Mix It Up: A Poodle in Disguise
by Mackesie Murphy (member GroomTeam USA) and daughter of Jodi Murphy
originally published in PetGroomer.com Magazine Winter 2015
As everyday groomers it is safe to say we all grow a little tired of executing the same trims over and over; #4 blade on the body, round head, #1 comb pattern, DON'T trim the ears. Every so often we land clients who hand the artistic reigns over to us, letting groomers do whatever they wish. I love the beautiful phrase written on top of a client note card stating “groomers choice.”
I follow this green light with an immediate scan of any and every intriguing, flashy or adorable haircut I have ever seen and stored away in my mental file called “Grooms to Try One Day.” You understand.
Next figure out how to make the hairy beast on your table look like a flawless, unique piece of art that could even pass for a child's stuffed animal (if it weren't for the wagging tail and head tilting). I have found this is not always the easiest objective to accomplish. I want to avoid my personality trims turning out more like Pinterest fails.
I want to tap into the world of mixing up breed trims, something that comes a little easier to me. For example, if you have an American Cocker Spaniel that you really don't want to shave all the way down, although he just loves to go swimming, try a Schnauzer trim with shaved ears.
Perhaps you have a Yorkie whose owner wants something new. Try a Westie trim a little out side the box and still easy to maintain.
How about your endless number of Shih Tzu clients? This breed must rank in the Top 5 of most popular dogs groomed every year. If ever there is a breed groomers wish had refresh buttons for their styling, it is this one. If Mom and Dad can be persuaded into ear tassels, you are not too far off from a Dandi Dinmont look alike.
This approach to grooming has become a pretty popular trend in grooming contest rings too. Consider the Bichon Frise in a Kerry Blue trim, Cockapoos disguised as Wheatens, Maltese in the form of the American Cocker or Setter and my personal favorite, the Poodle in a Bedlington trim, also affectionately called "The Poodlington."
The trick to really pulling off this illusion is to try and mimic the breed standard as closely as you can. When looking at these breeds profile, the Bedlingtons top line and underline should match. There should be a slight arch over the loin and a defined tuck up dropping down to the elbow creating an 'S' shape. They are also slightly longer in body than they are tall and flat ribbed referred to as "slab sided".
In order to put this trim on a Poodle who is square in outline, with a level topline, nice spring of ribs and a well angulated front and rear, camouflage grooming must come into play. I start by blocking in the areas that need to be shorter in order to hide the Poodle's curves that the Bedlington does not share.
First I use a #5F blade to set the length of the shoulders starting from under the ear, skimming off at the elbow. I also use a #5F blade on the rear from the pin bone to the bend of the back leg, skimming down toward the hock. This area needs to be short on Poodles in order to mimic the straight rear of the Bedlington.
Next I use a #2 come to set the length of the rib cage. Be careful not to follow the shape of the Poodles actual body on this part. I only skim the #2 comb over the widest part of the rib cage, leaving the hair above and below this area to be scissored to give the illusion of a flat ribbed dog. This has to be done in order to hide the Poodle's spring of rib.
When creating the top line, fill coat will be needed to create the roach from the tailset to just slightly over the tuck up. I use a curved shear to build this faux Bedlington trademark. With a straight shear I then scissor the line from the top of the arch to just about two fingers widths behind the withers.
The underline should mimic the topline. When placing the tuck up on a Poodle you normally place it under the last rib. However, for a Bedlington trim you need to place it farther back on the dog. I tend to place the tuck up just in front of where the back leg meets the loin.
The tuck up will also need to be higher and more defined than a typical Poodle. From the highest point of the tuck up the line will continue to just below the elbow. Remember to follow the topline you just created, giving the underline a little curve from the tuck up to the elbow. Keep in mind that every dog will have different structure, so small adjustments can be made based on the particular dog you are working on.
Poodles have a well-angulated front which gives them more chest than a Bedlington. With some creative scissoring you need to hide this fore chest in order to give the illusion of having a straight front like the Bedlington. I prefer not to use blades to achieve this. I find that scissoring the chest straight down from the clipper work of the throat to the front toe nails is the most effective way of creating this illusion.
The breed standard for the Bedlington describes a hare foot. I use a small curved shear to trim the feet, bringing both sides of the foot in tight meeting at the two middle toe nails. I then round the front of the toes to meet both sides.
The front legs on a Bedlington should be parallel. However, the Bedlington stands close at the feet which creates a "V" or "keyhole" where the front legs meet the body.
To achieve this look on a Poodle you need to scissor the inside of the front legs. I point the tip of my straight shear towards the armpit. This technique gives you a straight parallel line, and allows you to pinch the line enough to create the gap in between the front legs.
When looking at your dog from the rear, the hips down to the back feet should create an "A" shape. The outside of the back leg should be slightly longer than the inside. Keep the lines parallel. The back side of the rear legs were previously set with a #5F blade. Keeping the hair short from the pin bone to the hock will give the illusion of the Bedlington's rear angulation. The standard calls for a well let down and strong hock, angled slightly down toward the back pad.
Transferring the look of a Bedlington head to a Poodle is the most difficult part of this trim and the most important style. A Poodle head is much more refined than a Bedlington’s. The head should appear narrow and long, and in proportion with the body. Careful. It is very easy to pinch this look on a Poodle due to the structure of their heads. I use blades ranging from a #15 to #50 blade for clipper work. Use whichever blade you would feel comfortable with using to shave a Poodle face. The clipper work line should run from just above the corner of the ear, to the outside corner of the eye and continue down to the corner of the mouth. Shave the entire under jaw well. The line on the throat can either come down to a "V" like a Poodle, or a "U" shape. I think this technique draws the mind away from thinking "Poodle."
I use a straight shear to scissor the sides of the head. It should resemble a brick shape from the front, consisting of two parallel lines all the way back to behind the ears. The highest point of the head on a Bedlington is at the crown. On a Poodle it is necessary to push this back past the occiput. From the occiput, scissor a straight line to just past the withers, blending it into the beginning of your topline. Create as long of a neck as possible.
The ear tassels should be approximately 1/3 of the ear. Drag your thumb down to the tip of the ear, leaving the tip of your thumb down to the tip of the ear. Use your thumb as a guideline, creating an upside down "V" shape around it. The same pattern should be done on the inside of the ear, matching what you just did to the outside. The rest of the ear is shaved up to where the ear meets the top scull. I use the same blade for this as I used for the clipper work on the face. Ear tassels should be no longer than the length of the nose, when pulling the ear tassel forward.
The tail is done in thirds on a Bedlington. Most Poodles have docked tails so this is really up to your judgment. I find that bringing the "V" shape on the tail down to approximately the halfway point of a Poodle tail looks best. The sides and underside of the tail can be shaved with the same blade that was used on the clipper work.
I hope this article helps open doors for you with a different genre of creative grooming when you already have the basics of proper pattern placement. Don't be afraid to try something new. Ask your clients for the green light, no holds barred. Go big and mix it up. ♦
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