Whether you imagine an enormous, bounding standard in a classic poodle pom-pom cut, or a teeny-tiny toy in an adorable puppy haircut, the word "poodle" is likely linked in your mind with a very particular doggy image. Coat type, however, lends a great deal of variation to this popular breed.
The best-known of the two poodle coat textures is the curly. It's easy to get confused at this juncture—some people use the term "curly" for thick, dense coats of humanlike hair, others for softer, furrier coats. Officially, "curly" has only one meaning: tightly curled hair. This is the fabled poodle hair (enthusiasts assure us it's not fur) that "doesn't shed." Of course, like all hair, it does shed, but the shed hairs tend to get trapped in the curls, rather than on your couch or carpet, thus leading to the misperception.
This is the most common coat type in the US. The AKC describes it as "of naturally harsh texture, dense throughout." A curly poodle can wear any of the classic poodle haircuts and must be brushed with religious regularity so all those trapped, shed hairs don't turn into impossible-to-remove mats.
The less common corded coat type confuses the issue by being called "soft curly" in some circles. These poodles have much softer, smoother hair than curlies—it's so smooth it can develop ringlet curls when allowed to grow long.
The AKC, however, still prefers a very specific 'do for these doggies—called "cording," hence the coat name. This involves wrapping the long curls into tight cords that are similar to dreadlocks. These doggy dreads can be clipped into any classic poodle style, but are supposed to be left longer on the head, neck and body, and clipped shorter on the poofs.
Show circles are very exclusive when it comes to poodle color. Proper poodle coats are black, grays (including blue and silver), browns (chocolate and cafe-au-lait), apricot, cream and white, with skin the same color as the coat. The AKC breed standard is very detailed about which color coats can go with which color eye rims, noses and nails, as well.
Of course, like the rest of us, many poodles are a mixture of colors and patterns. Though frowned upon in "high society," these pups are easy to find and make at least as excellent pets as their more proper cousins.
The most common non-show coat is particolored. This simply means more than one contrasting color in a coat, such as a brown head and white body. The phantom is another pet-quality pup—not particularly spooky; rather, black and tan and patterned much like the Doberman. Brindles (brown or light with black tips on the hairs), ticked (white with dark hairs throughout) and the unfortunately labeled mismark (black with a white bib, also known as "tuxedo") are other types who won't be seen in a show ring, but would be happy to curl up in your living room and be the champions of your heart.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.