Get to Know the Standard Poodle: Brains, Beauty, and a Bouffant

France's national dog has quite a coif, but did you know she was bred as a water retriever?

Caroline Coile  |  Feb 3rd 2014

The Standard Poodle may look prissy and poofy, but she’s no dumb blonde. No dumb anything. When it comes to smarts and a can-do, will-do attitude, the Poodle may be unrivaled in the dog world. She was bred to work, and she hasn’t forgotten. Yet people often toss her off, simply because of her coif and her glamour.

More interesting thing about the Standard Poodle:

  • The Standard size is the original version of the Poodle.

  • The Standard Poodle was originally bred as a water retriever. The word Poodle comes from the German word pfudel, which means “puddle” or “to splash.” In France, the Poodle was known as the caniche or chien canard, both labels referring to his duck-hunting ability.

  • The Standard Poodle has worked as a circus performer, military dog, guard dog and guide dog.

  • The Poodle’s haircut originated as a working clip for retrieving in cold water. The hair was cropped close to cut down on its weight and drag, but left longer over the head and chest for warmth. The clip became more accentuated over time.

  • The French aristocracy became enamored of the Poodle and adopted it as its own. It eventually became the national dog of France.

  • The AKC recognized the Poodle in 1887. Only later did it split the breed into three varieties according to size.

  • Some breeders are successfully working to restore the retrieving talents of Standard Poodles and are using them as hunting companions.

  • Standard Poodles are the breed of choice for extreme grooming competitions in which dogs may be clipped and dyed to resemble any number of fantasy scenes or other animals.

  • The Poodle comes in three varieties divided according to size. Varieties mean that they can be interbred, but for purposes of the show ring they compete against their own size group. The Standard variety is for Poodles over 15 inches at the highest point of their shoulders.

  • You probably won’t confuse a Standard Poodle with any other breed. Nonetheless, a couple of other breeds are often misidentified as Poodles. The Irish Water Spaniel can be mislabeled as a Standard Poodle, but he is longer bodied, has a slightly shorter muzzle, has a long skinny “rat tail” and only comes in brown. The Poodle is square proportioned. Her tail is usually docked to a medium length and tufted with long hair. And while she can come in brown, she can also come in other colors. The Portuguese Water Dog is also misidentified as a Standard Poodle, but he is heavier boned with a much shorter head and longer tail. The hair of the tail tends to be longer and curlier than that of a Poodle. The grooming is also very different.

  • Poodles can come in any solid color, most often white, black, gray, or red. Standard Poodles are predominately white or black. White with spots also occurs, but is not allowed by the AKC standard, so these spotted Poodles can’t compete in AKC conformation shows. Parti-colored (spotted) Poodles are allowed by most other country’s registries.

  • In AKC shows, Poodles can only be shown in one of three show clip patterns. The puppy clip is only for dogs under 12 months of age. In it, the hair is allowed to grow long all over the body, with only the muzzle, feet, throat and base of the tail shaved. In the English saddle clip, which is rarely seen these days at shows, the hair is shaved on the face, throat, feet and tail base, and there are shaved bands on each flank and each hind leg. Virtually all Standard Poodles at shows are sporting the continental clip, in which in addition to the face, throat, feet and tail base, the entire hindquarters are shaved except for a pompom on each hip, and the front legs are shaved except for a puff on each wrist.

  • Most Poodles not being shown wear a more manageable clip, usually with the hair cut short but not shaved except on the face, feet and tail base. The base of the ear leathers may also be shaved so the ears end in pompoms.

  • The coat can also be corded, with long yarn-like tassels; this is rarely seen, and usually only in Standards. It requires a lot of upkeep. When Poodles were first shown in the early 1900s, almost all were shown corded.

  • In the United States, the tail is customarily docked to about half its normal length.

  • The Standard Poodle is in the AKC Non-Sporting group.

  • The Standard Poodle is one of the most successful show dogs of any breed. Standard Poodles have won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club four times.

  • Standard Poodles are also accomplished agility and obedience competitors.

  • The list of celebrity owners of Poodles in general numbers in the hundreds, although it is often difficult to tease out what variety they owned. A sampling includes Kings Louis XIV and XVI, Winston Churchill, Pablo Picasso, John Steinbeck, Jacqueline Susann, Andrew Wyeth, Jane Goodall, Billie Holliday, Sammy Davis Jr., Marilyn Monroe, Mariah Carey, Gypsy Rose Lee, Walt Disney and Betty White.

  • The AKC combines all three varieties for purposes of registration statistics. The Poodle did not make the top 10 most popular AKC breeds until the 1950s, when it was ranked No. 7. But it gained the spot as the most popular breed in America in 1960 and held it until 1982. It is currently ranked No. 8, the same position it held a decade ago. Most of its popularity has generally been attributed to the Miniature variety, however.

Do you own a Standard Poodle? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

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