Comedian Rita Rudner once wondered "if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult" because of their extreme hairstyles. The haircut, though exaggerated for the show ring, does have a purpose. But poodles have routine grooming needs that are far less dramatic.
Poodle Coat Development
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A poodle puppy's coat is not the same as that of an adult. As puppies, poodles have a soft, wavy coat. As they age, their coats take on a curlier, thicker appearance. All poodles begin the change at about the age of 9 months. Smaller poodles, such as toys and miniatures, take up to 18 months, while standard poodles usually have their adult coats in about 3 months. During the puppy stage, the grooming is pretty straightforward. Brush your poodle puppy once a day or once every other day. This will keep mats at bay. Matting is a big problem for poodles of all sizes. Poodles require more brushing as puppies than they do as adults, because adult coats are curly and do not mat as easily.
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Because poodles have hair instead of fur, they are considered hypoallergenic. Dander sticks to fur, fur comes off the dog and gets into the air, people inhale the fur and dander and the trouble begins. But there is a trade-off. Poodle people may not be constantly vacuuming up furballs or spending hundreds of dollars on lint rollers, but in return they must have their dogs groomed on a regular basis. If they don't, the dog's hair will just keep growing, like that of a human, and become matted. Poodle people have to brush their dogs about the head and neck on a regular basis. If the rest of the coat is kept short and curly, it does not require brushing to avoid mats.
It Costs How Much?
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This simple trade-off is expensive if you don't know how to groom a poodle yourself. Groomers charge exorbitant fees for the poodle show cut, so most pet owners don't have that done. Instead, the poodle is usually clipped short with electric clippers, and some scissor work is incorporated into the head, ears, anklets and tail to give that pom-pom appearance. The poodle is first bathed, dried with a blower to get the hair to stand up and out, then shaved with the electric clippers. The parts not shaved are brushed out and shaped with scissors. This needs to be done about every six weeks. Some groomers will see the dog between scheduled visits for what is called a "tidy," where just the face is shaved down to keep the elegant look of the poodle.
And the Ears and Eyes?
Poodles are one of those unfortunate breeds with long, floppy ears. This means the inside of the poodle ear is anaerobic, a perfect place for yeast and bacteria to grow into a massive and painful infection. If the dog is not on the right food, these ear problems are exacerbated by food allergies. The groomer will usually pull out the hairs inside the dog's ear with a hemostat, then use an ear flush to clear out any debris, infection or goo that may be present deep inside. An ear check, pluck and flush is standard grooming procedure with any poodle so troubles can be identified and dealt with swiftly. Ear infections can be terribly painful.
Eye stains can plague a white poodle. These reddish tear stains, which appear on the dog's fur under the tear ducts, are the result of bacteria combined with the natural discharge from the eyes. They can be cleaned with wipes specially made for that purpose, or the dog can be given an oral product that uses low-dose antibiotics to keep the bacteria from forming.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.