Poodles are subject to regretful stereotypes such as “girly”, “frou-frou” and “not being a real dog.”
This is more the result of their owners’ preferences in appearance and comportment than being actual characteristics of the breed. Poodles are both highly intelligent and highly active as evidenced by their being ranked the second-most intelligent dog breed and their historical (and modern use) hunting and water sports.
They are remarkably popular even among people with allergies. Unlike the majority of dogs, poodles do not have doubled layers of hair. Consequently, they do not shed nor have the dander so disastrous to allergies. Poodle hair grows in the same manner as human hair. Sadly, this means they are subject to similar problems as human hair. Mats and tangles are quick to form and necessitate frequent washing and brushing especially by owners who show dogs competitively. Owners who do not show their poodles avoid the hours of maintenance by keeping the hair shaved short. For the men in the family embarrassed by poodles, this has the added benefit of making the poodle look like a type of Labrador or curly-coated retriever.
The show-coats of poodles, poofy and effeminate as they may appear, are based in hunting and survival. The most common clip, the Continental, results in the face, throat, feet, and hindquarters being shaved. Some owners leave circular patches of hair (officially called ‘rosettes’ and often referred to as ‘pompoms’) on the hips. This cut was designed for when poodles were hunting in the cold waters of Germany and France and could risk illness or death by immersion.
By leaving the front of the body covered in hair, the internal organs are insulated and kept warm. This helps stave off hypothermia and chills. By shaving the hindquarters and feet the dog gains greater mobility while swimming. This helps the dog stay afloat and not sink with the weight of heavy, water-saturated hair.
The outrageous explosions of poof in today’s dog shows are the result of exaggerating the dog’s adherence to the original breed standards. Likewise, the trend of coloring the poodle’s hair and cutting it into unique shapes is the result of human will. Poodles, especially white ones, are the easiest breed to decorate; otherwise some other breed would hold the position of Artistic Guinea-Dog.
Do not let appearances deceive! Poodles are than the poof they wear. Their athleticism and intelligence make them excellent companions for men and women alike.