Poodle Dog Breed Guide [How to Care For These Smart Pups]

Poodle Dog Breed Guide [How to Care For These Smart Pups]
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If you think Poodles are only snooty frou-frou balls of cotton, you would be sorely mistaken! Poodles have a proud history that ranges from hunting to circus performing to fashion accessories, making them a complex dog breed. This guide intends to take you on an introspective ride into Poodles and why they're the perfect dog.



Poodle Characteristics

Poodles are well-known for their fantastic haircuts and long legs, making them just as much Victoria's Secret models as they are athletes. The size and coat quality of the Poodle varies based on breed size and genetic traits. But for the most part, Poodles have the same body types and shape.



shaggy black poodle sitting




Poodles have long, elegant necks that support a rounded head, often emphasized with domed haircuts and naturally poofing afros. Their cheekbones are slim and extend to a long, slim snout with a pointed, black nose.


Poodles have long drop-down ears covered in long hair that often extends well past the ear length. Poodle eyes have a chiseled appearance as the skin around them is quite firm and taut.



The length of the Poodle's body (from breastbone to the tip of the tail) is usually about the same as their height to the tallest point of their shoulders. Poodles have long legs, which give them springy steps and small, dainty feet.



Poodle Dog Breed Size

There are five varieties of Poodle based on their physical size, though the American Kennel Club only officially recognizes three: the Standard Poodle, Miniature, and Toy. Two other sizes (the teacup and Moyen Klein/"Medium" Poodles) are acknowledged less frequently and unofficially by dog enthusiasts and some smaller dog breed organizations. Each variety of Poodle shares similar physical characteristics but mainly varies in stature and weight. Here's a breakdown of their size by variety:


  • Standard Size: Standard Size Poodles are usually over 15 inches tall, varying between 18-24 inches, and weigh anywhere from 45-70 pounds. This is the largest size of Poodle.
  • Moyen Klein: As the "medium" size of the breed, Moyen Kleins stand between 15 - 20 inches tall and weigh 15 - 35 pounds. They are rarely seen or recognized as an official Poodle breed type by kennel clubs.
  • Miniature Size: Branching down into the smaller sizes, the mini Poodle ranges from 13-15 inches tall (at least over 10 inches but no more than 15 inches tall) and weighs anywhere from 15 - 17 pounds.
  • Toy Size: Extending to the next size down, Toy Poodles are no taller than 10 inches and can weigh about 6 - 9 pounds.
  • Teacup Size: This is the smallest of the breed variety, though they are bred to be this unnaturally small and face many health issues as a result. The Teacup size can be held in the palm of your hand because they are less than 9 inches tall and weigh less than 6 pounds!



Poodle Personality

Poodles like to think that everyone is their best friend. They're incredibly friendly and playful, and if you indulge them in a belly rub, they will love the attention.


Poodles are humorous pups that get along well with other dogs and children and are an absolute joy to be around if you have a zest for excitable play!


High in intelligence and energy, Poodles thrive best with lots of exercise and training to stay mentally and physically stimulated. If kept bored for too long, they can develop destructive tendencies like chewing or incessant barking.



Poodle Dog Breed Exercise

Any active breed requires a lot of activity and play to help expend the pent-up energy they hold. Daily walks for adult Poodles are recommended, as is any well-rounded exercise such as playing or jogging with their owners for at least 40 minutes a day. Poodles also love the water and enjoy a good swim now and then.


Smaller variations like Toy and Miniature poodles and puppies need less daily exercise. While puppies have a lot of extra energy, they are also still growing. Instead of going on a single long walk during the day, it's better to encourage shorter sessions throughout the day so that the exertion on their growing bodies doesn't wear them out.



Poodle Training

Poodles are highly intelligent and have a thirst for knowledge! Keep your Poodle entertained and mentally stimulated by engaging in memory activities like hiding treats or giving them educational toys.


Poodles are easily trained and people pleasers, meaning that positive enforcement and consistent training will develop their skills. Because they were bred to be game retrievers for hunters, they are agile and enjoy:


  • Tracking
  • Agility exercises
  • Fetching
  • Swimming
  • Dock diving
  • Obedience exercises


Remember: consistency and encouragement are key! If your Poodle feels they are having fun and your training is engaging, they will be quick to please you!



Poodle Dog Breed History

Poodles are often thought of as prissy or aristocratic dogs belonging among the French royals, but they actually have a dirty and proud history as German gun dogs. Poodles were trained to retrieve small game like (waterfowl, rodents, rats) and aid in hunting and retrieving in water. They were chosen for this role due to their high intelligence, energy, and water-dynamic coats that insulated them against the cold, allowing them to swim easily.


There is some debate on whether Poodles descended from the Barbet breed in France, but most consider Poodles first found in the Middle Ages in Germany as water dogs. The name comes from the Low German word "puddeln," which means "to splash" or "puddle" because of the dogs' love for the water.


In the 17th Century, Poodles became beloved among the French royals at Versailles for their intelligence and energy, making the Poodle the official dog of France. At this time, the variations of the breed emerged as breeders tailored the new Poodle variations to be easier to carry around as "trophies" and fashion accessories.


After this, Poodles became favorable circus performers in the 18th Century, and their hair was cut to match the pompoms clowns wore on their outfits. These haircuts are now a standard among Poodles today!



cute brown poodle smiling



Common Health Problems Found in Poodles

Most purebred dogs will face their fair share of genetic issues due to improper breeding practices. Some health problems result from this inbreeding, but some are just a result of a dog's particular genetic breed. Depending on their variety (Toy, Mini, Standard, etc.), Poodles can face several complicated medical issues.


Adrenal Gland Problems

Adrenal hormones produced by the adrenal glands regulate a dog's body systems and processes. An insufficient supply (hypoadrenocorticism) or an overproduction (hyperadrenocorticism) of these hormones can cause stress on multiple body systems, eventually leading to death.


Addison's Disease is a form of hypoadrenocorticism and is difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of Addison's are similar to other health problems and can be difficult to identify. Testing for hormone levels at the vet is the only surefire way of knowing if a dog has this disease. Signs of adrenal hormone deficiency are:


  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased water intake and urination
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Trembling
  • Diarrhea


Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing's Disease occurs when the glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol. Signs of this disease are similar to Addison's and include:


  • Increased water intake and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Excessive panting
  • Hair loss
  • Recurring skin infections


Surgery and medication are also necessary to correct Cushing's. Your vet may prescribe a chemotherapy drug for humans called Lysodren to treat this or remove any growths from the adrenal glands causing the disease.


Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Also referred to as a "twisted stomach," Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus affects larger, deep-chested dogs like the Poodle. When a dog eats or drinks too fast, eats one large meal a day, or exercises immediately after eating, the ends of the stomach can twist shut. This traps air and digestive gases inside the stomach and causes extreme bloating.


With the stomach twisted, the dog cannot burp or vomit out gases and food to relieve the pressure. This pressure prevents normal blood flow to the heart, which lowers blood pressure drastically and causes shock.


There is no other treatment at this point than to take the dog to the vet for emergency care. Warning signs that your dog has Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus are:


  • Pacing
  • Salivation
  • Attempts to vomit with no success
  • Enlargement of the abdomen
  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • A hollow "drum sound" when tapping on your dog's stomach


Sebaceous Adenitis

The sebaceous glands are responsible for secreting an oily substance called sebum to lubricate the skin and hair. Sebum is what keeps your skin moisturized and protected against damage from friction and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.


Sebaceous adenitis is a condition where the sebaceous glands become inflamed and stop working. As a result, dogs develop dry and scaly skin and experience hair loss. Advanced forms of the condition can result in thickened skin that gives off an unpleasant odor and is likely followed by other skin infections. This condition appears in the first five years of a Poodle's life and affects over 50% of the Standard Poodle breed. Signs of sebaceous adenitis include:


  • Patches of missing hair
  • Small tufts of matted hair throughout the coat
  • White scales on the skin which do not come off
  • A lackluster or brittle coat texture
  • Lesions on top of head and back
  • Severe itching


There is no definitive treatment for this condition. Still, medication to treat any secondary skin infections resulting from sebaceous adenitis and topical medications to ease itching and flaky skin are usually the best solutions.


Bone Issues

Toy and Miniature Poodle sizes are more at risk for developing bone and joint issues than larger-sized varieties. Most bone and joint issues are hereditary among small breeds of canine, and Poodles are no exception.


Like most dog breeds, Poodles are at risk for developing Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This is a deterioration of the head of the femur bone due to decreased blood supply. If left untreated, dogs can have a limited range of motion and pain in the hip, groin, thigh, or knees. This disease can usually be treated with surgery by cutting off the diseased part of the bone, relieving the dog of any pain or difficulty walking.


Another common issue with Toy and Miniature variety Poodles is patellar luxation, which affects the knee. Luxation is the shifting of a bone out of its normal place, causing pain when walking (in this case, the knee). Signs include avoiding using a leg or a change in stride. Most dogs can live with this condition without issue, but surgery and physiotherapy can help manage pain and correct it.


Von Willebrand's Disease

This is a common disease where the platelets in the blood do not clump together to stop bleeding when there is a broken blood vessel. It is caused by a lack of protein that enables platelets to stick together properly and form a blood clot. A higher von Willebrand factor in the blood is necessary to prevent your dog from bleeding out from an injury.


Signs of von Willebrand's are spontaneous bleeding or prolonged bleeding after getting hurt or giving birth. Of course, the best way to know if your dog has this disease is to take them to the vet. There, they will perform a blood test to determine a risk factor in the blood for the disease.


Some medicines can increase the risk of bleeding and are not advised to be given to dogs with von Willebrand's disease. However, there is insufficient research on dogs with the disease to know exactly how severe these risks can be. Antibiotics like ampicillin or penicillin, some antihistamines and antacids, and some anti-inflammatories are a part of the list of drugs dogs with a common blood-clotting trait should not take.


Blood transfusions from a dog with a higher von Willebrand factor in their blood or treatment from a drug called DDAVP can also help treat this disease but don't always work.



How to Care for a Poodle

Poodles require some maintenance and care to be happy, which means a dedicated owner who can tend to their grooming and social needs.


Attention and Company

Poodles can get easily depressed or frustrated if they are left alone for too long. Boredom breeds mischief for these dogs, so it's important to be there for them. Poodles need owners who will not leave them home alone for extended periods, especially those who can give them lots of love and attention.


Grooming Upkeep

Poodle hair will keep growing until it becomes tangled and matted, so frequent grooming and bathing with natural shampoos is required to keep these pups clean and happy. Hair cuts, trims, and brushing are frequently required to keep up with their fast-growing hair.


Genetic Testing

Due to their list of medical needs, it is a good idea to test your Poodle for von Willebrand's Disease, Addison's Disease, and Cushing's to start preventative care as early as possible. Genetic and other types of medical testing can determine if a Poodle has the genetic disposition for any of these issues.


Physical and Mental Activities

Poodles are intelligent and full of energy, and they need to challenge themselves mentally and exert energy to stay entertained. Toys, play, jogging, and socialization training are all ways to tend to these needs.



Nutrition and Feeding for a Poodle

The right portion of food to feed your Poodle depends on their size, weight, activity level, age, metabolism, and health needs. This can be determined by discussing a proper diet with your vet. On average, most adult dogs eat 1 ounce of food per 1 pound of body weight daily. Puppies should be fed 1/2 to 1 1/4 cups of food per meal, three times a day.


Related: How Heavy Should My Dog Be? 5 Ways to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight


Poodles are more at risk for becoming overweight and developing health issues due to overeating than other breeds. Because of this, it is important to monitor how much they consume (treats included!). Cooked bones and fatty foods can increase their chances of developing issues, while a fresh food (homemade) diet will keep your Poodle in tip-top shape.



shaggy poodle with crazy hair



Coat Color And Grooming

Standard Poodles grow long, curly coats of hair that require routine upkeep in return for a coat that rarely sheds. Coat shades come in a rainbow of colors, including solid colors or a combination of several. Their coat can be:


  • White
  • Black
  • Gray
  • Blue
  • Silver
  • Brown
  • Apricot



Weekly brushing is recommended to keep the hair in order, preferably using a square brush with short, stiff wire bristles. If you're grooming your Poodle's hair yourself, it must be brushed completely to the skin to avoid matting at the roots (be careful not to scrape their skin in the process!). If this occurs, the hair will have to be completely shaved off, and a new coat must be allowed time to grow back in.


When grooming at home, pay particular attention to the hair around your Poodle's chest, stomach, thighs, and behind their ears, as these areas are more prone to tangling. While brushing, this is a good time to check the health of your Poodle's skin and hair, as well as check for any fleas or ticks.



Poodles have "hair" instead of fur because it has a longer growth cycle, is finer and smoother than fur, and grows in a single layer. Because it is so difficult to manage longer-length Poodle hair, a shorter coat is often preferred. This can be done at home with dog clippers or trimmers or every month or two at a professional groomer.


For house pets, grooming can be as frequent or as infrequent as you'd like, depending on how long you want their hair to be. For show dogs, Poodles need more frequent trimming and styling to get them competition-ready.



Baths depend on how often you groom your Poodle and how often they get dirty, but the goal is to bathe every 4 - 8 weeks on average.


Any shampoos formulated for human hair can be used on Standard Poodles.


Dental Care

Smaller dog breeds like Poodles are more likely to develop dental problems. Daily teeth brushing can help keep their dental hygiene in good standing.


You should only use soft brushes made for dogs' teeth, and never use human toothpaste. Some toothbrushes look like those humans use, but some slip over your finger, making it easier to get into the nooks and crannies.


You should start brushing when dogs are puppies, so they get used to the activity. Get them used to the smell of the toothpaste and feel of the brush gradually. You should brush a few teeth at a time. Once they are used to this, you can give them a full brushing more often.


Hair Styling for Dog Shows

For those considering entering their Poodles into dog shows (or those that just like the look), there are several approved hairstyles for Poodle show dogs. Each haircut has specifications on puffs and pompoms, as well as how long the hair should be cut. The three show dog hairstyles are the Continental Clip, the Modified Continental Clip, and the English Saddle. These hairstyles require more trimming to keep the style in shape.



Are Poodles Good Pets?

Poodles are perfect family dogs. They are very affectionate and are usually friendly with humans and other dogs. The ideal Poodle caretakers are gentle owners and can provide frequent affection and quality time with their dogs.


Those that can provide daily exercise are also ideal owners. Poodles need an outlet for their energy and playfulness, so those that live busy or sedentary lifestyles will face challenges with frustrated Poodles that may develop destructive tendencies if left alone for too long.


A perfect Poodle pet owner would like to bond with their dogs and provide lots of physical affection and preferably doesn't work away from home for extended periods (or those that can hire sitters for their dogs when they have to be away). Poodles do best living indoors but also need to be outdoors for exercise, so those who go on frequent walks or have a backyard are perfect for this springy breed.



Poodle Rescue Groups

Lots of dogs end up in shelters when their owners don't realize the dedication that goes into adopting and caring for a dog. For Poodles, their residence in shelters is due to their long life span and attention needs. Poodle rescue groups are dedicated to helping Poodles get adopted and find loving forever-homes.


The Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation

The Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation is not a singular rescue organization but rather a collection of regional-specific rescue groups. The rescues in this foundation are run by reputable and passionate Poodle breeders that have dedicated their lives to helping Poodles in need.


NorCal Poodle Rescue

The NorCal Poodle Rescue (NCPR) was founded in Lafayette, California, in 1985 by a breeder who claimed she "couldn't justify breeding Poodles when she knew there were Poodles in shelters that needed homes." The NCPR is the third-largest rescue group in the United States, providing medical care, fostering services, boarding, training, and return policies for their dogs to placing Poodles in perfect homes.


For The Love Of Poodles And Pooches Rescue

This quirky-named rescue runs out of Richmond, Virginia, and they help Poodles and Poodle mixes get adopted. They also provide medical services like vaccines and spaying and neutering before dogs are placed in homes.


Standard Poodles in Need, Rescue, and Rehome (SPIN)

This Toronto-based group helps their Poodles get adopted by fostering the dogs in homes until they are adopted. They specialize in Standard size Poodles but help other variations of Poodles find their forever homes.



fancy black poodle standing elegantly



Poodles Dog Breed Organizations

As with all pedigree dogs, Poodles are subjected to irresponsible breeding and caring practices. So-called "designer dogs" are supposedly perfect because breeders have taken all the best qualities of a dog and put them into one. This often results in dogs that are expensive and have behavioral or genetic issues from inbreeding.


The Poodle Club of America is a non-profit member organization that is a part of the American Kennel Club that promotes better health and well-being of Poodles. They disapprove of designer dogs and encourage best practices to bring out the best natural qualities in every Poodle.


To find reputable Poodle breeders from which to purchase or adopt a dog, you can ask family and friends for honest recommendations for good breeders or ask your vet for a recommendation as well. Breeders often frequent dog shows, and local breed clubs will also have responsible Poodle breeders. Signs of a quality breeder will include one that:


  • Is knowledgeable about the breed
  • Specializes in breeding only Poodles
  • Is a huge dog lover
  • Asks you questions to see if you meet their standards for quality dog care
  • Performs genetic health testing on their dogs
  • Provides early puppy training
  • Doesn't have continuous litters
  • Have you sign a contract before you adopt



More About Poodles

Poodles have an interesting history, making their backgrounds incredibly complex and fun. Their energy and cleverness make them intriguing hunters with playful attitudes, and it's no wonder they became as popular as they have!


This breed have been a well-loved favorite for the rich and famous for many years. Elvis Presley was so fond of Poodles that he gave them to his girlfriends as gifts! Other famous Poodle lovers include Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, and Walt Disney.


Poodles have had starring roles in movies like The Birds, Babe, Zoolander, and Breakfast at Tiffany's. As pop culture icons, Poodles uphold their reputations for being one of the smartest and peppiest dogs in show biz. If you think this breed is right for you, head over to the Poodle Club of America!

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