As we move into May we focus on an unlikely candidate for animals who have served us in war… the poodle. The nomination comes from Tim Hardy-Lenik who lives with his partner and their three -year old son in Surrey. Tim has sent us this wonderful photo of Poppy Daisy the Toy Poodle, pictured with Monty Pebbles the family’s Blemadoo. How cute are they! Poppy Daisy would have been a bit small for active service, but poodles like her would have offered comfort and companionship to families struggling to cope as wars raged both at home and abroad.
Poodles have been used as working dogs in the military since at least the 17th century, most likely because of their highly intelligent, trainable nature and background as a gundog making them suitable to battlefields, as evidenced by their ability to be trained to ignore gunfire. Poodles were never shipped overseas for military service, but evidence shows that they were often used domestically to guard military instillations, defense plants, and even the coast-line.
Napoleon’s armies used poodles. After the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon said, “I walked over the battlefield and saw among the slain, a poodle bestowing a last lick upon his dead friend’s face. Never had anything on any of my battlefields caused me a like emotion.”
In 1942, 32 different breeds were classed as war dogs by the US Army, and the Standard Poodle was one of them. About the breed it was noted: “This breed has unusual ability to learn and retain and keen senses. A drawback is a rapidly-growing coat, never shed and required constant cutting to prevent its becoming matted.” The list was cut to 18 breeds towards the end of 1943, and the Standard Poodle was still included. Only by the end of 1944 was the dog eliminated from the list.
The Poodle was named after splashing in water because these dogs were originally bred to be water retrievers. Their job was to bring ducks and other birds back to their owners. Although it is the national dog of France, the Poodle actually originated in Germany. Poodles are among the smartest dog breeds. Their intelligence and eagerness to please make them great service dogs. Poodles are also employed as guide dogs, assistance dogs for people with other physical disabilities, and therapy dogs.