How to Groom Poodles for Conformation Shows

by Jodi Thornton O'Connell
    The continental clip is the one of the most common for adult dogs in the show ring.

    The continental clip is the one of the most common for adult dogs in the show ring.

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    Grooming your poodle for a conformation show entails much more than just washing, brushing and trimming his nails. AKC breed standard require the poodle's fluffy coat to be trimmed and shaped into one of four clips acceptable in the show ring. Your dog groomer is trained to master the specific requirements of the clips, letting you focus on your time in the ring with just a few last-minute grooming touch-ups.

    Poodle pups less than a year old are normally shown in the puppy clip. The groomer leaves the hair on the body long, and clips the dog's face, throat, feet and tail close to the skin. The puppy clip protects the puppy's tender skin before his adult coat grows in. The shaved areas allow judges to easily view critical points of conformation such as the neck, muzzle, chin and feet. Before the show, fluff his body, legs, topknot ears and tail with a wire slicker brush to present him at his best.

    After your poodle is a year old, you can choose from two clips to show him in. For the continental clip, your groomer shaves your dog's face, throat, feet and tail as in the puppy clip. The hair is left long on his head, neck, chest and shoulders. His hindquarters get shaved, with the exception of a rosette of fur left directly over his hip joint, and a pom-pom on the end of his tail and on each ankle. Keep his topknot and ears clean for the show by dividing the hair into sections, wrapping in plastic and securing with rubber bands. When it's showtime, simply remove the bands and plastic, and brush the hair out. Then fluff his body and leg pom-poms as well. To remove any tangles, work gently from the ends of the hair toward the skin.

    The English saddle clip is the second option for adult dogs shown in the ring. In addition to face, feet, tail and throat being shaved as close as possible, the front legs get shaved, except for wide pom-poms around the ankles. The rear legs have dual pom-poms at the hock and ankle, and the hindquarters are left with about an inch of hair. The poodle's neck, head, chest and shoulders are covered with longer hair in the English saddle clip, shaped to give the dog a rounded appearance. Rosettes on the hip are optional. Use the banding technique to keep his ears and topknot clean. Brush him out before the show, being careful not to injure the shaved skin with the wire slicker brush.

    Dogs show in a sporting clip in the stud dog and brood bitch classes as well as the Parade of Champions. For this cut, the groomer clips your dog an inch or less along the outline of his body. His face, throat, tail and feet are shaved close, leaving a topknot on his head and a pompom on his tail. The hair on his body and legs can be the same length, or the hair on his legs may be slightly longer.

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    About the Author

    Jodi Thornton O'Connell has been an outdoorswoman for more than 45 years. She shares her love of adventure in columns for "Out-and-About Magazine," "Adam’s Rib," "Senior Christian Lifestyles," "Creede Magazine" and various websites.

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