All dogs are part of the same species, Canis familiaris, including the three types of poodles. If you're considering a poodle for a pup, you have a choice between small, medium or large -- officially, toy, miniature and standard. There are many similarities among the different poodles, but there are few differences that may impact your choice.
Species Vs. Type
The poodle is but one breed in the single species of Canis familiaris, or domestic dog. There's a lot of variation across that one species; the World Canine Organization recognizes 339 breeds of dogs, categorized according to function, size or appearance. And that doesn't count the many varieties of dogs who have been casually crossbred. As well, different breeds of dogs may come in a variety of sizes, such as poodles, schnauzers and beagles. However, despite the differences within the breed, they're still in the same breed, all part of the same species.
Toy: The Smallest Poodle
The toy poodle, part of the American Kennel Club's toy group, is aptly named because he's so cute and little he looks like a child's stuffed toy. This tiny dog stands no more than 10 inches at the shoulder and is a lightweight, weighing in at a mere 4 to 8 pounds. His diminutive size makes it easy to keep him close, which is good because he likes to be with his people. He has a long life expectancy, between 12 and 14 years. Health concerns include progressive retinal atrophy, Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, epilepsy and patellar luxation.
Miniature: The Guy in the Middle
The miniature poodle may be in the middle, but he's still a little fellow, standing between 10 and 15 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing between 12 and 18 pounds. He's a little more lively than his smaller counterpart, and usually gets along well with other dogs, cats and kids. He's a sturdier choice than the toy poodle for the family with children, though they still need to play gently. When healthy, he can expect to live between 13 and 15 years, and he has the same major health concerns as the toy poodle: PRA, epilepsy, patellar luxation and Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease.
Standard: The Big Fellow
The standard poodle was historically a hunting dog, running, swimming and retrieving for his master. Those qualities still endure in his personality, making for an active, playful companion. He stands between 15 and 21 inches at the shoulder and hits the scales between 45 and 65 pounds. He's an amiable fellow, getting along with the whole family and is very obedient. Because of his size, his major health concerns are different from the toy and miniature poodle. Addison's disease, sebaceous adenitis, and gastric torsion are his health vulnerabilities. A healthy standard poodle has a 10- to 13-year life span.
As a breed, the poodle tends to be very intelligent and responsive to training. Whether toy, miniature or standard, this is a dog who enjoys being with the family and is a playful, perky pup. No matter what size poodle you're looking at, you'll have a pup with a distinctive fine, curly coat. Though he doesn't shed much, his coat does tangle easily, requiring clipping every six to eight weeks, or a weekly brushing, at a minimum.