“Grooming is not an easy job,” says Ashley Ann Odom, a certified master groomer and owner of Diamonds in the Ruff grooming salon and spa in Lincoln Park, New Jersey. “I commend pet parents that are willing to try grooming at home and create an opportunity to bond with and learn about their dog, as well as become a better pet parent.”
Whether you’re trying to save a little money, staying in due to COVID-19, or want to master that Instagram-worthy look, it is possible to groom your own Poodle. You just need the right training and tools, plus a little patience and practice.
Ready to get started? Read on for everything you need to know about how to groom a Poodle at home and when it’s time to hand over the scissors to a professional, with expert insight from full-time Poodle groomers.
The Basics: Understanding Poodle Fur
The first thing to understand about Poodle fur is that it’s more like human hair than the hair of other dogs, says Brian Taylor, the “Dog Father of Harlem” and owner of Harlem Doggie Day Spa, a cage-free boarding, daycare, and grooming facility in New York City.
While other dogs have two layers of fur that grow to a certain length and then shed, Poodles have a light undercoat with long strands of extremely curly hair on top. Like ours, their hair can tangle and form mats easily. This is why it’s so important to bathe, groom, and brush your Poodle regularly, says Taylor.
Now that you understand what you’re working with, get to know your Poodle style options.
Poodle Grooming Styles
Pet parents have been testing out different Poodle grooming styles since the 1600s, and today’s groomers are more creative than ever with artistic cuts, dog-friendly hair dye, and more.
Here are eight of the most popular Poodle grooming styles to consider for your pup from easy, beginner-friendly cuts to more elaborate styles best left to the pros.
The puppy cut. With well-trimmed fur and a shaved face, neck, and tail (except for a classic pom-pom puff at the end!), the puppy cut makes for a fun, no-nonsense style.
The kennel cut (a.k.a. the utility cut). Think of it as the grown-up version of the puppy cut—a DIY-friendly full-body trim with longer hair on the head and tail. Both of these cuts are smart picks for mixed breed dogs such as Bernedoodles or Labradoodles since their hair tends to be wavier.
The teddy bear cut. A popular look for city pups, the teddy bear cut gives your Poodle a cuddly toy-like appearance just as the name suggests, with a closer trim on the body and a fuller face and legs. You’ll often see toy breeds flaunting this style.
The Town & Country cut. It’s the classic Standard Poodle style with a closely-shaved face, neck, belly, paws, and base of the tail with a pom-pom at the end and a fuller face and legs.
The Miami cut (a.k.a. the bikini cut). Another showstopping look fit for a svelte Standard Poodle, the Miami cut features a shaved face, tail, and paws with pom-poms at the end of the tail and just above the paws.
The Continental, Modified Continental, and English Saddle cuts are some of the most traditional cuts with fluffy chests and ears, a close shave around most of the face and legs, and a variety of pom-poms around the legs and tail. If you’re interested in competing in a dog show, one of these three Poodle grooming styles is required.
Poodle Tail Styles
When it comes to the best style for your Poodle’s tail, it’s up to you just how creative you want to be, says Taylor. Most people opt for the classic pom-pom look with the base of the tail shaved.
Recently, dog-friendly hair dye has also been making a splash. For a safe choice that lasts about six washes or so, Taylor recommends Opawz semi-permanent hair dye.
How to Groom a Poodle at Home: What You Need
Whether you’ve got a Standard, Miniature, or Toy Poodle, the tools you’ll need for grooming are the same. Here are the essentials:
- Dog-safe shampoo and conditioner
- A slicker brush to remove matted hair and tangles
- A metal greyhound comb to locate knots and separate hair strands
- A blow dryer
- Curved scissors or straight shears (6 to 8 inches in length, depending on your dog’s size)
- A pair of grooming clippers
- Nail clippers
- Toothbrush and toothpaste to maintain good dental hygiene
In addition to your tools, it’s helpful to have a designated grooming area in your home with a table that you can place your dog on as well as a tub or sink nearby, says Odom.
How to Groom a Standard Poodle
After you’ve gathered your supplies, you’re ready to begin the Poodle grooming process. Taylor recommends brushing your Poodle at least three times a week and scheduling grooming sessions every six to eight weeks—or even more often if you’re going for a show dog look.
Then, follow this step-by-step guide for how to groom a Standard Poodle:
Step 1: Brush your dog’s coat from head to tail. Use a sticker brush or scissors to remove all knots and tangles. Never skip a pre-brush, as this ensures that you completely clear your dog’s coat of dirt or residue during the bathing process.
Step 2: Bathe your dog with shampoo and conditioner. Odom recommends an oatmeal-based shampoo and conditioner in order to provide the proper nutrients and vitamins for a healthy coat and skin followed by a conditioner to soften the coat and add shine (though conditioner is optional). Make sure to completely rinse all of the product from your dog’s coat until the water runs clear.
Step 3: Gently brush your dog’s teeth. Make sure to use a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste.
Step 4: Dry your dog’s coat. Remove your dog from the bath and blow dry her hair until it’s completely dry. This reduces the risk of skin conditions like hotspots and allows for a clean cut, says Odom.
Step 5: Comb and brush your dog’s hair again. This will remove any knots created during the washing and drying process.
Step 6: Give your dog your desired hair cut. After introducing your dog to the clippers, shave her face, neck, then the bottoms and tops of her paws. Then, trim her coat and hairline above her eyes as necessary.
Step 7: Clip your dog’s nails. Be careful to avoid the quick, or soft tissue inside the nail. If it’s been a long time since you last trimmed your dog’s nails or she’s uncomfortable or squirmy, be sure to seek professional help from your veterinarian or a groomer.
How to Groom a Toy Poodle
All in all, the grooming process is the same for Toy Poodles. However, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind.
“When grooming a Toy Poodle, you want to remember that they are very fragile dogs,” says Odom. As such, it’s important to exercise caution as you groom them and handle their legs and body carefully in order to avoid discomfort or injury.
Of course, if you have any concerns about your ability to properly groom your pet, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help from the pros.
When to Take Your Poodle to a Professional Groomer
If you or your dog is anxious or uncomfortable with the at-home grooming process, visit a professional groomer to figure out the best cut for your pup and how to ease her into the experience. You should also ask for help from a groomer if your dog has skin issues or excessive matting, both of which require special care.
Most Poodles love to be groomed, but you don’t want your dog to develop bad habits that make the process difficult or dangerous, says Taylor. That’s where developing a great relationship with a trustworthy groomer will benefit you both. With their guidance and lots of practice, you can become a Poodle grooming pro in no time.