Showsight Presents The Poodle

POODLES: how To lIve wITh a curly-haIred genIus O ur first Poodle arrived carried into the house over my shoul- der like a small child. I had wanted a Poodle for a number they are able to do that. Your lifestyle and activities are quickly learned and followed by your Poodle. is just as valuable today as it was when first published. To me, it is of grave concern that in the show ring glamour and exagger- ation supersede correct structure, balance and movement in the eyes of far too many of our judges. by helen lee James

Are Poodles the perfect breed for all individuals or families? Absolutely not! Yes, they do come in three sizes which help them adapt to the size of your home and yard. However, they require regular grooming and that is probably the most deterring factor to any individual with limited time. When you hear people state, “Oh this breed is hypoallergenic and they do not shed”, you are hearing what has become a frequently repeated myth. It is my belief (and experience) that all animals with hair, including humans, routinely drop the dead hair and replace it with hair that is newly grown. Dead hair, if it has any length and unless it is routinely brushed becomes matted and attracts dirt. It also creates discomfort which a dog attempts to alleviate by chewing and scratching at the matted coat. We then find it in chunks on the floor. The breed Standard for Poodles describes the coat quality as, “Curly: nat- urally harsh texture, dense throughout.” Puppies and young dogs often lack or are very slow to acquire a proper harsh coat, a naturally harsh coat without the help of cosmetic additives. Grooming a Poodle for the show ring is now a fine art requiring many hours of work. It also requires an experienced groomer and/or handler who has analyzed the dog in question and knows what to hide and what to emphasize on each and every Poodle being groomed. Unfortunate- ly, they also know which judges look at only the grooming and not the dog under- neath all the hair. And it is this specialized knowledge which the client pays for. Our official Illustrated Study of the Poodle Breed Standard , copyright 1992, was carefully done and, for the most part,

of years after observing the breed in the Obedience ring, as well as Poodles belong- ing to friends. My husband was somewhat skeptical because we had four children and had always owned shorthaired dogs without the rigors of exaggerated groom- ing. I told my husband I had simply, “Bor- rowed him for the weekend”. Of course, he did not believe me. The puppy reacted as to be expected, following me as if he were my shadow and sobbed and cried the first night because he was lonesome. I solved the problem by making a bed on the floor and sleeping next to him. He then quickly adapted to the entire family and he convinced every- one that he was indeed a family member. He was an Obedience dog, working in Util- ity when I was employed by AKC, and had already finished his Championship in 7 shows with a Group 1st from the classes. Over the years we have learned that Poodles are one of the very most intelligent and versatile of breeds. Regarding intelli- gence they rank up with the Border Collie but have a much higher sense of humor. They also have an adaptability to become what we need or expect them to be. It is believed that Poodles appeared hundreds of years ago as versatile water retrievers and graduated to become enter- tainers and circus dogs. It is very apparent that they have the talent to fill almost any role assigned to them. Individuals who mistakenly believe that Poodles are “cowardly dogs” have never witnessed a Poodle on guard duty. If you need a guard dog with common sense, a Poodle is able to fill that role. If you enjoy a constant intellectual companion to sit with you or watch television with you, yes,

I well remember many years ago when the KC’s Board of Directors sent out mem- os in regard to the excessive use of hair- spray on the excessive length of hair many of our Poodles carried. On that day at a show in Wisconsin where we happened to be, someone had hung the memo from the AKC on a post nearby the Poodle ring. The response sounded like a wake at a funeral. I do not know how many inches of hair came off the Poodles that were entered, but I do know that in some cases it was over done. Today we are back where we were before that memo was circulated. Judges in many cases expect excessive hair. Exces- sive hair must be held in place in some manner. Many exhibitors, be they owner/ handlers or professionals, have their own tried-and-true methods. The Poodle Breed Standard clearly describes the hair of the topknot as follows: “In all clips the hair of the topknot may be left free or held in place by elastic bands. The hair is only of sufficient length to present a smooth out- line. ‘Topknot’ refers only to hair on the skull, from stop to occiput. This is the only area where elastic bands may be used.” And how do our Poodle judges respond to the multiple or misplaced elastic bands? Most ignore it and I remember very few dogs excused for this transgression except the ones which we excused many years ago. Poodles are certainly not the only breed where exaggerations have increased. As judges, we have the responsibility and duty to keep current and recognize what has happened within our breeds over the years. Historical photographs are of

252 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ULY 2015

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