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It's a close shave for poodles

Owner: Eimear McCartan, from Greystones, Co Wicklow

Pets: Luigh and Rossa, her Toy Poodles

Background: Eimear has trimmed her own poodles for almost a decade

Eimear has had a lifelong connection with poodles. As a child, one of her aunts owned them, and when Eimear was a young adult, her mother began to keep them. Eimear has gone on to own several generations of poodles, breeding from her favourite animals and keeping some of their offspring. Luigh is now 16 and Rossa, aged 10, is her son.

Many years ago, poodles were much more popular than they are now in Ireland. These days, other breeds, such as the Bichon Frise, which can be easier to maintain, are seen more often. And poodle-crosses, such as labradoodles, are more in vogue.

miniature

Many people don't understand the terminology used to describe the different types of poodles: 'Toy poodles' are the smallest, at less than 11ins tall at the shoulders, 'miniature poodles' measure between 11 and 15ins tall, and 'standard poodles' are over 15ins (but they are often much bigger, taller than a labrador).

Apart from the size, each of the different types of poodles is identical. They are active, intelligent and elegant dogs: Eimear has found that the smallest size has suited her best.

One of the most distinctive features of poodles is their remarkable coat, with dense, curly fur that grows longer and longer rather than moulting like most breeds of dog.

The advantage of this is that poodles don't shed as much fur around the home, making them good pets for people who have allergies. The disadvantage is that they need much more brushing, trimming and coat maintenance than other breeds.

It can take around 10 hours every week to maintain the perfectly preened coiffure of a show-quality standard poodle. Most pet owners are happy to avoid this time- consuming level of high style, choosing a shorter, easier to maintain coat for their dogs. Even then, regular brushing is needed, as well as a visit to a groomer every six weeks to have the coat trimmed.

Eimear used to take her dogs regularly to a professional groomer, but as poodles have slipped out of fashion, so has the availability of groomers who have the skill and knowledge to trim their coats properly.

Eimear found herself taking a whole day to get her dogs groomed: travelling for an hour each way to the groomer, then waiting. She sometimes stayed while the dogs were being groomed, with the groomer asking her to hold the animals to help. She gradually learned about the intricacies of trimming poodles, and nearly 10 years ago, she decided to start doing her own dogs.

mistakes

She bought a set of professional electric clippers and some sharp grooming scissors, and she set about the task: she made some mistakes in the early days, but she now has it down to a fine art.

First, she brushes the dogs, then she trims the fur around their faces and paws, along their backs and undersides. Finally, she takes out the scissors and trims the rest of the coat. When she's finished cutting, she washes the dogs with a no-tangle shampoo and blow-dries them. A little fine trimming with a scissors and the job is done.

It takes Eimear over two hours for each dog, but she enjoys doing it, and she saves money. It would cost her €100 or more every six weeks to have the two dogs trimmed professionally.

Visit Pete's website at www.brayvet.com


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