R1CROUCH

Crouch (1907)

"The Poodle is commonly acknowledged to be the most wisely intelligent of all members of the canine race. He is a scholar and a gentleman; but, in spite of his claims of long descent and his extraordinary natural cleverness, he has never been widely popular in this country as the Collie and the Fox-terrier are popular. There is a general belief that he is a fop, whose time is largely occupied in personal embellishment, and that he requires a great deal of individual attention in the matter of his toilet. It may be true that to keep him in exhibition order and perfect cleanliness his owner has need to devote more consideration to him than is necessary in the case of many breeds; but in other respects he gives very little trouble, and all who are attached to him are consistent in their opinion that there is no dog so intensely interesting and responsive as a companion. His qualities of mind and acute powers of reasoning are indeed so great that there is something almost human in his attractiveness and his devotion. His aptitude in learning is never denied, and many are the stories told of his marvellous talent and versatility.

"Not merely as a showman's dog has he distinguished himself. He is something more than a mountebank of the booths, trained to walk the tight rope and stand on his head. He is an adept at performing tricks, but it is his alertness of brain that places him apart from other animals. There is the example of the famous Munito [see Circus...], who in 1818 perplexed the Parisians by his cleverness with playing cards and his intricate arithmetical calculations. Paris was formerly the home of most of the learned Poodles, and one remembers the instance of the Poodle of the Pont Neuf, who had the habit of dirtying the boots of the passers-by in order that his master--a shoeblack stationed halfway across the bridge--might enjoy the profit of cleaning them. In Belgium Poodles were systematically trained to smuggle valuable lace, which was wound around their shaven bodies and covered with a false skin. These dogs were schooled to a dislike of all men in uniform, and consequently on their journey between Mechlin and the coast they always gave a wide berth to the Customs officers. [Primary reference needed! Ed.] On the Continent Poodles of the larger kind are often used for draught work.

"There can be little doubt that the breed originated in Germany, where it is known as the Pudel, and classed as the Canis familiaris Aquaticus. In form and coat he would seem to be closely related to the old Water-dog, and the resemblance between a brown Poodle and an Irish Water Spaniel is remarkable. The Poodle is no longer regarded as a sporting dog, but at one period he was trained to retrieve waterfowl, and he still on occasion displays an eager fondness for the water; but this habit is not encouraged by owners, who know the labour involved in keeping in order the Poodle's profuse coat. [By these remarks, if no others, Crouch dates this text, which is written during the last days of the market-gunner's and pot-hunter's waterfowling opportunties. To Crouch, waterfowling is a sport. However, the Poodle (like the Chesapeake Bay Retriever) is not strictly speaking a sporting dog (except in relation to falconry); historically, both Poodles and Chessies are market waterfowlers' and pot-hunters' dogs. See ...guns and ...traps. Also, Crouch is writing a generation after the adoption of the exaggerated and decorative "show-coat"; this coat is his cultural norm to such an extent that the author is entirely inexperienced in the ease of maintenance of the traditional coat of a Poodle kept in hard working condition. To an historically-oriented reader it seems Crouch has had the final lobotomy: love of water and a natural retrieve are no longer perceived as essential components of appropriate temperament in this version of the water dog. Ed.].

"Throughout Europe and in the United States--wherever these dogs are kept--it is usual to clip the coat on the face, the legs, and the hinder part of the body, leaving tufts of hair on the thighs and a ring of hair on the pasterns. The origin and purpose of the custom are not apparent, but now that Poodles are almost always kept as house dogs, this mode of ornamentation at least commends itself by reducing the labour of daily grooming if the coat is to be maintained in good condition and the dog to be a pleasant associate.

"As far back in history as the breed can be definitely traced clipping seems to have been customary. Poodles are so presented in various illuminated manuscripts of the sixteenth century, and notably one illustrating an episode in the life of one Margaret of York, the third wife of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. In another painting, depicting a family group of Maximillian of Austria and his wife and child ('The Abridged Chronicles of Burgundy') there is the portrait of a shaven dog which, allowing for the artistic shortcomings of the period... [sic! Crouch can be insufferable! Ed. See: ...Visuals.... Crouch also mentions: Tobit... (de Vos); Patient Griselda (Pinturiccio); J. Stein, Dancing Dog...]

"Widely distributed throughout Europe, the Poodle differs in form and colour in the various countries. In Russia and Eastern Germany he is usually black, and the Russian variety is particuarly lithe and agile. [Query: What is Crouch's source of information about Russian Poodles? Clements, above, also mentions Russian Poodles; nobody seems to have gone and looked--could it be that they were quoting one another, decade after decade? Ed.] In Central Germany, where there is also a "sheep" Poodle, he is somewhat uncouth and thick-set, with sturdy limbs and a short muzzle. The dejected and overworked Poodles one sees drawing milk-carts in the streets of Brussels and Antwerp are commonly a dirty white or yellowish brown, and exceedingly muscular; very different from the more slender kind so frequently met with on the boulevards of Paris or perched impertinently and grotesquely trimmed in the carriages on the Champs Elysées. The small French variety, known as the Barbet [sic? Petit Barbet?], seldom weighs more than twenty pounds, and a good example is seen in Miss Armitage's imported bitch, Chaseley José. The toy Poodle was very popular in France in the reign of Louis XIV., and is often represented in fashion plates of the period, always shaven and shorn. Mr. T. Heath Joyce, who has investigated the history of the breed, states that the Poodles was first introduced into Great Britain during the Continental wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century [sic]. For a long period he was held in contempt as a mere trick dog and companion of mountebanks, who were belived to train him with cruelty; but in recent years his great natural intelligence and aptness in learning have won him a due appreciation, while the remarkable characteristics of his coat have placed him as an interesting individual in a class apart from all other dogs.

"The profuse and long coat of this dog has the pecularity that if not kept constantly brushed out it twists up into little cords....[Discussion of corded coats, immobilize the dog, corded Poodle cannot be kept in the house because of necessity of oiling the coat, after washing, coat takes hours to dry and meanwhile dog must be kept in warm room because otherwise he's liable to catch cold, therefore corded Poodles almost invariably dirty, smelly.] At one time it was suggested that cordeds and non-cordeds were two distinct breeds, but it is now generally accepted that the coat of every well-bred Poodle will, if allowed, develop cords.

"Curly Poodles, on the other hand, have advanced considerably in favour. Their coats should be kept regularly brushed and combed and, if washed occasionally, they will always be smart and clean, and pleasant companions in the house.

"The four colours usually considered correct are black, white, brown, and blue. Curiously enough, my experience is that white Poodles are the most intelligent, and it is certain that professional trainers of performing dogs prefer the white variety. The black comes next in order of intelligence, and easily surpass the brown and blue, which, in my opinion, are somewhat lacking in true Poodle character.

"No strict lines are drawn as regards brown, and all shades ranging from cream to dark brown are classed as brown. Mrs. Robert Long a few years ago startled her fellow-enthusiasts by exhibiting some parti-coloured specimens; but they were regarded as freaks, and did not become popular.

"The points to be looked for in choosing a Poodle are, that he should be a lively, active dog, with a long, fine head, a dark oval eye, with a bright alert expression, short in the back, not leggy, but by no means low on the ground, with a good loin, carrying his tail well up; the coat should be profuse, all one colour, very curly, and rather wiry to the touch. [Anecdote about first Poodle he ever knew who howled all her first night in a stable and chewed things in the house but eventually became a perfect lady.]

"The great secret in training a Poodle is first to gain his affection. With firmness, kindness, and perserverance, you can then teach him almost anything. The most lively and excitable dogs are usually the easiest to train, and it is my experience that the white Poodle excels in quickness of apprehension and obedience.... [Use of food as motivator in training; use of withdrawal as negative.] The Poodle is exceptionally sensitive and is far more efficiently taught when treated as a sensible being rather than as a mere quadrupedal automaton. He will learn twice as quickly if his master can make him understand the reason for performing a task. The whip is of little use when a lesson is to be taught.... [Poodle bitch makes a good mother; puppies not difficult to rear; dense coat of Poodle takes a long time to dry after being wetted; you must take care not to leave him in a cold place or to lie inactive before he is perfectly dry (what would Clements' huttier have said about that!, Ed.); most Poodles kept in house or enclosed kennels well protected from draught and moisture; Poodles naturally obedient and easily taught to be clean in the house and regular in habits. Coat of curly Poodle must be kept free from tangle by combing and brushing. Dog will require clipping from time to time.]

"In Paris at present it is the fashion to clip the greater part of the body and hindquarters, but the English Poodle Club recommends that the coat be left on as far down the body as the last rib, and it is also customary with us to leave a good deal of coat on the hind quarters.... [Remarks about specific dogs; since 1905 curly Poodles much improved, and best specimens to be found in their ranks; Toy white Poodles very popular, should not exceed 15 inches at the shoulder.]

"Points of the Perfect Poodle.... [familiar, except:] Coat: --Very profuse, and of good hard texture; if corded, hanging in tight, even cords; if non-corded, very thick and strong, of even length, the curls close and thick, without knots or cords....It is strongly recommended that only one third of the body be clipped or shaved, and that the hair on the forehead be left on.... [Value of points.]"

The following summary/translation of the introduction to a chapter entitled "The Poodle as Utility Dog" was forwarded by HB, 8/'97: "As we know from the previous chapter, the Poodle was created by crosses between harsh-coated herding dogs and hunting dogs, and thus carries the genes of important working breeds, since carrying hunting blood he has in the past been used to hunt water-game, especially fowl. There has been unanimous consent that as regards pointing, quartering and retrieving he has done superb work, the only drawback has been his difficult-to-manage coat, for which reason he was, over time, replaced by other, less long-coated breeds.

"However, many hunters were still using him in the 19th century and were never disappointed in their expectations.

"There is in the first edition of the Brockhaus lexicon, in an article entitled: 'General Encyclopedia of Science and Arts,' the following: 'The Poodle (water-dog), the most intelligent and faithful dog, suitable for all manner of hunting except for coursing. He points, tracks, and is excellent for the water-hunt. A well-trained Poodle is priceless for the fowler, and much to be preferred to the Pointers.' Having had one 20 years ago, I am of the opinion that it would be difficult to find among the best bird dogs his obedience, steadiness in his work, searching ability and stamina.

"These excellent qualities are the reasons that for some time the Poodle was crossed with his short-coated relative, the Pointer, and the resulting off-spring, provided the parents had been carefully chosen, were very good and promising."

Go back to Rare..., Crouch