The poodle’s history is widely debated; however one thing that is for certain is the poodle originated in Europe. Whether you believe the poodle first made its debut in Germany, where drawings of the original breed date back to the 15th century, or in France, where it was a favorite breed of Louis XVI and is also the national dog, the poodle has a long and storied existence. The most common use of the poodle in both Germany and France was as a retriever, particularly for waterfowl. In fact, the poodle stereotypical clip, with pom poms on the hip joints and ankles, is believed to have born of the necessity to keep these joints warm after retrieving downed game on a cold day.
The poodle is a highly intelligent breed, one that is agile, energetic, and with strong instinctual drives, such as for hunting and marking. Due to their intelligent nature, poodles require structured mental stimulation as well as vigorous exercise in order to be a contented member of the household. They excel in activities such as competitive obedience, agility, fly ball, and dock jumping, and are especially suited to outdoor activities. Despite their reputation as a “frou frou” breed, poodles can actually be quite rugged, enjoying long hikes and camping trips. Standard poodles are known as being great family companions out of all the poodle breeds (i.e. miniature and toy), but require proper socialization with children due to their strong prey drive.
Rather than having weight standards, as most breeds do, the poodle has height requirements. The Standard Poodle should be at least 15 inches tall at the shoulder for both male and female specimens of the breed. Perhaps the most recognizable characteristic of the poodle is its coat, which is dense, curly, and largely hypo-allergenic. Because the coat continually grows (instead of shedding periodically), poodles require frequent clipping in order to keep the coat mat-free and at a manageable length. Poodles can also come in a variety of colors besides the typical white and black shades, including apricot, red, cream, and brown. In addition, the coat can be solid or parti-colored, which is widely considered to be the original coloring of the Poodle.
A major factor for poodle owners is determining how to clip the poodle’s hair. There are a variety of available clips, ranging from low to high-maintenance. While one hypothesis is that clips emerged as a way to keep joints warm, others assert that the different clips were part of the dogs’ circus upbringing with the French circus. Regardless of the origins, clips can be as elaborate or simple as the owner pleases, with show clips often requiring up to 10 hours per week for maintenance.
Standard Poodles are predisposed to a number of health diseases that potential owners should be aware of. Addison’s disease, thyroid complications, epilepsy, and gastric dilation volvulus (bloat) are all common for this breed. In addition, poodles are prone to ear infections due to their non-shedding fur that can trap dirt, debris, and ear wax in the ear. Regular ear care is recommended for this reason. However, despite the propensity towards certain illnesses, Standard Poodles have a life expectancy that is relatively high for their size, typically living 11 – 12 years.