Clavidd Standard Working Poodles.

Dave Thomas and his Clavidd Working Standard Poodles – Image kindly provided by Dave Thomas

Working Standard Poodles. Image provided by Clavidd Standard Working Poodles.

In this article, Holidays4Dogs has been talking to Dave Thomas from South West Wales about his passion for working standard poodles. Standard poodles originated in Germany and were standarised in France where at one time, they were common as working dogs, but are now unfortunately a rarity in the field in the UK. Dave is keen to change all that and Holidays4Dogs wanted to find out more about his aspirations for promoting the virtues of these talented dogs.

There are a few enthusiasts who are trying to re-ignite the poodle as a working dog in Britain and Dave is one of the main driving forces behind this.  Holidays4Dogs spoke to Dave to find out more about standard poodles and how they are gradually finding favour again in certain gundog circles.

Despite the fact that many people think these whimsical dogs came from France, they actually originated in Germany.  Known as the, ‘Pudlehund’ in Germany the name in English means, ‘puddle’ or to ‘splash about (pudel)  and ‘hund’, meaning ‘dog’.

There is the theory that suggests that before becoming established in Germany, the poodle originally came from curly-coated type dogs from central Asia. Although this is not proven, many people believe they were developed from a shaggy coated breed called the Barbet, (which has recently been recognised as an official breed by the UK Kennel Club).  Other related breeds are said to be the Irish Water Spaniel and the Portuguese Water dog, and there is certainly a resemblance between all these breeds.

The original purpose of the poodle was as water retriever, hunting mainly ducks and other water fowl. Their water resistant thick curly coats, (often clipped into shapes to keep joints and vital organs warm in cold the water) is one of the most well known visual attributes of the poodle.


The standard size poodle is the oldest of the three strains (standard, miniature and toy), the latter two sizes having been selective bred as companions, as well as being popular dogs historically seen in circus acts and street performances. The miniature variety of poodles were often utlilised as truffle hunters, demonstrating the versatility of this charming breed.

Dave has worked many different breeds for many years, including hounds as well as gundogs, but came across the standard poodle when he was walking with a friend, Claire Mason one of the top agility competitors in Britain, who owned one.  This dog was an accomplished agility dog, but one day while out walking with his Claire and the dog, Dave could see it would show promise as a working dog.

Dave noticed the dog confidently pushed through bramble and immediately put up a pheasant – as a seasoned gundog man, Dave was keen to see how the dog would react to direction, so he asked the dog to sit and wait before he was allowed to set off after the pheasant.  The owner of the dog commented that her dog probably would not come back!  However, Dave whistled to the dog, who immediately came back, proving that while he was keen to hunt he was also steady and obedient.  Dave was so impressed with the dog’s obvious potential in the field, he was inspired to acquire one for himself.

Dave now only has one working poodle from his original three, having sadly lost two recently to old age and cancer, but his original dog, quite astonishingly was a rescue dog he acquired at a year old having had three previous owners.  ‘Mattie’, as she was called, learned very quickly and was soon picking up with the best of the Labradors.

Dave pointed out that not only are standard poodles quicker than Labradors, they have much better agility and seem to be adept at learning things without much instruction. One of his dogs for instance, learnt to pick up in reverse order and also cleverly took control of the hunting side, leaving her Labrador colleague to take the birds back to the gun after she had found and given them to him!  Dave said all his poodles have still retained a strong working instinct and have a knack of observing other dogs in the field and copying their behaviour – for instance, one of his poodles would ‘spring’ in the same way that spaniels do.

In the beginning, Dave had some problems being allowed onto shoots with his poodles – however, this is now gradually changing and he works his dogs on several local shoots.  Dave is trying hard to reinstate the poodle as true working dog and would ideally, like to see them moved from the utility group, back to the gundog group with the Kennel Club.

This a commendable move on Dave’s part as it is a shame that many breeds originally bred for a function, no longer have the opportunity to work in the same way anymore.  There is a growing interest in working standard poodles which has largely been instigated by Dave’s passion to bring back this useful working dog.  There are handlers in Monmouth and Kent who work standard poodles and in Yorkshire, Dave knows of a chap who works his dogs on rabbits, as well as taking them deer stalking, proving that these really are versatile dogs that deserve a lot more recognition for their original function and abilities.

While poodles might have a reputation for being the clown of the dog world; there is far more that lies beneath that goofy exterior – they have always had far more going for them and it’s a shame that it has fallen by the wayside to be replaced by the idea that poodles are simply quaffed ‘pom pom’ dogs – (remember, there was originally a valid reason for the way poodles were trimmed; it wasn’t just for aesthetic reasons).

Chocolate Standard Poodle

Chocolate Standard Poodle clipped

Dave and other dedicated enthusiasts know that poodles have talent in bucket loads.  They love being trained, they love to learn, they have an uncanny ability to make sense of the hunting world with minimal instruction and Dave’s first dog, Mattie, proved this by showing that, despite having three previous homes and not starting fieldwork until she was over a year old, she quickly excelled to the point she was working as well, if not better, than her fellow spaniels and Labradors.

It is really quite something and it would be doing the breed a disservice if the talents of the poodle were overlooked.  We think Dave and his poodles are brilliant for making in-roads back into the working gundog world.  Do you know anyone who works standard poodles?  Holidays4Dogs would love to hear from you.  For further information on Dave and his Clavidd Working Standard Poodles you can find them on Facebook.

With kind thanks to Dave Thomas of Clavidd Working Standard Poodles.