Fletch needs to be groomed to make sure his non-shedding hair doesn’t mat and tangle.

Fletch needs to be groomed to make sure his non-shedding hair doesn’t mat and tangle.

Popular Poodles keep their stylish hair on

Intelligence and good looks are two attributes poodles have in spades, and they have the added bonus of not shedding.

Last week’s column about the “non-shedding” Shih Tzu breed, is a perfect lead-in for the ultimate non-shedding breed, the Poodle. There was a time when the Poodle was North America’s most popular breed. Poodles come in three sizes: Toy, Miniature and Standard, and to some extent, popularity may have been the result of this three-for-one status. It also arises from the intelligence and loyalty of this elegant breed of dog.

Poodle owners are devoted to their dogs and Poodles are exclusively devoted to their people – Poodles are one-person dogs. That may explain why those who don’t own and love them often despise them. I have known more than one spouse who complained that their partner’s Poodle would not let him or her join them in the bed!

The Poodles name comes from the German “pudel” which denotes its original use as a water dog. Most dog lovers know that the fancy haircuts that we see on the televised dog shows have their origin in the hunting trims which were developed to stop the dogs from sinking when their long, thick coats hit the water. The Poodle of all sizes, even the tiny Toy Poodle, enjoy retrieving and swimming.

The fancy haircuts though are usually reserved for the show ring; most Poodle owners keep their pet’s coats fairly short with the signature Poodle trim of closely shaved face, feet and pom-pom tail.

Without frequent brushing and trimming, like any non-shedding breed, the Poodle’s coat will become matted. In the summertime, the Poodles I groom at Brouse Loop Kennels are often very curly with quite a bit of sand in their coats – both indicators that they are spending a lot of their time at the beach, as well as in and out of the water.

“R’lene”, a black Standard Poodle owned by Chris and Gene Nagy, benefits from beachfront walks and swimming daily. She also loves to accompany Gene on long bike rides. A short trim means less mess and a wash-and-wear coat. A “proper miss”, she likes to be in control. When she comes to me for grooming, she often takes the leash into her own mouth and walks herself to her regular kennel.

Both she, and “Fletch,” a black-grey Standard Poodle owned by Andrew Holden, stand patiently throughout the grooming process which begins with a thorough brushing of the thick curly coat to remove any loose undercoat and then a head-to-toe check with a metal comb to be sure I haven’t missed any matts or tangles. Face, feet and around the base of the tail are shaved very short.

The first trim of the legs and body, called a “rough-in,” is mostly to take off any unnecessary hair, and is followed by a bath and a fluffing blow-dry in which the coat is straightened as much as possible. The final trim is then done on the straightened hair either with clippers if being kept short or by hand-scissoring if being kept longer.

Grooming the Poodle is an art. Scissoring is much like sculpting the coat and it is this artistry of the Poodle coat that led me to raise and show a number of champion Miniature Poodles in the 1980’s.