Poodle temperament & Personality
Known as the canine aristocrat, the Poodle can come in various shapes and sizes, all elegant and companionable. From the Standard size to the smaller Miniature to the tiny little Toy Poodle, there’s a lot of spunk to go around!
Underneath their pretty exterior and regal attitude that garner awards at dog shows, these impressive canines are intelligent and eager for some fun with their humans.
Over the years, the Poodle has gained a long-standing reputation of being a beautiful yet “snobbish” breed. This is, in fact, the furthest thing from reality, with the average Poodle having a curious and smart personality.
There’s also a reason Poodles are a common staple in dog shows - they are often easily trainable with great results. In such shows, these dogs can be seen in either the pretty Continental Clip or the more practical, closely-shorn Sporting Clip.
As previously mentioned, the Poodle can come in three sizes. Standards are over 15 inches tall at the shoulder, Miniatures are somewhere between 10 to 15 inches, and Toy Poodles are under 10 inches.
No matter the size, their build and proportions are all the same. Males and females are also usually the same size, though height and weight depend largely on diet and exercise.
A Standard Poodle’s height is easily predictable from their age. At 6 months, they stand at 7 inches. At a year old, they’re around 11 inches tall. At 18 months, they’re able to reach a height of 17 inches.
Meanwhile, a Miniature Poodle can only reach 15 inches at most, while a Toy Poodle only grows up to 10 inches.
Like the height, a Standard Poodle’s height can be predicted from their age. However, it may vary depending on gender. Male Poodles are usually heavier than females.
At 6 months, a male can weigh approximately 24 pounds, while a female can be around 21 pounds. When they’re a year old, male Poodles are about 32 pounds heavy while females can weigh around 28 pounds.
At 18 months old, males can be 57 pounds heavy while females weigh approximately 42 pounds.
These are the average weights of healthy and well-fed Standard Poodles.
Poodle Life Span
A Poodle’s average life span is 10 to 18 years. This is a wide range that largely depends on the specific dog’s diet, lifestyle, and overall health.
Another important factor is size. Smaller dogs tend to live longer. Standards, for example, have an average life expectancy of 12 years old, while Miniature and Toy Poodles both enjoy an average of 14 to 14.5 years!
The Poodle is intelligent, curious, loyal, and loving. They may have an elegant and dignified air, which makes them a bit misunderstood to those who don’t know them, but deep down, they’re also goofballs.
Poodle lovers can report that these dogs love a fun game. In fact, being challenged (physically or mentally) is up their alley. Paired with their fondness for people, this gives them the right personality to be trainable.
Regular exercise is important for this breed, as they tend to make trouble at home if not stimulated enough. For smaller Poodles like the Toy and the Miniature, owners must also have a gentle but firm hand in disciplining, as they may tend to be spoiled for their smaller size and cuteness.
Again, trainability shouldn’t be an issue with these dogs. This is due to their cleverness - they learn fast and remember pretty much everything. That’s why it’s vital to help them mold good habits instead of bad ones.
Because Poodles are active dogs, they require daily exercise to burn their natural energy. Any kind of activity is fine, as long as they are kept busy. Even a nice, long walk or jog would do.
If you’re up for some adventure with your furry friend, the historical Poodle is a hunting dog, so there should be no problem going to the woods or getting in the water. In fact, swimming is a great exercise for them.
To train their minds, it’s also suitable to make them retrieve items. Toss a ball, a stick, or a toy - getting them to retrieve it may be a fun task!
The Poodle’s intelligent and trainable nature gives them an upper hand at many canine sports, such as obedience, agility, and tracking. As historical hunting dogs, they also have potential for dock diving and retriever hunting.
However, this still depends on their training routine. They’re people-oriented, after all, and function better when having fun and feeling a mutual chemistry with their trainer.
A Poodle is quick to please, and consistent tasks will get them learning new behaviors and tricks in no time.
Though Poodles are the national dog of France and known as a distinctly French breed, their lineage can be traced 400 years back to Germany. There, they originated as retrieving water dogs.
More specifically, the Poodle was mostly a duck hunter. The name is derived from “pudelin”, which refers to splashing in water.
It’s widely believed that the breed was a result of crossing several European water dogs. Another theory is that they descended from African or Asian herding dogs, travelling through tribes until they were bred in Germany.
No matter where it came from, though, it’s a fact that Poodles are an old breed. Egyptian tombs and Roman artifacts from as far back as early B.C. depict illustrations of Poodle-like dogs. They’re often shown herding other animals, bringing in nets, and retrieving game from the wilderness.
Development of the Coat
This begs the question of their unique coat. In the breed’s early years, it served a very practical purpose: the curly coat could protect against the cold. This is why hunters didn’t shave their entire bodies.
What led to the Poodle’s flamboyant-looking coat today is the shaving of just some body parts. These included the legs, neck, and tail. Meanwhile, the chest, hips, and leg joints remained coated - the rounded tufts in these areas are now known as pompons.
Breeding Smaller Variations
Poodles, sporting a unique and beautiful appearance, began being bred into smaller versions in France in the 1400s. This is where the Miniature and Toy variations originated.
A great source of delight for the French, the smaller varieties were made by breeding small Poodles to each other. Despite its size, the Miniature Poodle remained a useful hunter by sniffing out truffles in the woods.
Meanwhile, the Toy Poodle was a popular companion for the nobility and for wealthy merchants. They were often carried in the large shirtsleeves of their rich owners, which led to their other name “sleeve dogs”.
In addition to being hunters and noble arm candy, Poodles were also used as circus dogs. Their intelligence and unique appearance made them perfect candidates for this, as gypsies and circus performers discovered.
After training, a Poodle could perform tricks and get used to moving around in costumes. Their coats would be sculpted into more elaborate shapes to look even more appealing onstage.
This led to wealthy circus guests noticing the trend, and starting to clip and decorate their own Poodles at home. The rest is history.
Kennel Club History
In 1874, the Kennel Club in England registered their very first Poodle. Two years later, a British club for Poodle lovers cropped up, cementing their status in society.
The Poodles’ exact arrival in the U.S. is unclear, but they were first registered in the American Kennel Club in 1886. There was even a Poodle Club of America established in 1896, although it disbanded shortly afterwards. It was refounded in 1931.
Popularity in America
The Poodle became popular only after World War II, since they were a rare breed before then. In the mid-1950s, they would become the most popular breed in the country, a distinction they held well into the 70s.
Poodle Health Problems
Although not a particularly unhealthy breed, Poodles are still prone to certain conditions. If you’re serious about caring for your dog, it’s best to at least be aware of the possible diseases they could get.
Known as hypoadrenocorticism, Addison’s disease happens when the adrenal gland produces insufficient adrenal hormones. This leads to vomiting, poor appetite, and lethargy.
Unfortunately, these symptoms are still vague and could also be caused by other conditions. That’s why this disease isn’t properly diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage.
An extreme sign of it in a dog would be very high potassium levels that mess with heart functions, ultimately leading to severe shock and death. But before it gets that bad, an experienced vet should be able to examine a dog and determine if it could have the disease.
Cushing's Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)
There’s insufficient production of adrenal hormones, and there’s also overproduction. That’s what Cushing’s Disease is.
Because of an imbalance in the pituitary or adrenal gland, a dog may have too much cortisol. Symptoms of this include excessive drinking and urination. If a dog exhibits these, it’s best to have them checked with the vet before it gets worse.
Bloating, or gastric dilatation-volvulus, is more serious than it sounds. For large-chested dogs such as Poodles, who are prone to eating rapidly, drinking great volumes of water, and exercising too actively, this could actually be a life-threatening risk.
Like with humans, bloating in dogs occurs when there’s gas or air stuck in the stomach. A dog might be unable to vomit or belch to get rid of the excess air, impeding the return of blood to the heart. This could lead to a critical drop in blood pressure.
If a Poodle is restless, weak, and salivating excessively but not throwing up, this may be a case of bloating that requires going to the vet.
When a Poodle has seizures, it’s most commonly caused by idiopathic epilepsy. This is an inherited condition that may occur in any Poodle variety.
The seizures can be mild or severe, with some sufferers appearing as if they’re being chased by something or staggering or even hiding. Thankfully, cases of seizures in Poodles don’t tend to last very long.
Although idiopathic epilepsy is the most likely cause, it’s best to check with the vet to see if it isn’t something else. Possible causes could be head injuries, exposure to poison, metabolic disorders, and infectious diseases.
Another ailment to watch out for is hip dysplasia. This occurs when the hip socket isn’t in the right form, with loose ligaments allowing the ball of the femur to slide out of the socket.
It’s an inherited condition, but environmental factors could also play a part. It doesn’t cause any immediate problems, though the joint wears down over time, and will cause arthritis and pain years down the line.
Factors like excess weight, excessive exercise before maturity, a very fast growth rate, and high-calorie diets can worsen the development of hip dysplasia in canines.
Usually, vets treat this with medication, nutritional supplements, and in worse cases, surgery.
Poodles are also at risk of hypothyroidism, which is caused by an under-active thyroid gland. This leads to concerning conditions like hair loss, lethargy, obesity, epilepsy, and even skin conditions.
It’s not easy to detect because of the vague symptoms, so the vet should be the one to diagnose such an ailment.
A hip-related disease that’s more common to toy breeds is the Legg-Perthes Disease. This occurs when there’s insufficient blood supply to the head of the femur, which connects to the pelvis, causing disintegration of the bone.
This is a condition that can be detected in puppies that are 4 to 6 months old. They can be seen limping, with the leg muscle unstable or atrophying.
Surgery is the solution to such cases, with the diseased femur needing to be cut off or detached from the pelvis. After surgery, scar tissue will create a false joint and the puppy can continue on, pain free.
Luxation is the dislocation of a body part, and the patella is the kneecap. So, this condition refers to the dislocation of the knee joint, meaning it regularly slides in and out of place. This is painful and crippling for dogs, but when brought to the vet early, they may lead relatively normal lives.
Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)
SA can be found in approximately 50% of Standard Poodles, whether they are just carriers or actually affected. It’s a genetic condition and difficult to diagnose because it’s often mistaken for allergies or hypothyroidism.
A dog is affected by SA when the sebaceous glands in their skin become inflamed and maybe even destroyed. These glands are responsible for sebum, a secretion which prevents dry skin.
This leads to skin that is noticeably dry and scaly, with possible hair loss on the head, neck, and back. If the case is severe, the skin may even be thick and bad-smelling. It’s not life-threatening, but it could be uncomfortable.
The vet should be able to perform a biopsy to diagnose it and prescribe medication for the treatment.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s is an inherited disorder that interferes with blood clotting. Some symptoms include nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and the most obvious - excessive bleeding after suffering an injury.
There’s no known cure, though it’s usually treated by blood transfusion from the blood of normal dogs. It’s possible for affected dogs to live normal lives, but it’s highly discouraged for them to breed.
For those getting puppies, a proper breeder should be able to show the health clearances of the pup’s parents. They should prove the results of their tests for certain conditions.
The standard health clearances Poodles get are for hypothyroidism, hip or elbow dysplasia, and von Willebrand’s disease. These can all be obtained from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
There are others that are less common, but still good to get. Auburn University can certify for thrombopathia and the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) can certify that the eyes are normal.
Regular exercise and the company of loving humans is all a Poodle needs, and they’ll be able to live happily in any kind of home, whether it’s just a small apartment or a large house. Note that the Toy and Miniature varieties are the more indoors-type dogs, compared to their Standard counterparts.
Because Poodles are intelligent and quick to learn, owners are often prone to accidentally teaching bad habits instead of good ones. Obedience classes will help in this matter.
Poodle Nutrition and Feeding
Poodles don’t necessarily require the best dog food there is, but they’ll lead much healthier lives if they do. The vet or breeder should be able to prescribe what kind of dog food that is, depending on the dog’s age, size, and energy level.
Another mistake owners make is giving too many treats. They are a good tool for training, but too many can lead to obesity for the dog. Cooked bones and fatty leftovers are also a no-no.
Poodle Coat Color and Grooming
The Poodle doesn’t shed, which means it’s good for people with allergies. Its coat can be black, white, silver, gray, blue, brown, or cream, with many possible shades of those in between.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for these beautiful-coated canines is grooming. Their hair is dense and curly, a texture that requires attention, whether you choose to trim, clip, style, or shave it.
To prevent matting, owners must brush their Poodle’s hair daily from the roots. Otherwise, hair near the roots will mat and may need to be shaved off. Some keep their Poodles in a short trim to avoid the problem entirely.
It’s possible to learn clipping and trimming yourself, but also easier to have the dog brought to a professional groomer every month. Either way, a Poodle’s grooming needs must be met to keep them hygienic.
Poodles with Children and Other Pets
Poodles are great with kids, although children who tend to be over-excited with dogs might mishandle and possibly hurt Toy Poodles. These are, after all, the smallest and most sensitive of the Poodle varieties.
As long as children are taught how to approach and touch dogs, there shouldn’t be a problem. To be safe, it’s best for dog-and-child interactions to be adult-supervised.
When it comes to other dogs or pets in the same household, a Poodle’s behavior depends on whether they’re used to such companions or not. If your Poodle was raised as the only pet, then it might mean more time needed for a newcomer to be accepted in the house.
Poodle Organizations and Rescue Groups
For Poodle owners and enthusiasts, there are organizations you can join for Poodle appreciation and in dedication to Poodle welfare.
The Poodle Club of America (PCA) is the biggest, oldest, and most known of these. Established in 1931, PCA is the parent club of the breed and a member of the American Kennel Club (AKC). They encourage and promote proper owning, breeding, and training of Poodles, and hold AKC-sanctioned specialty shows, field trials, and obedience trials.
When it comes to Poodles that are neglected, abandoned, or mistreated, there are also rescue groups that come in and ensure adoption and fostering. PCA has a rescue foundation that does this.
More About the Poodle
Overall, Poodles are smart and also fun-loving and highly affectionate towards their human family. These traits make them great family pets and also highly viable show dogs.
Like all dogs, they come with behavioral risks, if not given exercise or tasks for physical and mental stimulation. They can get bored and become destructive in the house. This is why it’s important to walk them or give them toys.
There are also health risks that can be prevented or taken care of with regular check-ups at the vet. And because of their beautiful coats, they may need a little more grooming than the average canine.
But with all these in mind, any family can welcome a Poodle into the family. Once they’ve settled in, Poodles can be the most loyal, loving, and trainable companions.