Friday, October 8, 2010
Many people assume that poodles are nothing but yappy little dogs to be carried around in handbags. In fact, poodles come in different sizes and many different colors (some natural, some not) and are very intelligent dogs. The stereotype people have of poodles was one that I held until about 9 years ago.
I had always had larger dogs and had no use for a dog that had to be fluffed and clipped all the time, or that was timid and nervous around people. Yet, my husband and children decided I needed a poodle for Mother’s Day. So there I was, the brand new and somewhat skeptical owner of a tiny white ball of curls that was quickly named Noodle because his curls looked like ramen noodles. Although I don’t recommend giving pets as surprise gifts, Noodle the Poodle quickly stole my heart. Noodle was a toy poodle. The sizes that poodles come in include standard, miniature, toy and teacup.
Noodle was a performing poodle in our home. He loved to entertain our guests and the children by dancing on his back paws, sitting pretty with his front paws in front of his chest and by walking backwards. These tricks were easy to teach because poodles are a breed that is eager to please. They are also smart and are great problem solvers. While I loved my poodle, I know there are real professional performing poodles that put my amateur dog training skills to shame.
Besides on television or in movies, have you ever seen performing poodles? They are not a thing of the past, and there are several traveling poodle groups around the United States and Canada that perform in circuses and at special appearances. Performing poodles have been a standard act in the Barnum and Bailey circuses since the early 1900s, and before that throughout Europe there have been performing poodles in nearly all of the Commedia del Artes and Vaudeville performances.
Seeing a troupe of performing poodles live is an experience everyone should have at least once. But if you don’t have that opportunity, you can easily check out performing poodles on YouTube, and on various talent shows such as Animal Planet’s “Pet Star.”
No matter what your personal opinion of a poodle may be, there are many extremely smart, talented poodles in the world. Most of them are not professional performers – they simply perform for their people. Many poodle owners will tell you that very often, it feels as if the poodle just knows what is expected and will happily perform the same trick over and over as long as someone will watch.
While I haven’t had the pleasure of having a whole group of performing poodles of my own, I can imagine the hilarity and fun when they begin doing tricks for treats at the same time. We used to have a ritual with my Noodle: after dinner he would always dance and walk backwards so that he could have a spoonful of ice cream. If we forgot or didn’t call him, as soon as the plates were cleared he would just appear and begin walking backwards around the room or twirling around on his back paws until someone noticed and went to the freezer to get his ice cream. At times I felt as if he had trained me instead of the other way around.
Photo: The Poodle Trainer, a short film by Vance Malone
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie