Standard poodles are actually extraordinary hunting dogs.
To some outdoorsmen, the idea of a poodle out traipsing through the woods by a hunter’s side is as familiar as hunting itself. But in the minds of many, a poodle is a tiny lap dog, suitable for elaborate hairstyles and sitting in the laps of the French aristocracy. Their days of water retrieval are forgotten by all but hunters and breeders.
Poodles have such a rich history, few know everything there is to know about this old and well-loved breed. Here are five things you might not have known about the poodle.
Poodles aren’t actually French
The name “poodle” comes from “puddeln,” a German word meaning “to splash in water” as assigned to it by the German writer Gesner in 1524. It is perhaps the most appropriate name for this breed. In England, it was once known as the “rough water dog” whereas in France, it was known as the “caniche,” meaning “duck dog” or “barbet,” meaning “bearded”.
Over the years, poodles were slowly bred for different purposes. While the standard was bred to be larger and more sturdy than its predecessors, the popular miniature and toy poodles were bred for companionship. While these smaller dogs may retain some duck-hunting instincts, the job is best left to their standard cousins.
They’re an old breed
Poodles are thought to be one of the oldest water-retrieving breeds there are. Many suspect they were used as far back as the Roman era. However, because relatively little is left to us from that age, the earliest time historians can reliably trace the poodle is back through the middle ages, where it was a prized hunting dog and beloved of the nobility.
They don’t have a specific origin
Where most dogs have one specific country of origin, the poodle is not quite so easy to trace. Because the breed is believed to be very old, it was already popular in Germany, France, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, England, Belgium, and Holland before it was widely portrayed in art and literature, though its first mentions in literature are found in Germany and Russia.
Poodles are fiercely intelligent
Part of the poodle’s popularity comes from its fierce intelligence. Not only does the breed retain its old hunting instinct, but it is intelligent enough to adapt to whatever new job it is assigned. Historically, poodles have chiefly been bird dogs, but they have also worked as sheep dogs, army dogs, ships’ dogs, and circus and film performers. In a ranking of dog intelligence, they are beat only by the German Shepherd.
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As a result of this, poodles are not only easy to train. They want to be trained! Intelligent breeds like rules and guidelines, as well as behaviors to please their owners.
If their rich history and exciting potential wasn’t enough to make the poodle a fantastic breed, they come with an added benefit: no shedding! Poodles have thick, curly hair rather than fur. While this requires regular grooming to keep their coats healthy, it is well worth it.
In addition, this breed also lacks the allergens in its saliva or dander that many other dogs carry, so poodle owners won’t suffer from any pet-related allergies. As a result, the breed is wildly popular among those who suffer from chronic allergies or asthma.