Poodle: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

White poodle lying in grass

Patrick Heagney / Getty Images

The poodle is an extremely smart, energetic, and friendly member of the non-sporting group that originated in Germany and is known for its curly coat and three size varieties: toy, miniature, and standard. All sizes are considered to be the same dog breed and, as such, are held to the same breed standards. Under the poodle's frilly, low-shedding coat is a powerful athlete and an overall wonderful companion. These dogs typically get along with people very well and can be trained in a variety of tasks, including work as service and therapy dogs.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Non-Sporting

HEIGHT: Up to 10 inches (toy), 10 to 15 inches (miniature), over 15 inches (standard)

WEIGHT: 4 to 6 pounds (toy), 10 to 15 pounds (miniature), 40 to 70 pounds (standard)

COAT: Curly, long

COAT COLOR: Apricot, black, blue, brown, cafe au lait, cream, gray, red, silver, silver beige, or white

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 18 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, affectionate, active

HYPOALLERGENIC: Yes

ORIGIN: Germany

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Characteristics of the Poodle

Poodles tend to have a friendly and outgoing personality. High energy and intelligence also influence their temperament, and they prefer to have an active lifestyle. They generally are good around kids and even open to meeting strangers.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Poodle

Despite being associated with France, poodles can actually trace their origin back to Germany. Going back more than 400 years, Germany had a dog that resembles today’s poodle—a retriever that was skilled in the water. In fact, the breed’s name comes from the German word for puddle.

The standard poodle is the oldest form of the breed. Hunters used this dog to retrieve waterfowl as well as to be a loving and loyal companion. They gave the poodle its trademark haircut, shaving parts for better range of motion but keeping the hair long around the chest and joints for protection and insulation. 

In the early 20th century, the breed was downsized to the toy poodle and then the miniature, as more people wanted the poodle as a companion and not for hunting. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1887, and it is still one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. today.

black-and-white photo of a poodle
Evening Standard / Getty Images

Poodle Care

Poodles require ample daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. They also need consistent training and are typically adept at picking up new skills. Plus, their curly coat needs a fair amount of grooming attention.

Exercise

All sizes of poodle have a high energy level, along with high mental stimulation needs. They need at least an hour of exercise per day. Brisk walks, jogging, hiking, and swimming all are great options to give them exercise. And as retrievers, they love a game of fetch. Plus, they excel in dog sports, such as agility, which also can challenge them mentally. In addition, classes for service dogs, therapy dogs, and similar activities are a great way to challenge them mentally and physically. 

Grooming

The coarse, curly, low-shedding, single-layer coat of a poodle grows continuously. It needs regular haircuts to keep it looking its best. Most owners keep the coat short for easier maintenance. You can either learn how to trim it at home or take your poodle to a groomer roughly every four to six weeks.

Regular brushing also is essential, as the hair is retained in the coat rather than being shed. This can lead to matting if you don’t brush your poodle fully to the skin. It’s best to brush at least two to three times per week, and some owners do so daily.

Baths and nail trims will be required about every four to six weeks. Also, check your dog’s ears at least weekly to see whether they need cleaning or have any abnormalities. Finally, aim to brush your dog's teeth every day.

Training

Like all dogs, poodles require proper training and socialization to be happy and well-adjusted. Because poodles are extremely smart and eager to please, they can easily be trained to perform a variety of commands and tricks. But they also can learn that they can get away with bad habits if you aren't consistent in your training. So aim to start training when your dog is still a puppy with a basic obedience class.

Also, start socialization as early as possible by exposing your dog to different people, other dogs, and various settings. Most poodles love people and can even be good in multi-pet households when raised with the other pets. Plus, poodles are generally good around children. However, the smaller toy and miniature poodles might not be a good choice with children who don’t know how to treat a dog gently, as they might become injured.

Toy poodle in a park
Naho Yoshizawa/Aflo / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Poodles are a healthy dog breed overall. But they are prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

poodles as pets illustration

The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your poodle. Most owners feed two measured meals per day of a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. Discuss the type of food and the quantity with your vet, as this can vary depending on age, activity level, and other factors. Make sure to factor treats and other extra food intake into your dog’s daily diet to prevent overeating. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a Poodle

Check your local animal shelter and breed-specific rescue groups for a poodle in need of a home. If you’re looking for a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $2,000 on average, though this can vary widely. For further information to help connect you with a poodle, check out:

Poodle Overview

Pros
  • Generally does well with children

  • Smart and easy to train

  • Low shedder

Cons
  • Requires a significant amount of grooming

  • Requires sufficient daily exercise

  • Needs lots of attention

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, if you think the poodle is right for you, be sure to do plenty of research before adopting one. Talk to veterinarians, poodle owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • What were poodles bred for?

    Poodles were bred to be hunting dogs, specifically for their strong swimming ability in retrieving waterfowl. They also were bred to be lovable and friendly companions, especially the smaller varieties.

  • Are poodles good family dogs?

    Well trained and socialized poodles can make for excellent family dogs. They generally are good with children, though the smaller varieties might be too fragile around kids who don't know how to treat a dog gently.

  • Are poodles good apartment dogs?

    The toy and miniature poodle can be good apartment dogs, though they still need to get out for daily exercise. The standard poodle might be able to live in a spacious apartment as long as it gets ample activity each day.

Article Sources
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  1. Poodle. American Kennel Club.

  2. Poodle Puppies For Sale. American Kennel Club.