How do I groom my poodle?

If you’ve been a part of the grooming world, you know how popular poodles are. This gorgeous breed is the epitome of elegance and deserves a groom that helps accentuate that. It’s important to know what you're getting into when you work with a poodle, so we asked Wahl ELITE Educator, Master Groomer, AND Poodle Queen Sue Zecco for some advice when it comes to grooming this beautiful breed!

1. What is important to keep in mind when grooming a poodle?

As with any breed the most important thing to keep in mind is the breed profile of the poodle. Understanding the breed profile is crucial to know how to connect all the parts of the dog in all the right places.

2. What kind of equipment should I use?

Starting with the brush, you need a good slicker brush. The thickness of the dog's coat and sensitivity of the skin will tell you what kind of slicker to use. I prefer a longer tooth slicker for my standard poodles. If the dog has a very dense thick coat you would want a slicker that has stiffer pins in it, that don’t bend as much. If it is a thinner coated poodle (lighter colors tend to have thinner coats, apricots, creams, cafe Au lait) then you would want a slicker that has a softer feel to it. A good metal comb is very important. After slicker you should be able to get a comb through the coat.

I like to do my prep work before the bath. Feet clipped and face clipped, and sanitary area clipped. Nails clipped and ears cleaned are all part of the prep work. For the bath you need to choose a shampoo for the coat type your working with. I like a texture shampoo that will help the coat to stand out when dry. No heavy conditioners that will weigh the coat down. Again the shampoo depends on the coat type you are working with. There are a very large variety of shampoos on the market for every coat type. A good force dryer makes life so much easier for properly drying a poodle coat. I like to use the force dryer first on high, keeping the nozzle close to the skin so you are pushing the water away from the skim. I use till the dog feels about 90-95% dry, then I use a stand dryer with heat and a brush and brush and dry the coat at the same time. This will get the coat straight, which is very important to the finish product. If you are doing a scissor trim or even using a blade on the body, a straight coat looks much more plush in the finished product.

For all my prep work, I prefer the Wahl Bravura. Feet, face, sanitary, I used this clipper. For body work I prefer the KM Cordless clipper and a set of the Stainless Steel Comb Attachments over a #30 Ultimate Competition blade.

A good pair of shears is also very important. I use straight, curved and blenders on poodles. The shear should be one that is comfortable for you, length, weight and shank style.

3. What steps should I take when grooming a poodle?

Have all your equipment ready when you begin. Know in advance what haircut your are planning on doing. If you are a new groomer, or a home groomer, check out the Wahl Classroom and the Super Styling Session website for helpful guides. We have 8 different trims to choose from that can give good step by step instructions as you go. Reading the breed profile before you begin and then evaluating your dog to see how well it fits the breed profile will help you with a good game plan before you begin.

4. Are there any special techniques or tips you recommend for working with poodles?

The best piece of advice is to perfect your prep work. It makes such a big difference in your overall finish. Always wash twice, once to get the dirt off and then to clean right to the skin. Properly fluff dry. And practice your scissor finish.

5. How do I care for my poodle’s nails?

Nails are very important. The more often you trim, the shorter you will be able to keep them. When a nail is “quicked ” (made to bleed) the quick will recede back into the nail. This, however, is painful for the dog and they usually hate having their nails done because of this. Using a nail grinder on the nails works well for grinding the quick back a bit further. I usually use a dog nail clipper first, then the grinder to smooth the edges and file the quick back a bit more. If your attempting this at home, be sure to have Quik Stop, or a steptic powder on hand in case you accidentally hit the quick. 

6. Any other tips on working with poodles?

Poodles are by far one of the most popular breeds to groom. Definitely one of my favorites. This breed is easy to train and truly wants to please. Staying calm and firm and giving lots of praise for being good will go a long way. As with most dogs, they get used to a routine. I always do my grooming procedures in the same order. They also love when you make a big deal of them when the are done. They like their bows and bandannas and being pretty. As a groomer, they give us a chance to be artistic, creative and make me love what I do