Mention a pom-pom in canine circles and one breed comes to mind-the elegant Poodle. While the distinctive hairdo might seem more like a fashion statement than a necessity, the Standard Poodle haircut makes sense once you understand the breed's history.
Bred as a water retriever in early 17th Century Europe, the Poodle name comes from the German pudel or pudelhund, literally meaning "water dog." Since a Poodle's thick outer coat can get heavy when wet, the bottom half of the body was shorn back to help keep the dog afloat. To keep his organs warm in cold waters, the hair was kept long over the chest and head. Bracelets of ankle hair were left to protect joints from rheumatism, and a topknot was used to keep long hair out of the eyes when swimming. Colorful bows were added during competitions to help owners identify their dogs.
Groomed for competition
The range of fancy and experimental Poodle cuts hit a peak during the reign of the French King, Louis XVI, when many dogs were trimmed in decorative styles to match the extravagant coifs of 18th Century French nobility.
Today, Poodle owners generally choose between one of two traditional cuts. The "Continental Clip" leaves a full mantle of hair around the chest and rib cage, pom-poms over each hip and on the tail, ankle and knee bracelets, and fully shaved hindquarters and legs. With the "English Saddle Clip," a short coat of hair is left over the hindquarters and legs.
In competition, adult dogs must be shown in one of these two conforming cuts, which always make Poodles big crowd-pleasers in the show ring.
The new natural
While elaborately coifed Standard Poodles are still the norm, many owners today are choosing to either leave their dogs uncut or leave them in a uniform length, such as a puppy cut. Please note that uncut Poodles are not maintenance free, and the resulting matting can, in some cases, cause significant skin issues.
But whether he's perfectly pruned or minimally coifed, no other breed has turned heads throughout history like your distinctive Poodle.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!