Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
The poodle is admitted to be among the most intelligent of dogs, and why he should have been specially selected for the clown is hard to understand; but the fact remains that for hundreds of years it has been the custom to treat his coat in such a way as to make him ridiculous.
Either they clip his face, body, and legs, leaving ruffles about his paws, tie the hair on top of his head with a ribbon, and send him out looking like a little girl going to a party, or they partially clip him and allow the rest of the hair to grow long until it twists itself into cords which trail on the ground, making it practically impossible to keep the dog clean and sweet. Some owners tie these long cords in little bundles over the back to hold them out of the dirt, but fortunately the great difficulty in keeping the so-called "corded" poodle fit for exhibition is causing him to become less and less popular.
Thus the clever and adaptable poodle must forever, it seems, be made a clown when in reality he is one of the cleverest and most teachable of dogs. Incidentally, he has all the qualities of a first-class fowling dog: keen scent, good sight, venturous spirit, and an inveterate love for the water. In many ways, both physical and temperamental, he resembles the strong and capable old Irish water spaniel, and doubtless they have much in common.
The "Caniche," as the French rather affectionately call him, is the trick-dog par excellence. Every dog show or "animal act" is largely dependent on him for its best features and the "bad dog" is almost invariably of this type.
The pictures show the three best known variations. In any case, everybody knows a poodle, and it is a pity that this humorous fashion of making him look ridiculous should have the effect of hiding from most people the truly fine character that these dogspossess.
Physically he differs from the Irish water spaniel in being taller on his legs and generally slenderer; the muzzle is a little longer and there is a strong tendency toward board and moustache which the clean-faced spaniel should never show. They may be black, brown, red, tawny, or white, but must be self-colored. The extravagant growth of woolly hair is a strange feature of the breed, particularly in the lesspopular corded variety. The "toys" arc governed (though less strictlv) by the same standards as the bigger type. The eye. though small, is very bright and intelligent, and of all dogs these seem to enjoy most keenly the performance of tricks and capers taught by their masters. There is almost no limit to their capacity to learn. In Europe, heavier and more muscular strains of the breed are used as draught dogs, and in parts of Germany there is a strain used for herding sheep.
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