The American Kennel Club recognizes three types of poodle breeds: the standard, the miniature and the toy. A variety of well-known poodle mixes are not accepted for show or AKC standards. The poodle comes from the working class of dogs, and was originally bred in Germany as a large water retriever. The miniature and toy varieties came into existence as the breed became more popular with the upper class.
The first breed of poodle known is the standard poodle, a tall, active dog with a penchant for water. Standard poodles weigh 45 to 70 pounds and stand almost two feet at the shoulder. These intelligent dogs learn quickly and are the most athletic of the three AKC-recognized breeds, excelling at obedience competition, retrieving and obstacle training. Instinctive by nature, standard poodles retain much of the innate hunting drive they were born to possess, a difference in temperament from the smaller poodle breeds.
Not long after the standard poodle was bred, the dog's keen sense of smell drew attention. More so than other dogs, the poodle was able to pick out the delicate smell of truffles, a fragrant and expensive fungus. As the standards were too large to carefully retrieve the truffles, smaller versions of the poodle were bred. These miniature poodles stand more than 10 inches at the shoulder but less than 15, and are just as intelligent and active as their larger counterparts.
Popular among hunters for the breed's hunting and retrieving skills, the poodle began making waves with ladies of the upper class who thought the natural curly coat and affectionate nature of the breed were appealing. During the 18th century, lap dogs were becoming fashionable, and thus the miniature poodle was bred even smaller, resulting in the toy poodle. Given the toy's size -- 10 inches or smaller at the shoulder -- and the fact that poodles rarely shed, toy poodles quickly realized a lap dog popularity that holds firm.
Although not recognized by the American Kennel Club as individual breeds, many owners are drawn to poodle mixes, hoping to combine the best of each breeds' personality and traits. Commonly labeled with a "poo" or "oodle" in the dog's name, the mixes include Cockapoos, poodles mixed with cocker spaniels; Goldendoodles, poodles mixed with golden retrievers; Labradoodles, poodles mixed with Labrador retrievers; Yorkipoos, poodles mixed with Yorkshire terriers; and schnoodles, poodles mixed with schnauzers. An important note about hybrid dogs is that, while the best outcome is a perfect blend of breeds, mixes are unpredictable at best; the temperament of one cannot firmly indicate the temperament of any other.
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