Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated August 17, 2009)
Those who have had experience with the Poodle have acclaimed it as the most intelligent of all breeds. This breed of dog has great versatility. In fact, students of the canine kingdom would be confronted with a mammoth task if they attempted to find a dog which, as a breed, possesses more intelligence, for the Poodle does have some almost human characteristics.
One who looks upon a clipped Poodle for the first time is inclined to feel that this old custom is a form of expressing the personal vanity of the owner. Nevertheless, it does have its practical side. The Poodle was originally a sporting dog, used extensively in France for retrieving. He is still a splendid worker in this respect, although his main use in this country is as a pet and companion. The Poodle's coat is extremely heavy and the custom of clipping grew out of the fact that his coat impeded the dog's progress in the water. Shaving from the ribs to the stern increased his efficiency as a water worker.
In French, the Poodle's generic name is "Caniche,' derived from "duck-canard," the same source from which "Chien Canne" came. The dog has long been called "Chien Canne" in France.
Known for many years as the national dog of France, the Poodle is really of German origin, troops from that country having brought the first specimens of the breed into France. There it soon became a national favorite. The profuse coat lent itself to fashioning into fanciful designs and became the accepted custom. These styles of clipping have now narrowed down, as a general rule, to two: the Continental where the hind quarters are bare with rosettes on the hips and hocks, and the English saddle clip in which the hips are covered by a short clipped blanket of hair. Either fashion really enhances the appearance of the dog for they better reveal his beautiful outline and elegance. The natural qualities of the dog-vitality, dignity, and alertness-are rather enhanced by the custom.
In olden times, these dogs were used to considerable extent in hunting for truffles. Often they were used in combination with a Dachshund, the Poodle locating the edible underground fungus and the Dachshund digging it out. At one time truffle hunting was quite an industry in the rural districts of England. Most of the dogs used were Poodles or Poodle-crosses.
Where size is concerned the Poodle has shown great elasticity in bending to the whims of man's breeding activities, so much so that now three sizes are recognized. These are the Standard, Miniature, and Toy. All three classifications breed true to type.
There are two types of Poodles, the curly and the corded. Efforts have been made to separate the varieties in official classification, but authorities have contended that both types are of the same breed and the difference lies only in the treatment of the coat. If allowed to grow indefinitely without brushing and oiling to prevent breaking, the coat will form thin round mats which become, with length, a mass of ropelike cords. Then the Curly Poodle becomes the Corded Poodle.
It is extremely difficult to keep a Corded Poodle in proper condition, for the long, tightly twisted cords often reach the ground. This interferes with his exercise and also prevents him from engaging in his natural activities. Consequently this type is seldom seen nowadays.
It has been said that the Poodle is the ancestor of the Irish Water Spaniel and the Curly-coated Retriever. Indeed, with the exception of the tail and muzzle, the Poodle looks very much like the Irish Water Spaniel.
Proud in appearance the Poodle is very active and extraordinarily intelligent. He carries himself with great dignity and has an air of distinction about him. The breed of Poodle is divided into three varieties: Standard: 15 inches or over at the shoulder; Miniature: under 15 inches but over 10 inches at the shoulder; Toy: 10 inches or under at the shoulder.
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