The various distinctive haircuts that poodles sport are rooted in their working history rather than the show ring. Originally, poodles were clipped so they could swim in cold water without being weighed down by their dense curled fur. Hair was retained in certain areas to keep the joints warm. These patches of hair are called pompoms. Among the many available haircuts, only traditional styles are permitted for show dogs.
Puppy Show Clip
All puppies under 1 year of age must wear the puppy clip when competing in American Kennel Club conformation shows. The face, feet and base of the tail are shaved short, while the rest of the coat is scissored short. The coat needn’t be a specific length, but it must be of a consistent length across the dog’s body and must complement the dog’s form while giving a neat and tidy appearance. Any length between 1/2 inch and 1 1/2 inches will achieve this. The topknot must be pulled into a ponytail.
The continental clip is quite similar to the puppy show clip, with a couple of notable exceptions. The front legs are sheared short, save for a pompom covering the bottom portion of the leg starting at the hock and finishing just above the ankle. The hind legs and rump are clipped short, too, save for a pompom above the ankle and a hip rosette, which is a portion of hair covering the hip joint that is scissored into a ball shape. The pack area, covering the chest and upper abdomen, is to be left long and shaped to complement the form of the adult dog. This area must extend no further down the body than 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches behind the last rib.
Modified Continental Clip
The modified continental clip is almost identical to the continental clip. The only difference between the two is that the modified continental clip doesn’t include hip rosettes. These stylistic flourishes are optional; their inclusion is a matter of taste rather than conformation.
English Saddle Clip
The English saddle clip is distinct from the other clips in that the hind legs are sectioned into three pompoms. The hair must be scissored short all across the leg and rump, with three separate, pompoms sections to create a distinction between the lower leg, upper leg and rump. The pompoms must be spaced evenly apart, using a closely shaved section to create three distinct pompoms. The tail is razored short, with a ball on the end.