There are three primary sizes, or varieties, of poodle which share the same breed standard. Whilst all three varieties have been in existence for centuries, the largest variety, the standard poodle, is the oldest of the varieties. The smaller miniature and toy varieties were developed from the standard variety only a short time after the breed assumed the general type by which it is recognized today.
Probably due to the age of the breed, there is some confusion concerning the poodle’s country of origin. Some say it originated in Germany, some favour France and others feel that it originated in Russia. Whichever is the case, we do know that the poodle was first used to retrieve game from the water. It has since been used to search out truffles, pull milk carts in countries such as Brussels, delight circus audiences worldwide as a popular performer and to act as a fashionable companion dog, particularly for the ladies of France.
The tradition of clipping the non shedding coat of the poodle originated due to the fact that, whilst in the water, the hair on the hindquarters weighed the dog down and tired it whilst it was swimming. The hair was therefore clipped from the hindquarters, but retained elsewhere for protection of the heart, lungs and joints. The topknot was grown on the head and tied with a coloured ribbon to distinguish a particular dog from others it may have been working with.
The poodle was traditionally a docked breed but, since the inception of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it now sports a full tail.
The miniature poodle is smaller than the standard poodle, but larger than the toy and measures under 38 cms (15 ins), but not less than 28 cms (11 ins) at the shoulder.
It has a non shedding coat which comes in a wide variety of colours including black, white, brown, cream, blue, silver, apricot and red. Parti colours and other non Kennel Club recognised patterned colours are also found.
There is a common misconception that poodles are 'foo-foo' dogs which spend the large majority of their time occupied in personal embellishment. There may be some truth in this in the case of a show poodle which needs to be kept in exhibition order; but in the case of a poodle kept in a regularly maintained pet trim, no more time in grooming is required than for any other dog of his size.
Poodles are lively, affectionate dogs which make wonderful companions. They have an innate intelligence and their versatility and ability to learn is considered exceptional. They are unusually sensitive to vocal intonation and this is probably one of the reasons why they are so easy to train. Poodles thrive on a busy life and being involved in all family matters. They can also be good guard dogs, announcing visitors, but are never aggressive.
On the negative side poodles can be sensitive to stress and can develop digestive upsets and neurotic behaviours if their harmonious home is disrupted by difficult, stressful occurrences.
As with many breeds, the miniature poodle has its share of inheritable health problems. These include the prcd form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which causes juvenile blindness. There is a genetic test for this which identifies this gene in miniature poodles. Anyone purchasing a miniature poodle puppy would be well advised to check that both its sire and dam have been tested for the prcd form of PRA and at that at least one of them is clear, with the other being preferably clear or at least a carrier.
Miniature poodles have also been known to develop cataracts, corneal dystrophy, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, patella subluxation, epilepsy, hypothyroidism and cryptorchidism. Whilst the conditions may not be inherited in all cases, a susceptibility to them can be. It is therefore extremely important to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder who has healthy stock from healthy lines which are unaffected by these conditions.