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I have seen old photos of poodles too. They look like a practical person took crude scissors and hacked away at the dog leaving some hair over the joints and very short everywhere else. Perfect for a gun dog ready to hunt birds.

OTOH my dog is seen regularly by professional groomers, people who show dogs in confirmation (including poodles) who are very knowledgeable about poodle clips. We compete in AKC trials which has limits on how a poodle can be groomed while competing in the ring. Vanity definitely plays a role in my choice of grooming using a high velocity dryer to achieve a very careful groom.

I support everone’s choice in how they groom their poodle as long as you keep them mat free and comfortable. They are all cute, whether they are in a highly polished groom by a master groomer, or a short home groom. They are all wonderful poodles.
 

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Otter was groomed from puppyhood by someone who apparently didn't OWN a dryer,as the dogs were bathed and left to dry in a crate. (Why I once waited 7 hrs to pick him up, i suppose.) She also took his topknot short and shaved his tail, tellling me they were matted. Now he has full ears, tk, the rest short, and is done in 1 1/2 hrs -granted she is a master groomer, Andis rep, and Spoo owner, but he is still afraid of the forced air dryer. (She cuts him first, then bathes to shorten the time ). I brush/comb every day, and have no issues with mats in the ears after drinking, and he is SLOPPY.
 

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I have a SPOO I have always groomed at home, do not own a dryer. He is always air dried. I bathe the day before I clip so that I know he is completely dry. I may not get as even a clip as those who blow dry, but I think he looks pretty good. If you are just going to brush her out (not clip), I wait until he is mostly dry, still a bit damp, and then brush with a slicker or pin brush first and then comb. Areas that are harder to brush you can use a detangling spray and that should help considerably. I use Chris Christiensen Ice on Ice Ultra. There are no skin problems from not using a dryer.

View attachment 471322
He looks amazing for an air dry!!! What a cutie.
 

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Maybe one of you can help me with this: If poodles were bred to retrieve in water, why would their coat require this type of dedicated drying time and energy? Is it because the breed standard has evolved over time, and they're no longer quite so "waterproof"?

Or maybe because baths, by necessity, soak right down to the skin, whereas a brief trip into shallow water would only penetrate superficially?
It takes shampoo to get water down to the skin! If you bathe your dog at home, you'll notice that when you try to get them wet the water just runs of the top layer of coat. I can tell you from years of experience it's hard to get a poodle who has more than 1/2 inch of coat wetted down. I showed standard poodles in the days when the more coat the better. Bathing a big male in those days was quite a job!
 
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