and all around happy dogs.
Remember that mention of fancy Paris streets? Well, that wasn’t totally accurate. (But then again what stereotypes are?)
The Poodle does have close ties with France, but the breed actually originated in Germany more than 400 years ago.
Their name comes from the German word “pudel,” meaning “to splash in water.”
Why, you might ask?
Because the Poodle was originally a duck hunter!
That’s right. The Poodle was bred to retrieve waterfowl.
It was only in later years that the breed became popular among French nobles. In royal courts, the dog’s intelligence was used not to retrieve birds, but to entertain. In fact, the breed was a popular performer in European circuses.
Poodles were recognized by the AKC in 1886, and today they are among the top 10 most popular breeds in the United States.
Are Poodles Good Family Dogs?
Yes, Poodles are great family dogs.
They are loving and social, which makes them excellent companions. But they do not do well if left alone for long periods of time. They would be happiest in a family where at least one person is home most of the time.
How Poodles do with children depends a lot on the dog’s size.
Standard Poodles are the most highly recommended for families with children. They can easily learn to be gentle with babies and toddlers, and they make the perfect playmate for older children and teens.
Miniature Poodles can also do well with children, though they may be less tolerant of grabbing hands. By training both dog and child to interact nicely with each other, Mini Poodles and kids can make a great mix.
Toy Poodles are not recommended for families with young children.
They are much more delicate, and little kids can accidentally hurt them in play. Adults and teens that understand how to handle a small dog are a much better fit for the Toy size.
Poodles of all sizes are friendly, happy dogs that love being the center of attention. If you choose to bring one into your home, this is a breed that will return all your efforts ten-fold.
But there are some important things to understand about caring for a Poodle. As with all kinds of dogs, you should be prepared for what you’re getting into. Aspects of care you’ll need to consider include nutrition, grooming, exercise, training, and health.
So read on to see if a Poodle is right for you!
Like all breeds, Poodles require a balanced diet. They also need a watchful eye. Be careful to monitor what and how much your Poodle eats, as overfeeding can lead to health issues.
You may be tempted to feed table scraps, but don’t let the begging get to you!
Feeding your dog people food can make for a picky eater and a plump dog. Toy Poodles can be especially cute beggars. Those big eyes can be irresistible, but remember that your Toy has a teeny-tiny stomach that can quickly become over-filled!
When feeding, give your Poodle only high-quality dog food, and be sure to measure out meal portions. The amount you should feed depends a lot on size, age, and activity level. But here’s a good place to start:
- Standards should eat 1 ½ to 3 cups of dry food.
- Miniatures should eat ¾ to 1 cup of dry food.
- Toys should eat ¼ to ½ cup of dry food.
All Poodle sizes should be fed twice daily, with the amounts listed above being divided into two meals. And remember, if you give your pooch a few more treats than usual on any given day, be sure to adjust his meal portion accordingly. You don’t want him to end up overfed!
For further reference on feeding, check out the guide listed on your dog’s food bag. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about exactly how much your individual dog should be eating.
Before getting a Poodle, please make sure you are aware of their grooming needs!
The breed is high-maintenance when it comes to keeping him looking and feeling his best.
Poodles have a single coat of dense, wiry hair.
They are non-shedding and are often great for allergy-sufferers. But because their hair grows continuously like human hair, they need a trim every three to six weeks. While this is typically done by a professional, you can learn to clip the coat yourself if you choose to.
The breed also requires daily brushing.
Because Poodles are non-shedding, loose hairs get trapped in their coat rather than falling out. Without a daily brush, your Poodle’s hair can become matted and unmanageable.
In addition, a lot of Poodles have watery eyes that can leave tear-stains on their faces. These stains are especially noticeable on lighter-colored dogs. To reduce the amount of discoloration, you’ll need to wipe around your Poodle’s eyes daily with a damp cloth.
Your Poodle also requires the basic grooming care needed by all dogs:
- Brush his teeth at least once a week to keep him healthy.
- Trim his nails when needed.
- Inspect your Poodle’s ears weekly for signs of infection or irritation.
Poodles of all sizes are active dogs that need exercise.
A daily walk is one of the best ways to do that. Even a Toy Poodle benefits from a nice stroll, though of course he will not need to walk as far as the Standard to get out his energy.
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for this intelligent breed. Bored Poodles can develop behavior problems. So be sure to engage that brain!
Poodles enjoy all sorts of activities, including:
- Fetch (they were bred to retrieve, after all)
- Training and learning new tricks
- Agility work
- Swimming or chasing sprinklers
- Treat puzzles
- Games like hide-and-seek
There’s all sorts of fun ways to keep your Poodle busy and active, and all of them can provide great bonding experiences for you both!
Poodles are highly intelligent.
In fact, they rank #2 after the Border Collie as the most intelligent dog breed. And thankfully, they do not come with the stubborn streak that’s common to a lot of smart breeds. Quite to the contrary, the Poodle is very eager to please and loves training with his people.
When training a Poodle of any size, keep the session fun and positive.
Poodles are a very sensitive breed, and they don’t respond well to harsh or aggressive tones. Instead, use positive reinforcement and praise.
And one more thing–don’t discredit the Toy and Mini varieties!
A lot of times, owners of these dogs forego training due the dog’s small size. Then the owners end up with a very misbehaved dog!
But Toy and Mini Poodles thrive on training just like Standards do. They are just as smart and learn just as fast. So make sure you take the time to train them as well.
Poodle Health Issues
Poodles of all sizes are a healthy dog breed.
However, their life expectancy varies, depending on the size of the Poodle.
- Standard Poodles live 12-15 years.
- Miniature and Toy Poodles live 14-16 years.
Like all breeds of dogs, Poodles are prone to certain conditions and diseases. These include the following:
- Addison’s Disease
- Thyroid issues
- Cushing’s Disease
- Juvenile renal disease
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Hip dysplasia
- Bladder stones
- Ear infections
- Sebaceous adenitis
- Bloat (in Standards)
- Tracheal collapse (in Mini and Toy sizes)
- Hypoglycemia in puppies (in Mini and Toy sizes)
- Legg-Calve-Perthes (in Mini and Toy sizes)
Things to Know About Poodles
1. A Good Breed for First-Timers and Seasoned Owners
If you’re new to dog ownership, a Poodle may be a good choice for you.
Because of their intelligence and eagerness to please, the breed is very easy to train. And this goes for all types of training–housebreaking, obedience, cool tricks, and more. In short, Poodles are a great breed to help you learn the ropes of dog care.
Already have a dog?
Owned ten dogs over the course of your lifetime?
If you haven’t already, you may consider trying out the Poodle. They would make a fun canine companion for someone who is interested in dog sports or advanced dog training. Or for someone who is simply looking for a happy, social, and loving breed.
2. A Companion Dog
Poodles are extremely social.
They are not a one-person dog, but rather develop strong bonds with every family member. Depending on what size of Poodle you get, the breed is typically very excellent with children and will bond strongly with them, as well.
This is a dog that thrives on your presence, both when you’re walking around the house and when you’re relaxing on the couch.
They need human companionship.
This is not a dog that does well left alone for long periods of time every day. Nor is this a dog that is content with being in a kennel for hours on end.
So if you’re considering a Poodle, make sure someone in the family can be home a majority of the time.
3. Active, Playful, and Energized
The Poodle is not a laze-around-the-house type dog.
At least not without your help. It is possible to tire out a Poodle, but the breed needs a daily dose of activity first.
Poodles of all sizes have a lot of energy and are very playful. A daily walk is recommended, but if the weather is terrible or something comes up, your Poodle will be content with a good indoor play session. Heck, even if you have taken your Poodle on a walk, still give ‘em some playtime as well!
Your pup will thank you for it! And so will you, in fact.
Not only will you get a laugh out of their silly antics, but you’ll have a much less mischievous dog. And since Poodles are prone to getting into trouble when restless, you’ll want to tone down that mischief-streak with proper exercise.
4. Sometimes High-Strung and Fearful
We just discussed some pluses to the Poodle breed. But we also need to take a look at some of the possible negatives.
The words “high-strung” and “fearful” by no means describe all Poodles. That is another erroneous stereotype.
Nevertheless, some Poodles can indeed act crazy and skittish.
Like all bad behaviors, there is a root cause that can be addressed. If your Poodle is particularly high-strung or skittish, consider the following as possible reasons for their distress:
- Separation anxiety
- Fear from a lack of socialization
- Fear of excessive disciplinary action
- Excessive pampering and babying
With proper care and training upfront, these issues can be avoided.
Socialization with other people and animals is key. So is calm, consistent training. Also, if you are considering a Toy Poodle, please remember–the dog may be small, but he is still a dog, and he needs to be treated like one.
Too much coddling can lead to a yippy-yappy, snappy ball of fluff. And nobody wants one of those.
5. You Need to be in Charge
Another reason to not spoil your Poodle–the breed is an EXPERT at soaking it up.
And we all know the term “spoiled rotten.” That’s what your Poodle will be with too much babying and not enough training.
And being spoiled rotten isn’t the least of your worries.
A spoiled, untrained Poodle makes for a dog that doesn’t know who’s boss. Rather than letting your Poodle get away with everything, lay down some rules, and insist he live by them. Every dog needs structure, and a Poodle is no different. Make sure your pup always knows that you’re the one in charge of the household, not him.
6. The Sensitive Soul
I’ve touched on this before, but let’s talk about it more. Poodles are hypersensitive dogs in more ways than one.
First off, Poodles can be sensitive in the way they respond to people.
If you’re speaking loudly and angrily, you’re likely just scaring your Poodle. Aim for positive reinforcement instead of harsh punishments.
Poodles can also be reactive if caught off guard.
Sudden, loud noises can frighten them. And an unexpected touch can cause them to flinch. So try to be gentle and consistent. And definitely don’t try to frighten them as a joke. Dogs are smart, but they don’t understand the concept of teasing.
Second, Poodles are extremely perceptive to your moods and emotions. It’s what makes them great service dogs and Emotional Support Animals. If you’re in a bad mood, your pup will pick up on it. If you’re sad, he’s probably the first to know and will want to make you feel better.
It’s very sweet of him, actually.
But take into account your Poodle’s feelings and needs, too.
The breed will suffer in a home with a lot of conflict, anger, or silent tension. Such an environment will stress out your Poodle, and he can become physically sick as well as develop behavioral problems as a result.
So if you’re considering a Poodle, take a minute to ask yourself if your home environment is suitable for the breed.
7. An Alert Dog
Poodles can be protective of their families and homes.
But the breed is by no means aggressive.
In other words, they won’t guard your house and family the way a Rottweiler would. But most Standard Poodles can make great watchdogs. And all sizes of Poodles are quick to sound an alarm to any new disturbances in the house.
This warning bark can come in very handy for knowing when someone is walking up to your door. But your Poodle can also develop bad habits of nuisance barking if ignored. So make sure you give your Poodle the attention and exercise that he needs.
Also, pay attention to his barking and work to correct it if it becomes excessive.
The Poodle will always prefer the companionship of his people to the company of other dogs. Nevertheless, the breed does well with other dogs, especially if properly socialized from the beginning.
If this is the case, your Poodle will likely enjoy the companionship of another dog in the house. And if you’re not home as often as your pup would like, you may consider getting a furry companion for your Poodle. Dog company is preferable to no company, after all.
On the other hand, if your Poodle has lived for years in a single-dog household, it may be harder to introduce doggy number two. It’s not impossible, but your dog will likely need a little more time to adjust.
9. Not Your Kitty’s Enemy
Are you a cat AND a dog person?
Good news if you are because Poodles typically get along well with cats! All three sizes of Poodles, in fact, usually do well with felines.
Of course every Poodles and kitty is an individual. So you’ll want to be sure to introduce your current pet to the new canine or feline in question just to make sure they are a good match.
But you can at least be confident that your chances for peaceful coexistence are high with a Poodle.
10. The Traditional Poodle-Cut had a Purpose
You may or may not be into the pom-pom look, but did you know that the Poodle cut had a practical purpose?
Back in their hunting days, Poodle owners needed to optimize the breed for swimming:
- Too little hair meant the dog would get cold.
- But too much would weigh the dog down in the water.
So a compromise was made. Owners shaved everything except for the hair on the upper torso and on the joints. That way, the joints and vital organs were protected from cold water.
Practicality later turned into fashion, and that’s how we ended up with the modern Poodle cut.
Who would’ve guessed?
11. What are My Color Options?
When it comes to Poodles, there’s a rainbow of possibilities. The AKC standard colors for the breed are:
- Solid apricot
- Cafe au lait
- Silver beige
And if that didn’t give you enough choices, here’s some more!
Though not able to be shown, other variations from a solid-colored coat include parti and phantom coats. These terms refer to possible markings on a Poodle and can be made up of any of the listed colors.
12. So What Are Doodles?
If you’re familiar with the world of dogs, you’ve probably heard a lot of doodle and poo names. Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Cockapoos, Maltipoos–you name it, and it probably exists.
In recent years, these Poodle hybrids have really taken off.
The Poodle has become a popular dog to mix with other breeds because of his hypoallergenic quality.
It all started in 1988 with a Labrador and a Poodle.
And a desire to make a hypoallergenic seeing-eye dog. From there, the Labradoodle was born, and the doodle concept began to take off.
(And just so you know, there is by no means a shortage of doodles out there if you’re interested!)