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Key Points
  • Brilliant, athletic, and beautiful, Poodles nevertheless have an image problem.
  • The root of this problem appears to be their elaborate haircuts.
  • An expert explains the big hair and offers insight into the 'Doodle' craze.
Best in Show at the 2020 Westminster Dog Show, "Siba" the Standard Poodle was the fifth of her breed to earn the coveted title.
The Poodle’s continental clip has a purpose — to protect the breed’s important joints from cold and water while they splash into swamps to hunt waterfowl.
Poodles come in three size varieties: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. These Miniature Poodles are sporting one of a variety of haircuts a poodle can be styled in.
Two Standard Poodles, one white and one black, stand outdoors.

What do you think of when you hear the word Poodle?

For many, it’s an overdone diva—big hair, polished toenails, and a phony French accent.

Poodles are often described as “froufrou” dogs, a slur that means prissy and high-maintenance.

The image has been widely embraced, even in the wonderful world of Disney, where dogs are generally lovable. A Poodle—Georgette from Oliver & Company—has the rare distinction of being an unlikeable Disney canine character—vain, selfish, and rude.

A Breed for All Seasons

People who love Poodles find this mystifying.

“A Poodle is a breed for all seasons,” says Susan Burge, president of the Poodle Club of America. Burge was “born into a Poodle family” about 60 years ago and has never strayed from these brilliant, exuberant beings.

“Once you’ve had a Poodle,” she says, “there is no other breed.”

Many believe the image problem springs from show ring hairdos—ringlets, pompoms, and sky-high bouffants.

Ironically, the look came from the Poodle’s original down-to-earth job of splashing into swamps to retrieve birds. They were shaved so they could maneuver, with patches of hair left to protect their joints from the cold.

Since humans can’t resist the urge to anthropomorphize, they look at the hair and think “high-maintenance snob.” Some people avoid the breed because they think the elaborate do is de rigueur.

Nothing could be further from reality.

There are many ways to clip a Poodle, from practically shaved down to cute “puppy cuts,” to the show-ring “Continental.” Ever wonder why the breed and their sculptable hair is a favorite of extreme groomers?

And far from making them divas, consider this: Hours of primping go into achieving some of these looks, requiring a dog to have patience, a sense of humor, and a heart that knows no bounds when it comes to loving his person.

“The Poodle doesn’t care what clip you put him in,” says Burge. “He just wants to be with you.”

Plucky, pretty, purebred: Hannah is a lovely show dog who also excels in such challenging sports as dock diving, coursing, obedience, and upland/waterfowl hunting. She’s 100 percent Poodle.

Oy, With the ‘Doodles’ Already!

In the hit TV series Gilmore Girls, lead character Lorelai combines two of the world’s funniest words—Poodle and Oy—to create the ultimate expression of exasperation.

“Oy with the Poodles already” is a signal that it’s time to shut up because the topic is beyond the point of exhaustion.

That’s how Poodle people feel about the designer dog fad, in which genes of their beloved breed are being tossed into everything from Chihuahuas to Newfoundlands and Great Danes.

The idea goes back to the 1950s, but gained speed about 30 years later. Wally Conron, a puppy breeding manager for Australia’s Royal Guide Dog Association, needed a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband had allergies. The ‘Labradoodle’ was born. Conron recently told several media outlets that he regrets his creation, saying, “Instead of breeding out the problems, they’re breeding them in.”

Burge says that ‘doodle’ breeders rarely conduct health tests and misrepresent what they are selling, often at prices two or three times higher than a show-quality puppy. There’s also no telling if the puppies will inherit the best traits of the parents or the worst.

The bottom line: If you want a dog with the wonderful qualities of a Poodle, get a Poodle.

This story originally ran in the May/June 2018 issue of AKC Family Dog magazine.