LEARN – The History Of The Poodle Breed

black poodle adult
Black poodle adult

Among all the dog breeds, poodles are one of the most easily recognisable ones. Extremely popular for their stylish look, poodles come in three different varieties; the Standard poodle, the Toy poodle and the Miniature poodle. There is still confusion about the origin of the breed. Discussions are over whether the breed came from the French Barbet or Germany as a type of water dog.

In the United States, the Poodles are considered the seventh most popular dog breed. When it comes to intelligence, the poodle is second to only the Border Collie. That’s one of the reasons why poodles are skilful in different types of activities and dog sports. They can fulfil many tasks, including heading, tracking, circus performance, and assistance dogs.  

History

15th Century

For centuries, different types of poodles have been found across Europe. Some from drawings of the German painter Albrecht Durer in the 15th and 16th centuries. Another picture of a poodle can be found in a self-portrait of Rembrandt created in 1631. The pet poodle of the famous artist is displayed in the foreground of the portrait. As the poodle plays a water spaniel and retriever role, it can be assumed that these dogs have been the pets of the royalties and wealthier persons of society.

18th Century

In the 18th century Spain, poodles were the principal pet dog. The evidence can be seen in the painting of Spanish artist Francisco Goya. During the reign of Louis XVI, toy poodles were present in France. There is definite proof of the presence of the poodles in Versailles before Goya was active. Louis records show that Louis XVI’s grandfather has a poodle named Filou. Evidence is also found about the fact that Sun King had pet poodles as well.  

The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the international organisation which offers membership to the leading Kennel Clubs of France and Germany, said that the breed comes from the French Barbet. The FCI officially recognised the breed to avoid any disputes between the founding members of the organisation. Such as France and Germany.

After the announcement of FCI, Germany also recognised poodles as a breed that originated from France. However, it is considered that the progenitor of the species might even have been crossed with the Hungarian Puli.

Contrary to the announcement of the FCI, the British Kennel Club stated that the breed mainly originated in Germany. The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club supported this statement of the British Kennel Club. They stated that, despite the association of the poodle with France, the breed originated in Germany as a duck hunter.

The Oxford English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary have traced the etymology of the word ‘Poodle’ with German Pudel, which comes from low german pud(d)eln, which means to splash water. This word is also cognate with the English word puddle.  

Size Variants

There are at least three different sizes of poodles. These sizes are Standard, Miniature and Toy. The American Kennel Club states that the Standard poodle is one of the oldest of these three different types. From this type of poodle, breeds of Miniature and Toy ones have been created. The British Kennel Club acknowledges these three sizes and says that the toy and miniature versions are scaled-down variants of the Standard poodles. 

The FCI, on the other hand, recognises four different sizes of the breed. They are the standard, medium, miniature and toy. The smallest toy variety was bred in England in the 18th century. While the standard poodles were used as the working and hunting dogs, some evidence suggests that the smaller poodles were popularly used for truffle hunting.

According to the evidence, as the small feel of the miniature poodles were less likely to damage the precious and delicate fungi, people used to take them to this hunt. But, mostly, breeders created the miniature and the toy varieties for companionship.

The styling and affixing of the fur in unusual proportions started in the mid to late 19th century. This styling tends to appeal to the Georgian and Victorian sensibility of the women. Till the foundation of the Kennel Club, the status of the poodles as the pet for the upper and middle-class people was quite substantial. The poodle was one of the first breeds to be registered in the kennel club.

Work and Sport

The standard poodle is one of the largest breed’s used as a gun dog or a retriever for the most extended period. These dogs were mainly used for hunting ducks and also for bird hunting in uplands. Since the early 1990s, the breed has been used for hunting fowl in Canada and the US.

The modern standards keep some of the traits that the original owners prized. For example, the keen intelligence of the dog makes it easy for the owner to command it. The breed’s webbed feet also make it an agile swimmer—the athletic stamina and the curly moisture-resistant coat act like a woollen jumper in the damp areas.

At the end of the 19th century, the use of poodles in hunting declined. Instead, the role of the poodles in the circuses was enhanced. However, the breed remained a status symbol of the wealthy. That’s why by the 19th century, poodles are only found as the companions of wealthy people or circus dogs.

However, for the last 30 years, the breeders are trying to select the best dogs to retrieve birds and a strong hunting trait. The effort of 30 long years of breeding has been a success as more poodles appear in the hunting field with increased powers.

As most North American retriever breeds have shorter legs than the poodle, the dogs get an advantage of speed. The clocked speed of the poodle is only just behind the Whippet, a breed that is created for coursing. Last but not least, these dogs are very eager to please their masters. The gunman has to provide specific instructions to the poodle as the repetitive training drills can bore the dogs very fast.

Unlike other retrievers and spaniels, the poodles like to solve a problem independently. That’s why it is required to be explicitly instructed during tracking and retrieving the bird. While the poodle does not scare easily with the sound of the gunfire, you should train them well so that they abide by the instructions of the masters.

As these dogs are highly intelligent, violent training methods do not work with them in the field. The correction should be timely and precise, and the trainer of these dogs should have a firm, experienced and kind hand. This will save them from falling foul of the danger while ignoring the set course to solve how to get to the duck independently.

Appearance

The poodle is an elegant and squarely built dog. The eyes of the poodles should be very dark, intelligent and alert. The breed’s ears should fold over the close of the ear and should sit slightly below the eye level.

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Coat

The coat of most dogs come in a double layer. However, the poodle breed has a single layer coat. The dense, curly coat of these dogs shed very little and can be considered hypoallergenic.

Even though the poodles shed, the fur does not come off of the dog. Instead, it gets tangled with the surrounding hair. This can cause matting if proper care is not taken. The texture of the coats ranges from soft and wavy to coarse and curly. The show clips of poodles require many hours of brushing and care.

However, the pet clips are not very much elaborate, and it requires less maintenance as well. The pet owner should groom the dogs every six to eight weeks. As the hair of the poodle grows inside their ears, it should be clean regularly. This will prevent the earwax from accumulating and reduces the chances of infection.

Poodle groomed for show
Poodle groomed for show.

Clips and Grooming

Poodles of all sizes can be bred to become show dogs. That means it will require a show clip according to the choice of the kennel club. For example, the American Kennel Club shows that the poodles must be shown in the continental or English Saddle clip. 

The dogs under 12 months of age should be shown with a puppy clip. There are doubts about the origin points of such clips. Some sources say that the show clips derived from the working dog clips. The working clips tend to provide warmth to the joints of the dog from the cold water. The less of the dog’s body was shaved to lessen the drag while they swim in the water. However, others are sceptical about this theory and say that these clips were originated from the French Circus.

All in all, poodles are a stellar addition to any household if you can fulfil all the requirements. For example, you have to maintain the grooming requirement closely. Over time, this can be an expensive affair, so you need to budget accordingly. Also, you have to offer the poodle enough space and exercise to run and play daily. If you can fulfil these requirements, the poodle can be a great companion.

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