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Why do Poodles come in Different Sizes?
The Poodle is one of the most popular and easily recognized dog breeds in the world, as well as one of the smartest. Love them or hate them everyone knows what a Poodle looks like. Most people also know that Poodles come in different sizes.
- The Standard is the largest at between 18” and 24” tall on average. However, many are much larger (my own Standard Poodle boy is 27” to the wither at a year old). They weigh, on average between 20kg and 30kg.
- The Moyen or medium stands at 18” to 20” tall and weighs 9kg to 18kg.
- The Miniature stands between 11” and 15” tall and weighs between 7kg and 9 kg.
- The Toy who stands up to 10” tall and weighs 3kg to 4kg
- Finally, there is the even tinier Teacup who is under 9” tall and up to 3kg in weight.
However, I must mention that only three sizes, Toy, Miniature, and Standard are officially recognized and eligible for showing. Moyen is largely thought of as a Standard Poodle who is on the smaller side and Teacup being a name given to particularly small Toy Poodles.
You may have wondered why this is? As most of our recognized dog breeds, Poodles were purpose-bred by humans to look a certain way and have certain traits. Size is no exception. The reason they have been bred over the years to come in various sizes is simply to make them suitable for everybody.
You may love Poodles but have limited space. Perhaps you’re not strong enough to deal with a large dog if he needs lifting into the car. These are just some examples. They have been intentionally bred so that whatever your situation if you are a Poodle lover, there is a Poodle in a size to suit you.
Poodles are understandably incredibly popular in the show ring and whilst they are all one breed, the different sizes are registered and shown separately. Each has its own specific breed standard and for this reason, you will not see them competing against each other except for in Best in Show.
No matter what his size the Poodle should be instantly recognizable with the smaller varieties being perfect copies of the large Standard Poodle, just scaled down.
Which Size Poodle came First?
Of all the Poodle sizes which one is the original? Many people think it was the Miniature or Toy Poodles as typically the first thing that comes to mind when you say Poodle is a small, white, fluffy dog often associated with high-class ladies.
So, you may be surprised to know that the very first Poodles were the Standards. The Standard Poodle has been around since the 15th century and originated not in France as is commonly thought but in Germany.
The name Poodle derives from the German word Pudel or Pudelhund which means to splash in water. Very appropriate for a dog whose original purpose was as a duck hunter or more specifically a water retriever.
Unsurprisingly the Poodle is an excellent swimmer and most love getting in the water at any given opportunity. Not really what you’d expect if your image of the Poodle is a fancy show dog!
The association with the gentry and high-class folks also harks back to the Poodle’s origins as a gundog as shooting was a past time of the rich rather than the farmers or peasants. The AKC recognized the Standard Poodle in 1887 with the Miniature following soon after.
The Toy Poodle was actually developed in England in the 18th century with the unrecognized sizes, the Moyen and the Teacup being more recent additions to the sizes seen today.
The Miniature Poodle whilst bred primarily to be a companion dog was reported to have been used for truffle hunting as their smaller feet and lower body weight was less likely to damage the delicate fungi than their large counterparts the Standards.
Standard Poodles have even been used by the military as working dogs since as far back as the 17th century. In addition to their intelligence and trainability, their background as a gun dog made them suitable for the battlefield. Contrary to the preconception of Poodles as a highly strung fancy dog breed they were easily taught to ignore gunfire. In 1942 Poodles became one of the breeds officially classified as war dogs by the Army.
Poodles became popular as circus dogs in the 20th century and were soon seen as status symbols for the wealthy which is perhaps why they were gradually bred in smaller and smaller sizes so that they would be more portable and easier to take out and about with their owners.
How were the Different Sizes Bred?
This is a tricky question as the history of the Poodle is often disputed. However, as already discussed there is no doubt that he was bred to be a gundog and originated from Germany rather than France who later adopted him as their national dog.
It is believed that original Poodles were derived from the French Barbet, a breed who does indeed look very similar to the Poodle and perhaps the Hungarian Water Dog too. Whilst we don’t know exactly how Poodles were bred, we do know why they sport the characteristics that they are known for.
That fabulous coarse, curly coat that can be styled in so many ways is water repellent and even the fancy clips originally served the purpose of keeping vital organs warm and helping to keep him afloat. Even the pom-pom on the end of the tail had a purpose. The dog’s owners would tie a colored ribbon to the dog’s tail which helped him identify his own dog from a distance if he was retrieving a duck from a lake.
Another interesting fact that we do know is that the original Poodles were Parti colored with selective breeding later making solid-colored dogs more popular and these days in some countries, the UK, for example, only solid-colored dogs are recognized and able to be shown. Whilst a Parti colored dog can be registered his paperwork will state ‘color not recognized’ and he is ineligible for the confirmation ring. In America, I’m happy to say Parti colored and patterned Poodles are recognized and can be seen gracing the show ring.
Knowing that the original Poodles were Standard sized we need to take a look at how the different sizes were bred. Contrary to belief this was not by crossing them with other smaller breeds but rather by breeding from the smallest standards that appeared in a litter. Gradually over time, this selective breeding gave us the Miniature Poodle ( although we could argue that although not recognized the Moyen would’ve appeared first as part of the process of scaling down) Then later with the popularity of tiny dogs that could be carried more easily and kept as lapdogs, the Toy and so on and so forth to the tiny Teacup Poodles.
Are Different sized Poodles used for Different Reasons?
Historically the different sizes had different roles or uses. As already discussed, the Standard Poodle was bred to be a working gundog, the Miniature was a truffle hunter, a circus dog, and a companion dog, and the Toy purely a companion but how about today?
While it’s fair to say that nowadays the Poodle is primarily a pet all three recognized sizes are very popular as show dogs. There has also been a fairly recent upsurge of Standard Poodles being used in the field as gundogs.
This is not surprising as being a thinking breed, the Poodle will often attempt to solve problems without needing to be told. Coupled with a top speed of just below that of the whippet he would leave the more popular Labrador Retriever for dust in the chase to bring back a bird shot by his master. The Miniature Poodle has also been seen out into the field although never the Toy. His diminutive size would mean he would be unable to carry the quarry.
The Moyen and Miniature Poodles are also fairly popular as agility dogs due to their intelligence and speed and whilst we don’t often see dogs in circuses these days, the popularity of heelwork to music and dancing dogs has meant many Miniature Poodles and Poodle mixes are regularly seen on TV in talent shows and such like.
The Toy Poodle is very popular as a show dog and this is his primary role in addition to being purely a wonderful companion and pet dog.
The Teacup Poodle is not an official size, rather a non-breed standard Toy and so cannot be shown or bred from (the extremely small size would make this dangerous). As such, he is always a charming pet and companion rather than being used in a specific role.
How do Breed Standards Differ across the Sizes?
The breed standard for all sizes of Poodle is exactly the same so apart from the size ranges. The appearance and proportions of the dog should be the same regardless of his size. Indeed, FCI classes Poodles as one breed, and as such all are shown together and judged against each other regardless of their size.
Rather than classing them as separate breeds as the AKC does they are classed as four sizes (the FCI recognizes Moyen but not Teacup) of the same breed. Interestingly the FCI is the only registry that lists a maximum size for Standard Poodles as 24”. Therefore, any dog over 24” is classed as non-standard by the FCI and therefore ineligible to be shown.
Is it Ethical to Produce the Smaller Sizes?
This is a somewhat controversial subject. Is it ethical to breed dogs that are so much tinier than nature intended and indeed are we risking their health to do so? It is important to mention that the original Poodle is a large dog and as such is it right to make him smaller and smaller to suit ourselves or worse, to suit fashion?
The Poodle is known as one of the longest living breeds of all and the Standard suffers from relatively few health issues compared to other breeds of a similar size. You may expect this to follow for the smaller versions. You would be wrong!
Whereas this is true for the Moyen, the Miniature (who actually has a longer average lifespan than the Standard), the Toy Poodle, and the Teacup are sadly a very different story. We all tend to love tiny babies whether they are human or animal and most of us have said, at some point, if only they could stay this tiny forever. It is this sentiment that has unfortunately led to a demand for dogs that stay like puppies for their whole lives. Sadly, this is at the detriment of their health.
This trend is not limited to Poodles and many of our already small breeds have become smaller and smaller until they are at risk of potentially debilitating health problems. I must mention again that Teacup is not a recognized size but rather a term for the tiniest Toy Poodles. In the past, the Teacup would have been described very unflatteringly as ‘runts’. The term ‘runt’ may sound insulting but was typically used to describe the smallest, weakest pup in a litter.
Often these tiny pups were not expected to survive and if they did would be kept by their breeders or given to family or friends as there were no guarantees as to their health or life expectancy. Going one step further (and thank goodness this practice is rarely seen nowadays) these sub-sized pups would’ve been culled at birth as breeders didn’t want their bitches to waste energy raising sickly pups. Neither did they want their bloodline to be associated with weak puppies.
Fashion today has dictated however that the tiniest of pups is often the most desirable. This means it is not uncommon to see unscrupulous breeders or puppy mills offering these diminutive pups for sale at extremely high prices. Often photographed next to a soda can or mobile phone to demonstrate exactly how tiny they are.
The buyer that falls for these tiny bundles of cuteness often faces a lifetime of vet bills and the ultimate heartbreak if they lose their tiny friend. Regardless of breed, tiny Teacup dogs suffer much more frequently from organ deformities such as enlarged hearts and liver shunts than their normal-sized brothers (please note I am referring to ‘Teacup’ pups here NOT normal-sized Toy pups).
Teacup pups also suffer much more frequently from respiratory and digestive infections which can put further stress on their organs. It has even been known for sellers to claim that a pup is younger than his true age in order to obtain a premium price for him by claiming that he is a Teacup pup.
In summary, I believe that breeding Miniature and Toy Poodles is ethical, breeding any dog to be so small he is unhealthy is questionable at best. It is for this reason that no breed registry recognizes Teacup as a breed standard size.
Can you Mix Poodle Sizes?
With all this talk about the different sizes of Poodle available an obvious question is can you mix the sizes. For example, can you breed a Standard and a Miniature Poodle together or perhaps a Miniature and a Toy?
Indeed yes, of course, this is possible if the male dog is the smaller of the two parents. If the mother was significantly smaller than the father, she may have problems delivering her pups. This is neither particularly unusual nor necessarily a bad thing.
However, as most registries classify the different sizes separately you would be unable to register any puppies. In the eyes of the registration board, they would be a crossbreed rather than a purebred.
If you are breeding purebred Poodles the aim of your breeding program should be to produce healthy pups that are as close to breed standard as possible and by mixing the sizes this would be very difficult to achieve when there is an ideal size range set within each recognized size.
Which Size Poodles are Used to Breed Popular Doodle Breeds?
Let’s talk Doodles! This is where the fun starts! Which Poodle sizes are used to breed Doodles? All of them except the Teacup Poodle are used to breed Doodles. The beauty of Doodles, even more so than their Poodle parents is that there is a size, a shape, and a character to suit everyone.
The type of Doodle you are breeding will dictate the size Poodle that you would use. In terms of our little Yorkiepoos, Maltipoos, and similar dinky Doodles it is usually the Toy Poodle that is used. This creates tiny Doodles with just as much character as their larger cousins. As both parent breeds used are of similar proportions it doesn’t cause any problems for the mother during delivery or for the pups as it might if you bred from two dogs of vastly different sizes.
Then we come to small Doodles such as the ever-popular Cavapoos and Cockapoos. Either Toy or Miniature Poodles can be used, and this is purely down to the breeder’s personal choice. Those bred with Miniature Poodles tend to be slightly larger than those bred with Toy Poodles. As with all Doodles, the pups could grow to the size of either parent, there are no guarantees.
Even when we come to Labradoodles and Goldendoodles it is possible to use either Miniature or Standard Poodles. It is uncommon to use Toy Poodles in this case as the size variation between the parents is too great to be predictable or advisable.
Miniature Goldendoodles and Labradoodles can still be quite large dogs as they can grow to the size of the retriever or Labrador, even if the Poodle parent was a Miniature. For this reason, it is best done over a few generations.
For example, breeding a Golden Retriever to a Miniature Poodle. Then breeding the offspring from this mating to a Miniature Poodle to produce an F1B Miniature Goldendoodle. Then breeding again to another Miniature Goldendoodle (preferably with two furnishing genes, however that is a whole different subject) to eventually establish a line of Goldendoodles all of a uniform smaller size.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have our giant Doodle breeds such as the Bernardoodle, Sheepadoodle, Newfypoo, and St Berdoodle. These mixes are typically bred using Standard Poodles, often those at the larger end of the Standard size.
This is for two reasons. The more similar in size the parents are the better it is for mating and delivery of puppies. The main reason for creating these Doodle mixes is to create giant dogs that are healthier and shed less than their giant purebred parents. Most people that are attracted to these Doodle mixes are looking for a larger than average dog.
We do however see Miniature Bernadoodles etc and here I must reiterate that this should be achieved gradually over several generations rather than mating a Bernese Mountain Dog female to a Miniature Poodle male as the conformation of pups with two such vastly different parents could be adversely affected.