The Poodle (Part 2)

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The Poodle (Part 1)

Afghan Hound
German Pinscher
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Irish Water Spaniel
The Poodle (Part 1)
Russian Black Terrier

By Agnes Murphy, Scotgroom, Carluke

My love affair with poodles began in the late 50s, when I was taken as a very young child of 4 or 5 to our local dog show. Instantly I fell in love with these beautiful animals. Their intense black eyes against a snow-white coat seemed to burn through to your very soul.

I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of Margaret Turnbull (Shasheen Poodles) who was just as glamorous as her dogs. When she allowed me to run up and down the mat at the end of a show I thought I was in heaven. My first poodle was bought in 1960, he was of Rothera and Panavon breeding (some of the older Groomers may remember these dogs), this was the start of my obsession with the breed.

My mother was taught how to clip poodles using manual clippers, which had to be squeezed from side to side constantly, making writers cramp seem like a relief. I wonder why repetitive strain injury was not complained about in those days. Most of the dogs were trimmed in scissored lamb trims but the darling of that era was the awful Dutch clip, which made dogs look loaded in the shoulders and neckless.

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In the 60s, in the show ring, the dogs had rather unbalanced looking long manes, which could easily reach the poms which were quite small compared to now. However, the piece de resistance was the huge, long ears, which, in Toys, nearly reached their feet.

It is ironic when you look at the tailored trims of today, such as the T clip, that the areas which were shorter, i.e. the poms, top knot and tail, are all longer now, but the ears, mane and pack are scissored shorter. Interestingly, I would imagine that the poodle lovers of even thirty years ago would be surprised at the lengths of the actual tail, as docking, when done, is much less drastic now.

Let’s go back in time to where and how the breed began. Images of poodle like dogs were found on Roman coins and engravings and were depicted as having shaved hindquarters, a mane and a pom on the end of the tail. What these dogs were used for is not very clear but most dogs who have curly coats have been used for water retrieving e.g. Irish Water Spaniel (Poodle and Afghan blood), Curly Coated Retriever (Poodle, Setter and Old Retriever blood) and/or sheepdogs e.g. Komondors and Pulis.

Poodles were found in Russia very early on. These were large dogs, usually black and strongly made.

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However, Germany also had its poodles, which were mostly brown. In fact, the German word " Pudeln" means " to splash in water". Two types of poodle were recorded in 1800, the Schaff Pudel (did this mean sheep dog or resembling a sheep?) and the Schoner Pudel. The former had a coat, which could be combed out into individual strands, while the latter formed long ringlets almost to the ground.
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Until fairly recent times, Curly and Corded poodles (see photo) were known in Britain. The cords were oiled and then rolled up and tied almost like we do when bagging the ears or putting Yorkies into crackers. In Britain the poodle was known as the "Rough Water Dog" but, as the next picture shows, they were used in battle as well. Can you imagine an army with their poodles in this day and age? Poodles would make excellent police dogs but their miniaturisation did nothing for their public image and they would probably be laughed at (if only the public knew their potential!).

The poodle probably came to France during the Napoleonic wars as companions and useful hunters for the German soldiers. But, the French took them into their hearts and they were to be seen accompanying King and pauper alike.

Many famous people have owned poodles, including Sir Winston Churchill whose brown poodle Rufus was at his side most of the time. Throughout the continent a smaller type of poodle was used for truffling instead of pigs, which were good at it but did not recognise the need for appetite control once they had found them. Ornaments have been found depicting truffling poodles with Dachshunds, presumably to dig out the truffle once the poodle had found them.
A well-known poodle in France was trained to stand on the boots of the potential customers of his master the local boot cleaner. They seem to be akin to enjoying dirty tricks, as the Belgians used to shave off the coat of the poodle and sew Brussels lace around the body. The coat was then sewn back over the lace and the dog dispatched across the borders, having been trained to specifically avoid the customs and excise officers. Until it was made illegal in Britain, poodles could be seen drawing carts in Smithfield and Billingsgate markets. wpeA.jpg (46822 bytes)

In Britain we have three sizes of poodle, Toys which should be under 11", Miniatures which should be under 15" and Standards over 15". This does not mean that if a poodle is 12" it is a Miniature, as it may be an overgrown Toy. It would have Toy features and characteristics. (This is important when choosing a dog for an exam or competition if it states a certain size of poodle). In France they have an intermediate size between the Miniature and the Standard and in America they have taken miniaturisation to the extreme with the tiny Teacup Poodles, which do not come without their problems.

The white Toy Poodles sometimes have silky coats, which are not very pleasant to cut, as they have no body. This is thought to be due to the fact that they may have been crossed with Maltese Terriers to help in the miniaturisation. Bedlington Terrier blood may also be responsible for the linty texture of some of the silvers.

Poodle wool has its uses as felt pads for polishing furniture and shoes, as it contains lanolin, making felt hats and for using in the points of ballet shoes as it is so springy and resilient. Is it any wonder the poodle is in the Utility (useful) Group? (This includes the toy poodle, which is often mistakenly assumed to be in the Toy Group).

As you can see from this photograph, dog grooming is not a recent invention and was performed in the streets of France in the 1700s.

The traditional lion trim was developed to help dogs swim more easily by shaving off the parts which were unnecessary (the hindquarters, the areas between the joints and the feet which were difficult to dry) and leaving the rest. (On the joints for protection and round the ribcage for buoyancy in the water and to protect the chest itself). Any trim, which has a mane, is considered by modern poodle experts as a lion trim, these include the original lion trim, the continental trim, puppy pants and the T clip.

The breed standard asks that the lion trim is adhered to for dogs in the ring and all of these versions can be seen today.

The intelligence of the poodle is renowned, and this is not just a figment of a besotted owner’s imagination, because it has been noted that the brain of a poodle has more convolutions on the surface than other breeds of their size. This is evidence of intelligence.

As you can see the poodle is a most versatile animal, capable of showing courage and loyalty, as well as inventing games and tasks for itself, without having to be taught. It is a pity that sometimes this honourable canine is mocked and ridiculed by the ignorance of the public especially by some of the males of the population. However I always feel that if a man needs a dog to make him a man, he is not much of one in the first place. But over the years I have had the most macho of men as clients who are devoted to their dogs.

In the words of Mrs Brunkner, a stalwart of the breed, "The only thing wrong with the poodle is that he is not immortal".


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Last modified: November 08, 2001