Did you know that poodles originate from Germany, not France? It’s true. The national dog of France is actually a German import. Their German name, “pudelin,” means “to splash in the water,” a suiting name for these duck-hunting canines.
There’s much to love and learn about these beautiful, athletic, and highly intelligent dogs. If you’re a poodle owner or starting your own grooming business, you already know that poodle grooming can be tricky.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to make poodle grooming simple. Here are 15 tips that will leave your dog looking his or her best, and save you some hassle along the way.
1. Understand Their… Hair?
You read that right. Poodles have hair, not fur! What’s the difference? Fur grows to a specific length and then falls out. It’s one of the messiest parts of owning a dog.
That is unless you are smart enough to own a poodle.
Poodles don’t shed! This is because instead of fur, they have hair. Hair does not stop growing. It will need to be cut, but poodle hair won’t leave you with seasonal shedding either.
A poodle’s hair may change, similar to a human’s, due to hormonal changes. For example, female poodles may have changes in their hair before, during, or after pregnancy.
Just like human mothers, poodles may lose hair or develop thinner hair after they give birth to a litter of puppies. These “hairy” differences are important to keep in mind when grooming a poodle.
2. Get the Right Tools
Before you ever get started grooming your poodle, you need the right pet grooming business plan and set of tools in your arsenal. The tools need are the same, regardless of the size of your particular breed. They include:
- Grooming sheers
- A stainless steel comb
- Clipper attachments/guard combs
- A slicker brush
- A table or elevated surface
- A towel or non-slip mat
You will need to set aside a specific location for grooming before you start. If you’re doing the grooming from home, you may want to opt for a laundry room or bathroom as it’s sometimes easier to clean up afterward.
If you don’t have a grooming table, select another elevated, stable location. Just make sure it has enough surface area to allow your canine friend to stand and sit comfortably.
This is where the towel or non-slip mat comes in. Even athletic and agile dogs like poodles are susceptible to falls. When placed on an elevated surface, always put something under them so they can have a good grip.
This will protect them from slipping or falling off while you’re grooming.
3. Start With the Three B’s
Your first official step when grooming is to follow the three B’s:
Starting without having done these three things first is setting yourself (and your pup), up for a world of hurt. Not to mention frustration…
You need clean hair that is completely dried before starting. Once you have blow-dried your poodle all over, you can begin to brush their hair out. This is an essential step as tangles will get caught in the clippers.
This leads to uneven trims or painful snagging of the hair. It’s definitely something you want to avoid for comfort and safety’s sake.
When brushing your poodle’s hair, pay special attention to the areas that see the most movement. These are places like their armpits, elbows, behind the ears, and feet.
Use that stainless steel comb for the brushing. It’s most effective at removing tough tangles and it’s easy to clean afterward. Again, be very careful not to leave any knots in the doggy’s hair as these are sure to get stuck in the clippers.
4. Start With the Paws
Now that the poodle is clean, dry, and brushed, it’s time to start trimming. Always start with their paws. From there, you can work your way up.
Using the utmost care, set the clippers to the shortest setting, or a 40. Shave away the hair on the top part of the paw. Then, carefully trim any hair that has grown between the paw pads.
For paw pads, you may consider using an Andis Pulse Li5 cordless clipper.
Hold your dog’s paw in a natural position for them and begin trimming between the pads. Be careful not to cut the tender webbing between their toes. Stop about an inch above their toes.
This line will mark where you will begin shaving on the top of the paw.
Next, change the clippers to a 15, and using a scooping motion, shave the paw up to the line you marked previously.
5. The Neck
While your clippers are already set to 15, it’s time to start on your poodle’s neck. Gently lift the dog’s nose up toward the ceiling just high enough that the skin on their neck is taught.
This will prevent them from getting nicked while you’re trimming.
6. “Face Time”
The face can sometimes be the most intimidating part of dog grooming. Fortunately, if you know what you’re doing, it is pretty simple.
Again, use that scooping motion and shave from the nape of the neck, upwards towards the mouth. Once you finish the neck, shave straight to their inner ear and move down toward the outer corner of their eye. Do this on both sides.
Next, clip from its area near the ear, down to the throat where you left off. Continue clipping with a 15 around the eyes. Go slow. Finish up by pulling the poodle’s mouth into a smile and clipping slowly around their lips.
7. Create Calm
At this point, either you or the poodle may be feeling a bit nervous. This is especially true if this is your first time grooming a poodle.
The key to making this grooming a success is to create calm, for you, your client, and the dog. You can request info on the DaySmart software so you better understand how to communicate with your client about their dog’s needs.
Check with the dog’s owner before using treats to make sure the poodle isn’t on a specific diet. Offering treats can ensure the grooming turns out as a positive (and attractive), experience for both of you.
Your poodle will sense if you’re nervous about shaving them. Try and stay calm yourself, and your dog will be more likely to sit still and behave while you take care of them.
8. Be Careful of Their Backsides
Yep, this could be considered the fourth B of grooming: the backside. You can’t skip it, sorry. Not only because it would look silly if you didn’t keep this area even, but it’s unsanitary to allow long hair to grow here.
Think about it, the longer the hair around the rear end, the more that “foreign objects” or “substances” will become entrapped there.
The poor pup finds this just as unappealing as you do.
Set your clippers to a 10 and go slowly. Use that gentle, upward scooping motion and trim around the backside and carefully around the genitals where hair is getting long.
Be sure to take breaks if needed to allow the dog to relax. This isn’t a race so don’t feel bad if this step takes longer than the others. You may even need to place a hand gently on the poodle’s lower back to steady them while you trim this area.
This video may help with more specifics on trimming this area during poodle grooming.
9. Change Your Clipper
Before you start clipping or trimming the body of your poodle, you need to switch clippers. Now is the time to use your clippers with the attachment blades and guards.
Purchase (or borrow), one that is compact. You want to be able to easily grip and adjust the speed of this clipper so your trim comes out even and smooth.
Luckily, the torso of your dog is often one of the easier parts to groom so don’t feel intimidated.
10. Sharpen Your Clippers
If you have older clippers, they may have become dull from use. This is a tip that can be done at any point in the grooming process if you find that your clippers are not cutting easily or they seem to have become dull.
To sharpen your clippers, simply apply a small amount of olive oil to your finger. With the clippers in the off position (preferably unplugged), gently rub a small drop of olive oil across the blade of your clippers.
Be careful not to cut your fingers. You only need about the size of a sunflower seed of oil to sharpen up your blade. Once you’ve done this, the clippers should cut much easier. A sharp blade will also protect your poodle from cuts and scratches.
11. Go for the Torso
Once you have your clipper with guards in hand, you’re ready to start trimming your poodle’s torso. When poodle grooming, you may have to brush the hair again periodically as it can become tangled while other areas are being trimmed.
Start by back-brushing your poodle’s hair away from their skin. You don’t want any hairs lying flat and missing the clippers once you begin. This leads to an uneven cut or weird, long hairs hanging behind.
Next, use your 10-blade. Place the 1/2” guard comb on the blade.
Beginning at your dog’s neck, shave along the dog’s back, sides and stomach. Move from the head to the backside in smooth, medium-length motions. Sometimes it’s better to do small sections so hair doesn’t become stuck in the blade.
12. Shake Out the Blade
You may have seen your own hairdresser do this when shaving or trimming your hair. Sometimes the clippers become clogged with hair while cutting and the stylist must shake the hair free.
If this happens, take shorter strokes and break to shake the hair out periodically.
Clogged clippers snag the hair and tug painfully. Try not to do super-long strokes when shaving your poodle’s torso. This will prevent them from getting irritated and losing trust in your ability to continue without hurting them.
13. Don’t “Break a Leg”
Following the torso, you can begin trimming the legs. This is the easier order as you will continue with the 10-blade and 1/2” guard.
The important rule of thumb here is to not bend your dog’s legs awkwardly to reach their hair. Lift their feet in natural ways when needed. Most of their legs can be trimmed if they are standing still on all four paws.
When trimming the legs, start at the hips and move down toward the paws.
If the dog’s owner likes a longer look, you can switch the clipper guard to a 3/4”. This will leave the hair on the dog’s legs longer. DaySmart Pet software can help you communicate with your client about their preferences for hair length.
Once you’ve finished grooming the poodle’s legs, you will use the same clippers and guard to carefully bled the hair on their head with the hair on the rest of the body.
Doing this will keep the hair on the dog’s head from having a stark line against the shorter hair on your dog’s body. Use a 7-blade attachment to skim over the hair on the neck and the longer hair on your dog’s body.
15. Finish With the Ears
Your poodle’s ears will have been banded during the previous steps so once you take them down, you’ll need to comb them again. You might need a conditioning spray to remove tangles.
Using that slicker brush, comb the hair downward. With your fingers as a guide, trim the ends with the grooming shears. You can end with your thinning shears to blend the edges and create a clean edge along the outer ear.
Poodle Grooming: How to Manage
Poodle grooming does take time to master, but with these tips, you’re on your way to a beautiful end result. Keep track of all your grooming appointments with the DaySmart Pet grooming, daycare, and boarding software.
Begin a free trial of the software today and see how managing your appointments can be made easy.
Improve your client communications, simplify workflows, and streamline your pet grooming business today!