The Standard Hunting Poodle
By Ryan Eder
I’ll be honest, I never imagined being in a duck blind with a poodle. The thought of trekking through a field in pursuit of a rooster pheasant and shooting over a poodle just never occurred to me. I would venture to guess that this is true for many of you as well. When someone says “Poodle” I immediately think of a white dog with a funny haircut, literally. Furthermore, if you have ever watched a dog show on television or looked at dog breeds according to their group classification the Poodle actually occupies the “Non-Sporting Group” in the AKC (American Kennel Club).
If you have not heard this already, let me be the one to tell you that this dog can hunt. If you have been reading Canine Corner for a while, you may remember a past article I wrote called “A Look at a Few Underrated Breeds for Upland Hunting”. In this article the Poodle was listed as the second most underrated upland dog (in my opinion based on judging upland hunting venues).
There are two things that I prefer in a hunting dog; Intelligence and Biddability. If a dog has the brains, and is willing to work with you then I do believe the sky is the limit in terms of what you can accomplish together. Having seen several Poodles in the field over the past few years of judging UGA events, what stands out to me the most is their incredible intelligence. The dog is so deliberate in what they do, the way that they use the wind and terrain to their advantage is fascinating to watch. They show incredible drive and athleticism while covering ground but they let their nose do the work and are incredibly calculated in the moves that they make. Some of the most methodical quartering and bird finding ability I have ever seen was while watching the Standard Poodle hunt quail. Originally bred as a water dog, this breed is incredibly versatile and is a strong swimmer making them an excellent choice for waterfowl hunting as well.
Aside from intelligence and versatility, this breed works very well with their trainer or handler and can be taught very easily (biddability). While the breed is not one that handles tremendous pressure, there is really no need for excessive pressure when a dog can be taught through repetition and proper teaching. All-in-all, the Poodle has “the goods” in terms of being easy to work with, highly intelligent and versatile in terms of being an upland or waterfowl hunter.
Other “Upsides” to the Breed
When selecting a dog, there are more factors to consider than just the field. In the home the Poodle is incredibly loyal, well-tempered and does fantastic in the family setting. While not everyone that owns a hunting dog requires these traits, I have always valued a dog that can be around people and other dogs without problems. To me, a well-tempered and social dog is easier to own and incorporate into your day to day life.
Another upside to the Poodle is the fact that their coat is hypoallergenic; making them an outstanding choice for those of us that need to be mindful of dog allergies in our home. They also do not shed a lot making them ideal house dogs.
Things to Know About the Poodle
There are always things about a particular dog breed that any prospective owner should be aware of, regardless of the breed. With the Poodle, the first (and most important in my opinion) item that anyone needs to know before owning a Poodle is that while they are highly intelligent, they require a specific type of training. What I mean by “type” is that this breed is not one that takes harsh pressure well. Like many highly intelligent breeds, they can hold grudges and easily associate negative experiences with an apprehensive attitude. The “heavy handed” trainer will likely struggle with this breed, however if you take your time and teach, they can catch on incredibly quick. For this reason, corrections need to be timely and precise. When it comes to breeds like this, the best motto is “Teach. Don’t train”. Proper understanding of how the Poodle learns is crucial to your success. With their high level of intelligence, natural drive and athleticism this breed simply needs someone to show them what to do, and they will develop nicely.
Another item that prospective owners need to realize is that their coats come with a certain amount of required maintenance. Any poodles that are spending time in the field typically wear the “sporting” or “field” cut, which keeps their coats trimmed. Every 4-5 weeks this breed should be groomed.
Any chance I get to spotlight a particular hunting dog breed I take advantage. There are simply not enough platforms out there to truly show people how many great options there are in terms of dog breeds to hunt and share your home with. I love to see a variety of dogs out there having success in the field, and the Poodle is one of those breeds that I think will grow in popularity because of how exceptional they are as family dogs. Being a breed that does not shed much, is hypoallergenic, extremely intelligent and a versatile hunter makes them a fantastic choice for just about anyone.
Until recently I had never seen a Poodle in the field. What I saw was beyond impressive and everyone at the event could not believe that they just saw a Standard Poodle cover an entire field with unmatched accuracy, drive and intensity while under complete control. These dogs can hunt, and I’d love for more hunters to witness it; I do believe the number of hunting poodles will increase as they gain more exposure.