Of course each dog is unique, but in the world of purebreds, you can sketch a rough portrait of any breed you know well–a portrait that helps families decide whether that breed will likely meet their needs in a canine companion. Here’s how I see Standard Poodles.
As the largest Poodle variety, Standards are still medium sized dogs. Yes, you can find 110 lb. “Royal Standards,” but that hardly fits a sporting dog meant to be elegant, athletic and very agile. Ours range from about 45 to 60 lb. and stand from 23ish to 25 inches at the shoulder.
Poodles are among the world’s most intelligent creatures, ranking in the top few breeds for canine smarts. Developed as water retrievers, Standard Poodles have continued that tradition and today earn hunting titles at American Kennel Club events. Beyond the hunt, they also excel at sports like obedience and agility, serving as therapy dogs, and almost anything else they try. They’re active, fun-loving dogs that need exercise (as their people do) but “hyper” or “bouncing off the walls” would never describe a good Standard Poodle, and Standards rank low on destructiveness or excessive barking. With beauty, brains, humor and charm, they remain playful as adults (bring on the kids), make good watchdogs and are famously easy to live with and train.
Add to that no doggy smell, plus almost no shedding! Many people with dog allergies can live with Poodles. The downside? Poodle hair grows and grows, at least to a point, and needs grooming for appearance and to avoid problems like matting. Don’t get a Poodle of any size unless you’re up for professional grooming every month or so–or you can learn to do it yourself (see Links for more on this). Many Poodles wear short retriever clips that show off their athletic build, drawing questions like “Wow, what kind of dog is that?”
Only get a Standard Poodle if you too have a sense of humor and maybe don’t mind acting silly sometimes. Our dogs even “get down” with us when the music’s right (Poodles are amazingly light on their feet, hence their circus fame). If a dog doesn’t make you laugh every day, it’s probably not a Poodle! And please please don’t get a Poodle unless you want a full-time housedog that considers itself a person and truly shares your life. A Poodle will become so attuned to you that it practically reads your mind. This is true of many dogs and especially true of Poodles. Also, most Standards Poodles I’ve known have been “hand holders” (with gentle mouth) in greeting or affection, and “lick bonders”—licking arms and hands, especially in quiet moments, affirming your bond, much like that “I love you” at the end of your kid’s phone call.
To sum up Poodles, the AKC Standard calls for “…..a very active, intelligent and elegant appearing dog, squarely built, well proportioned, moving soundly and carrying himself proudly…. (with) an air of distinction and dignity peculiar to himself” (Ari daughter Birdie demonstrates “distinction and dignity” below).
Throw a bit more into that mix, like ability to leap high into the air just for the joy of it (and maybe for the reaction of anyone watching) and hints of humor and mischief in the eye, and you have what Poodle people call “poodley”—something hard to define, but you just know when it’s there! Thanks to Pearl and Sauvie (below) for demonstrating hints of humor and mischief.
AKC Standard for the Poodle The AKC standard describes the ideal for this breed. Why shouldn’t a dog be your best friend AND well built and good looking (like a good husband)? Of course no Poodle is perfect, but poorly bred Poodles can resemble some other dog wearing a Poodle suit. For example, I often see Poodles built with their tails set and carried low, appearing to hang off the stern, even when the dog trots happily along or snaps to attention. Low tail carriage is right for many breeds, like the German Shepherd Dog. But not for Poodles! Here’s Sera showing off “Poodle Carriage”…..
The Standard calls for a tail “set on high and carried up” with head carriage to complete a picture like the one that stopped me 30 years ago along that waterfront trail—effortless “light springy action….head and tail carried up.” For me, that vision’s the canine counterpart of a beautiful Arabian horse who’s also the kind of companion you’d invite into your tent along with those desert dogs and the rest of your entourage.
Hunt Photo on this page by John Carelli. Our thanks to ALL the photographers for photos seen on these pages and to all the other poodle people whose dogs we’re sharing with site visitors.