Poodle Guide: The World’s Second Smartest Breed

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Brown Poodle in girl's lap: Poodle GuideDepending on whom you ask the poodle is considered to be one of the world’s smartest dog breeds, but is that what makes this dog so lovable? Poodles come in three different sizes (and are often mixed to make other cross breeds) and their non-shedding hair (instead of fur) is great for those who have allergies. Read on to find out more about poodle’s characteristics including their history, various types, cuddly appearance, intelligence and their overall temperament.

Article Overview

The History Of The Poodle

The poodle as we know it has been seen throughout history as long as four hundred years ago. Depicted in paintings from the 15th century and bas-reliefs from the 1st century this dog truly has a historical presence.

Unusually however, there is quite a bit of controversy that surrounds the origin of the poodle’s creation. Ask most people and they will tell you that the poodle originates from France – this is perhaps due to cartoon depictions of the perfumed French poodle.

According to the American Kennel Club however, this breed has its roots in Germany where its purpose was to serve as a water retriever. Still, there are some who disagree with this German story of origin and put the point of origin of the poodle at Denmark.

Regardless of just where the poodle claims its motherland though, one thing is for certain — its roots are found in three different breeds.

French Roots

The poodle claims its heritage from the Barbet, the French water dog and the Hungarian water hound. Each of these breeds contributed to the “final product” that we know today as the poodle. The water-loving nature of all three of these breeds is instilled in the poodle and many believe that this is why the breed received its name – a bastardization of the German word Pudel which translates to mean “one who plays in water”.

The poodle had many functions throughout history. Hunters used the dog as a retriever when hunting water fowl as well as a gun dog and even a truffle seeking dog. As time progressed however, the intelligence of this breed became obvious and the French began using poodles as circus performers as well. It is through this type of exposure as a trainable and intelligent breed that the poodle became extremely popular in France, so much so that many began to refer to the dog as the French poodle.

The poodle is distinguished as a gun dog and is recognized by the American Kennel Club as a non-sporting breed. This breed is formally recognized by the following organizations: CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, KCGB, CKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, CCR, APRI, ACR, DRA and the NAPR.

Varieties Of Poodle

Overtime the poodle breed began to take three separate paths. The original standard poodle began to diverge in to smaller dogs while also maintaining their size; this caused three classes of poodle to be distinguished. The three varieties of poodle are still recognized today as the standard poodle, the toy poodle and the miniature poodle. The differences between these breeds will be made evident as we look at the physical appearance of the poodle.

Standard Poodle

The standard poodle was the first of the poodle breed to be developed. Also recognized as the Caniche, barbone, chien canne, grosse pudel and the French poodle, this breed stands at 15 inches or taller. The standard poodle can weigh anywhere from 45 to 70 pounds with the females averaging between 45 to 60 pounds and the males averaging 45 to 70 pounds.

While weight differs between poodle classes, it is actually the height that is most important in distinguishing which group a poodle belongs to. The standard poodle is considered to be a medium to large-sized breed.

Miniature Poodle

The miniature poodle stands between 11 to 15 inches tall and weighs between 15 to 17 pounds. It is crucial for this class of poodle to be over 10 inches and under 15 inches tall to classify as a miniature poodle. If the dog fails to meet this requirement it will be considered either a toy or a standard poodle.

Toy Poodle

The toy poodle stands up to 10 inches tall and weighs between 6 to 9 pounds. If the dog stands taller than 10 inches tall at the highest point of the shoulders it cannot be considered to be a toy poodle and will instead be considered a miniature poodle. The toy poodle is currently the smallest of the poodle breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club however, breeders are in the process of developing two other poodle classes.

The Poodle As A Royal Dog

During the 18th century the smaller poodles that had been bred down from the standard poodles that began the breed, became popular as dogs of royalty. These smaller dogs became an accessory as well as a status symbol among the upper class.

Newer Poodle Classes

There are two more poodle classes that are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club, however, they are being developed by breeders. The Klein poodle is being considered an “in between” sized poodle which tends to stand between 15 to 20 inches tall. The Klein is generally described as the smaller standard poodle.

Breeders are also working to develop a much smaller poodle known as the tea-cup poodle. The tea-cup poodle tends to stand less than 9 inches tall and weigh less than 6 pounds. Neither the Klein nor the tea-cup poodle has officially been recognized as poodle classifications to date.

The Poodle’s Physical Traits

The poodle has a long and straight muzzle with long ears that hang close to the head. The dog’s tail may or may not be docked. The feet of the standard poodle are quite small.

Coat

The coat of this breed is perhaps one of its defining characteristics and has a corded or curly appearance. There is considerable variety in the color of the poodle coat but it should always be solid in color – however, some breeders are working to breed parti-colored poodles that are not currently accepted by show standards. The most commonly seen coat colors in the poodle are: blue, black, gray, silver, apricot, cream, brown, white, red and café-au-lait.

Clip

The poodle is most commonly recognized for its traditional hair clip. While many believe that this clip is designed for visual appeal, it was actually developed for a much different reason. As a hunter and retriever, the poodle often found itself in the elements and this led their handlers to develop a clip that best protected the dog without hindering it. The clip features hair on the legs, this was left intact in order to prevent sharp reeds from cutting the dogs legs while retrieving game as well as to help trap warmth and prevent chilling.

There are a number of different poodle clips known today; the most common for pet owners is called the “lamb clip” or the “puppy clip.” This variety of cut simply involves cutting the hair closely all over the body. Other popular poodle clips include the Continental clip, the modified continental clip, the town and country clip, the Miami clip and the kennel clip.

Grooming

Even if the poodle is not working or being shown it is important to regularly clip their coat and maintain a regular grooming schedule. The poodle should be bathed and clipped once every couple of months or less if deemed necessary. Unlike other dogs that shed frequently, the poodle is not a shedder and as such it requires regular grooming and clipping to maintain a healthy and manageable coat.

Grooming can be expensive but it is a must for anyone considering owning a poodle. If you are unable to financially commit to regular grooming every four to six weeks for your poodle then you may want to consider another breed that requires less maintenance. Another option is to learn how to groom your poodle yourself to save on grooming costs but it is recommended that you only attempt to do this with instruction from a professional.

The Personality Of The Poodle

Temperament

The poodle is a graceful and proud dog and when raised in a healthy household they are a cheerful breed.  The poodle is a breed that is particularly sensitive to tone of voice so it is important for poodle owners to be firm but not harsh. A calm and confident owner is the best owner for the poodle breed. Harsh discipline will not be tolerated or heeded by this intelligent breed.

The poodle is a sociable dog and does not thrive as an “outside dog” or a dog that is not given adequate time with its pack members. It is important to socialize and begin training this breed as soon as possible to ensure a healthy and well rounded adult dog.

When socialized from an early age, the poodle does very well with other animals as well as children and is also relatively friendly with strangers. While friendly with strangers however, the poodle can be used as a guard dog in some circumstances depending upon the dogs overall personality.

The poodle can become a very highly strung dog and experience separation anxiety as well when not trained and socialized well. A lack of exercise (both physical and mental) can also lead to these types of behaviors.

Exercise

The poodle is a dog that is generally calm and inactive when indoors but they must receive sufficient exercise to stay healthy. A daily walk is a must for this dog but off leash play time and more rigorous activities is recommended to keep this breed fit and happy. Where the smaller poodle breeds can get away with less exercise, the larger standard poodle must receive adequate exercise daily.

Mental stimulation is also an important part of owning any type of poodle. As the world’s second most intelligent dog breed, it is crucial to keep this dog stimulated to avoid problem behavior. Activities that poodles enjoy include retrieving, agility work, watchdog work, learning new tricks and competing in obedience trials. If you are unable to provide these types of activities it is recommended that you combine regular exercise with problem solving toys and games to encourage psychological growth and exercise.

Exercise is a must for any dog breed, particularly working dogs. If you are considering owning a poodle however, exercise is a particularly prominent concern. Without sufficient exercise this breed will become obese, destructive and unhappy. You must be willing to dedicate yourself to a daily walk as well as off leash play in a secure area to make sure that this dog thrives.

Poodle Health Concerns And Lifespan

The poodle is considered to be a long-lived breed with an average life span of 12 to 15 years. Despite being long lived however, the poodle is prone to a number of health conditions, many of which are genetic. Some of the most common health concerns for poodle owners to look out for in their dogs include: cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, runny eyes, skin conditions, allergies, ear infections, hip dysplasia, Von Willebrand’s Disease, bloating (in larger poodles) and premature graying.

Most dog breeds have health concerns and many of these can be avoided by researching a dog’s genetic lines prior to purchasing a puppy. If you are looking to purchase a poodle make sure that you conduct thorough research to ensure that your dog comes from sound genetic stock. It is also important to know that even dogs from the best genetic lines can experience health concerns that can be costly. That’s why we recommend you get pet insurance to help cover some of the expenses.

The long lifespan of the poodle is also something that should be considered when you are deciding if this is the right breed for you. There are a number of dogs that have much shorter average life spans; the poodle is not one of them. Before bringing any dog home it is important to know that they could live as long as sixteen years or longer, the poodle is notorious for having this type of extended lifespan. Any dog is a commitment, just be aware that for a poodle this commitment could be longer than many other dog breeds.

Video: Poodle 101

Watch this breed in action and learn more about the history, different sizes and what it’s like to have a poodle as a pet in this four minute video from Animal Planet.

Is A Poodle The Right Dog For Me?

While many people jump at the chance to own one of the world’s most intelligent dog breeds, it is important to understand the amount of responsibility that this label brings. Unlike some other breeds that are happy with a game of tug of war, the poodle requires frequent and challenging games to maintain engagement with its owner.

Being able to meet this breeds psychological needs is not the only thing to consider when deciding whether a poodle is right for your household though. If you are away from home all day and cannot provide companionship and exercise for your dog in the form of a mid-day walk, a dog walker or dog sitting, you may want to reconsider owning a poodle and look into other dog breeds. This is a very family oriented dog that thrives on companionship as well as exercise.

Do you have a poodle or want one?

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and cats Lucy and Tabby. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps. Carrots and sweet potatoes are her picks for healthy treat alternatives.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents.

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Sandie
We are fostering what we believe to be poodle mix who was rescued from an unscrupulous breeder who kept his dogs in rabbit hutches. Our rescue is seven years old. He is a sweetheart and loves my husband. We need to socialize him, teach him to walk on a leash, and potty train him. Any advise on raising him would be appreciative. We may adopt him ourselves. Thank you.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I think you’ll find these articles helpful:
How To Socialize Your Puppy
Teach Obedience Commands
House Training An Older Dog
Bonding With Your New Rescue Dog

We have a lot of resources for you. I suggest using our search feature to browse any subjects you are curious about. You can find the search bar in the top right section of our website. Let me know if there’s anything else you need help with.

Kathy Bell
Sandie, bless you and your husband. You have a wonderful opportunity to bond with an intelligent dog. My poodle was a rescue, also. He is loyal, smart and loving. Good luck and thanks.
Connie Conrad
My Toy Poodle is 14 years old and WOW he means the world to me. I never wanted a poodle, thought they were ugly and yappy.My husband refused any small dogs.
12 years ago an angry truck driver was dumping a scared mess of a dog. Poor thing was petrified of the noise and possibly the man. I took the sad shaking mess to my vet who had to shave his hair and the rest is history, I was in love. My husband named that 8 lb white poodle Budweiser and they became best buds.
He definitely changed my life after only owning large breed dogs.
I am on the hunt for another small poodle or poodle mix.
I have been searching the rescue site as I would like to give a Senior dog a happy rest of their life.
Kathy Bell
I met my best friend at the Houston ASPCA. Bijou loves music and sings with me to several songs. He dances especially to Sausa music. We play games. Look for naturally occuring behaviors that can be addapted. Also weather permitting we visit the dog park several times a week to play with others.
Susan
I love my 2 standards,a red and a brown. They are both males and get along fairly well. The brown is a very sweet and quiter 4 yr. Pld while the red has a tremends amount of energy and follows me everywhere. He is only 19 months. Both are very attached to me but both are very friendly with mos people. If you like dogs i suggest standars becase they are non shedding , hypoallergenic loyal and extremely inteligent. They do require frequen trips tp the gromer and exercise and human contact.
Jennifer Bills
Quick note – moyens and kleins are actually 35cm to 45cm so should not reach 20″ according to their written breed and show standards. FCI is to many European countries what AKC is to the United States. Also, as a multi colored breeder of Poodles, another common misconception is that they cannot be AKC registered. All of mine are AKC registered and UKC which is the second largest kennel club in the US does allow them to be shown and they do have an organized breed club for mutli colored Poodles. There are those of us working hard to bring their quality to the level of the solid show champion counterparts. Interestingly, the original Poodles were spotted which has been well documented so they are not new to Poodles by any means. The solid preference did not come along until much later when the breed was accepted into AKC and it was decided to follow the French fashion for solids. How ironic that solid colored poodles were at one time the fad and not the norm.
Marzena
I’d love to get a toy poodle but I don’t know how to make sure that the puppy doesn’t come from a puppy mill. Can anybody advise me? Also, how to find a reputable toy poodle breeder? Thank you.
Bobbi
Adopt from a shelter or sanctuary.. there are so many needing homes
Anngray Anderson
Joan Scott, Wilmington Delaware. She had been needing to poodle for at least 40 years. Her tops are beautiful, healthy and smart
Timothy Burris
Actually, standard poodles were orginally multi colored, breeders specifically bred them to get solid colors when they brought them to the states, in the UK, Parti’s are accepted/recognized and are able to show, a lot of breeders here in the states will put parti puppies down b/c they cant show them. I have a black and white standard, hundreds if not thousands of people have seen her and think she is prettier solids.
The orginal poodles were multi colored and originated from Germany, do your homework!
Linda
We have a year old small standard, Klein or moyen, poodle. She is wonderful. She’s very smart and well-behaved. We’re doing obedience classes now and are planning therapy training. We’ve had four toy poodles and a maltipoo before. I love poodles!
Becky and Ira
I love poodles also
I would love to have a teacup…so adorable
I did know they hunting dogs
Our Daisy is crazy. she is so funny and adorable

Thanks
We are still on the road searching for just that right one

Have a good day

Trish
If you want a small dog, may I suggest a healthy, reputable bred toy poodle. I have had two teacup poodles. They were sweet but very fragile. Their little hips are easy to go out. Saying that, they are precious dogs. Especially if you want a lap dog. I now have a wonderful, playful, healthy toy poodle. Hope this is helpful.
Jennifer Bills
There is no such thing as teacups and that the other even mentions them is sad. These are runts selected for breeding and it is not a healthy or repsonsible breeding practice. I don’t understand why people think an 1″ and a pound of weight matters so much and mean absolutely no insult to you. I simply hope you will support and consider a really good, experienced, ethical toy Poodle breeder and perhaps they will put you on the list for one too undersized for anything but pet rather than breed or show quality.
Susan
Wow! We were looking to get a poodle, and i did not know most of this! it is good to do lots of research before getting a pet!!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Yes, so glad you did research beforehand so you know what to expect!
Lisa Helns
I love my poodle. Georgie is very smart and sensitive. Very social too. Very very very kind because everyone wants to touch him. As an apricot poodle he is unique and with a teddy bear cut adorable. Loves attention and his outdoor time.i Love Georgie 100% apricot oversized 7 lb toy poodle. So loving and smart
BrittanyP
This is very useful info, I have been on the fence about getting a Mini Goldendoodle for some time now but don’t see the Golden Doodle listed here, aren’t they a type of poodle too?
Stephen Quirke
Hope you didnt do it. Get a poodle or a lab but not a cross bred. The disreputable breeders try to cash in on the latest trends and think nothing of the integrity of either breed. Its all about money for them. It took many years to bred a true poodles or retriever and this should be kept in mind.
Flora Hitchery
Don’t waste hour money on a cross. You can get a purebred from a reputable breeder for less. Love my standard poodle puppy
Ted
Any “doodle” is a very expensive mongrel dog. You would be better off to choose which breed is better suited to your personal needs and find a reputable breeder. In the other hand, it is sad that so many dogs don’t find homes and are killed in “shelters.” If a pure bred is not important, please rescue one of the thousands awaiting adoption.
Jami
We rescued our one year old male golden doodle who got “too big” for the owner. Planning to find a forever home for him, we could not part with him. That was 12 years ago. The awareness and intelligence he had was like no other animal we experienced. I learned that the “Lassie” dog does truly exist. Like a “guide” dog with a playful nature, he thought his job was to take care of us. So grateful
Trish
Golden doodles are amazing dogs! I’m so glad you met yours! Who rescued who?