How To Groom Poodles At Home

How To Groom Poodles At Home

Poodle grooming at home can seem daunting at first, but with the right instruction and tools for the job, you’ll soon find your feet.

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Poodle grooming

Who doesn’t love Poodles?

These smart, social dogs can effortlessly make the “best dressed” canine list year after year, without even lifting a paw!

But the many challenges of Poodle grooming have redirected more than a few aspiring owners to choose a lower maintenance dog breed.

What Are Thre Grooming Needs of Poodles?
What Are Thre Grooming Needs of Poodles?

The truth is, keeping that lush, curly coat free of tangles and mats can be a full-time job.

Because grooming contributes to a Poodle’s health as well as her fluffy good looks, it is vital to ensure you have time and resources to commit to learning how to groom a Poodle.

A Complete Guide To How To Groom A Poodle
A Complete Guide To How To Groom A Poodle

This article covers the information you need to understand a Poodle’s coat grooming and care requirements.

To help you decide if a Poodle is the right dog breed for you! Or how to properly look after your new puppy.

Grooming tips from a poodle owner
Grooming tips from a poodle owner

Poodle breeds

  • The Poodle first became an official American Kennel Club (AKC) registered breed back in 1887.
  • As of today, the dog breed known as the Poodle is bred in three sizes: toy, miniature and standard, and is currently ranked as the 7th most popular dog nationwide.
  • And their coats get a lot of attention, especially when they match a certain style.
  • There are several different coat clips, including “puppy,” “sporting,” “saddle,” “English saddle,” and “Continental.”
  • But since Poodles sporting different coat clips can look very different from one another, it can be quite easy to think you are looking at two totally different dog breeds rather than simply admiring two Poodles with different haircuts!
  • To add to the confusion, Poodles are now being crossbred with other dog breeds to produce popular so-called “designer dogs.”
  • You can get Cockapoos, Maltipoos, Peekapoos and even Shih Poos too!
  • But beyond it all, there is still just one purebred Poodle dog breed.
  • The basic Poodle grooming guidelines you will read about here apply equally to all purebred Poodle dogs.

Poodle hair basics

  • Poodles are smart, active, agile, easy to train, eager to learn, outgoing and people-pleasers.
  • They are also as close to being a non-shedding, hypoallergenic dog as any dog gets.
  • In theory, Poodles are the type of pet dog everyone wants!
  • So why doesn’t everyone have a Poodle?
  • The answer is simple: their high-maintenance coat. Poodle hair is notoriously grooming-intensive.
  • Even if you don’t go in for elaborate grooming styles, the Poodle’s naturally curly fur requires near-constant brushing, clipping and trimming to maintain.
  • Neglect your Poodle’s coat, and you could wind up at the veterinarian paying top dollar to treat painful skin infections.
  • You could also end up with a bald Poodle, since too-long-neglected coats often have to be shorn fully (here, think “sheep”) to remove all the mats and tangles without damaging the dog’s sensitive skin.

Poodle grooming styles

  • One look at a Poodle in full show coat trim, and the uninitiated will rightly wonder what practical purpose all those poufs and pompoms could possibly have!
  • Today’s show cuts are made up of nearly equal parts practical and fanciful.
  • The practical parts reflect a past need to keep hunting poodles visible to their owners (topknot), yet lightweight (body partially shaved) while they were working as talented hunting “water dogs.”
  • The fanciful parts owe their existence to bored French noblemen, who liked to trim their poodles’ fur to look just like their own elaborate pompadours.
  • Otherwise, the same show and daily hair clips and grooming basics apply equally for standard Poodle grooming, miniature Poodle grooming and toy Poodle grooming.
  • The two acceptable grooming styles for adult Poodles (of any size) in regular class Westminster-level shows are called the “English Saddle” and the “Continental.”
  • These two styles are similar in appearance, with the latter being more heavily shaved along the hindquarters.
  • Luckily, in addition to these two ornate show styles, you also have plenty of other Poodle grooming styles to choose from.
  • For example, these popular styles are easier, faster and much more practical for the modern-day Poodle’s daily life.

Poodle Grooming Tips

  • These are essential facts about Poodle coats and coat maintenance that every would-be Poodle owner should know:
  • Poodle fur is really hair – it is softer than most dogs’ fur and it grows continuously.
  • Puppies have very soft hair that often grows in wavy instead of curly.
  • Poodle hair transitions from puppy hair to adult Poodle hair somewhere between 9 and 18 months of age.
  • Some Poodles don’t grow into their full adult coat until they reach three years old!
  • They do shed, but their curly adult hair traps the shed hair so it doesn’t fall out.
  • Instead, this shed hair develops into mats and tangles unless continuously groomed.
  • Adult Poodles have a thick, dense, coarse, single-layer coat of very curly hair that ranges from soft curls (called “curly”) to near-ringlets (called “corded”).
  • Professional grooming at least every 3 to 6 weeks is highly recommended for adult dogs.
  • Near-daily brushing and combing is recommended for maintenance, unless your coat clip of choice is “shaved.”

Poodle Clips

There are several different clips you might like to try on your dog:

The teddy bear clip

As the name suggests, this clip leaves your Poodle looking less like a Poodle and more like a classic teddy bear, with hair evenly clipped throughout.

The lamb clip

All fur is clipped to the same short length, leaving the Poodle looking like he is wearing a warm fuzzy bathrobe….or a sheep’s fuzzy wool coat.

The puppy clip

Poodles aged 12 months or younger often wear this clip, with face, feet and tail shaved and the remainder scissor-clipped. A topknot is optional.

The kennel clip (aka the “utility clip”)

This functional working clip features a topknot and tail pouf, with the remaining fur scissor-clipped to a uniform length except for the face and feet.

The bikini clip (aka the “Miami clip”)

Fur is shaved on the tail, face and feet with the remaining fur trimmed to a uniform length as desired.

The town and country clip

The belly, face, neck and feet are shaved. The remaining fur is left long.

Poodle grooming tools

Unless you plan to show your Poodle, you don’t need to go all out with fancy Poodle grooming clips.

You can opt for an easier-to-maintain, straightforward clip that you can learn to do yourself, such as one of those described in the previous section here.

The same basic grooming tools are used for standard, miniature and toy Poodle grooming styles.

In the same way, learning how to groom a Miniature Poodle uses the same basic set of steps as learning to groom a toy or standard Poodle.

As well, even if you plan to take your Poodle to the groomer’s regularly, you will still need to acquire some basic supplies and tools for at-home coat brushing and maintenance.


To keep mats and tangles to a minimum invest in some good dog conditioner

Electric shaver with razer and comb attachments

You’ll need a clipper set to groom and trim large areas of fur.

Gentle dog-safe shampoo

The best kinds of dog shampoo are hypoallergenic for sensitive skin.

Bristle brush

Bristle brushes are great for grooming out tangle and attaining mat-free coat hair.

This is a popular choice, but you’ll find more further down the article as well.

Blow dryer

A good dog hair dryer can be great for drying hair before/after grooming as needed for styling.

Steel scissors

To trim around sensitive areas and remove big tangles and mats you’ll need some good Poodle grooming scissors

Slicker brush

Slicker brushes help to remove mats, tangles, shed hair.

We are big fans of the hertzko slicker brush, but you can find lots more options in the slicker brush section below too.

Grooming table with arm attachment and noose

For your Poodle’s safety, the use of a full grooming table and restraint noose* is recommended.

Poodle puppy grooming

  • If you can remember back to any of your significant “firsts,” such as first haircut or first dentist visit, you may remember feeling some hesitation or even outright fear.
  • Your Poodle puppy won’t feel any differently for his “firsts.”
  • There may be curiosity, hesitation or even fear, but you don’t ever want your Puppy to feel outright terror.
  • However, for many puppies, the first visit to the groomer is the “first” most likely to provoke exactly that.
  • Many experienced groomers say it isn’t actually the grooming itself that scares Poodle pups. It is the presentation of the grooming TOOLS.
  • Those sharp, shiny gizmos and gadgets, some of which make super-loud noises and move in strange ways, can strike terror into even the staunchest puppy heart.
  • Especially when operated near sensitive areas such as eyes and ears.
  • So your job as official “Poodle puppy parent” will be to get your puppy ready for his first grooming session well in advance.
  • By helping your puppy get used to the feeling of having his ears, eyes, nails, tail and teeth examined and worked on up close.
  • He will be much less inclined to freak out at the groomer’s and risk an injury.
  • You can also make a visit or two to the groomer before your puppy is actually ready to be groomed for the first time.
  • This way, your puppy gets used to the sounds, sights and smells of the grooming experience.
  • Be sure to bring plenty of treats so your puppy associates groomer visits with tasty snacks!

How to Groom a Poodle

Step 1:Cleaning and Bathing Your Poodle

Brush your dog. Brushing is important for all dogs, but especially for poodles. Poodle hair can easily get matted together as the dog sheds, and for this reason, it is often recommended that poodles with long hair be brushed every day. Brushing once or twice every week is generally acceptable if the dog has shorter hair.

  • Start brushing at the poodle’s neck and move down toward the tail.
  • Use a slicker brush to gently remove thick tangles and mats.

Remove thick mats or tangles with scissors. Mats or tangles that won’t brush out should be carefully cut out with scissors. It’s important to remove mats whenever you find them, as they can pull at the skin, causing discomfort to your pet.

  • Because of the way they shed their hair, poodles are prone to matting if they go for long periods without grooming. In extreme cases, matting can cause skin infections that are painful for your pet.

Prepare a bath. It’s important to bathe your dog, especially if he has gotten dirty while playing outdoors. You should be sure to bathe your dog before trimming him with clippers, as dirty or overly oily fur can prematurely dull your clipper blades. But bathing your dog too often can wash away the natural oils that your dog’s coat needs. The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog every three months or so unless more frequent baths are required.

  • Fill your bathtub with a few inches of water. Remember, it doesn’t need to be full, and your dog will likely splash around quite a bit. You’ll only need the water to be about ankle-deep.

Lift your dog into the bathtub and wet its coat. Some dogs treasure bath time, while others dislike being bathed. If your dog does not enjoy bathing, you may want to get a helper to aid you in keeping the dog in the tub during the bath.

  • Use a cup or a pitcher to flush water all over your poodle from head to tail. Try to avoid getting water in your poodle’s eyes and ears.

Lather shampoo from the poodle’s head to its tail. If you massage your poodle’s back while rubbing in the shampoo, he may enjoy the bath a bit more.

  • Use a shampoo specifically made for dogs. Not only does dog shampoo have everything your poodle’s coat needs to remain healthy, but it also avoids ingredients in human shampoo that might be harmful to your pet.

Rinse your poodle’s coat thoroughly, again working from head to tail. Continue rinsing with clean water until the water runs clear and no longer appears soapy.

  • Be careful not to get any soapy water into your poodle’s eyes and ears.

Dry your dog’s coat. Use a towel to gently dab and wipe your poodle’s coat from head to tail. You may want to brush your poodle’s coat again after the bath, then dry with a towel a second time after brushing.

  • Be sure to thoroughly clean and dry your dog’s ears with a towel or clean paper towels. It’s important to clean inside and under your dog’s ears to prevent bacteria, yeast, and parasites from living there.

Brush your poodle’s teeth. Use a toothbrush to gently remove plaque buildup around the base of your poodle’s teeth. Choose a toothpaste made specifically for dogs. Your poodle will inevitably swallow some of the toothpaste, and human toothpaste can upset your dog’s stomach.

  • Brush gently. Remember, your dog may not be used to having its gums rubbed. Brushing too hard or fast can cause pain to your poodle’s sensitive gums.
  • Be consistent with your poodle’s dental care. Brushing your dog’s teeth can help prevent tartar buildup, which causes periodontal disease and can lead to potentially-fatal bacterial infections.

Trim your dog’s nails. It’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed, as having long nails can lead to painful problems for your pet. But you also want to avoid trimming them too short, as this can cause bleeding.

  • You may be able to trim your dog’s nails with a pair of scissors, but you will likely find it easier if you purchase a specialty tool, like a guillotine trimmer.
  • Don’t cut the quick. This is the part of the nail closest to your dog’s “toes,” and it’s very sensitive and can bleed easily.
  • Ask your veterinarian or a professional groomer to help trim your dog’s nails if you have a hard time doing it at home.

Step 2:Preparing to Clip Your Poodle

Choose a cut for your poodle. There are many different styles and cuts that poodle owners can choose from. Some common cuts are the Puppy Clip, the Continental Clip, and the Bikini Clip. While there are other grooming options, these are the most common

  • Consult a professional groomer on which cuts would be best for your dog. Remember, if you’re doing most of your dog’s grooming at home, you’ll need to commit to a certain amount of time and effort. Some cuts are easier to style and maintain than others.
  • All of the common styles involve trimming or shaving the poodle’s face, feet, and the base of the tail. The style of the poodle’s body fur changes significantly based on the chosen clip.

Invest in good quality clippers and scissors. Though it may seem tempting to buy a cheaper pair of clippers or scissors, getting a higher-quality product will be better for your dog. Better clippers are less likely to scrape your dog’s skin or pull his fur while cutting. A cordless clipper will make the grooming much easier for you!

  • High-quality clippers such as Laube, Andis, or Oster cost around $125-$175. They should last much longer than their less expensive counterparts. Note that many groomers seem to prefer Andis or Laube over Oster, as Oster clipper blades can heat during trimming. If you do use Oster, you may want to have extra blades of the same size so that you can switch them out if they become heated.
  • Good scissors made for grooming may cost around $50. These scissors should be sharp and comfortable for you to cut with. You may want to try out different models before purchasing them.

Use the right blades. Clippers have interchangeable blades that are numbered to indicate the length that they will leave the fur after trimming, with higher numbers indicating shorter fur. You will likely need a variety of clipper blades: start with a 5, 7, 10, 15, and 30.

  • If you cannot afford to get many different blades or you’re just starting out, begin with at 10 or 15.
  • Be aware that use of 30 and 40 blades can be quite difficult and should usually be left to experienced or professional groomers. Improper use of these (very short) blades can scrape or burn your poodle’s skin.
Allow your dog to exercise prior to trimming. Trimming takes some time, and if your pup is well-rested, he may not sit still long enough for you to finish. Taking him to the park or on a long walk for exercise before you begin may lead to a more cooperative subject.

Introduce your dog to the clippers. Before you begin clipping, turn the clippers on around your dog. This is especially important for a puppy or a poodle who has not been regularly groomed. Over time, your dog should become more and more comfortable being around the clippers.

  • You may want to have a professional groomer clip your poodle the first few times so that you do not have to worry about both introducing your dog to the clippers and learning to clip the fur.

Step 3:Trimming a Poodle’s Face and Topknot

Select a trimmer blade. The trimmer blade you select will be a combination of your dog’s skin sensitivity (white poodles tend to have more sensitive skin than black poodles), your level of expertise, and the reason for your trimming.

  • A higher blade number (such as 30) is often used by professional or expert groomers to prepare a poodle for showing. However, if you are not planning to show your dog or you are just starting as a groomer, a lower blade number (such as 9 or 10) should be sufficient.
Shave from the ear opening to the eye. Turn the clipper on and place it just underneath the opening in the dog’s ear. Trim from the ear towards the eye, creating a line from the ear opening to the eye.
Shave the area between the poodle’s eyes. Place the clippers right next to the inside of one eye and pull down towards the nose for an inch or two. Then move the trimmer over slowly until the area between the eyes has been shaved

Shave the poodle’s snout. Begin in the space you have just shaved between the dog’s eyes and shave down the poodle’s snout towards the nose.

  • Finish shaving the poodle’s snout by trimming from the nose along the sides of the lips/face back towards the ears.
  • Be aware that you may have to shave in more than one direction (up or down the snout, for example) to allow for differences in the direction in which the dog’s hair grows.

Trim the dog’s neck. Gently lift the dog’s snout and trim from the tip of the chin down towards the neck.

  • Shave the dog’s neck area, stopping when it reaches the chest. The shape can be in a V or a U from beneath the ears down to where the chest and neck meet.

Leave the fur long above the dog’s eyes. Almost every poodle clip involves leaving a puffy topknot on top of the dog’s head. To achieve a topknot, comb the hair on top of the poodle’s head up (away from its body) and then forward so that it comes out over the eyes.

  • Use scissors to cut a “visor” line just above the poodle’s eyes.
  • Use scissors to trim a small arch above the dog’s ears.
  • Brush the topknot hair down towards the ear and use scissors to trim a straight line from the corner of the eye to the ear opening. (You may need to flip the dog’s ear back to clearly see the opening).

Finish the topknot. Style and shape the topknot by first brushing all the topknot hair to one side. Use curved scissors to trim uneven or overhanging fur. Then brush the topknot to the other side and do the same.

  • Brush the topknot hair straight up. Tilt the dog’s nose down and see whether the topknot is in an oval shape. If there are square corners, trim them off with curved scissors.
  • Look at the top of the topknot and make sure it is not pointy. If there is a peak or a point, trim it with curved scissors so that the dog has a nice, rounded topknot. [14]

Step 4:Shaving a Poodle’s Feet

Select a trimmer blade. The trimmer blade you select will be a combination of your dog’s skin sensitivity (white poodles tend to have more sensitive skin than black poodles), your level of expertise, and the reason for your trimming.

  • A higher blade number (such as 30 or 40) is often used by professional or expert groomers to prepare a poodle for showing. However, if you are not planning to show your dog or you are just starting as a groomer, a lower blade number (such as a 10 or 15) should be sufficient.
Shave the back of the dog’s foot. Begin above the pads on the feet and find the ankle. Trim down from the ankle to the largest footpad. Cleaning up this area first should enable you to locate the dog’s ankle and set the ankle line.
Trim between the footpads. Stretch the dog’s toe pads apart and use the clippers to trim in between each pad. There should be no long fur protruding from between the footpads.
Set the ankle line. The poodle should have cleanly shaven feet, but the ankles should remain covered in longer fur. Be sure that you find where the dog’s ankle bends, and keep the shaved area below hocks.
Shave the top of the foot. Shave from the ankle down the top of the foot. You may need to reverse the direction and go up from the toes towards the ankle as well.
Spread the toes apart. Shave the webbing and sides of each toe. Try to pull the skin tight over the toe, which should pull the fur out and enable you to get to the hard-to-reach places a bit more easily
Repeat on each foot. Be sure that the ankle lines on each of the dog’s four paws are even. If one is slightly higher than the others, you may want to go back and trim them all to the same length. Beware of shaving them too high, however, or the cut will look strange

Step 5:Trimming a Poodle’s Body Fur

Use scissors for a Puppy Clip. As the name suggests, the Puppy Clip is acceptable for show poodle puppies that are under 1 year of age. The cut consists of longer fur that is more or less the same length with short-trimmed face, feet, and tail base.

  • Cut the poodle’s body and leg fur evenly. The puppy clip is generally done with scissors. Brush your poodle’s fur out neatly, then use scissors to trim the fur at a uniform length along the body and legs
  • You can do a cut similar to a puppy cut (called a lamb cut) with a very low number clipper blade (such as a 3, 4, or 5). This cut also leaves the fur at a uniform length but may be a bit shorter than a puppy cut due to the use of clippers

Do a Bikini Clip in warm weather. A Bikini Clip (also known as a Miami clip) is a good choice for poodles in warm summer climates. The Bikini Clip has a closely cut face, feet, and base of the tail. Above the feet, the fur is left very long in “poms” on each leg. The body is trimmed at a uniform length (based on the groomer’s preference)

  • Trim the face, feet, and base of the tail with a 15 blade.
  • Trim the body and legs with a 5 or 7 blade.
  • Trim the topknot, pompoms, and tail pom with scissors.
  • Trim the stomach with a 10 blade.

Use a Continental Clip for show dogs. This is the classic poodle look. The Continental Clip involves a very closely shaved face, feet, hindquarters, upper legs, and base of the tail. Very poofy pom-poms are left just above the feet and at the end of the tail. The chest, head, and ear fur is left long but trimmed neatly.

  • Shave the face and feet closely.
  • Shave from the base of the tail to several inches above the base.
  • Shave the front upper legs (from below the “elbow” joint down towards the ankle, but leaving a sizable pompom area over the leg hocks)
  • Shave the back legs. Leave two “rosettes” or round areas of fur above the dog’s hips in the back, but shave from the rosettes down the dog’s legs to the pom-poms on the rear hocks.
  • Use scissors to trim the dog’s remaining long fur. All of the fur should be trimmed so that it is even and rounded.
Edward Hollon is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Edward has been writing for petdii for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Edward has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Edward knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.