Poodles are easily recognized for their textured, curly fur. But there’s a lot you might not know about France’s national dog.
1. Poodles are actually from Germany.
Despite their French reputation, poodles hail from Germany, where they were called pudel. According to the American Kennel Club, pudelin is a German word that refers to splashing in puddles.
2. Poodles were historically great at their jobs.
What do poodles have to do with puddles? While poodles today have connotations of wealth and luxury, they were bred to work. The athletic dogs are excellent swimmers and were used by hunters to retrieve ducks and other birds from the water. They even have a “soft mouth,” so they can gently pick up wounded or dead game. In France, the dogs were called caniche, or “duck dog.”
3. Their fancy ‘do has a purpose.
Since these dogs were jumping into freezing cold water, they needed protection. Too much wet fur would weigh them down, so hunters would strategically shear their hair. The pattern was meant to protect vital areas from cold waters.
4. Poodles come in three varieties.
Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. These terms only describe the dogs’ size, and the American Kennel Club considers them all the same breed.
5. The Iditarod Dog Sled Race once had a standard poodle team.
In 1988, a musher named John Suter entered the race with an all-poodle sled team. They didn't do so well: Thanks to matted fur and cold paws, many of the dogs had to be dropped off at checkpoints. This struggle led to a new rule that dictated only northern breeds like Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes are allowed to race. This measure ensures the safety of breeds that aren’t cut out for the extreme cold.
6. Poodle fur never stops growing.
Unlike dogs that shed, a poodle will grow fur continuously. As a result, they need regular grooming. If left ungroomed, their fur will become matted. On the upside, they generally don't have as strong of an odor as other breeds.
7. This special fur has led to some crossbreeds.
The poodle has been bred with other popular dogs like Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, and wheaten terriers to make more hypoallergenic breeds (though there's actually no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog).
8. Elvis loved poodles.
The King loved dogs and had quite a collection at Graceland. When he was stationed in Germany, he had a poodle named Champagne. He also gave away many poodles to the women he loved: A toy poodle named Little Bit went to a girlfriend, and he gave a poodle named Honey to his wife Priscilla.
9. Poodles are super smart.
Poodles are one of the smartest breeds, second only to the border collie in rankings of canine intelligence. Their smarts make them easy to train and a favorite of circuses. In the 1800s, they were often dressed in miniature human clothing and trained to act out elaborate scenes.
10. One toy poodle knows how to work an elevator.
Nala the teacup poodle was never trained to operate an elevator, but she somehow figured it out and used it to visit the residents at a local nursing home where her owner, Doug Dawson, worked. The small dog could navigate the hallways all by herself and bring comfort to those around her. "She'd rather ride it alone than with people, because she knows where she's going," Dawson said, in 2015. "If she could, she would push the button herself." Dawson passed away in 2020.
A version of this story originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.