Forget the stuffy, stuck-up poodles of pop culture—in actuality, these pooches are athletic, intelligent, friendly dogs with so much to offer. The poodle’s bright demeanor and people-pleasing nature make them excellent pals for humans and peacekeepers among other pets. Standard poodles are the most athletic and agile of all the poodle types, and they take quickly to training. Poodles also have the privilege of being low odor and among the least-shedding of all coated dogs.
So they’re pretty much perfect, right? Not so fast. The timid poodle can border on neurotic at times, and they’re easily stressed out by noise and any amount of chaos or conflict. Poodles can also be time-consuming and expensive to groom. But if you can deal with these quirks, you’ll be rewarded with a loyal, lively pet who loves to make you happy.
The average purebred poodle puppy costs around $1,000 but you can expect to spend up to five times that amount for a poodle with superior pedigree.
Poodles are known for their curly coat, long pointed nose, and small dark eyes. They’re also famously associated with one of the most ornate dog grooming styles ever—the topiary continental clip, which leaves curly pompons of hair carefully shaped around the joints and chest. Those unfamiliar with poodles might be surprised to find that the flamboyant continental clip is largely seen only on show dog poodles—family pet poodles usually go with the more subtle sporting clip, which is a short and fuss-free style. You’ll most often find poodles with white, black, or brown coats, but they exist in a wide range of shades, from apricot to silver.
The height of a standard poodle is typically between 18 and 24 inches, although being over 15 inches specifically is what sets the standard poodle apart from miniature and toy poodles. (Miniature poodles are between 10 and 15 inches, and toy poodles are under 10 inches.) Standard poodles can weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, with female dogs tending to weigh less than the male ones. The standard is the largest and strongest of all the three poodle types.
Poodles are obedient, smart, and playful. They’re far from an aggressive breed, but they do have watchdog tendencies and will bark to alert you to any noises or visitors. The breed’s response to unfamiliar faces can range from friendly and engaging to shy and reserved.
“Although each dog should be viewed as an individual, poodles are known to be athletic, energetic, and motivated to learn,” Joan Hunter Mayer, CBCC-KA, a California-based professional dog trainer and behavior consultant says. “As a trainer who has worked with poodles of all sizes, I would agree that in general, this breed commonly lives up to these breed traits.”
The personable poodle loves interacting with his human and will do what he can to please you. These highly intelligent dogs also seem to have a sense for reading their owners’ body language and expressions, making them intuitive companions. Their sensitivity doesn’t stop there; they’re also prone to getting pretty emotional themselves. Poodles are hypersensitive pooches who can be easily startled by touch or sound, so watch out for bouts of anxiety.
These happy, high-strung animals love to romp around, bounce, run, and play nearly non-stop as puppies and young dogs. Their activity levels do change with maturity however, and you can expect them to calm down a bit between 18 months and 2 years of age. Standard poodles are also generally more calm than miniature and toy poodles.
Poodles need tons of exercise and opportunity for movement, so access to a spacious yard is ideal. If you don’t have a big backyard to offer your pup, make sure you make plenty of time for walks and visits to the dog park or another pet-safe open area for them to run and play. If you’re a nature lover, a poodle is a great pick. They’re naturally adventurous and love the water, so they make excellent outdoor companions.
Your poodle can technically be left alone for as long as they are able to go without need to potty, but they will certainly miss you. Try not to spend too much time away; this curly companion thrives on time spent with his people and poodles can develop separation anxiety issues if they don’t get enough attention.
Poodles are generally great family dogs and are friendly and accepting of animals in the house. They’re gentle and polite with kids, but because of their hypersensitive nature they can be easily overwhelmed by small, loud children and will need time to decompress. Poodles are better suited for families with older children or no children.
Similarly, if your home is often chaotic, noisy, or conflict-prone, your peaceful poodle may develop some anxiety issues. Poodles much prefer and appreciate a calm, quiet living arrangement.
The poodle is one of several dog breeds that has what’s known as a double coat. It’s a coat that consists of two layers: a dense undercoat of short woolly hairs and a topcoat of longer hairs called guard hairs. Double coats offer protection in both hot and cold climates, repel moisture and dirt, and the curly coat catches their loose longer shed hairs, so they don’t leave behind much hair at all.
“Poodle coats are unique,” Hunter Mayer says. “Unless the owner is savvy enough to take care of all the dog’s grooming needs, or wants to learn how, they will need to find a qualified reputable groomer who can do this for them. And, even if they are taking the dog to a groomer, they will still need to keep up with daily needs, including brushing.”
Poodles need to be groomed frequently, preferably every 3–6 weeks. Most owners have their poodle’s coat cut to one short length, in a grooming style known as the sporting clip. Poodles who are left with their manes to grow need meticulous daily brushing—once their curly coats become matted, the only solution is to shave them down and start over. Unless you’re taking up the clippers and teaching yourself to groom your poodle, you’ll need frequent grooming appointments. It’s an expense you’ll want to keep in mind when considering adding a poodle to the family.
Poodles are extremely active, athletic dogs who need plenty of daily exercise and love long walks. They’re up for adventure and love to stay busy, so it won’t be hard to keep them moving. Most poodles love to swim, and swimming can be an excellent workout for your curly cutie. They also love playing fetch and can get some of that abundant energy out chasing after balls and sticks in the backyard.
Thanks to their high intelligence and people-pleasing nature, poodles are fairly easy to train and enjoy making their humans happy, the American Kennel Club says. Keep training upbeat and encouraging, with lots of praise and consistency to get your eager-to-please poodle in his groove. Relative to other breeds, the poodle is easy to housebreak.
“Humane, reward-based training that focuses on behaviors you like and want will not only help teach the dog what you want, but also help form a stronger bond. It also often leads to a dog who enjoys learning and wants to participate in other activities,” Hunter Mayer says. “Whether it be teaching a simple trick like retrieving a ball, or learning how to lie still while children read to them, poodles can thrive if given the opportunity in a way they enjoy.”
Feed your standard poodle a healthy diet of high-quality dog food and always have fresh, clean water available for drinking. Check with your veterinarian about the appropriate recommendations for dog food brands and ingredients, how much and how often to feed your dog, and other dietary concerns.
Poodles have a lifespan of 12–15 years and are generally healthy dogs. Additionally, reputable breeders routinely test breeding stock for health issues, so if you’re taking care to research the breeder you’re working with when picking a purebred dog, you should know the dog’s lineage and what health problems if any run in the family. That being said, there are some health conditions standard poodles are prone to, including hip dysplasia and eye problems. Standard poodles are also prone to contracting Addison’s disease, an issue with the adrenal glands, as well as bloat, which is an accumulation of gas or fluid in the dog’s stomach. Keeping regularly scheduled veterinary appointments will help you stay up-to-date on your pup’s health and well being.
The name poodle most likely comes from the word pudelin, a German-language reference to the breed’s fondness for water, according to the AKC. The breed originated in Germany as duck-hunting, water retrieval dogs. The flamboyant continental clip haircut style that most associate with the poodle has functional origins. Because the dogs were jumping into freezing water to retrieve their owners’ hunt prey and too much heavy hair would weigh down the dog, owners would strategically clip the fur on their limbs to give them freedom of movement while swimming, leaving longer hair near the dog’s organs and joints to protect them in the cold water.
The poodle’s friendly temperament and lovable looks eventually caught the attention of members of French nobility and the breed soon became popular throughout Europe. Poodles’ natural elegance and trainability made them the stars of many European circus acts, the AKC says. The standard poodle was eventually bred down to the miniature and toy poodles we also know and love today. In fact, the poodle is the only breed with three size classifications.