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Poodle History. Origin of Poodles

a parti colored poodle from a 1700 painting

Poodle History

While poodles are usually considered to be companion dogs in modern-day society, they were originally considered to be water dogs, bred for, and used in hunting waterfowl.

The breed is divided into three varieties based on their sizes in the U.S. The sizes recognized by the American Kennel Club include the Standard PoodleMiniature Poodle, and Toy Poodle, although the Medium Poodle (otherwise known as a Moyen Poodle or a Klein Poodle) is becoming more well known.

Poodle Origin

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Poodle breed in 1887, but the breed has been around far longer than that. Most experts agree that the breed has its roots in Germany, where the standard size was originally bred. Sometime after this, the breed was bred down in size, to perform in circuses or to be a better companion size.

Poodles in Europe

There is some dispute as to where the poodle breed originated. Most experts agree that the Poodle was bred and developed in Germany, although there are some who claim that the breed originated in France.

The Standard Poodle was originally used by wildfowl hunters to retrieve game from water. Because of their quick wit and eagerness to please, they were quickly bred down in size to travel with circuses as performance animals.

Toy poodles can be seen performing in circuses to this day. One possibility is that the Standard Poodle was being developed in Germany as a waterfowl retriever around the same time that the smaller version was being bred in France as performers and companion dogs.

Evidence that the Standard Poodle originated in Germany is strong, as the name Poodle is clearly derived from the German name for the breed “Pudel.” This name can be traced all the way back to the Middle Ages, where it was used in reference to Germany’s water dog.

Many surrounding countries had their own versions of water dogs, but there is some evidence that Germany’s water dog most closely resembled today’s poodle. German artwork dating back as far as the 17th century depicts water dogs that very much resemble the modern-day standard poodle.

How Poodles came to America

Poodles have a long history in America. There are no records that can prove the exact year that poodles first came to the new world, but we do know that the American Kennel Club registered its first poodle as early as 1886.

One decade later, the American Poodle Club was founded. Poodles of all sizes have been a favorite among Americans ever since, often landing in the yearly top 10 charts of the American Kennel Club. By the 1950s, the poodle had officially become the most popular breed in the country.

Standard Poodle History

Historically, standard poodles have been bred for hunting. They were bred from several types of water spaniels. The goal of poodle breeders was to produce a dog with enough stamina to effectively retrieve waterfowl.

The Standard Poodle coats were designed to repel water, and the traditional grooming cuts were designed to keep a poodle’s vital organs warm in chilly waters while allowing them to be more aerodynamic for faster speeds while swimming.

The poodle’s course, oily coat kept it from soaking up water and allowed it to swim quickly. Because it is a highly intelligent breed, it was able to learn commands quickly.

Its agile body allowed it to swim and run with ease and grace. The combination of these traits made the standard poodle one of the most magnificent of all bird hunting dogs.

Even though they were originally bred for hunting, most standard poodles now are bred for companionship and service. Service poodles can work as seeing-eye guide dogs, therapy dogs, and medical alert dogs.

There are so many different lines of standard poodles now. This makes it so that someone wanting to hunt with their standard poodle will need to make sure that they are purchasing a puppy from hunting lines.

Even though they were originally bred as bird dogs, many are no longer suitable for such a job because they have been bred to be companions for so many years.

Miniature Poodle History

Miniature poodles were bred down in size from the standard poodle so that they could better function as companions or as performing dogs. Either way, the standard poodle was successfully bred down to a miniature size over time.

The French nobility took a liking to Standard and Miniature poodles until the breed became highly popular throughout all of Europe. 

The breed’s fancy looks and high intelligence made it a natural entertainer, and Poodles have been associated with the European circus. The poodle also has an excellent sense of smell and has been used as a truffle hunter.

Toy Poodle History

Because the poodle had so many wonderful attributes, more people wanted to own a poodle as a pet, even if they were not hunters. This created a demand for poodles that were more conducive to city dwellers.

People who lived in high-rise apartments with little space in their yards still wanted access to the wonderful poodle breed. This caused breeders to look for ways to breed the poodle to an even smaller size. This is how the toy poodle came to be.

The toy poodle was first bred specifically for people who lived in big cities. Since then, the toy poodle has been a favorite among the rich and powerful in New York City and Los Angeles as well as other big cities. Celebrities could be seen carrying their toy poodles with them in designer handbags.

The Original Three Poodle Sizes

It is important to note that when the standard, miniature, and toy poodle sizes were first being bred, breeders were careful to breed to specification. This meant that each size was meant to be an exact replica of the other sizes, just in smaller form.

The structure was to look the same. The snout was to be proportionally the same. The ear length and leg length were also proportional to the other sizes. To achieve this goal, breeders were careful in how they chose breeding pairs. They did not attempt to breed any litter too small too quickly.

In other words, they bred them smaller in size over the course of many years. They could, for example, take two standard poodles on the smaller side and breed them together until there were enough standard poodles of the smaller variety to breed to each other again, repeating the process until they eventually attainted a miniature poodle.

The same process was repeated to breed a toy poodle. When breeders began to claim that they had created an even smaller breed, the teacup poodle, the American Kennel Club did not and will not recognize this breed. This is because the teacup poodle was not bred for health and was not bred to standard.

The teacup poodle was bred purely for the sake of having a poodle as small as it could be bred. This also led to many health problems. For this reason, the AKC has not recognized the teacup poodle.

New trends with Poodles: Doodles.

In the past few decades, many diverse types of poodles and doodles of all sizes have been advertised.

It is important for future puppy owners to be aware that not all breeders have carefully bred their puppies to standard. Some have cashed in on false claims and made a habit of false advertising.

For example, you may see advertisements for miniature Bernedoodles. In some of these cases (though not all), breeders have taken a toy poodle and bred it to a full-size Bernese Mountain dog!

This is bound to cause many adverse health problems as the puppies can end up having a bone structure that is not strong enough to hold its weight. They are more prone to heart disease and to hip and elbow dysplasia.

There are also many mini doodles breeds out there. It is important to ask to see the parents of these breeds and to see if the breeders are breeding to standard with the goal of sound structure and good health.

If a breeder is only looking to breed for size or for size and color, they have overlooked health concerns and breeding standards. When looking for your new puppy, it is best to go with the tried and true.

Look for a breeder who has been breeding for a long time or who was mentored by someone who has a lot of experience in producing healthy puppies. Look for a poodle that was bred to standard with structure and health as the ideal.

Many breeders are succumbing to the pressure to produce certain colors and sizes. However, color and size should be secondary to structure and health.

The doodle trends of the last couple of decades have caused a lot of heartaches in that they have produced many low-quality doodles with health and structure concerns. When we look back on the history of these hybrids, we will see clearly that many of them were not bred the way that the original three sizes of poodle were bred.