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July 01, 2006

Breed Profile: Standard Poodle

By: Keri Weyenberg

Family friendly, intelligent, easily trained, good with children, friends and other animals, medium to large size pets with gorgeous low-shed coats ready to be your best friend.

So what’s this, an ad for a new specialty breed? No, this dog had been around for hundreds of years. Then it must be a rare breed? Wrong again, it’s probably one of the most recognizable on the planet. Still scratching your head? O.K., I’ll give you a hint. In America their best known for their funny puffy haircuts and perceived frou-frou lifestyle.

Betcha guessed Standard Poodle now, right? For all of you that just cringed at the name, shame on you. Poodles have been the butt of many a joke and received an unjust reputation. Even my own husband rolled his eyes when I told him this article’s subject, and had the nerve to comment “why would you write about those?”

It’s that response that requires dog lovers everyone to get the word out about these severely underrated pets. Founding member and current secretary for the Greater Milwaukee Poodle Club, Jean Lazarus, has been breeding and showing Poodles since 1957. She grew up with different dogs, but was drawn to Poodles for their multitude of terrific qualities. “They’re wonderful family pets,” she said, ”they’re very intelligent, non-shedding, they have it all.”

Why is it that America had chosen to ostracize such a great family companion? Is it their curly coat? When you look at all the products used to turn stick straight hair into curly Q’s for people, curling irons and hot rollers, well that just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps it’s their haircuts, the partially shaved, fluffy ‘do they sport at all the dog shows? The Chinese Crested, for instance, with his naked body and flowing mane has received no ill will, besides the poodle cut has a very long history that we’ll get into later.

Let’s not forget that a Poodle’s not considered a “manly” enough dog. Many a male has uttered the words “I’m Okay with any kind of dog, except a Poodle.” Well I got news for ya boys, Poodles started out as a man’s dog, as masculine as they come.

No one knows exactly where Poodles started, but they’ve been around Western Europe for over 400 years. We associate them with the French, with whom he has enjoyed great popularity, but the name Poodle is thought to be from the German word “pudel” translating into “one who plays in water.” In both countries Poodles were hunting dogs, used to retrieve waterfowl much like golden retrievers are today.

The haircut that receives so much ridicule today was essential. The thick coat was shaved to allow the dog to move swiftly in the water but sections were left long to keep organs and joints warm in the chilly lakes and rivers. So not only is the poodle a man’s dog, men picked out the haircut as well.

Not that a Poodle has to have that style, which is also known as an English Saddle, Continental, or Sporting cut. There is a range of styles, including a puppy cut where the hair is kept longer. While Poodle owners must budget for regular grooming, they rarely shed, making them a great choice for any allergic potential owners. Like most water dogs, their heavy earflaps make them prone to infections; regular inspections and cleaning should keep any potential problems at bay.

Poodles make excellent family dogs. They’re extremely friendly and while active they can be city or apartment dogs with regular exercise and a safe place to run off-lead like a dog park. Jean remarked on how sensitive Poodles are. “They’re very tolerant and very in tune with the needs of people.”

Their high intelligence makes them easily trainable, and they love to show off what they know. The French marketed these qualities to make poodles popular as circus or performing dogs, a trend that can still be seen today.

Despite its hunting history the Poodle is classified as a non-working dog, an image many poodle owners are starting to defy. These extremely agile animals excel at doggy athletic events, from Agility to Obedience trials, and some are even hunting again.

Medium to large size, standard poodles range from 45-60 pounds. The miniature and toy variety all came from their larger cousin, and despite the range in sizes, the AKC judges them all by the same standards. They can live up to 15 years, but just like any other purebred there are some genetic diseases like allergies, skin and eye conditions, hip dysplasia, and a bleeding disorder known as von Willebrand's disease, auto immune disease and bloat or the twisting of the stomach.

The best way to get a healthy poodle is from a reputable breeder. They’ll have documentation on the health of the parents, like certification for their eyes and hips, and won’t breed animals that have a history of genetic disorders. Of course there is no guarantee, but you’ll definitely minimize your risks. “If you get your Poodle from a reliable source,” instructed Jean, “conscientious breeders turn out good personalities, they’ll be pretty and pleasant -easy to live with.”

So there, I’ve said my peace. While I’m sure my article hasn’t rocked the dog owning world into enlightenment, perhaps I’ve at least been able to dispel some misconceptions, and maybe, just maybe planted the seed in a few potential owners to reconsider what might be their perfect family pet. All I can ask is that before someone utters a negative remark, to think about this information and perhaps meet a poodle before making a judgment on him. After all, isn’t that what we would all want for ourselves? Viva La Poodle and may he see a time when he is no longer snubbed for a vanity that is clearly not his.

For more information on Poodles check out poodleclubofamerica.com or contact the Greater Milwaukee Poodle Club Referral Contact: Roberta Gilson at 1-920-893-0399 or at mgilson@excel.net.

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