Are you considering getting a standard poodle? (Or what they call a giant poodle? First things first, there is no such thing as a giant poodle despite what uninformed dog marketers love to say. The correct term is standard poodle or spoo.)
If you have a spoo in your sights, I can’t blame you. Standard poodles are probably the most beautiful dogs out there – if they’re groomed and well taken care of. Not too long ago, I was so smitten by the grandeur and beauty of spoos that I got two. Having owned dogs from childhood, I believed back then I had all the experience and knowledge I needed to bring up these beauties. Needless to say, I was so wrong and overestimated my abilities big time.
These days, whenever people tell me that they are contemplating getting a spoo, I always tell them this: think again. Although I adore Yukon, my 8-year old spoo, I will be the first to tell you that standard poodles are not for everyone – especially not for those who cannot spare time for its demanding grooming and exercise needs. If you cannot spare time to brush it daily, then think again. Even if I keep Yukon’s hair very short, it still needs to be brushed daily. Otherwise, he would be full of mats which can develop very quickly.
Compared to a mini schnauzer (which also requires daily brushing), a spoo’s grooming demands is three to five times heavier (and no, I am not even talking about spoo show grooming but just daily maintenance).
In the past year or so, there has been a sudden interest in spoos, driven in part by importers and breeders, some of who have driven its price to stratospheric levels. People are so eager to get this breed that they will pay six figures for a pet, without really thinking if they are ready or equipped to own a spoo and fend for its needs in the next 10-15 years.
Only you can say if you are ready and committed to own a spoo. To help you in your self-reflection, let me just share some lessons I have learned in raising a spoo:
Their grooming requirements are demanding – I cannot stress this enough. The spoo needs to be brushed at least once a day. If you don’t, mats can quickly develop. God forbid that your dog runs on wet grass or plays with water if you haven’t brushed it yet. You need to shampoo and use conditioner on your dog to keep its hair manageable. And yes, you have to dry their hair which takes a lot of time because of the volume of a spoo’s hair. Stains can also develop quickly on white hair, and these can be a challenge to manage. If you want your spoo to look as cute as those that you see on Instagram or Facebook, then you’d better take grooming to heart. The only reason I am able to keep Yukon looking somewhat decent is because I have a dog nanny.
They need exercise – Spoos are large dogs who need to be exercised. If you cannot give your spoo his daily exercise needs, please do not get one. It is extremely unfair to the dog.
Poorly bred ones have health issues – I lost my standard poodle Sadie when she was barely one year after she had a series of seizures with no known cause. Yukon, on the other hand, started having intermittent seizures when he turned six. When I had him neutered, he bled profusely. Many of Sadie’s and Yukon’s siblings died young from all sorts of genetic issues. I have experienced heartbreak and have also seen the heartbreak of owners whose dogs passed away early. Health risks cannot be completely eliminated, but a good breeder would know the risks of each pet he or she rehomes, and will inform you about these. So please ask about health tests of the spoos you intend to get, and know more about the history of their parents. (The only takeaway from my experience is that it taught me the importance of health testing.)
Not all spoos have great temperaments – Although the breed is supposed to have a good temperament, poorly bred ones can be anxious and scared. I’ve seen many scared spoos in the Philippines – dogs who are terrified by new things and people, and I even know of a spoo who bites people. If you are considering a spoo, make sure you do the necessary temperament checks and make sure to socialize your dog, especially if he shows signs of fear.
Please do not think that I am out to discourage you from getting a spoo. They are lovely dogs who are a joy to own, especially f you are prepared to do what it takes. All I am saying is do not rush yourself into getting one if you cannot commit to meet its maintenance requirements. Be perfectly honest with yourself and what you can do, not just now but over the next 10-15 years which is how long your dog will live.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to read up on the breed and educate yourself on the breed. This will help you make an informed decision.