Saturday, April 13, 2013

Paint Me Politically Incorrect!

Well, I confess. In the Poodle world, I am now 100%, totally, completely politically incorrect!

My first Standard Poodle was politically correct .She was purchased as a pet, at the age of six months, from a show breeder who did not wish to keep her because her bite went undershot. We spayed her as soon as we got her home, we loved her, we socialized her and she became an excellent therapy dog who enjoyed nursing home visits as well as helping me with educational programs at schools (for children of all ages). Her name was Figi. We adored her and as best we could tell, she felt the same about us!
Figi in her director's chair in front of the sign that says "Please keep dogs out of this area!"

During Figi's years with us, other Poodles came and went, because we began to search for a nice Standard Poodle to show, and in addition, we became involved in poodle rescue. A lovely white boy named Teddy was with us for a short time, then went on to become a certified Therapy Dog for a dog trainer and behaviorist who worked with us for over seven years, Judith Rock-Allen.  A few rescues almost stayed permanently, in fact one was taken in from a breeder who had gotten older, who had dogs she had gotten personally from Wycliffe kennels. He was a huge black boy with beautiful movement and a happy personality.

But none of these dogs could match the very special qualities we saw in Figi. We knew, from her health issues, that she would not be with us for an extremely long life, but when we did lose her, just under the age of 11, we still weren't prepared. We had a little miniature Poodle but no other Standards to keep us company.

It was then that we purchased our "Lizzie", from a show breeder who valued the Wycliffe lines, which we had read about, because of Jean Lyle's tremendous influence on the breed. But at that time, we had not read John Armstrong's research, which showed that the many of the Wycliffe dogs had serious health problems, and yet continued to be bred. So we did not know that we were ultimately be heartbroken by buying show dogs from a breeder who still held on to, and in fact, bred very tightly on, bloodlines that were full of problems such as gastric torsion, Addison's disease, blood clotting disorders and even seizures. In fact, before Lizzie was two years old, we purchased a second dog from the same breeder.

Lizzie died of lymphoma when she was just under the age of 7. By that time, we had met show breeders who were members of the Poodle Club of America, who taught us about the value of out-crossed pedigrees, to try to get away from some of the serious problems in Poodles. We had also, however, been taught that three of the most important things in a evaluating a Poodle are - coat quality, head type and COLOR.  Above all, solid color was very important, if one wished to ever have a Poodle worthy of walking into the show ring. This was all news to us at Meja,because we had been showing Siberian Huskies since the late 70s. Siberians are a working breed, and strucure and efficient movement are much, much more important than the color of a dog. In fact, dogs with any type of markings can be shown in the Siberian ring, and dogs of any color. Sure, some judges will only put up a traditionally marked dog, we had, by the time we got into Poodles, knew of people who were winning in the show ring with Siberian Huskies who were not of the traditional black and white, blue-eyed variety!

We still have a black Poodle, "Kate", who is almost 11 years old, who came from a breeder who loves the Wycliffe Poodle lines, despite some of the problems she has encountered. Out of respect for that breeder, I will not list all of the health problems that my dogs from her, and the littermates of my girls, have endured. But there have been enough that I finally decided it was time to look elsewhere. Since this breeder was the president of the regional Poodle club for many years, I was disappointed that she chose not to follow the guidelines recommended for those who are trying to diversify the gene pool in Poodles, in hopes of producing a healthier dog, but to each their own.

But back to being politically incorrect.  Many breeders of solid colored, gorgeous show quality Standard Poodles will immediately eliminate any dog from the gene pool if that dog has even a touch of white hair on his chest, much less has what some call "multi-colors". Some breeders will even "bucket" any puppies from their breeding who are mismarked--yes, that's right, they will cull them, a/k/a kill them, the moment they are born.

This makes me incredibly sad. Unless there is something negatively connected to a certain color gene (like the lethal white gene that can show up in merle to merle breedings in Aussies and Collies) then there is absolutely no reason to kill a puppy because of its color. In fact, when you do so, you may be killing a dog that has exceptionally GOOD genes for soundness in body and mind...perhaps even a dog that could, technically, change the future of the breed.

When I met Charlene Dunlap of Canine Horizons, a Poodle fancier who is a fantastic dog trainer but is not a dog breeder, I learned a lot about parti colored Poodles. In fact, her Canine Horizons website contains a wealth of information, including photos that prove that Poodles who were basically white with black spots were some of the original dogs that this lovely breed were founded on.

The first time I ever stepped out of the box and brought a parti colored Poodle home, it was on impulse. I named him, on his registration papers, Paint Me Politically Incorrect. He had a wonderful temperament and was an incredibly sweet dog whom I placed with a great family.
As you can see in this photo, "Pete" was a very pretty dog with beautiful markings, but he was not a very elegant Poodle, in fact he was only five months old in this photo...he continued to grow and grow!  He lacked the elegance needed in a correct Poodle head and he was heavy boned, almost to the point of being more like a Labradoodle than a Poodle. I have to admit, I still found him quite beautiful even though I decided, as he grew (and grew and grew!) and I researched his pedigree, I knew he was destined for a pet home, not to be used for breeding.

My Kate is getting older now, and having lost her sister a few years ago, as well as a sweet Standard boy that we had taken in when his owner died, our house had began to feel a bit "Poodle empty". So when I found out that the United Kennel Club allowed multi-colored Poodles not only to be shown in the conformation ring, but also to be show in the sporting clips (as opposed to AKC shows where they must have much more extensive grooming, particularly after they are a year old)....I decided to look for a Poodle who could be competitive in the UKC ring.  Two different breeders offered us lovely black females to show UKC, but we decided to hold out for a male.

Imagine our surprise about a month ago when we received a call asking if we would like to add a lovely 7 month old parti-colored male to our household.  And not one with a questionable pedigree, but a dog from a reputable breeder, and a dog with the structure, type and movement capable of winning in the show ring!

So go ahead....paint me politically incorrect!  If what it takes, to find diversity in Poodles is to take a chance on something other than just a standard black, then I vote for diversity. It is time to put color aside, and breed for good health, so we can stand a chance at saving the breed we love.  But keep in mind, being a parti-color does NOT mean that the dog has an outcrossed pedigree (in fact you can look up Pete's pedigree and see that it is heavily linebred).  It is more important than ever, if looking for a parti-colored Poodle, to deal with a reputable breeder, one who will show you the health clearances of the parents!

We are already in love with our boy Hudson, who is quite a character. We wish for not only a sucessful show career, but also for a long, happy, HEALTHY life for our new boy.

Melanie Schlaginhaufen
Paint Me Poodles, Meja Siberians

(c) 2013, Melanie Schlaginhaufen, all rights reserved. No portion of this article, including photos, may be reproduced without the author's permission.


  1. Until recently I did not even know that Parti Poodles existed. Imagine my surprise when through Pinterest, I came across a photo of a Parti poodle. It was love at first sight. I also had the incredible experience of being the owner of three poodles over the years. I, who was not even a "dog person", was totally bowled over by our first chocolate coloured miniature poodle Floppy. What a character and so loving and elegant the one moment, just to turn in this funny little clown. The reason we got a poodle in the first place was because my son Andrè was allergic to cats and dogs except POODLES. What a blessing that was, otherwise I never would have known the joy and special qualities of this special breed.
    After his passing I got Codi (black)and Terry ( chocolate), two toys. They were just as much fun, but sadly they also went to join Floppy.
    By looking and reading about poodles on the internet I came across your blog and I really enjoy it, not to mention , well for me, Parti Poodles. I think they are magnificent animals and your Hudson just proofs it.
    I live In Cape Town South Africa and we are a bit isolated as far as Parti Poodles go, but I think we will catch up sooner or later.
    I wish you the best and please give him a hug from me. I will follow his endeavours with great interest. Love Elza Bester

    1. Elza, I bet you would also really enjoy seeing the parti colored Poodles, even the short little movie video clips of them doing all their tricks and learned behaviors, on my friend Charlene Dunlap's page. Click on page and from there you can go to articles about parti colored poodles, or you can click on the page mentioned on the home page, about her 2 new Parti colored Poodle boys---I can spend hours on her website! She is not a breeder, but like us, she is a long time Poodle fancier and she is the one who caused me to fall in love with partis.

  2. Thank you for writing Eliza! There is a Multi colored Poodle Club of America, and the people who are very serious about parti colored Poodles are members. I just took a look at their website and noticed that the contact person, Kathy Esio-King, is a very ethical breeder. You might email her and see if she knows of any ethical breeders in your country. Since I am not a breeder, I do not know as many people as some fanciers of parti colors do. Here's the link:
    I hope you have the opporunity to consider a parti as your next Poodle!

  3. ps Elza, Hudson says thank you for the hug!

  4. Loved seeing Hudson in Hickory. Will you be going to Chesterfield just south of Richmond or Courtland? We will be going to both & I am hoping there will be more Multi colors showing. Would love to meet up with you & Hudson. Echo gives out a big WOOF! to Hudson.

    1. Katie, Hudson and I looked you up on Facebook tonight and we immediately recognized your lovely Echo! Hudson says shame on me that I did not connect the name immediately with your lovely little girl! If you would like to see her on the blog, you can send me a jpg or similar file of her show photo and I will be glad to post a Congratulations to Echo! on the Poodle blog. Please also send me her registered name and how many group placements she has, brag a little! She is adorable and deseves the PR!

  5. Hi Katie! We are hoping to come up to Chesterfield the end of the month. My son just had some back surgery last week, we have to make sure that he will be fine by himself while we are gone. Hudson reallly needs to get out, you may remember he was scared the first couple of days in Hickory. The weird thing was, he would walk around outside the ring with his tail up, happy as can be! But then the second his breeder took him into the ring, the tail went down. Silly boy! Anyway, we hope to come to those shows because I don't see much else this year within driving distance of where we live. Hickory was his first shows, and he had been on a long trip across the country the day before. He has been happy as a lark since we got home so praying he will be okay at his next dog show. Please remind me which one Echo is! I have some memory problems due to my illness. Hope to see you soon! Melanie and Hudson