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Corded Poodle Practicalities          

Author Heather Wells, England

I will say that creating and managing the corded coat is not in the least difficult, but it is quite time-consuming, especially in the early stages. However, I would not say it is tedious, as the grooming is very relaxing and has the advantage that you need no equipment for it, just your fingers.

Before you start cording your poodle, you have a few decisions to make:

What are you going to do with the topknots?
I prefer to put them in soft cotton bands, two bunches one behind the other on top of the head, then dividing on the neck and caught back into a bunch either side hanging down behind the ears.
Permission granted to display this cording article from Karri Bodoh of Moondance Standard Poodles.
This beautiful Blue Male Standard Poodle is Heather Well's 'Lennie" Janavon's My Blue Heaven
Are the ears to be corded or shaven?
Corded ears tend to split at the edges if they are corded all over, and the cords are very bulky. I prefer to cord only a patch down the centre of each ear, or to completely shave the ears both sides. Certainly shave the underside of the ears in either case, to allow air to circulate. The ear-cords, if you have them, can be caught back into the soft cotton bands on either side of the neck for everyday wear, this will keep them out of the dinner and lessen chewing. I have never found a solution to the chewing problem entirely! Make absolutely sure no ear leather is caught into the band, even with soft bands.
In the upper left corner is Karri Bodoh's 'Winston' with the white showing where to shave the ear in preperation of the cording process for the ears. Not along the top of the ear though.

In the top right picture is Heather Well's 'Tasha'.
Notice her ears are shaven as in the article.

In the bottom left corner picture is a picture of my 'Ayla'.
JC Pioneer's Mercy Mercy.
You will notice that her ears are shaved down the sides as described in the article.
Are you going for a floor-length coat or lion trim?
Floor length takes about six years… but that is, to me, a PROPER corded Poodle!
JC Pioneers Winston at 2yrs 7 months cording process.
JC Pioneers Mercy Mercy at 13 months cording process.
JC Pioneers Winston at 17 months cording process.
Heather Well's Tasha is 6 years into the cording process and shows a properly corded poodle with the floor length cording.
Janavons My Blue Heaven at a little over 4 yrs into the cording process.
All pictures from this point on are of my Ayla.
I wanted to show the cording process as it has happened over the past 13 month time span.
How are you going to have the hindquarters?
If you are thinking of having the whole dog corded I would say think again! Corded hindquarters are very bulky, giving the unwarranted impression of an overlong body, big fat rear end and drowning the tail. It does not look elegant or Poodly at all. Besides which, you have to think about hygiene, most dogs get a bout of diarrhoea sooner or later… The hindquarters are, I think, best shaven, at least the back and sides of the hind legs, in a sort of Continental trim. Then you might have a ‘normal’ waistline (the line will actually need to be a little further forward over the ribs of where you want it to appear, since the cords will lie over the shaven section to a certain extent). Tasha has the line further back over the rump in an inverted V-shape, which is reminiscent of hip rosettes, whence the cords would hang and join a narrow fringe of cords down the front of each stifle, and a little bunch of cords on the hocks. That did look really nice, but I have since shaved her quarters entirely just for convenience. If you have bracelets of cords on the hocks or wrists, or both, you will need to shave further up from the feet than you would on a brushed Poodle – since the cords next to the feet never get a chance to form properly, they will otherwise stick out and impede the natural fall of the cords above.
You also need to think about the tail.
If I were planning to have a pup to cord, I would prefer a longer dock than usual, and would have the shaven ‘stalk’ longer than on a brushed Poodle. If undocked, you could have two ‘pompon’ areas on the tail, one in the usual position and another on the end, or you could have just one on the end. They actually look more like fly-whisks than pompons on a corded Poodle… Certainly I would try to ensure the tail-end is covered rather than shaven, to protect it from injury. But having one long corded area is too much and again makes the dog look most unbalanced.
I have always corded the front legs entirely, until the body coat covers them, when they are better shaven. If you leave them corded you will find they are very bulky and impede free movement. I also shave the underneath of the chest and between the front legs, for the same reason. This also helps air circulation to keep the animal cool in warm weather. You could shave the front legs before the coat covers them but, if you do, you will find a striking resemblance to Dennis the Menace’s dog Gnasher in the cartoon…
I have never corded a Poodle from a puppy, only adults who had previously been brushed. For an adult I cut the coat down to an inch or two all over, brush it out for the last time, then bath the dog and dry without brushing. Where those little natural partings form on the skin, those are the separations between the cords. You may not have realized that those are in the same place every time, but they are! And those little peaks of hair that form on unbrushed coat – they are your cords! Be aware that the corded coat is not twisted or plaited in any way. Work over the whole dog, just separating those little peaks down to the skin. And that is all you need to do. The cords will form naturally if you just keep separating. The more often you can do this, and the more often you can bath the dog, the better and firmer the cords will be, and the more nicely they will lie and move.

Fairly early on, you will probably need to split any over-thick cords to make two, and amalgamate any over-thin ones into one. I would aim for thick rather than thin, over-thin cords tend to break and spoil.

When you are using your clipper, you need to be very careful at the line where the edge of a shaven section meets the cords. If you nick the hairs forming the cord, that cord is likely to weaken and eventually break. Even well-formed mature cords are just loose hair for the first couple of inches or so from the skin. You may also find some loose hair down the outside of each cord, which can spoil the whole look. If the cords are well formed you can safely tidy this up with scissors.

The corded coat does tend to pick up a lot of twigs, burrs, thorns and leaves if your Poodle likes to explore woods and forests (and don’t they all?) Some days we return home with, it seems, more vegetable than animal…

Would I clip the pattern into his hindquarters before I start the initial cording?
I think that’s a pretty good idea really, to clip the pattern in before you start. I didn’t do so with Lenny, because I had no idea how it was going to look until it actually was corded, I just corded him all over to begin with, and that’s how I know that corded hindquarters look terrible! He looked as long as a train with all that coat sticking out behind him, and it was very difficult to prevent it getting fouled and keep it hygienic. It does also seem an awful waste of effort cording and maintaining parts that are later just going to be clipped.

You will find you need to clip the neckline lower at the front than for brushed presentation, as the cords are bulky and can make the neck look ‘stuffy’ otherwise. Lenny had his front legs corded initially, but I think you could easily clip them as for normal lion trim. I wouldn’t take the hair off entirely until you have cords to cover the front legs unless you want the aforementioned Gnasher effect! Have corded bracelets. Also make sure the elbows are corded to begin with or they will be sore. But you may as well clip out the chest between the elbows right from the start.

Lenny actually had a waistline clipped out and a clipper-width line clipped on his rump, the two clipped lines forming a T viewed from behind, so he retained the equivalent of the hip-poms you’d have in Continental trim (see ‘rosettes’ on page 65 of Eileen’s book). As these rosettes were corded, looking ahead they would eventually be floor-length, so instead of trimming the entire leg beneath them, I drew a vertical line from the front and back edges of each rosette, which extended the rosette downwards to leave a thin line of cords down the front of each hind leg, widening into a pom covering the hock. I did Tasha in much the same style, except she doesn’t have a waistline and only an inverted V on the rump, and I think this is much better, because there is less risk of nicking the cords with the clipper and having them break off. You could never really see Lenny’s waistline anyway as the cords are bulky and tend to meet together over any shaved areas.

With a dog you are going to have to solve the problem of urine staining, as it’s hard for a boy to aim without occasionally firing into the coat! I made Lenny some little plastic aprons that I just tied round his waist and could rinse in the sink and hang up to dry. He was very good about relieving himself in our garden wearing his apron before going for a run and would very rarely catch himself when he was out. I would certainly clip the belly and underside of the chest once you have enough cords to cover these areas, which will help. You might try tying the cords up when Winston goes out if it’s a problem.
The wet cords are like a HEAVY wool blanket. As the dogs body raises it's heat to fight the chill of the bathing in the winter, fall, spring time, it creates a humid surrounding that if un-attended, could sufficate your dog. The chances of collapse is eminent if left un-attended.
Please keep the dog very close to you so that you can monitor if your dog starts feeling heat/humidity distress and immediately turn off the fans and/or remove the sweatshirt.
JC Pioneers Winston in his fall, winter, early spring only after-bath drying sweatshirt
( Experience note from Karri)
When the cords start growing out nicely, you will have the problem of completely drying your standard poodle.
As with all poodle hair, it does become water resistant and once wet completely through, you may possibly encounter a problem with mildew and mold. Do not worry as applying apple cidar vinegar directly on the place of mildew/moldy smell.
( watch for ear, eyes, nose and mouth as vinegar would cause danger to these areas because of the acidity in Vinegar)
The mildew problem happened once to me and now I am ever more vigilent.
The weather conditions in your area can contibute to the mold and mildew factor.
I also in the fall, winter and spring put a sweatshirt on Winston to help speed the drying process of his cords.
(as shown in the picture above) The sweatshirt acts as a walking towel squeezing water from the cords as he lays down.
After about an hour to hour and a half I remove the sweatshirt and put him in an open wire crate with 2 box fans to get the drying process really going.
Questions and Answers

Q. Winston’s coat is matting up nicely and I am splitting the matts up to nice size pieces with my fingers, but sometimes I have to cut the matts into 2 pieces because they get too fat/big, is this ok to do this?

A. Definitely, yes. Really the splits between the cords (matts!) should occur in their own natural places on the skin. You know how unbrushed hair naturally forms little clumps and peaks? Those are the natural divisions between the cords, and will form IN THE SAME PLACES on the skin every time they are bathed or groomed away, even on a brushed dog, or even on our own heads! Some cords will end up thicker than others, and you will probably also get some that are very thin and will eventually break off. But when you have one that is too thick, yes, I would cut to form two more manageably sized cords. Make the division at the skin with a scissor-blade, lift away from the skin until you reach resistance, and cut. If you divide too far away from the skin you will get some hairs crossing over and the division will never really be satisfactory. You really need a mini-parting at the roots so that all the hairs in each cord are growing from their own cord’s little patch of skin and not crossing over from the other one. You should ALWAYS be able to see clear skin between every cord when grooming.

Q. After the matting is away from the skin, do I just let it go and monitor the growth and make sure the hair does not tangle with a neighbour mat/start cord?

A. Yes, this is where your grooming comes in. The more often you can groom, the better and neater and more even the cords will result, and you will minimize the amount of loose dead hair down the outsides of the cords. Your grooming technique should consist of taking each ‘matt’ and splitting it down to the skin from all its neighbours. The best way is to lay Winston on his side, and start in at a shaven section, such as the face, or the rump, or the feet, or the belly. Push all the cords away from you and off the skin. Pick up the first cord with your fingers, and lay it towards you over the shaven skin. Check that the roots have disentangled from all the other cords. Do the same in turn for all the other cords, and you will, as when brushing, find that a parting forms between the groomed and ungroomed parts that then advances over the whole dog. It is very useful if you can learn from the start to work with either hand, one to hold the cords back and the other to draw the next cord forwards, as you will probably work from left to right on one side of the dog and right to left on the other.

Q. Does the hair just start cording/curling and the tip stays matted or does it stay like a matt the entire way down. I was looking closer at Lennie and Tasha's pictures and the cords looks matted all the way down and yet some look like a ringlet curl the whole way down.

A. Cords are matted all the way down apart from the last couple of inches next to the skin. They usually have little bumps and knobbles at intervals along their length, because they consist of both outer hair and undercoat, and because the outer hair grows more quickly it will form a little C-shape every so often. This is fine and as it should be. What is to be avoided is loose dead top-coat hair down the outside of the cords. You can scissor this off but it does leave the cord a bit bristly and makes it not sit quite so neatly against its neighbours. As I said above, the key to avoiding this is frequent grooming, and ensuring that hairs do not cross between cords. If any ARE crossing, now is the time to deal with them, as the cords will eventually reach the ground (yes they will!) and the hair forming at present be cut off. Another tip for avoiding that unsightly loose hair is not to rub too vigorously along the spine-parting when caressing and petting your dog – though people always do when they make a fuss of Tasha!

Bathing also helps a lot to tighten the cords, you should groom right through under the dryer if you have time. Get the skin dry, you will find that moisture naturally moves outwards down the cord and the dog will stay dry under his coat, even if the cords are still wet at the ends. Bathing and drying a fully-corded dog is a big job, I used to ‘dunk’ Lenny in quite deep water with quite a lot of shampoo both in his coat and in the water, and roll him over as it was the only way to get him fully wetted. The corded coat is very waterproof! After the first time, when I got wetter than he did, he trusted me not to drown him, and was pretty relaxed about it… Rinsing is again quite a wet job!

Q. How did you stop yourself from not shaving your dogs and just go to a brush coat? As a groomer this temptation is great. But I want so very badly to have Winston look like your fabulous Lennie.
(I guessed I just answered that question for myself ::laughs::)

A. Yes I think you did!

If you have questions, please feel free to email me at Paws4u@partipoodle.org

The cording experience is very rewarding.
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