One look at a Poodle, especially Poodles shown in conformation events, and many people automatically assume that Poodles were bred merely to be the pampered divas of the canine world. The extravagant hairstyles with which Poodles are presented are one of the main factors lending themselves to the concept of the Poodle diva. So is it true? Are they dogs that love to lounge in the lap of luxury? The question has no actual clear-cut answer.
Let's look at that hair cut for a moment. Poodle hairstyles scream "Look at me, I think I'm beautiful." It's hard not to think diva when you see a Poodle with pompoms around its ankles and on the tip of its tail; not to mention the puff of hair with the cute little ribbon on its head. But was the Poodle coat cut in such extravagant ways merely to make the Poodle a star? No. The original Poodle cut had the purpose of protecting dogs from cold water while at the same time allowing them ease of movement through the water; they were originally bred as water dogs. Indeed, if you take a look at another water dog, the Portuguese Water Dog, you'll see that this breed's posterior area is shaved as well, while a bit more hair is left at the tip of the tail. Dogs use their back legs as strong propulsion elements in the water by kicking; excess fur on the back legs and hip area weigh down the dog and make kicking more difficult. The "pompom" on the tip of the tail allows handlers to more easily keep track of their dog, especially if the pooch goes under water. Some hair is left over the joints (the Poodle leg pompoms) to protect the joints from the cold and lower the risk of arthritis development.
Now, the Portuguese Water Dog may look similar to the Poodle, but the former does not have the extravagant cut the Poodle has. This is because Poodles did become stars in their history, fetching quite important sums of money for their tricks. In France and throughout Europe, gypsies and circus performers took advantage of the Poodle's great intelligence and desire to please humans and trained them to perform amazing feats for circuses and street fairs. They began exaggerating the Poodle's hairstyles, giving them extravagant makeovers, much to the delight of audiences. Poodles that were exceptionally good performers were bred together to get a new generation of actors and actresses. It seems that this history in theater arts has remained in the genes of Poodles; many walk through the show ring or even their neighborhood with an air of arrogance, seemingly under the impression that they are the center of the universe.
So Poodles were not born to be divas, though they took on the role with enthusiasm. They are intelligent and demand to be entertained; they are also very emotionally needy and demand your almost undivided attention constantly. Some Poodles can also be somewhat high strung. Historically, however, they've also been amazing working dogs and companions and that loyal, loving, hard-working nature also comes out, especially if they're given a good home. Ultimately, there is just so much more to Poodles than their lavish good looks and proud attitude.