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Regarding poodles:

True, the teeny tiny ones can be yappy and horrid, but the others; the larger, less fragile (and less frequently dyed pink) ones are truly remarkable beasts. "Standard" Poodles (the big ones) are usually between 45-60 pounds (Female) and 65-80 pounds (Male.) They come in four colors, basically: Black, white, chocolate, and apricot. ("Apricot," how silly. It's sort of a tan color.) They DO NOT SHED (neither do the teeny ones, for that matter,) and their dander is considerably less irritating to the allergies of most humans than other breeds' dander. (Some people even refer to poodles as "hypo-allergenic" dogs.) Standard Poodles are phenomenal athletes. They are excellent jumpers, superb retrievers, and they are gutsy and stout-hearted. They love to swim, they do exceptionally well in obedience and agility classes, and Standard Poodles make remarkably good assistance and therapy dogs.

Part of the Poodle's "Girly-Pansy-Ridiculous-Pretend-Dog" reputation (maybe even most of it) is related to the profoundly bad haircuts dog show people have traditionally put poodles in. It's ugly and -- well, just stupid. But, there was at one time an actual use for it. Poodles were originally bred to be water retrievers for hunters. ("Hey, how about this...I'll shoot that thing from here, then you jump off the boat and go get it for me, deal?") That silly puffy-ankled, naked-butted haircut acted as a little personal flotation device for the dog, making him more bouyant and able to swim without tiring as quickly. Today, the haircuts are just dumb. Just about nobody uses poodles for hunting dogs anymore. There are a number of poodle clubs and breeders who are actively trying to get the American Kennel Club to stop requiring that hairdo silliness in shows because of the adverse effect it has on the breed's reputation.

And guess what else. Standard Poodles are also really really good with children and other dogs.