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Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography
Size differentiates the Standard, Miniature, and Toy Poodles, who are otherwise similar. These elegant dogs have Einstein-like smarts and they make excellent family dogs. Most of them don’t have the runway styling of a show dog, but they do need professional grooming unless you are prepared to learn to use clippers.
Toy Poodles have been popular pets for centuries, including in the court of Louis XVI. Poodles didn’t originate in France, but they are often referred to as French Poodles because they were so popular in that country.
No breed has a more highly developed sense of humor than the Poodle. Good thing, too, because no breed has been the butt of more jokes than this one. Humor aside, all the sniping is unfortunate because it makes many a family overlook the Poodle, an intelligent, hard-working breed. Perennially one of the most popular breeds throughout the world, the Poodle earns that devotion with his intelligence, ease of training, low-shedding curly coat, and his eager love of family.
The coat of a Poodle is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it makes the breed shed less so the Poodle may be more easily tolerated by some people with allergies. But the coat – or rather, what people do with it – is what makes many people cross the Poodle off the list when considering the dog that’s right for them. Show Poodles are poofed, shaved and hair-extensioned into an appearance that, though once based on practical considerations, is now the epitome of show-dog silly.
Kept in a sensible short clip and treated like a dog, not topiary, the Poodle is smart and hardworking with a sunny disposition. This easy-to-train dog can go anywhere and do anything. They’re generally good with other dogs, cats and strangers and are easy to housetrain.
Poodles shed little, but require grooming every 4 to 6 weeks. Some Poodle owners learn to use the clippers and do the job themselves, but most rely on professional groomers. Either way, it's essential to take care of the Poodle's curly coat, because without regular clipping, it will quickly become a matted mess that can cause painful skin infections at the roots.
The Poodle’s coat comes in a range of colors: apricot, black, blue, brown, café-au-lait, cream, gray, red, silver, silver beige, and white. Parti-colored Poodles are two-tone, including black and apricot, black and brown, black and cream, black and gray, black and red, black and silver, black and tan, black and white, blue and white, brown and apricot, brown and white, cream and white, gray and white, red and apricot, red and white, white and apricot, white and silver. Phantom poodles have tan areas that are somewhat similar to the points on a Doberman Pinscher.
Poodles excel at performance activities such as agility and obedience. They are active dogs who thrive on attention and learning. There’s a reason they used to be popular circus performers.
The Poodle’s frou-frou reputation is unwarranted. It’s too bad that some people dislike the breed just because of that show cut and too easily dismiss a wonderful family dog. As a family pet, the poodle can have a simple and easy-to-maintain look. They don’t all wear nail polish on their toes, although they can if you want them to. To Poodles, getting your nails polished means getting attention, and in their book, that’s what matters.
Poodles are thought to have originated in Germany, where they were called Pudel, meaning "splash in the water,” a reference to their work as water retrievers. The exaggerated show cut seen today began as a practical way to keep the dog’s joints and torso warm in cold water.
The Standard is the oldest of the three Poodle varieties. The Miniature and the Toy were created by selecting for smaller size. They, too, were working dogs. Miniatures are said to have sniffed out truffles, a type of edible mushroom that grows underground, and Toys and Miniatures were popular circus dogs because of their intelligence, love of performing and ability to learn tricks.
The curly-coated dogs became popular in England and Spain, but in France they were adored. King Louis XVI was besotted with Toy Poodles and the breed became thought of as France’s national dog. It was in France that the breed achieved status as companions, and Poodles still enjoy that status today. They are beloved around the world and are consistently ranked among the most popular breeds. Today the Miniature is the most popular of the three sizes, and the three varieties together are ranked ninth in popularity among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club.
People-pleasing Poodles are happy, friendly dogs who like mingling with people and other dogs. They have a terrific sense of humor and are natural-born clowns. Being the center of attention makes them happy. They have an astonishing capacity for behaviors and tricks involving both brains and agility. It is entirely possible for you to be outwitted by a Poodle.
However, for all the similarities within the three sizes, there are some minor differences in behavior. These differences won’t be seen in every Poodle, but if you saw one of each size together, you might notice some of the following characteristics.
Standard Poodles are active and energetic, but they tend to be a bit more reserved and calm than Miniature and Toy Poodles. They like having a job to do.
Miniature Poodles follow their people around and are the most active of the three sizes. Because of their larger size, Miniatures are better suited to small children than Toys are. Both Miniatures and Toys have a more mischievous nature than Standards.
Toy Poodles are the ultimate companion dogs. They really know how to strut their stuff, in and out of the ring.
Don’t even think about excluding a Poodle from family activities. He can’t bear being alone too often, and he’s so smart that he will channel his boredom in ways that are not likely to meet your approval. You may find it a bit unnerving to live with a dog who seems smarter than you are. That intelligence can translate into some stubbornness.
Exuding beauty and brains, any well-bred Poodle will tend to have calm nerves and shouldn't be shy or sharp. Poodles love to learn, and want to please you. Teach your Toy Poodle tricks and get him qualified to be a therapy dog so he can perform for people in facilities such as nursing homes and children’s hospitals. Poodles of all sizes can make wonderful therapy dogs. Their empathetic nature and joy in engaging with people make them a natural at this work.
All Poodles are active dogs, but the smaller dogs need less room and less exercise. Toy and Miniature Poodles are often the companions of people who are less active and can be extremely happy as lap dogs and TV-watching buddies. Just be sure their busy minds have enough to keep them out of mischief.
A Poodle doesn’t think of himself as a dog, but as a person – and he’s not kidding. He wants to be active in every part of family life, from being dressed up for make-believe tea parties, going to soccer practice, and racing around the beach and charging into the water with you. In every size, he’s an active dog, and he wants nothing more than to go go go with you.
If you treat a Poodle like a prince or princess, she will step up to that title. It’s easy to create a spoiled monster with overly lavish attention. Even though the Toy likes to sleep in your lap, he needs to be a real dog: he needs consistent training, exercise, and walking on the ground instead of being carried around constantly. Any Poodle needs consistent, firm guidance or he will walk all over you.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
Whatever you want from a Poodle, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. The Poodle Club of America has good descriptions of diseases that might affect Poodles. Not all of these diseases affect Toy Poodles, but conditions that can occur generally in Poodles include the following:
Addison's disease and Cushing’s syndrome are flip sides of the same coin. In dogs with Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands don't produce enough of the hormone cortisol. The dogs become lethargic, depressed and intolerant of stress, and they may have digestive problems. Some dogs can have an acute crisis, necessitating hospitalization. Lifelong treatment consists of giving medication.
In dogs with Cushing's syndrome, the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. Symptoms include weight gain, panting, excessive thirst and hunger, bladder infections, and urinating in the house even though the dog was previously house-trained. Cushing's is usually managed with lifelong medication, but surgery is sometimes necessary.
Another hormonal problem seen in Poodles is hypothyroidism (inadequate levels of thyroid hormone). Symptoms include weight gain, hair loss, lack of resistance to disease, excessive hunger, and seeking out warmth. Thyroid hormone supplements are usually prescribed to manage the condition.
Other potential problems in Toy Poodles include vonWillebrand's disease and Hemophilia (both of these are blood clotting disorders), epilepsy, deafness, diabetes, and patent ductus arteriosus (a congenital heart defect).
Although all Poodles, no matter the size, are the same "breed", they don't all have the same health problems. Toy and Miniature Poodles share many of the same health problems common to the smallest breeds of dog, such as kneecaps that easily slip out of place (luxating patellas), breathing difficulties caused by a collapsing trachea, and dental problems because of tooth crowding inside their small mouths.
Toy Poodles can also suffer from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which causes reduced blood supply to the head of the thigh bone, causing it to degrade. The first sign of this disease is limping, which usually appears when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old. Treatment is surgical, after which the puppy can have a relatively normal life aside from an increased likelihood of arthritis.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. Other potential eye problems in Toy Poodles include cataracts and glaucoma.
Standard Poodles, like many large, deep-chested breeds, have an increased risk of bloat, also known as gastric dilatation volvulus, a potentially fatal condition in which the stomach twists on itself, trapping air inside. Dogs that are bloating require immediate veterinary attention and usually surgery to correct the problem. Because most dogs that bloat once will bloat again, the surgeon may also recommend a procedure known as "stomach tacking," or gastropexy, as a preventive measure.
A skin problem that can affect Toy and Standard Poodles is sebaceous adenitis, an inflammation of the sebaceous glands that leads to hair loss and skin problems. It can be diagnosed with a skin biopsy, but the effectiveness of treatment varies.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
According to the PCA, every puppy buyer must be given copies of the genetic tests done on the parents. For Toy and Miniature Poodles, this includes Optigen testing results for the eye disease progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certification of the knees is required for the Toy Poodle.Additionally, for all varieties of Poodle, the eyes of the puppy's parents should have been certified once each year by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Standard Poodles should have recent OFA clearance of the thyroid as well.
The PCA participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), a health database. You can look up the CHIC tests that are required for Toy, Miniature and Standard Poodles and see if your puppy’s parents are listed.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live good lives.
Grooming is a significant consideration in Poodles. The fine, curly coat that works well in the water needs to be clipped regularly, typically about every six to eight weeks, depending on your preferences. It mats easily, and requires regular brushing at home, even with professional grooming care. Left untrimmed, the coat will naturally curl into cords. Some people want the coat to cord because they prefer the look.
Dental care is an issue, particularly for the Toy and Miniature Poodle. Those small mouths full of teeth can cause problems. Keep on top of it by brushing the teeth regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpaste and having regular dental checks when you go to the veterinarian.
Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Don’t let them get so long that you can hear them clicking on the floor.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him.
The Poodle Club of America is a good place to start your search for a responsible breeder. Look for a breeder who abides by the club's ethical guidelines, which do not permit the sale of puppies through brokers, auctions, or commercial dealers such as pet stores. Breeders should sell puppies with a written contract guaranteeing they'll take back the dog at any time during his life if you become unable to keep him, and with written documentation that both the puppy's parents (and if possible, his other close relatives) have had their eyes, hips, knees, and blood (for von Willebrand’s) examined and certified by the appropriate health organizations.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from one of those “instant pet” websites leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Please note that “royal” or “teacup” Poodles are marketing terms designed to fool you into thinking you’re getting something special or rare when all you're getting is a dog who is quite a bit over or under the usual size of the breed. Extremely tiny dogs in particular are often plagued with severe health problems and rarely live a normal lifespan.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Poodle puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and show titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Poodle might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Poodle may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Toy Poodle in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Poodles available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Toy Poodle. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Poodles love all Poodles. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Poodle Club of America’s Rescue Network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Poodle rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Toy Poodle, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Poodle to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care in Toy and Miniature Poodles, and about the signs of bloat in Standards, as well as regular monitoring of skin, eye, and overall health.
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