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Spotlight – Poodles

Val Cairney September 2, 2022 36


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Hi everyone and welcome to this spotlight episode of Val Talk’s Pets.  In this spotlight, I’m going to highlight a breed of dog that I think is being very misused and not appreciated for who they are.  This is the poodle.  The unbelievable doodle trend and “oodle” for every cross breed you can think of, really has me shaking my head.  I don’t understand why everything has to be crossed with a poodle?  What is wrong with a poodle?  Well I think there is nothing wrong with a poodle, so let’s explore poodles and then talk a bit more about all this cross breeding.  

The History of Poodles

Three Poodles Standing
Standard Poodles

People often think of poodles as those little dogs that old rich ladies carry around that are spoiled and wear blingy collars etc.  But, the original standard poodle, although often thought of as being French, actually originated from Germany.  Now the confusion comes from the fact that France has since made the poodle their national dog.  According to the American Kennel Club, poodles were originally bred to be water retrievers.  Yup, just like the trusty lab, poodles were meant to splash into the water and retrieve ducks and other birds back to their masters.  And nice to know that some waterfowl hunters still use poodles in the field today.  Poodles are quite known for their looks but they are also very athletic, eager and intelligent.  Poodles do very well in service as trained, registered service dogs and they also do very well as therapy dogs and get this, have even been trained to be truffle hunters due to their keen noses.  

Because the poodles originated as retrievers according to Poodle Mojo, it is believed that the breed originated from crosses of several water dogs including Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Hungarian and Russian water dogs.  There are other theories as well that include originating from the North African Barbet, or from Asian herding dogs.  Eventually the dogs made it to Gaul and were used for their hunting abilities.  As quoted from Poodle Mojo, “The truth is that no one really knows where the poodle descended from.  Whatever its ancestry, this is a very old breed.”   So, interesting that as a very old breed, the poodle size did not begin to be tampered with until the 1400’s.  Basically to appeal to the Parisian bourgeoisie, first came the miniature poodle and then the toy.  And if you can find a positive in breed tampering, at least these smaller versions were bred by breeding smaller poodles to smaller poodles as opposed to introducing another breed.  However, that in and of itself can be an issue as I have pointed out many times.  If they just happened to have a slightly smaller dog than the rest is used to breed to a slightly smaller dog from another litter, we are not really in that area of concern.  It is when breeders breed specifically runts to runts that we have a problem.  What they were doing in the 1400’s we don’t know.  But, possibly there was some integrity here as we have confidence that the health and genes of the first miniatures and toys was found. 

Two Toy Poodles Side by Side
Toy Poodles

So, poodles at this time interestingly were either strong working dogs or companion dogs.  The standards were hunting or truffle hunting and the miniatures and toys were carried around by the nobility and wealthy class.  According to poodle mojo, during the Renaissance “well-to-do owners often carried their poodles in their large shirtsleeves, leading to the nickname “sleeve dogs”.  Looking at the registration of the breed, the Kennel Club in England registered their first poodle in 1874 and the Poodle Club in the U.S. first registered their first poodle in 1896.  The club disbanded but was re-established in 1931.  The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1887.  

Types of Poodles

So, let’s look at the different sizes of poodles.  The American Kennel club determined that there are three different types of poodles.  Standard, miniature and toy.  As I have pointed out in past episodes, teacup is not accepted by any breed association and I would definitely put out a caution for not only acquiring a teacup of any breed but also participating in perpetuating this size.  According to breed standards from the Canadian Kennel Club, a standard poodle is over 15 inches at the highest point at the shoulder.  A poodle 15 inches or under at the highest point at the shoulder, with a minimum height in excess of 10 inches is a miniature.  The toy poodle is 10 inches or under at the highest point at the shoulder.  Poodles in general are very versatile and quick to please.  In terms of activity level, the smaller poodles can suit the owners but the standards need lots of exercise.  This versatility and intelligence is what makes them great candidates for service.  

Let’s talk about the coat of a poodle.  A poodle is considered a non-shedding dog. Their coat is dense, harsh and frizzy or curly.  To maintain health and grooming, a poodle will need to be trimmed and it is recommended that an experienced groomer with hand scissoring be used to get the proper coat maintenance for a poodle.  Their coat should be brushed and combed in between grooming as a must.  In terms of the cuts that poodles can get, there is the basic maintenance cut and then there are a whole bunch of other cuts that poodle groomers know plus all the show cuts.  The one that always raised eyebrows when seeing a standard poodle trotting in the show ring is the one where they have puffs of hair around the ankles but part of the body is shaved.  Well this cut has history.  According to the American Kennel Club, the ubiquitous poodle cut is actually all about function.  So, going back to the poodles as retrievers, “less hair would make the poodles more efficient swimmers, but more vulnerable to cold water.  To get the best of both worlds, Poodle owners placed puffs of hair around the joints and the upper torso to protect the joints and vital organs” Now, that is some super interesting info is it not?  In terms of show cuts there are three varieties.  The Continental clip, the Modified Continental clip or the English saddle.  Puppies in competition have the official Puppy clip, which is an even length all over the body.”  But, if you have a poodle that just needs a good haircut, make an appointment with a groomer that is experienced with poodles.  

Poodles Health Issues

Minature Poodle with Toys
Minature Poodle

Let’s look at some of the common health issues to be aware of with poodles.  Bloat which is Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus occurs when gas becomes trapped in a dog’s stomach.  According to vetpetguide.com, because poodles have deep chests they are especially prone to developing extreme bloat.  This is an extremely painful disorder and should never be left unchecked as it can be fatal.  Addison’s disease is underproductive adrenal glands.  Here the adrenal glands insufficiently produce cortisol and aldosterone hormones.  There is no cure for Addison’s Disease but after careful diagnosis it can be treated daily with oral medication and the poodle can go on to lead a full and happy life.  

Hip dysplasia is also a concern.  Older poodles are more commonly affected though there can be signs in pups as young as 5 months.  This is why I say you should always be very careful when purchasing dogs especially in the purebred area and demand eye and hip certifications.  In this case the condition is often a result of an “under-developed or overdeveloped socket or weak ligaments which causes the ball of the joint to become dislodged from the socket. This continual dislocation and relocation eventually compromises the joint’s integrity and causes hip dysplasia.”  

Epilepsy is a disorder referring to seizures.  Seizures are more common in Poodles than other breeds.  This is not a death sentence and with careful diagnosis from a veterinarian the proper medication can mean a full and happy life.  

Thyroid issues can also affect poodles.  The improper function of the hormone thyroxine that is responsible for regulating a dog’s metabolism is at issue and this hormone will also assist in proper heart, brain, liver and kidney functions.  Again, a veterinarian can properly diagnose this condition and help with medications.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition affecting the photoreceptors in a dog’s retina and prevents the capture of light.  There is no cure for this but there has been good science that has found ways to slow the process.  This condition is hereditary, provoked by a gene mutation and can be detected with DNA testing.  Remember what I said about hip and eye certifications.  In the long run, surgery may be effective for a poodle with this condition  

Okay, Luxating Patella is one more condition.  All types of poodles can be affected by this.  Luxating Patella is usually genetic but other conditions can cause it to develop like poor nutrition, excess joint stress and other medical problems.  In this case the patella that slides in a groove in the femur when the knee joint moves, the patella may slip out to the inside of the stifle joint.  There is a lot more to look into with luxating patella but the idea is to catch it early and treat through your veterinarian.  

And last but not least is the possibility for poodle puppies to have hypoglycemia.  Typically developing within four months of birth this is the sudden drop in blood sugar.  This can occur due to stress or routinely not eating enough and can be fatal.  So again, be careful with your choice of breeder and keep an eye if you suspect the puppy’s sugar is dropping.  Some honey rubbed on the gums may sort the situation but a trip to the vet should follow.  

Despite these health concerns with poodles, generally speaking, poodles are strong dogs that make amazing pets.  Did you know that a team of poodles ran the Iditarod? Yup, a fella by the name of John Suter raced a team of poodles in 1991.  They finished in the lower middle of the pack earning an eternal spot in Iditarod trivia books.  It’s a great story and one I might just highlight in another episode.  One of the poodle’s biggest attributes is the fact that they are considered hypoallergenic.  Because their coats rarely shed they have less allergens released into the air.  

Oodles of Doodles

Labradoodle Standing
Labradoodle

So that brings me to the doodle craze.  In my episode on cross breeding and designer dogs I talked about how Wally Conron was the first to breed labs with poodles to try and get a “hypoallergenic” guide dog.  Wally Conron himself candidly spoke about his huge regret doing this and how he opened a Pandora’s box of bad breeding and breed tampering opening a flood of crossbred dogs often created by cash seeking individuals.  Wally’s original idea was to create a dog that was less likely to cause an allergic reaction in the client’s spouse who needed a guide dog.  Wally bred several litters before finding one that the spouse reacted to minimally.  This mindset is often behind a lot of the cross breeding, to access the low allergen level of the poodle.  But, look at this scientifically.  How can you regulate the actual DNA that is being combined between the two dogs?  If you take a Golden Retriever that is fury and sheds and cross it with a poodle, how much of the DNA will be taken from the Golden?  Basically, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will get any reduction in allergen.  So, what was the point of crossing these two breeds?  I interviewed senior groomer and owner Christine Santon from The Spa grooming salon a few years ago and she said that almost 80% if not more of her clients were labradoodles and goldendoodles and she said all of them had undercoats which means, shedding and no hypoallergenic property.  But, here is something to consider.  If you cross a poodle with another hypoallergenic dog, low shedding like a Bichon or Maltese you will receive the low-shedding genes from both parents and these dogs would be typically hypoallergenic.  But, crossing a poodle with a Bernese Mountain dog, a lab, a golden, a husky, a St. Bernard any of the fury dogs means you no longer have a hypoallergenic dog.  So my question is, what was the point of cross breeding?  Why wouldn’t you just get a Golden or a Poodle?  I truly do not get this.  So, before I go off here anymore, let’s go to my Pet Peeves section.

Pet Peeves

Okay, so personally I do not understand the breeding and the seeking of a poodle cross breed.  Poodles are great dogs.  They are hypoallergenic, intelligent, versatile, and make great companions.  Goldens, labs, Bernese etc. have all the attributes of their breed but are not hypoallergenic.  The info on crossbreeds with poodles keep touting that these crosses are hypoallergenic, but how could that possibly be?  I can see where the allergen level may be less because of the poodle, but fully hypoallergenic?  I don’t think so.  And if someone were to have a golden retriever poodle mix and find that they have little to no reaction, then they lucked out, the DNA went more heavily towards the poodle, but you can’t guarantee that will happen to every litter.  Just look at Wally Conron.  I can also see where people that breed these crossbreeds can continue to lower the allergen through breeding those particular dogs to another particular dog, just like Wally did, but again, I don’t get the point.  What was wrong with getting a poodle?  And because crossbreeds are not regulated, how do you guarantee that there wasn’t another breed in there somewhere?  You can’t!  Some doodle breeders, a name I hate by the way, do belong to a club that can create a registration of sorts and that is helpful to know what dogs were bred.  But, you can slap whatever cutesy name you want on the dog, Bernedoodle, Havapoo (hilarious) maltipoo, what have you, these are still cross breeds.  Crossbreeds when the dice rolls well can exhibit the best of both breeds, but there is no guarantee of that, it truly is a crapshoot.  And I’ve said this many times before, a crossbreed being sold to the tune of $3000.00 is absolute highway robbery, in my opinion.  So, I spotlighted the poodle on this episode to try and raise awareness of this fantastic breed.  It breaks my heart that this truly old breed is being used like the base ingredient for a mix breed recipe.  This breed does not deserve to be used like the flour in a cake mix.  I give kudos to the registered poodle breeders that are fighting to keep the poodle breed alive with its historical genes and attributes.  Please, if you would love to have a dog, but someone is allergic, look into the poodle, not a crossbred poodle, a poodle. Do some research and call a registered breeder, because as I say, knowing is caring!

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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