Monday, August 16, 2010

Poodle Days of Summer

Some people have clown phobias.
Me? Poodles.
Poodles were out en masse today. They were everywhere on my six-mile, morning constitutional. Seriously. I think we counted a dozen poodles and poodle-licious dogs and only three non-poodles -- four, counting me.

I realized, I just don't see poodles out and about all that much. Barking from backs of couches behind plate glass windows, yes. Tucked under the arms of protective owners, yes. But out in the heat, the cold, the rain, the snow or at the dog park? Not so much.

The snappy autumn weather makes us all feel frisky. This fine day obviously called all those poodles and their owners out of their houses for a stroll along the river. It was sunny, breezy and not a lick of that humidity. I don't think I panted once. It was one of the fine poodle days of summer.

As we passed poodle after poodle - which is no easy task, as they are often nasty, barky things that seemed ready to tear out my throat - it got me thinking about poodles as a breed. I admit to having some serious stereotypes to slog through. 

First, are poodles and their like too froo-froo fragile to be out in the true dog days of summer? Or are they just too picky? Maybe poodles don't like to walk like active dogs like me.

My Susan's friend has a little lap dog that simply lays down and goes all conscientious objector at about block two of any walk -- even on the most perfect of days. (I also hear that she goes pee-pee on a little mat-mat in the house-house.) Do poodles have delicate constitutions? Are they hot-house flowers?

After a bit of research - because, frankly, I don't know any poodles well -- I've decided that poodles may well be one of the most misunderstood breeds out there.

I think their cuteness and non-shedding coats get poodles them selected for duty by people looking for cute widdle doggies that won't mess up their house. (Ironically, poodles apparently have a very high "marking" drive so they may well cause some serious havoc in white carpet abodes.)

Poodles are actually very active dogs and require very active owners. In fact, poodles are hunting dogs. Water retrievers. Think lab or spaniel.

It does look funny, doesn't it?
It is time for me to re-think the poodle.
That silly haircut? The puffy pom-pom "poodle clip" was actually, according to the American Kennel Club, "designed by hunters to help the dogs move through the water more efficiently. The patches of hair left on the body are meant to protect vital organs and joints which are susceptible to cold." 

The poodle-do actually serves a practical purpose. Who knew?
And poodles are actually razor smart. We're talking second-only-to-border-collie intelligence. Poodles excel in obedience training. There's a reason circus dogs are poodles - beyond the fact that they look better in tutus than hounds - they can learn to do amazing things.

Yet the poodles I see in public are, as a group, among the most obnoxiously ill-mannered creatures on the leash - straining and barking and jumping on people and dogs. (I'm mostly talking medium and toy poodles, not standard. Standard poodles are big dogs - such behavior would not be tolerated.) My Susan has been bitten by a dog only once in her life. You guessed it - he was a poodle.

So, if it isn't that poodles are dumb or hard to train, then that pretty much puts their bad behavior back in the laps of the owners. What a surprise.

Poor poodles.
I feel bad for poodles. Poodles are noble hunters asked to be couch cushions, teddy bears and fashion accessories. No wonder they are cranky. I will try to be more sympathetic when I pass them on a fine summer day.

Note: I always thought  the "dog days of summer" described days that are so hot and humid that the dogs just lounge around and pant. But the "dog days of summer" actually comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, in close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather. I like my idea better.


  1. I agree with you, Carmella. Little poodles are yappy, unpleasant dogs with bad teeth and worse manners. My elderly mother (bless her heart) loved the little buggers until she died. I prefer mutts for good sound dogs but my condo assn doesn't allow dogs so I have three cats.
    Do you think three cats equal one dog?

  2. I agree with all the GOOD stuff that you wrote, and that it's ENTIRELY the owners' faults if poodles behave badly. My family has had many small poodles (miniature, 15 lb-range), and they are WONDERFUL dogs who LOVE the outdoors, LOVE to run, play, jump, chase balls, as much as any mutt. Like most dogs, they NEED exercise and a "job"; and because they are freakishly smart, they need a stimulating life. If they are bored and under-exercised, they will behave badly. They are wonderful company and love to please their owners. All you have to do is train them, which can be a great lot of fun because they learn so fast. And of course, discipline them and be consistent. And their teeth are like ours -- fine if you take care of them (proper food & chew-toys, regular brushing & cleaning).

  3. I train service dogs....and keep as my personal dog a miniature poodle. I have owned Malinois, GSD, Labs, Goldens and a Bichon. I love the intelligence of the poodle. You just can't beat it, but I don't recommend them to many....just because the are so smart. If you don't train them, they train you. I run/walk my poodle 5-7 miles a day. He loves outside, running down any mammal in his yard, and hunting. yup, you read that right. but most of all he loves training. he is not barky or yappy or ill mannered. If you are not as smart as your poodle, don't get one.