Don't be fooled by those pom-poms and poofs. Under that prissy exterior lives a down-to-earth hunting dog---and up-and-at'em best friend.
The Poodle's ancestors were German water retrievers. In fact, the name Poodle comes from pfudel, meaning to splash. The coat was shaved close to reduce drag when swimming, but left long on the chest, head and joints for warmth and protection. The Poodle's high trainability and striking appearance earned the breed a role as circus dogs. This in turn brought them to the attention of the French aristocracy. Poodles eventually became the national dog of France.
Poodles come in three varieties: Standard, which is the largest, as well as original; Miniature, which is the most popular; and Toy, which is the smallest. Poodles were America's most popular breed from 1960 to 1982, popular with celebrities and regular folk alike.
Poodles have worked as retrievers, performers, military dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs and even sled dogs and truffle hunters. They're one of the most successful dogs at dog shows and in obedience and agility competitions.
Poodles are playful, loving, smart and happy. They love to learn and they love to play with toys---especially if they can do it with you.
Toy Poodle puppies should eat a puppy food designed for toy dogs. Tiny puppies should be fed small amounts often---more than larger dogs---because they can't store glucose efficiently. They can easily develop hypoglycemia if they are active and have gone without food for too long. Puppy food for toy dogs combats hypoglycemia because it is high in protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. If your puppy becomes sleepy to the point of being hard to rouse, or unresponsive, it's an emergency. Rub syrup on his gums and get him to the veterinarian immediately. Most small puppies outgrow the danger by a few months of age. But even as adults, a food designed for toy dogs is the best choice. Miniature and Standards can eat food for average size puppies and adults.
Toy Poodles are prone to knee problems. If you see your small dog skipping for a step or two, he may have a condition your veterinarian needs to check. He may also eventually develop arthritic changes in his knees. To combat this, add a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement to his diet as soon as he shows any signs of hopping or lameness.
It's not easy to grow the profuse coats you see in the show ring. To do so you must feed a nutritious food with vitamin supplements. You must keep the coat free of parasites and dirt.
Most people take their Poodle to be professionally groomed, but you still need to do your part at home. Use a pin brush or metal comb to gently work through the coat in layers, making sure to reach all the way to the skin. When brushing or combing, spritz the coat lightly with a combination of water and conditioner; this prevents static electricity and breakage. Tease apart any mats, spraying them with a detangler or conditioner.
You may need to bathe between groomer visits. Use a deodorizing shampoo if your Poodle tends to get smelly. If your dog tends to scratch, use an avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo. Or use a color-enhancing shampoo. Follow with a conditioner. You can let the coat air dry into ringlets, or blow it dry while brushing it for a full coat.
Poodles are somewhat more prone to ear infections compared to other breeds. The combination of thick hair, hanging ears and high sebum (wax) production conspire to produce a warm moist environment ideal for bacteria, fungus and yeast infections. Some Poodles have hair that grows well into the ear canal. Most groomers pluck this hair out, but some people believe this practice can actually set up areas of irritation that then make things worse. The best compromise is to pluck out small areas of this hair, waiting a day between sessions so you don't cause so much irritation. Never pluck before putting in any sort of cleanser that could burn irritated areas. You can also trim the hair short around the inside and base of the ear to increase air circulation. Check the ears regularly for dark secretions. Apply an ear cleanser weekly. Such cleansers change the pH of the ear canal to make it less hospitable to fungus and yeast, and also have a bacteria-killing and ear drying effect. Any time you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal. But never put any cleanser or medication in a severely infected or painful ear because of the possibility of a ruptured ear drum.
Toy Poodles and to a lesser degree, Minis, are prone to dental problems and tooth loss, so it's especially vital to brush the teeth daily of these smaller Poodles. But actually, all dogs should have a daily tooth brushing.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a small dog nail clipper for Toys and Minis, and a medium or heavy-duty clipper for Standards.
Poodles are perpetually young at heart, but sometimes age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, can slow them down. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.