Will the Poodle ever change its image? by Eileen Geeson
I wonder – in the event of the request of a few enthusiasts of the breed for the Poodle to be shown with recognition in the show ring in any trim – how would breeders, exhibitors and groomers like to see them shown in the future? Well, I have to say what started out as a simple enough question by a novice exhibitor, as to how would the Poodle be shown if not in the traditional style, turned out to cause quite a furor in some quarters.
It is easy, perhaps, to understand both sides of the opinion. Part of the ‘Poodle story’ is its coat. The traditional trimming of the Poodle is said to have come about partly because the clipped Poodle became a symbol of fashion and wealth. In fact the Poodle was a sportsman’s dog with a ‘splendid nose’ with the conformation of a tireless, powerful swimmer as well as an excellent retriever. His drawback was his heavy, thick, wool coat. Parts of the coat, considered less essential was therefore cut away, and coat left to protect vital parts such as the chest/heart, other organs and joints.
The trim, as it was, certainly was never as ‘posh’ as it is today. But groomers in the early days did not have the equipment we have now. Maybe some may have had the artistic talent of some of today’s groomers given the ware-with-all of the shampoos, conditioner, brushes, marvellous clippers and supersonic scissors we now have.
But the Poodle is ‘posh’. It is a showy, fun loving, eye-catching exhibit. Presentation has come a long way and has entered different phases over the course of time. Once the mane practically dragged on the floor in curls or cords, now it is shorter and more styled. Do we really want to change that to short coat or a pet trim?
Some people have expressed a wish to show their dogs in what is classed as a pet trim, such as the lamb or sporting clip for ease of care and grooming. Also because they may not have the same talent as some of the professionals in the breed who turn out dogs to such perfection that competing with them is a hopeless case. Is that a good enough reason to change?
It is true to say that there are fans of the Poodle trimmed completely off – like a farm dog. We surely do not want to ever see this trimming in the show ring even if it brings great comfort to the dog and ease to the owner and groomer. Shows are shows. We expect to see the best and of course we are all envious of those who can trim better than we do, but there again this is not a sufficiently good reason to advocate change.
Some of our most prominent exhibitors, judges and groomers share their view.
Jackie Kitcher writes: "Regarding the shorter trims. I welcome the change, although I would always put up a dog in any trim if I thought it the best on the day. I wonder if it will help entries. I’m plucking up the courage to cut my dog’s topknot into a rounded hat so that there is no need to use bands and then shape the body into T clip. I think this type of clip is the best way forward and will prove fairly popular over time. Plus it will also stop people being able to put the fake hair pieces in the topknots and would need next to no lacquer to support it.
"Fake hair pieces are becoming the norm in so many of the winning Poodles and it’s an area of the ‘just hairdressing’ argument I abhor more than any other. With lacquer we can feel it, see it and know it’s there, but with these additional hair pieces I don’t really feel a judge has any chance to know for sure whose topknot and outline is real and whose is ‘complimented’! I’m told I’ve judged several and certainly could not tell!”
But the argument here is – do they really exist? Having a bitch with a fabulous coat which needs no hair spray for the neck hair to look profuse I wonder if the idea of hair additions is exaggerating to say the least. Perhaps the fact it couldn’t be seen or felt that there were extensions present was because they weren’t there!
In the opinion of Jackie Kitcher, as long as there is something of a ‘mane’, and coat texture and colour is able to be assessed and the desired balanced Poodle topline is not changed, she thinks any variation on the theme is fine for the ring. Jackie would welcome the demise of topknot bands completely. There are several reasons for this, one being the over-riding factor that our dogs would be so much more comfortable without them in their daily lives.
Ear fringes could be incorporated here. Would it be nice to show in the ring with shorter ear fringes as was seen on the famous Toy Poodle that won Crufts?
Sharon Pine-Haynes says: "The dog underneath the coat is far more important than the choice of trim it is shown in. They must have a clean shaven face. I would expect them to be shown in a recognisable Poodle trim and there needs to be sufficient hair to feel texture and assess colour. There will always be talented groomers who can make an ordinary dog look special, this isn’t going to change. It’s easier to hide faults in T clip than it is in continental.”
Lee Cox says: "I have no objection to Poodles being shown in any trim. It is, after all, the dog underneath the hair that should be being assessed. The hair is the icing on the cake. Yes, I love to see a Poodle in full show trim and this is one of the factors that first made me fall in love with the breed. But some of the modern day shorter trims are just as beautiful and there is always the possibility that allowing shorter trims to be exhibited would entice more people back into the show ring.”
Philip Langdon says: "I have no problem with Poodles being shown in any trim, in fact it was lovely to see at least four corded poodles at PCA. The problem would lay with the judges, can you compare a white Standard in full jacket and presented to the nines to a black Standard who is cut down in short lamb trim? Unless the full coated dog had a major fault or faults then I think a judge will always lean towards the coated one. I have shown dogs cut down and as with any other trim, it can be done well or it can look awful, it depends on how clever and good an eye the groomer has. However I did not start out in Poodles to show them cut down, part of the attraction has to be the coat.”
Things change. Showing Poodles in a lamb trim or even more tailored trims than seen now would probably end the use of hair spray, and what some might class as over-the-top presentation. But as one judge asks – What is over-the-top? That is a good point.
Poodles that look fabulous are often the ones that are beautifully presented without too much fuss. A dog with too much spray in its coat can completely ruin an otherwise really nice dog. The right balance and we have a winner.
There will always be people who don’t want change, but the Poodle has already changed in as far as they are now often shown in puppy trim rather than being cut out into lion or continental at one year old, or at least before they were out of junior at 18 months?
At one time in the show ring the corded variety was more popular than the curly. It is difficult to believe that now in view of the work involved. In fact, it was decided that in reality the two types were but one of the same and that curly could be corded and likewise the corded made curly.
Of course, for any changes to be affective judges must recognise these. And they generally do in time. We have seen Poodles win at Crufts – we know that they would never have done so if these same dogs had been trimmed in a cut down style at the time. Will a Poodle in a lamb trim ever achieve this potential? And the question is, should they?
No doubt you have your opinions.