By Charlene Dunlap
All Poodle owners influence public opinion about Poodles
THE SOCIALLY CORRECT avoid categorizing, stereotyping or insensitively labeling others. Nobel goals. But they don't apply to Poodles. It IS still popular to disparage Poodles as did Anne Fadiman in LIFE MAGAZINE. ". . . . Poodles are not pets at all but rather animate hedges upon which to practice topiary." Captain Haggerty, in this book, HOW TO GET YOUR PET INTO SHOW BUSINESS lists dogs used to create an image in the media. Under Poodles, he lists: foolish, comical, foppish, expensive, yappy, extravagant.
Where do people get their perception of Poodles? In movies, elaborately coifed Poodles are ushered into waiting limousines. High fashion Poodles pose in pages of VOGUE. Pet Poodles with shaved feet and obvious "hair-dos" seem overly pampered. Ragamuffin dogs, barely recognized as Poodles, play in city parks. Poodles at shelters hobble on mat-cemented legs. Are Poodles only the sum of their hair?
Recently, the entertainment industry chose to take a kinder look at the Poodle. In the movie LOOK WHO'S TALKING NOW, those around her describe Daphne, a white Standard Poodle in modified continental clip, as "over-educated and vain." But, by the end of the movie, Daphne's owners gain a new appreciation for their resourceful and vivacious Poodle.
Helen Whitehouse Walker, credited in this country with establishing the sport of dog obedience to demonstrate canine intelligence and trainability, did so with (and originally for) Poodles. Poodles also have a marked sense of showmanship. They love to entertain people with their lively and inventive antics.
Poodles have an ancient working heritage, both as water retrievers and as circus performers. But, in today's society, Poodles are perhaps best and most uniquely suited as special playmates for the young at heart. They have an intuitive awareness, a generosity of spirit and a zest for life that makes them ideal companions and versatile helpmates.
EACH OF US has a personal reason for choosing Poodles, and each of us is categorigzed either positively or negatively by others for that choice. Whether we like it or not, we all take part in influencing public opinion about dogs in general and about Poodles in particular. We do this every time someone sees us with our Poodle, sees how our Poodle is groomed, how we interact with our Poodle and how our Poodle behaves. We can enhance the public's opinion of Poodles by adhering to a few simple guidelines:
1) Keep Your Poodle Well-groomed.
Poodles, more than any other breed, show the effects of being clean and well groomed. But, they are extremely high maintenance dogs and it takes considerable time and effort to preserve the Poodle aura. Admiring would-be owners may not be willing or able to make such a high degree of commitment. Poodle hair grows continually and requires regular and frequent grooming. Teeth, ears, and toenails also need continual care. Filthy, matted Poodles with taloned nails, infected ears and tartar covered teeth are miserable and pitiful creatures.
2) Train Your Poodle.
People know that Poodles are remarkably intelligent and if a Poodle acts ill-mannered and illiterate, it reflects poorly on their human. Training does not have to be a structured event. One of the joys of having a Poodle companion is interacting with it on a daily basis. We can educate our dogs by paying attention to them and rewarding any behavior that we want to continue by using positive recognition, praise, treats or play. We shape new behaviors by rewarding initial attempts of the desired behavior, then only closer approximations and, finally, rewarding only the desired behavior itself.
3) Socialize Your Poodle.
Poodles taken to numerous and varied places and introduced to many different experiences become conditioned to diverse sights and sounds. They learn about people of all ages. They learn to relate to other well-behaved dogs. We can accomplish this be taking our dogs on fun excursions to new as well as familiar places. What do dogs think is fun? One is that their owner is having fun and paying positive attention to them. Pick the time, place and length of each excursion to maximize the benefit. Start by visiting places with few distractions, then gradually intensify exposure. Visualize the perfectly behaved Poodle and then reward every approximation of that ideal. Reward with gentle, happy words and soft eye contact. Give a favorite food reward for acceptable behavior until the dog is comfortable in each new situation. It takes time, effort and dedication on our part, but the reward is a well-adjusted, well-behaved Poodle that is a pleasure to have as a companion.
well-behaved Poodles attract a crowd. Toddlers to seniors want to touch and admire these sophisticated, yet playful, dogs and they take away a feeling of discovery and satisfaction. In addition, the more people learn about Poodles -- their compelling qualities as well as their special lifelong requirements -- the easier it will be for responsible breeders to find informed and suitable homes for their puppies.
All Poodles deserve warm tummies, soft beds and sweet dreams. We can nurture this goal by being role models of responsible caretakers, by educating people we meet about the obligations and joys of Poodle ownership and by joining with others to work for a positive position for dogs in our society.
The Public has many labels that they attach to Poodles, but we who are loved by Poodles know our companions to be curly geniuses, irrepressible clowns, dedicated achievers, and radiant best friends. We who love Poodles strive to make our companions the perfect emissary between the public and the canine community. A little effort on our part will warm the heart of Poodle and public alike.
A white Standard Poodle in sporting trim plays a role in an episode of the TV show MURDER SHE WROTE. Jack is a CIA undercover agent. Bill, the detective who unwitting ends up with Jack, wants a German Shepherd or a Doberman, not that "dainty little fru fru that pranced along at his side." Again, the jaunty disposition, the charm and intelligence that is inherently Poodle wins over the hardened protagonist. These portrayals more accurately represent the true character of our breed and we can help encourage this positive attitude of how the public perceives Poodles.
Why should we care what the public thinks about Poodles -- or about dogs for that matter? Should we be concerned that cities pass laws to ban some breeds of dogs, limit the number of dogs we can live with, and restrict where we can and cannot go with our dogs? Should it bother us that irresponsible dog owners seriously damage the public's attitude towards all dogs and dog ownership? And, can we even do anything to affect laws and public opinion?
IN THE POODLE, we have the ideal diplomat. While temperament, structure and intellect make them capable of excelling in a diversity of functions, it is perhaps the Poodle's manipulable hair that destines many for life as the
4) Poodle Etiquette
People delight in meeting a courteous, goo-natured dog -- one that relates pleasantly to them to to their children. Most Poodles trained to perform on cue -- shake hands, sit up like a teddy bear, or curtsy when introduced -- charm people as if by magic. Our intelligent, social Poodles like being part of the interaction rather than merely being objects of attention. It is imperative that Poodles taken to public places be well-trained. It is only by having well-mannered dogs that we can continue to enjoy the freedom
of having our FPoodles accompany us on many and diverse outings.
You religiously groom your Poodle. You consistently train your dog in a variety of locations using positive reinforcement. You have a rapport with your companion that borders on telepathic. Now you want to enjoy the company of your best friend in a broader range of activities. With the popularity of dog sports, there are many opportunities to pick from. You can enjoy obedience, agility, flyball, musical canine freestyle, tracking or hunting trails. Some Poodles have even competed in sledding trails.
In many localities, dog organizations and park services have annual dog events where you and your Poodle can socialize, join in competitive games or simply relax as spectators. You can join a group (or start your own) and volunteer to give fun and informative demonstrations with your Poodle at schools. You can visit nursing homes where your dog spreads sunshine into shadows of elderly lives. You can give demonstrations about Canine Good Citizens to business groups -- our lawmakers.
You can make friends of like-minded dog lovers and have dog get-togethers at each other's homes. You can organize dog/owner picnics at parks. You and your friends can pack lunches, water, and dog treats and go on day long hiking treks to the mountains with your dogs. In addition, there are public places (each city is different) where people and their dogs can enjoy each other's company -- strolling through parks, window shopping on city streets, or relaxing at a sidewalk cafe.
THE MORE OF OURSELVES we share with our Poodles, the more they have to share with us, our friends, and people we encounter on our outings. The more the public sees us with our well-mannered, well-groomed Poodles, the more we address the issue of responsible dog ownership. Beautiful,
THE ROLE OF THE POODLE has evolved and changed to fit modern requirements. This is as it should be. Although some owners still enjoy utilizing the Poodle's hunting heritage by competiting in field trails, others channel this talent into tracking and advanced obedience. These activities spotlight and publicize the working capabilities of our breed. Poodles still entertain us in circuses, but most performing Poodles do so mainly for family, friends, and small audiences. People appreciate and admire the Poodle's natural aptitude for doing difficult tricks.
consummate show dog. This magnificently groomed image the public sees in the show ring -- the icon of what a Poodle looks like -- can work to our advantage. For no other breed looks so impeccably clean, so sophisticated or so eminently suited for the company of humans.
Hair IS an important part of the Poodle image; however, it is not what makes the Poodle one of the most beloved of all breeds. Poodles are sensitive and empathetic. The social instincts of a companion dog have been strongly honed in Poodles for countless generations and they crave strong relationships with their owners.
Poodle intelligence is renowned. A comment strangers often make about Poodles is that their expression is so human-like.