Her name evokes images of a beloved princess or the ancient goddess of the hunt—Diana. She easily slips in and out of these roles, sometimes on the same day. One moment, she’s gleaming white, pouffed, and proud in the show ring. Turn around, and she’s dripping with pond water, her curls flattened out as she scrambles up a bank with a bird in her mouth. Diana is a standard Poodle.
For the first time since 1997, her breed climbed back into the top five of the AKC’s 2021 popularity rankings. It’s been a long, slow recovery from the days when Poodles fell from the number-one spot in America’s hearts that they held for more than two decades. This statistic may be a sign that the public is beginning to understand that a Poodle’s qualities are not improved when diluted by other breeds. They are quite wonderful on their own. As their fans often say: “Just get a Poodle.”
A Divine Dog
“People who have owned them in the past and people who own them now understand why they are in the top five,” says Angie Louter, Diana’s breeder and owner. Louter and her husband, Rich, have bred standard Poodles for over 15 years. They got their first, as many families do, because their daughter had allergies; the breed’s non-shedding, hypoallergenic coat was a big plus. The couple soon learned that the breed is more than a curly coat. Rich Louter had experience training gundogs. He read about the Poodle’s history and learned that they were developed as retrievers in Germany during the Middle Ages. In fact, their name is derived from the German word pudel, which means to splash.
He started to educate the puppy in hunting and retrieving. Now, the couple strives to produce dogs with excellent structure and appearance to excel in the Conformation ring. They also focus on temperament and intelligence to master hunting and anything else they are taught to do.
“People are realizing the versatility of the breed, whether it’s for hunting, hiking, search and rescue, service dogs, or just being the best family companion,” says Louter. Poodles have something to appeal to almost everyone—beauty, brains, elegance, athleticism, an amusing name, and hair that stays on the dog instead of clinging to you.
In 2021, Clapton, 7, a dog Louter bred and owns, became the first Conformation Grand Champion Poodle to hold a Master Hunter title, wrote Penny Leigh for akc.org. He finished his Grand Championship on November 12, stepped out of the Conformation ring, and qualified at a Masters Upland Game hunt test the next day. That’s how smoothly these dogs can switch from one event to another. “He is truly the epitome of a standard Poodle,” Louter told Leigh.
Louter’s dogs participate in many activities, from Agility to Coursing to Obedience. They model and act in commercials and on TV. Her dogs have the distinction of appearing on the TV show “Duck Dynasty.” Another one of her show dogs pranced around in hot pink curls for a Mega Millions lottery commercial.
It’s not unusual to find Poodles who have an alphabet soup before and after their names, a testament to the scores of titles they can achieve. Diana’s formal name, for example, is RBIS MBISS Silver G.Ch. LouterCreek Candle In The Wind, CD, BN, RA, JH, JHU, FDC, CAX, DCAT, ACT1, ACT1J, SWA, RATN, CGCA, CGCU, TKI, ATT, VHMA, WC. She is 7 years old.
Peter the Great
As prized as they are for their talents for learning all kinds of things, they are also skilled at the quiet art of tuning in to people. This makes them exquisitely suited to therapy, service work, and the all-important task of just being a friend. AKC Family Dog correspondent Brian Duggan met one of these helpers while visiting a friend in a memory-care unit.
Here’s his account of meeting Peter, the facility’s soothing canine presence. “I rang the bell to be admitted to the memory-care unit when, through the door’s narrow window, the dog appeared. It was a standard Poodle, wearing a prison-striped Halloween costume. After greeting me with a friendly sniff, he went to check in with some of the residents— much like a roaming elementary school principal greeting students and teachers,” Duggan says. Peter has been the much-loved “dog-on-staff” at Generations, the memory-care unit at The Palms at La Quinta in southeastern California, for seven years.
“He came there at around a year old via Chris Anderson, one of the company’s administrators. She knew residents would benefit from a comfort dog,” Duggan says. “His job is to be a dog—being petted, adored, and talked to by the memory-care residents. His bed, food, and water bowls (as well as toy stash) are a fixture at the nurse’s station.
Staff member Angel Hilario remembers that when puppy boredom set in, Peter would stroll on top of the nurses’ desks and counters. He still has a charming quirk of placing multiple toys in his food bowl and eating kibble around them. (Today, it was a tennis ball and rope pull.)
“When a career move took Anderson elsewhere, she insisted Peter remain to continue his work. As with the other residents in Generations, he has a folder and computer chart.
Staff member Carlo Vazquez is responsible for Peter’s meals, medications, and visits to the groomer and vet. Vazquez says Peter belongs to everyone and has a free run of The Palms. When Roland Gandy, the current executive director, came on board, he asked, ‘Is Peter part of the building?’ When told yes, Gandy enthusiastically said, ‘I love that!’
“I was at Generations to visit an old friend, and while waiting outside his room, Peter came up for a tête-á-tête. I’d met him on other occasions but this time I found his magic scratching spots (chest and throat). The near-70-pound Poodle stood with forelegs on my chair, making eye contact with me through his shaggy topknot. For several minutes, we happily obliged each other. Satiated, he calmly strolled off to see what the staff were doing. Perhaps Peter stirs positive feelings remembered from their own dogs— or at least the staff thinks so.
“One family specifically admitted their mother because she’d owned Poodles and asked if Peter could sleep on her bed (any resident can request a sleepover). When the corporate owners of Generations changed a few years ago, there were rumors that Peter might not be allowed to stay. Some families even talked of taking their parents and grandparents elsewhere. Fortunately, the new administration is just as enlightened and compassionate as its predecessors. To this day, Peter the Great gives his special therapy to the folks in Generations. I’m very glad he’s there with my friend.”
For more information, visit poodleclubofamerica.org.