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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 22, 2020
Poodles have been a significant part of Judy Burgoyne's life for 43 years, but it has come with some tragedy.
Her love for the woolly, purebred formed after losing a relative, followed closely by a divorce. Something about the poodle's "human-like qualities" just "stood out above the crowd," said the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) registered breeder of standard and miniature Napoli poodles since 1977.
"I bought different pedigree poodles over the years from Paris in France, the surrounding areas, and the United States. But early on, the third dog I had, broke my heart," said Burgoyne.
"I got a white-haired female from a breeder in the United States. She was a great dog, won Best in Show at the CKC multiple times, just a well-natured girl. I decided after the competitions that maybe the dog could have a litter of puppies, but something happened."
After the puppies were born, the mother started having seizures, which grew worse over time.
"I took her to the vet in Charlottetown, and she never came home. The dog had a rare disease of little legions in the spine. I remember her vividly because I was pregnant and working. It just resonated with a lot of things going on in my life. The puppies were alone. It was a sad time."
Burgoyne researched and continued to have poodles in her life, lavishing them with attention, walking, and breeding healthy litters – with consideration given to any health issues in the parents before mating and genetic testing done from time to time.
It's hard work, but worth it all
"Over the years, the dogs have provided me with joy, fun, challenges, meeting and making new poodle friends, and sometimes disappointments. It's hard work, but worth it all," she said while acknowledging the breed comes in 10 solid shades, including parti-colours, and four different sizes to fit whatever lifestyle.
"You can get a standard, medium, miniature, or toy breed, and they are all quite smart – the second smartest breed of dog (after a border collie). I feel like you can talk to poodles, and they listen. Most have a desire to please their human, so they are easy to train, and I love their elegance and finer features."
The demand for hypoallergenic dogs - including the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire terrier, and Shih Tzu, among many others - has dramatically increased in the past couple of years.
"But even more so since the COVID-19 virus has kept people at home," says Burgoyne.
"This demand means a breeder has to be a bit more discerning about where to place their puppies as no one knows how long people will be working at home."
Burgoyne advises prospective pet owners to go with a reputable breeder, many of whom are listed on the CKC website since scammers are taking advantage of sales. She warns buyers of the breed – which could be a 12- to 15-year or more commitment – on impulse.
"A good breeder wants to know that the puppy they sell will have a permanent, loving home for its life in an environment where it will have contact with a person most of the day. Instead of just making a sale to whoever has the cash, there must be a good fit,” she says.
"Get references from breeders of people who have purchased puppies from them. As well as a puppy replacement health guarantee for hereditary diseases and the proof of testing results on the dogs that they are using for breeding."
Breeders who ask lots of questions about the living conditions and lifestyle of the purchasers before giving them a puppy is often a clue of responsibility.
"Warning signs to stay away from are breeders who want to meet you in a parking lot somewhere away from their home to give you a puppy. Also, those encouraging buyers to pay by credit card may be problematic," she says.
"If the person cannot pay right away without using credit, maybe they can't afford the extra costs that maintaining a poodle entails and encourages impulse buying. Before getting a new puppy of any kind, it should always be carefully thought about whether the person has the time, energy, space, and finances to look after the dog for its lifetime."
Things to keep in mind
While hypoallergenic dogs are versatile and can sport some fantastic haircuts or even have no hair, the breed is not suitable for everyone. Since there are no 100 per cent hypoallergenic dogs, it depends on the person's case when it comes to allergies.
"If not groomed regularly, you will find little fluff balls behind a door or in the corners of your house, although a small amount. And, the most critical time for grooming is when the softer puppy coat changes to the adult. The hair does not shed, so it winds into tight mats or tangles," explained Burgoyne.
"It is a difficult phase to get through, starting around eight months to a year of age. Most people who have poodles have them groomed professionally regularly (six to eight weeks), so they can avoid this trying time, but the dog can still bring dust from outside into the house as adults."
After the adult coat grows in, it will not mat so easily.
"It also becomes curlier, so after the coast is clipped and starts to grow out a little, it forms tight curls, almost like Persian lamb wool. The face should always be shaved short to prevent the hair from getting on the eyeball and causing the eye to weep. Feet should be shaved too, for cleanliness."
When asked what Burgoyne loves most about poodles, she listed off a few traits.
"Other short-haired breeds look fine, but the poodle has something unique about it, sort of a classy look. Poodles are so versatile that you can do almost anything with them. They excel at obedience, agility, scent training, retrieving birds, always noticeable in the 'show ring,' and of course, an excellent companion."