In Praise of Poodles

Our poodles really earned their keep this week,Cliff the poodle simply by soothing away some stressful days. Poodle hugs are magic – they can lower blood pressure in a heartbeat and they don’t even leave you covered in hair.

In return for their unquestioning, ever-available doggy comforting, I thought a little promotion of poodles was in order. Poodles get a bad rap, partly due to the offbeat things that get done to their coats in the name of fashion. They get dyed various colours, coiffed into crazy poofy shapes and dressed in zanier costumes than you’d find at a StarTrek convention. This news report makes the point nicely: Daily Mail.

A client recently asked for advice on which purebred dog to buy and was obviously dead-set against anything “poodle”. Much too silly. Not a serious dog at all. Anything but a poodle.

That sentiment wouldn’t sit well with the many vision-impaired folks depending on standard poodles as seeing-eye dogs. Actually, both of our poodles were flunk-outs from the Dog Guides program. Okay, so our two didn’t make the grade and have a few issues, but overall the breed makes for fabulous service dogs.

Poodles are smart, friendly, playful and energetic. They excel at games like flyball and obedience trials. When we were heading out to pick up the first of our pair, my boss at the time, Dr. Morton, said in all seriousness, “So you’re going to get a ‘real’ dog, are you?” A keen outdoorsman, he had a lot of respect for the breed’s history as retrievers which was their original purpose.

Obviously, there has been a fair bit of messing with genetics since then and poodles now come in a variety of sizes. The smallest, the toy poodle, must stand no higher than 10 inches at the shoulder and there are all sizes up to as much as 65 or 70 pounds. Well-bred poodles are generally quite healthy and hardy, but be wary of the really tiny ones, so-called “teacup” poodles, which may weigh only a few pounds as adults. The smaller they are, the more prone they will be to medical and training problems.

The poodle’s coveted non-shedding coat does come with a price – it must be clipped regularly or it will become a grooming nightmare. How the coat gets clipped and whether or not your poodle has his own wardrobe is entirely up to you. He will love you regardless.

Don’t just take my word for it – here’s more praise for poodles from an expert on therapy dogs: Veterinary Partner article.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
Trenton, Ontario – April 2012