Dog Breeds Dog Training

Are Poodles Hunting Dogs? – All About the Water Retriever & Versatile Hunter

Poodles are some of the finest hunting dogs if properly trained.
Written by Richard Jeng

While we may associate pompon-bearing Poodles with dog shows, they actually originated from Europe. They’re agile, sharp, proud and have the right anatomy to be of great help during hunting. So, are Poodles actually hunting dogs?

Yes, Poodles were originally bred to be retrieving and hunting dogs. In fact, Standard Poodles are great hunting companions. However, Toy and Miniature-sized Poodles aren’t so great at hunting or performing retrieving duties.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the historical roles of Poodles, Poodle temperament, Poodle hunting technique and finally, why Poodles make such great hunting dogs.

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History & Roles of Poodles

The Poodle was originally bred for many jobs, including hunting and water retrieving.

Poodles come in three size variations: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. The Standard is significantly larger, weighing up to 70 pounds! On the other hand, Toy Poodles can be just 7 pounds.

While Standard Poodles have been around for over five centuries, the Toy and Miniature varieties are of recent origin and a product of, or result of customer demand.

A Bit of Hunting History…

In short, Poodles are of Germanic origin. Centuries ago, Poodles began their journey as retrieving water dogs in Germany. It’s actually where they got their names, as “pudeling” means “splashing in water” in German.

Shortly after, Poodles became immensely popular among the nobles in France as well as other parts of Europe. Eventually, the Poodle made its way to England.

The coat of the Poodle is unique. Not only is it hypoallergenic (rarely sheds), but also provides the dog with protection against water.

So with excellent swimming ability and above-average intelligence, the Poodle was and continues to be a fine, even superb, water-retriever dog.

As for the origins of the Poodle’s unique hairdo? It has to do with the style that was favored by French ‘nobility’ of the 18th century, under Louis XVI.

21st Century Hunting Poodles

The Standard Poodles have returned in recent decades to their hunting roots with some breeders.

Some establishments in the USA and Canada are specifically breeding these dogs to be hunting companions and retrievers, once again.

And once dog owners get into a serious hunting relationship with their Poodle, they attest that Poodles are second-to-none when it comes to hunting and retrieving.

The Poodle’s Temperament

The origins and history of the Poodle can be traced back thousands of years.

Poodles are some of the smartest dog breeds around (here’s why they’re smart). In fact, they’re right up there with the Border Collie, Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever.

As a result, Poodles excel in several dog sports, such as dog agility, fly ball, dock diving, disc dog and dog surfing. They’re always winning shows and events!

There is a misconception that Poodles are pampered sissies. The truth is that they possess the instincts and temperament of retriever gun dogs. In other words, they’re active, outgoing and hard-working dogs.

They’re quite loyal and easily bond with the family members. However, they can be a bit shy around strangers. It takes them some time to warm up to unknown people.

Plus, Poodles will protect their owners or at least attempt to. Don’t believe me? Just check out the story this article illustrates.

All Poodle puppies reach adulthood at around the 18-month mark. At this time, they’ll let go of their hyper-curious nature and calm down (just a bit).

For the most part, Standards are shyer than Miniatures and Toy Poodles. Surprisingly, Miniature Poodles are the most active of the three varieties.

Are Miniature & Toy Poodles Hunting Dogs?

If you are wondering if there is any variation in temperament between Standard Poodles, Toy Poodles and Miniature Poodles, the answer is “yes.”

The reason for this is obvious.

While the Standard Poodle has been a superb hunting companion for centuries, the smaller variations were bred specifically to be excellent pets and not much more.

Because they’re smaller versions, Mini and Toy Poodles are not suitable for hunting and retrieving. Still, they have the waterproof coat and agility to maybe retrieve (very) small game.

Through breeding, these ‘lapdogs’ have acquired traits that most dog owners love. These smaller variations love to snuggle in your lap and love to be patted.

Slowly but surely, the hunting instincts have vanished from the smaller varieties, while the Standard Poodle still retains some hunting instincts. And now, breeders are specifically breeding hunting Poodles again.

How to Train Poodles to Hunt

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Training Poodles to hunt is similar to training Poodles in general. These highly intelligent dogs don’t require too much repetition of commands to learn.

In fact, to ensure the Poodles don’t get bored by their training regimen, you’d need to mix things up and keep the training interesting.

If you are planning on taking your Poodle on hunting trips, it’s essential they become acclimatized to wooded areas – where birds are present.

It’s better for the dog to get used to the sights and sounds of hunting. These sounds include the noise of gunfire, rough mountainous terrain and bodies of water.

Start Early & Teach the Basics

It’s always good to start training your dog early, no matter what breed and no matter to what end. Though Poodles are much easier to train, the longer you postpone their training, the more difficult it becomes.

With Poodles, you can get them started on learning basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, down, come and fetch.

You can take your young Poodle on hunting trips where the newbie stays leashed and just observe other, more experienced dogs at work.

Start by introducing your Poodle to a tame, pen-raised bird, like a quail or a pheasant. They need to learn to not be scared of birds.

Next, you’ll want to teach your Poodle to freeze command. For example, if you say the word “whoa,” your Poodle should immediately stop in its tracks. They need to learn this well since hunting requires patience.

Finally, teach your Poodle to look for a tame bird in a contained outdoor area. Keep your Poodle on a long leash while you’re training so as not to harm the bird.

Slowly, continue with this training while the dog is off-leash.

Advanced Poodle Hunting Tips

Play fetch with your Poodle using a tennis ball to ensure that the dog learns to release the object (ball or bird) on command. Always reward your dog with a treat for retrieving the tennis ball.

Your Poodle needs to learn this command exceptionally well, as it is a crucial command during actual hunting.

Once you feel your Poodle is ready for an actual hunting trip, you can take him or her out with other dogs to acclimatize to the sights and sounds of hunting.

Let your poodle observe and learn from other more experienced hunting dogs.

Move on to bird dummies instead of tennis balls to continue your Poodle’s retrieval training. Plant the dummy at various distances or throw the dummy into the air, and ask your dog to retrieve it.

Once your Poodle has “perfected” dummy retrieving, you can move on to practice blind retrieval training or retrieving bird carcasses.

Blind retrieval is where your Poodle doesn’t know where the dummy is placed and you direct your Poodle to the dummy with hand signals or verbal commands.

And finally, start letting your Poodle loose in actual retrieval situations, preferably with another, more experienced dog present.

Give helpful directions and always reinforce with praise if your dog succeeds. If your Poodle fails at first, let the more experienced dog retrieve.

Punishment doesn’t work with Poodles. Hiring professional trainers is also an option that owners should keep in mind. But it’s best for the dog to be trained by the owner and/or hunter.

What Makes Poodles Great Hunting Dogs

Poodles are the second smartest dog breed in the world.

It’s clear that Poodles are great hunting dogs due to the breed’s long history of having been hunting companions and gun dogs.

What makes them especially great at hunting is that they’re smart and very open to learning. Any chance to learn and work, they’ll take it!

Poodles also make great hunting companions because they are tireless creatures. They’ll work for the sake of working, and hunting gives them plenty of opportunities for vigorous exercise.

And if you’re planning to hunt aquatic birds, then Poodles have an even bigger advantage. They’re excellent swimmers and were developed to retrieve game from the water.

Since lineage can make a difference, it is also wise to look into a Poodle’s history before you purchase one to be your hunting companion.

Some breeders specifically breed these dogs to be hunting companions. So, you’re probably better off going with one of those establishments.

Final Thoughts: Good Hunters?

I think it’s safe to say, Poodles are good hunters. However, they may not automatically make it to a list of greatest hunting dogs. You may want to check out these versatile pointer dogs instead.

Having said that, some lists do feature Poodles on a list of good hunting dogs, alongside the usual retrievers, hounds, spaniels, pointers, and…the Dachshund (yes, really).

One Poodle owner tells us,

The hunting drive is there with my Poodle. I have had to hold him when squirrels, cats or other critters pass nearby. The instincts are high, which is why I know they would make good hunting dogs.

There are many hunters who will attest to how good their Poodles have been on their hunting trips. However, a hunting Poodle is not as common as you’d think.

At the end of the day, Poodles can make great hunting dogs if you put in the time and effort. They were born with the instincts, they just need the experience and training.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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