Even people unfamiliar with dogs recognize the poodle -- as long as the dog is clipped in one of several acceptable styles. Although he's known as the "French" poodle, the breed actually originated in Germany and was used as a water retriever. This smart, fancy canine is actually an athletic dog. Don't be fooled by the frilly exterior. This is one tough puppy.
In Germany, the poodle was known as the "pudel," from which comes the English breed name. The original poodle was a relatively large dog, with the smaller varieties we know today bred down from it. The fancy coat clips aren't arbitrary or simply fashionable, but reflect the breed's use as a water dog. Parts of the coat were clipped to enhance the dog's ability to swim and retrieve game. The miniature poodle was developed to hunt truffles, those underground fungi so adored by gourmands. Don't be surprised if your miniature or toy poodle -- a pet you acquired as a lap companion -- turns out to have a strong prey drive.
Standard, Miniature and Toy
The American Kennel Club breed standards for the three sizes of poodle -- standard, miniature and toy -- are the same, with the exception of height. A standard poodle's height is above 15 inches tall at the shoulder. The miniature poodle stands between 10 inches and 15 inches, while the toy poodle matures at less than 10 inches tall. The standard and miniature fall into the AKC nonsporting group, while the toy poodle is, obviously, in the toy category. All poodles should appear intelligent and elegant, with an "air of distinction and dignity," according to the breed standard.
Poodle Coat and Colors
All poodles appear in solid colors. These include white, black, cream, silver, gray and blue -- with accompanying black noses, lips and eye rims. Brown poodles and those of the faded brown shade known as cafe au lait sport liver-colored noses, lips and eye rims. Apricot poodles can have noses, lips and eye rims of either black or brown. While the poodle doesn't shed, his curly coat requires considerable grooming and upkeep. Expect to visit the groomer at least every couple of months unless you want your dog to look like a walking mop.
Among the most intelligent of canines, poodles soak up training. All sizes need a fair amount of exercise, although the standard requires much more than his smaller cousins. Poodles love their people. While the standard makes the best choice for an active family with kids, the miniature and toy varieties are fine with older children. Poodles usually get along with other dogs and cats. They do well in obedience, agility and other canine competitions -- standards can star in hunt testing alongside more conventional sporting breeds -- and excel as therapy dogs.
Poodle Health Issues
Progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease that eventually causes blindness, is found in toy and miniature poodles. Standard poodles are prone to sebaceous adenitis, resulting in hair loss, skin thickening, sores and foul odor. Certain bone and joint diseases affect the breed, including hip dysplasia, luxating patellas -- colloquially known as slipped kneecaps -- and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which results in bone cell death in the femoral head.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.