Grooming the Poodle
by Cathy McGinnis
What some would consider a downside, others see as a positive. No matter how you view it, GROOMING is essential to the breed, starting from the time they are just a few weeks old and continuing every 4 - 8 weeks (for non-show dogs) for the rest of their lives. In general, poodles enjoy being groomed, and it can be very nice quality time between owner and dog. Unless trimmed short all over, Poodles should be brushed AND combed thoroughly at least once a week, to keep
them clean and tangle free.
Poodles are considered a no shedding breed, and frequently can be companions to those with allergies or respiratory problems. However, one must not mistake no shedding with not losing hair. It is just that the poodle coat is a very tight coat with curls that hold the hair in, which is why they need to be brushed and combed on a regular basis.
The Poodle is a very high maintenance breed, but the cost of grooming is a small price to pay for canine companionship that is without equal.
Unlike other animals which have fur, the Poodle coat is comprised of hair, similar to that of a human, and it never stops growing. In young puppies, their hair is soft and can vary between soft waves to pronounced curls. As the puppy grows, so does the time required for grooming. As the Standard Poodle puppy matures, he will go through a coat change. When this occurs varies from dog to dog, but it usually happens when the puppy is between 9 and 18 months. During this coat change, it may be necessary to brush your poodle on a daily basis to prevent him from becoming matted.
The only limit to the type of trim that a companion dog can wear is the owner's imagination. However, if you are going to show your dog in the conformation ring, there are specific trims competitors must adhere to, based upon the dog's age. There are as many different pet styles as there are groomers, but there are only 3 allowed trims on poodles competing in the conformation ring. These trims are outlined in the Breed Standard. Examples given in the Breed Standard Expanded, on this site. Do go there and see what your poodle can look like with proper grooming and coat care.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, explore the Editor’s website and practice a little at a time. The hair grows quickly but you should go slowly.
There are some things you will need, basic equipment is necessary to start grooming your poodle yourself. Good clippers - Andis, Oster, Wahl are the main choices - I personally do not think that Laube holds up well enough for the money.
From Left to Right: Andis Super 2 speed, Andis 2 speed, Oster Golden A-5, Oster Finisher/trimmer, Wahl cordless trimmer
It is imperative that your dog be brushed AND combed completely, as any mats or snarls left in will only get worse after the bathing.
On pet trims, I find it easiest to divide the dog into sections when working. I will brush and comb one leg at a time, then go and brush the tail, topknot and ears. The biggest problem I have as a groomer are owners that do brush their dogs, but do not comb them. It is very easy to think that you are doing a proper job, but unless you run a comb through, you can never be sure that you have brushed all the way to the skin, and removed every knot and tangle.
If you are trying to grow a long coat, remember to never brush a coat dry, as the static can cause the ends to break.
Also, try not to brush a dirty coat. If you stay on top of things, and brush every couple of days (as needed) if your dog gets dirty - just put straight into the bath and brush carefully as you are drying.
When brushing a long coat/show coat, always start from the tips and work towards the skin in smooth motions. Learn not to flick your wrist as you near the ends, as this will break the ends off the coat. By working from the ends to the skin, you will lose less coat if you come across a tangle. If you start at the skin and pull up towards the ends, when you come across a knot, you will drag it through the whole length of the coat and cause more damage to the coat.
I only use a pin brush on the long coat, as it is softer and easier on long hair than a slicker brush. I use a technique called LINE BRUSHING when working on long coats. My dogs lay on their side, and I part the hair from head to tail, and brush and comb this area, and then bring down a little more hair from above the part (moving the part from the spine to the belly).
Each section is brushed and then combed before moving to the next section. Before I start brushing, I give a quick, LIGHT mist of conditioner over the coat.
This helps to keep the static down, and helps give the coat a little protection while brushing. I spray each section as I work on it. It is a VERY light mist, and the coat is NOT wet, only slightly damp. It dries very quickly - long before moving to the next section. In the winter, when there is more static in the air, I might have to spritz a second time to keep the static down.
Make sure your brush is in good condition - broken, bent or missing pins can damage the coat. At right is a damaged pin brush at the left is a new brush in good condition.
If you are not going to be able to brush the coat for more than a few days, and you are concerned about matting, brush an oil spray into the coat - make sure that you completely coat the hair all the way down to the skin.
More information at Ridgewood Standard Poodles