A poodle's naturally curly coat affords it many grooming opportunities, from the blown out bow-sporting diva to the perfectly groomed bow-tied show dog. Dreadlocks, commonly known as cords, form naturally in a poodle coat with the propensity to mat, but care must to be taken to allow the cords to form properly, avoiding severe matting, which can cause coat and skin damage.
Not for Every Poodle
Similar to humans, the coarseness of the hair and coat of each poodle may vary, and not every poodle's coat can be worked into dreadlocks or cords. Puppies shouldn't be corded until they reach 8 months of age. By working with the coat during bathing and grooming, it's possible to get a feel for the coarseness of the coat. A coat that mats easily likely will cord, and while the process is painstaking, the rewards are immense. Corded poodles are striking, especially in the show ring.
Let Nature Do its Work
A poodle's hair will form into mats naturally if not cared for properly. To begin the dreadlocks process, avoid combing the dog for a period of time. The exact time line may vary depending on her coat condition and previous grooming, but you'll be able to feel the cords forming near the base of the hair shaft near the dog's skin. You may want to trim the hair near the dog's anal area to avoid having feces mat into the cords as they begin to form.
Lift and Separate
Once you stop combing your poodle, her dreadlock cords will begin to form, but they must be separated to keep her from looking like one large mat. Separate the hair into 1/4-inch sections. For best results, use your fingers. Separate the sections by holding one 1/4-inch section in each hand. Pull one toward you, while pulling the other in the opposite direction. You'll need to repeat this for the entire coat. Sections that are very matted can be separated by using a metal comb. Mats that won't separate can be helped along by using a small pair of grooming shears and snipping a small cut into the mat near the dog's coat. Cut away from, not toward the skin being careful not to snip the dog's skin. This is a process best handled by a groomer if you're not familiar with grooming or handling grooming scissors.
Dreadlock cords require constant care. You'll need to rework the cords two or three times weekly as the full dreadlocks form, and your poodle still needs to be bathed. Dreadlock cords need to dry fully to avoid mold and mildew in the coat, which could take several hours. The use of a kennel dryer or large house fans directed toward the kenneled dog as she dries, can assist in the drying process. To ensure the proper formation of the dreadlock cords and keep them clean and dry, you may want to delegate the bathing and drying to your professional groomer.