Yes! My absolute favorite dog breed! The Poodle. Sassy, clever, high maintenance, elegant – All the things I’m not.
The word Poodle conjures up images of pom poms, bare legs and top knots. Evolving through the ages from practical to fashionable, au natural they are what brings that classic ‘Doodle’ look to the crossbreed. Shaggy, moustached and Teddy Bear like are all words applicable to the uncut Poodle.
I could write for hours about this wonderfully complex and hilarious breed. My other favorites, below the Poodle, are Old English Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards, and Great Danes. All of which have been cross-bred with – THE POODLE to create a desirable hybrid that all melt my heart.
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Why are Poodles Shaved? – The History
My husband always says that we are not getting a Poodle (grounds for divorce?) – they’re not “manly” enough for him and he doesn’t like it when they are shaved in some parts and left long and curly in other parts. BUT, did you know, there is a very “masculine” reason why Poodles were shaved and groomed in the traditional “Poodle” cut?
Firstly, Poodles were originally used as wildfowl hunting dogs to retrieve game birds from the water. The argument goes on as to whether they originated from France or Germany. The French for Poodle is Caniche (meaning “duck dog”) and the German for Poodle is Pudel (derived from the German word Puddeln which means “to splash”)
Secondly, as these dogs were used to retrieve game in lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes, their coats needed to be kept in an easily maintainable style and one that didn’t hinder their working duties.
You see? Very manly!
Their bodies were shaved to enable them to swim quickly in the water, with their chest, shoulders and head left full to aid in buoyancy. The face was shaved short for hygiene (given that they were retrieving the often, messy fruits of a hunting shoot).
Fragile areas of the Poodle are the ankle joints and the tail tip, therefore these areas were left long to give some protection and cushioning from rocks, branches, and rough terrain.
Poodle’s kidneys are close to the skin on their back and are at risk of damage from the cold water and injury from branches in the same way as the tail and ankles, therefore “pom-poms” were left unshaven on their backs for protection.
Evolution of the Poodle Cut
From the early 1600s right through to the 1900s, the Poodle cut remained mostly the same, apart from occasionally having full-coated unshaven front legs instead of partially shaved ones.
It wasn’t until the mid 1900s that the Poodle cut developed into more of an individual fashion style statement. The development of better grooming equipment and electric blowers meant that they were clipped to be bold and stand out from the crowd.
In the 1960s, Poodles rocketed in popularity, leading to more of an overall length in the body, which was easier to keep up with and shorter top knots.
In the 1970s, the Poodle cut developed again, to keep up with the ever-demanding thirst for these incredible dogs to be centre stage in the show rings. They were mostly kept short or shaved on the underside, with lots of volume on the head, ears and shoulders. The front legs kept the historic look, with the ankle bracelet of hair, but the rear legs started making appearances with two bracelets – one on the ankle and one on the knee.
Today, anything goes with Poodles – shaved, partially shaved, top-knot, afro, bare legs, hairy legs, corded, fluffy. More recently, the use of pet-friendly dyes are used along with a specific cut that has been dreamed out of the groomer’s wild imagination, to sculpt and color the dog into a work of art.
How Many Poodle Cuts Are There?
Obviously for most of us domestic pet owners, a clip or cut will serve 3 main purposes.
- Ease of upkeep – Keeping the coat matt free, minimal grooming, keeping it clean
- Comfort of your dog – Hair out of the eyes and mouth, knots kept in check, warmth
- The appearance – Smart, clean, breed specific
There are over 50 different styles of coat clips that are recognized for the Poodle. Here, we will lay out the most popular of the top cuts for Poodles.
Continental Cut or Lion Cut
Legs are shaved leaving a pom-pom around each ankle joint with shaved feet. The tail is cylindrical shaped. Pom-poms on each kidney (on either side of the back, above the tuck-in of the stomach). Shaved face. Full hair around the upper torso, head, and ears.
This cut is the best-known cut for the Poodle and is the preferred cut for showing Poodles. It works best on standard sizes as it accentuates the long muscular legs.
English Saddle Cut
This cut is very similar to the Continental Cut, but with an extra pom-pom on the rear legs around the knees. The lower torso is left with hair, but slightly shorter than the “lion mane” on the upper torso.
This cut is a popular cut for the more active Poodle when participating in agility contests. The length of the coat is the same all over, usually around 3cm long.
The ears are kept long, as is the head. The face is shaved. The tail is finished off with a pom-pom on the end. In the UK, this is known as the Sporting Cut.
Modern Cut or European Cut
Similar extravagance to the Continental Cut, but more of a rounded softer appearance. The face is still shaved and ears and head are left long. The rear legs are cut with a bell-bottom flared appearance, the tail is shaped into a cylinder shape.
The rest of the body is left the same length all over, and rounded with scissors at the feet, making it look like the dog is floating. This cut works well on Standard Poodles and Miniature sized Poodles.
This is a cut that uses a combination of different lengths of clipper attachment and skilled scissoring. The body is medium length, including the head. The ears are long, along with the trademark mustache, eyebrows, and beard. The legs, from the top joints, are a slightly longer clip, giving a denser thicker effect on the legs.
This cut is the cutest cut and not reserved for just puppies – this cut can make even a senior dog look like a puppy again. It is a very loose fluid cut, usually the same length all over. The face is short, the eyebrows, beard and moustache are left slightly longer, with the ears scissored short.
This is the most recognized “Doodle” cut and is extremely popular amongst most Doodle breeds. The coat can be scissored or clipped using a long comb attachment.
Teddy Bear Cut
This is another cut, popular for Doodle breeds, and does what it says on the tin. The hair is left mid-length and cut only with scissors. The ears are rounded off, the face and head are cut to a big circular shape and the legs and feet are scissored to resemble teddy bear legs, complete with rounded off feet.
This cut is a very manageable cut, using one length of clipper all over and scissoring for the head and ears. This cut is great for active muddy dogs as it can be cleaned and dried easily and quickly. Also good for getting used to grooming your own dog.
Shaving – Yay or Nay?
Shaving is a personal choice – some like it, others don’t. Some dogs need it, some can keep clean and knot-free with the hair grown out. So, what are the benefits or reasons why a Poodle will need to be shaved and when can you get away with letting the hair do its own thing?
Personally, I don’t really dig the shaved face, but I can see the benefits. No eye gunk, no wet beards, and no smelly mustaches.
As for shaving the rest of the body, I like to shave my dog’s bottoms, genitals, and paw pads to keep them as clean as possible as they are allowed on furniture and on the beds (don’t judge me!).
As for the body, I don’t see any benefit to the dog. I think it is a purely cosmetic look. I’d worry about the sun on their skin, or in the winter, them getting cold. The dog’s coat protects from bug bites, sun rays, and general scratches and grazes from trees and rugged areas.
Shaving the dog’s hair off will not keep them cool in the summer, in fact, the opposite, as the skin is exposed to the sun. If your dog is double-coated (like all of mine), the soft fluffy undercoat grows faster than the guard hairs, making the coat very much like Velcro, leading to the coat picking up burrs and grass seeds in their coats.
In the winter, the double-coated breeds are better at coping, as the undercoat insulates against the cold. In the summer, the undercoat will shed more, leaving the guard hairs free to circulate the air around the dog’s skin.
Can You Poodle a Doodle & Doodle a Poodle?
Here are some pictures – Can you tell the Poodle from the Doodle?
There are 6 photos here, 4 are of Poodles and 2 of these pictures are other Doodle breeds.
Poodle crosses (especially the large ones) tend to have many physical attributes similar to the Poodle.
- Long, slender, well-defined, muscular legs
- Tucked in tummy
- A proud tail that curls up and over the back
- Long ears
- Deep chest
- Elongated slim muzzle
- Ability to grow hair long
- Abundance of curls
You can most definitely “Poodle Your Doodle” and “Doodle Your Poodle”. If you have a Doodle breed with tight curly hair, try the Dutch Cut or Modern/European Cut and you will be surprised as to how many people ask you if your dog is a poodle.
If you have a Poodle, try the Teddy Bear Cut, Lamb Cut, or the Puppy Cut. No shaving is needed but you will need to let the Poodle’s hair grow out a little on the face to give the dog eyebrows, mustache, and beard. A Poodle with this type of cut looks surprisingly “Un-Poodle” like and is often mistaken for some kind of Poodle cross.
Have fun with your Doodle or Poodle – try out different styles, clips, shapes, accessories, even colors! Hair grows back and if things go terribly wrong, I’m sure a nice dog jacket will cover any embarrassments until it does.