There's a joke about how other dogs must look at poodles with their strangely shaped coats and think they must be part of a weird cult. The familiar shape of a poodle in full show cut is unmistakable, but very few companion poodles are actually cut that way.
The familiar show clip is called the continental clip. The dog's face, throat, part of the tail, and upper parts of the legs are shaved close. Poofy hair is left on the ankles, tip of tail, topknot and ears. The hips can be left shaved close, or there can be a poof or pom-pom on each hip. When the pom-poms are on the hips, it's a continental, or show clip. When the hips are left shaved clean, it's a modified continental clip. If there are three pom-poms on each leg, it's an English saddle clip. These cuts are very expensive and take hours to achieve, as the dog is first bathed, then blow-dried, shaved and scissored to perfection. What it does to the dog's self-esteem, however, is still under review. Poodles being shown in AKC conformation trails must be cut in either the continental or English saddle cut.
Bikini or Miami Clip
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The bikini clip, also called the Miami clip, is relatively easier to acquire and maintain than the continental clip. In this clip, the dog's coat is fluffy all over. The length of the coat doesn't matter and is left up to the owner. The base of the tail as well as the face and feet are shaved close, or "tidied." The ankles are covered in pom-poms that are more elongated than the pom-poms on the show clip, giving the appearance that the dog is wearing leg warmers, a clothing accessory no self-respecting poodle would wear in Miami or anywhere else. This clip is sometimes called the summer clip.
The kennel clip, or utility clip is when the face, feet and part of the tail closest to the body are shaved close. The top knot is blow-dried and brushed out to stand out straight. The tip of the tail is left long, but instead of a rounded pom-pom, the tail is brushed out and looks a little like a tassel. The fur is left short all over the body and scissored, not shaved, into shape. This clip can be modified so that the feet are not shaved and the fur is left short over the entire body, not blown out on the head or tail. When modified that way, it's called a puppy clip and this is how poodles under a year old are shown in the AKC puppy class. Variations of this clip are called the lamb or pet clip. Many poodle owners like these clips, as they are easy to care for and not hard for groomers to create. Dogs being shown in specific AKC show arenas may be cut this way.
There are two exotic clips: the town and country and the lion clips. For the town and country clip, the fur on the legs, head, ears and tip of tail is left long and brushed out, but the rest of the body is shaved close. In the lion clip the poodle is shaved on the neck, throat, feet, hindquarters and just a little bit at the very base of the tail. The coat on his back, head and shoulders is left long, like a lion's mane. The tail, other than right where it meets the body, is left long and brushed out. There are rounded pom-poms on the hips and anklets.
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.