How to Groom a Poodle

grooming a poodle

Last updated on September 4th, 2021 at 06:38 pm


When we think “show dog”, we imagine the regal poodle with its iconic pompon coat winning first prize at the Eukanuba Cup. Showstopping, intelligent, loyal, award-winning, and that potential show dog is all yours! Now what?

You’re looking at that glamorous little wispy haired ball of cute thinking, “Surely it can’t be that hard to groom, right?” And you are absolutely correct! Who has time anyway to take frequent trips to the grooming salon, forking over hundreds of dollars a year to someone else when you could do it yourself? No one will take care of your dog as you do. Plus, home grooming your poodle eases the stress off of your pup if bathing and grooming take place in a familiar environment

We are going to dive into the professional world of poodle grooming and we will break down how to groom a poodle into a simple, easy to follow the guide of all you need to know about caring for your poodle’s glorious coat.

Our discussion will apply to all varieties of poodles:

  • The Standard Poodle
  • The Miniature Poodle
  • The Toy Poodle

The topics we will cover in this discussion on how to groom a poodle will include:

  1. The importance of regularly grooming your poodle
  2. Different poodle hair cuts and difficulty level of achieving them 
  3. Important factors to consider when choosing clippers
  4. Areas of grooming that affect clipper choices
  5. Outline our top six clippers
  6. Clipper blades and other accessories
  7. Differences in grooming between toy, mini, and standard poodles
  8. Prep and tips

We want to help you make the best decisions both economically and realistically as you progress in your journey from beginner’s skill to advanced. It is important to remember that professionals do this for a living. Go easy on yourself and pick reasonable goals starting out. Getting comfortable with your pup and the clippers is the first step. Whether your best friend is miniature, toy-sized, or standard, we are going to walk you through all you need to know. So without further ado, let’s dive in. 

The Importance of Grooming Your Poodle and How Often You Need To

Many people don’t know that poodles don’t have fur. Like humans, they are covered in hair which gives them the amazing attribute of being hypoallergenic. Click here to read our article on how poodles are hypoallergenic.

With only one coat, as opposed to the standard two coats possessed by most dogs, they don’t shed. Unfortunately, this means their hair, like ours, continues to grow and they require higher maintenance and upkeep than their two coated cousins. 

As their hair grows, mats can occur if daily brushing is not upheld. Besides unsightly knots in your dog’s beautiful coat, mats can tangle the hair so close to the skin that it induces severe circulation issues. Without proper blood flow, the skin loses oxygen and begins to die, causing sores and further pain to the dog. 

Poodle with matted hair
A poodle with matted hair

Along with daily care comes being vigilant for a variety of skin problems common to poodles. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Sebaceous Adenitis
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Pyoderma 
  • Alopecia

It is important to note here that there are a number of diseases that can be detected from the daily care of your pet. While not necessarily a skin disorder, Cushing’s Disease is an example of such an illness. Hair loss, rashes, and dandruff can be an indication of larger, underlying issues. Besides keeping your best friend looking like a star, frequent grooming and upkeep can help you stay on your toes in regard to his or her health. 

So how often is “frequent” care and upkeep? We recommend full grooming every 3 to 6 weeks with daily brushing and combing. Remember, poodles don’t have fur! Just like you wouldn’t want to go a month or two without a shower, your pup probably doesn’t either. Assuming you aren’t using your poodle as a hunting partner or letting them do mud romps (not like this poodle 🙂 ), a bath every couple of weeks should be just fine. Be sure to give a good brush down before the wash-up, taking care to remove all of the tangles and knots. 

Popular Poodle Haircuts

Now we will take a look at the hairstyles common to the poodle. We have grouped these styles based on the difficulty level associated with each cut. As we said before, if you’re new to grooming your poodle, take it easy. Experienced groomers and professionals can be more adventurous. Everyone has to start somewhere. If things don’t turn out how you envisioned the first time, that’s alright! Keep practicing and soon you too will be able to give your pup a more personal touch to their style. 

Starting with easiest to most challenging cuts, here is a list of the poodle’s top 10 contemporary styles:

poodle hair cuts
Poodle Haircuts

10. Kennel Cut

9. Dutch Cut, or Sporting Cut

8. Puppy Cut 

7. Town and Country Cut

6. Miami Cut

5. Jackets and Pants Cut

4. Teddy Bear Cut

3. Continental Cut

2. Lion Cut

1. English Saddler Cut 

Styles such as the Teddy Bear Cut can appear deceptively easy. However, some of these styles require advanced skill with scissors and shears to achieve the desired look. Tips and techniques to help guide you will be touched on throughout this article.   

Important Factors to Consider when Choosing Poodle Clippers

Before diving into the finer details of grooming, you must first consider the tools you will use. One of the most important items in your inventory will be the clippers. You may be tempted to reach for your own clippers before doling out the cash for a new piece of merchandise. While poodles do have hair and not fur, they still require special clippers made for dogs. So what is the difference? 

First and foremost, human clippers possess a much stronger motor that can be unpleasant for a dog. The intense vibration and noise can be alarming, making for a highly stressful experience. Second, the teeth on the blades of human clippers are closer together. The dog’s denser coat can get jammed, catching in the blades which results in pain and possible injury of the dog. Between the intensity and ill-suited blades for cutting, abrasions and irritation are much more likely to occur. Clippers for dogs are equipped with a lighter motor, sharper and wider teeth, with various kinds of blades depending on the type and style of grooming.

With all of that having been said, investing in a good pair of clippers is in you and your dog’s best interest. There are many options available to you that are perfectly fitted to suit your needs. We will help you analyze the best clippers for value, durability, noise, efficiency, corded or cordless, ease of use, and heat output

Value, noise, and durability

The first step in choosing your new clippers is deciding what general look you will want to go for with your poodle. If you ultimately want show coat quality, the value may be lower on your list. Do you want a higher degree of precision? Perhaps consider a clipper with various speeds and multiple blades. If your pup has higher levels of anxiety, aim for a quiet motor. When researching potential clippers, read the reviews. How reliable are the clippers? How long do they last? Weigh your options regarding what you want out of your new set of clippers. 

Efficiency

Here is where you want to truly consider power and speeds. Clippers can have 1 to 3, or more, speeds. Professional groomers are generally equipped with 3-speed clippers. As a DIY poodle groomer, you likely will not need more than 2 speeds. Lower speeds and more power are helpful for thick coats and possibly matted dog fur. With only one coat, no undercoat, and thinner hair than most breeds, lower speeds for poodles are unnecessary. That having been said, a trimmer with more than 1 speed can come in useful when taking on more difficult styles. 

Corded versus Cordless Clippers and Ease of Use

When considering ease of use, you will want to examine the pros and cons of corded versus cordless clippers. Cordless clippers are battery-operated, available with recharge options. How often will you be grooming your poodle and where? Smaller poodles are easier to groom inside thus putting you closer to a power outlet. If you have an energetic standard that can’t seem to sit still for longer than five minutes, then you may not want a cord to get tangled up in. 

Heat Output

This goes hand in hand with, not only power and efficiency, but corded or cordless. If you will be using a clipper for longer periods of time and more often, energy consumption and heat output should be considered. A cheaper, high powered, cordless clipper can overheat and be hard on battery life. Hot blades and clippers can also burn your dog’s skin. Ensure that you monitor the heat being generated by the clipper you chose. Take precautions and have means nearby to cool the item down. A good option is to purchase a cooling lubricant for the clippers.

The Different Clippers for Different Poodle Body Areas

It stands to question whether or not you can use the same clipper for the dog’s entire body. The short answer is “yes”, but with varying blade sizes. Although, a smaller poodle, such as a mini or toy, may be better suited for clippers designed specifically for the “hard to reach” areas. If you are brand new to grooming, using larger clippers in sensitive areas could lead to harming the pup. 

Photo courtesy of Best in Show Dog and Cat Grooming Plainfield IL, “Bell Bottom Bella”

The face, especially around the eyes, feet, and sanitary regions may benefit from having a small trimmer dedicated to them. Most trimmers are cordless, much quieter, and come with blades and accessories that ease the difficulty of performing fine detail-oriented maintenance on your poodle. They come equipped with safeties so that in the cases of squirmy dogs or unsteady hands, injury and accidents are less likely to occur. 

There are options for miniature head trimmers designed solely with ears, paws, and face in mind. An example is the Wahl Professional Animal Stylique Pet. The small head and sleek design allow for getting into the curves and crevices of your poodle’s body with minimal invasion of space. This item runs on batteries, allowing you to take care of delicate areas without concern of cords or recharging. The result is a highly portable and effective trimmer. Wahl also provides combination kits for touch up. A set comes with wider clippers for face and nether regions as well as a narrow trimmer like the one previously mentioned. 

The number of clippers in your arsenal truly comes down to your skill and confidence as a groomer and the advanced styles you may wish to attempt. Basic cuts, such as Summer or Kennel, do not require as much attention to finer detail as other cuts might.

How to Use Your Clippers and Go About Grooming Your Poodle

Before we get into the best clippers for your poodle, we wanted to take a moment to explain how to use your clippers and the best methods by which to trim your dog. It is recommended to watch a professional or videos starting out so that you develop a better idea of how to approach your dog. If you can, start the grooming process with your dog early; puppyhood is ideal. This allows the dog to become accustomed to being bathed and groomed regularly, thus reducing anxiety. If this is not possible, ensure that each session includes a reward during and after as an incentive. Be gentle and understanding to your pup. 

During baths, make the bathing more about talking to and connecting with your dog. Believe it or not, animals enjoy massages, just like humans do. Providing a type of massage allows for, not only an enjoyable experience for your pup but a deep clean and opportunity to notice any abnormalities you may not notice otherwise with the dog dry and fluffed up.

Photo courtesy of Best in Show Dog and Cat Grooming Plainfield IL

Get to know your dog’s body. Which direction does the hair go throughout its body? Various parts of the dog’s anatomy cause hair to change directions. During the act of clipping, going with the grain of the dog’s hair is imperative. Going against the grain can cause uneven trimming or potential injury. What are some problem areas for potential mats? Pay special attention to the chest, armpits, and underneath the ear flaps. While grooming the dog, remember to go slow. You don’t want to pull its hair or make a mistake in the cut, which could cause pain to the dog. 

We should like to note that you mustn’t change blades while the clippers are running. If you wish to change blade heads, first turn the clippers off. Only then is it safe to change the blade.

To begin actual grooming, hold the clippers comfortably in your hand, turn the clippers on and ensure the flat side of the blade is against the dog’s fur. Pushing the clippers along the dog`s body should take little pressure unless the dog’s hair is matted or tangled; in which case, pause, and brush it out if you can. Always go by the same pattern every time you groom your dog. It is recommended that you start from the neck down, either doing one side of the body and then the other, or neck to tail. 

When trimming under the dog’s legs and chest, lift the dog’s leg. The bend is natural, so you will not hurt the dog. But be reasonable. Do not overextend its legs. In areas such as the folds of skin in crevices, be gentle, applying extremely light pressure. If your poodle still happens to have a dewclaw, be mindful of cutting too close to it. You do not want to cut into the dewclaw and hurt the dog. 

Upon reaching the hind end, only clip about 2 inches or so up to and around the anal and genital regions. Shaving these areas is referred to as a “sanitary” and require a blade with a much closer cut. The purpose of this shave is to reduce the chances of getting feces and urine trapped in the hair. 

Best Six Clippers for Grooming your Poodle

As promised, we have compiled a list of the top six clippers based on reviews, price, and utility. So let`s jump into it. 

  1. Best Clipper for Poodle Body-Andis ProClip AGC2 2-Speed 

Not only is this clipper one of the highest-rated clippers on Amazon, but they come in at a reasonable price range! Regardless of your dog’s coat, this clipper is designed to handle any coat with professional ease. The motor is designed to be quiet with minimal vibration. Unlike some clippers, this one is only 2lbs, reducing arm fatigue during use. 

The Andis has a detachable blade design, making it very easy to change mid-cut. The cord is 14 feet long allowing you to be able to navigate around your dog without having to find the next outlet to finish your cut. These clippers will comfortably fit in your hand, providing more comfort for you and your dog.

On the negative side, these clippers are not the greatest in regard to heat output. After heavy use, they can become heavily overheated in your hand. Unfortunately, this tendency to overheat tests the durability on the clippers, meaning that do not last as long as some of the other competing brands.

Click here to check out this clipper on Amazon.

  1. Best Clipper for Matted Poodle-Oster A5 Turbo 2-Speed Pet Clipper

These clippers do an amazing job of getting through matted fur. The price range is great for the value you get when it comes to having your dog feel comfortable with their thick fur. With the 2 speeds, the lowest helps get through some of your toughest spots. Another selling point is the quiet motor, keeping the clipper noise down to a minimum. Most of our pups are not fans of the vibrations other clippers can have, but these will help alleviate that.

A neat point to add about the Oster is that the clippers are chew proof. This means that if your dog enjoys making snacks out of things they shouldn’t, you will not have to worry about them hurting themselves if they get ahold of these clippers.

A boast for the novices, the clippers have great precision and will make your cut look flawless. The blades are made with cryogenic technology which results in extreme durability and long-lasting use. Hail to having clippers that your dog will love for a long time!

Check this clipper out here on Amazon.

Heat is an ongoing issue. Unlike the Andis, however, the blades are designed to take the heat. The manufacturers planned ahead, knowing heat issues were on the rise. Some reviews mention there being a vent present on the clippers to aid in cooling them off. Holding the clippers correctly and not covering the vent may help in some of the overheating issues.

  1. Best Clipper for Poodle Face (#1)-Wahl Acro Cordless Pet Clipper Kit 

For price and durability with cordless clippers, you cannot go wrong with this Wahl Acro Cordless clipper. This clipper will help you get around some more sensitive areas such as your pup’s face and feet. A couple of benefits for these clippers are its 5 adjustable blade levels in one and 80-minute battery life. The price is slightly less than the first two mentioned, making it a bit more of a bargain.

When it comes to ergonomics, these clippers are cordless and fit well in your hand; similar to what you can see from the Andis Pro Clip. Going cordless means more maneuverability around your pup and easy hand position adjustments with no discomfort. Not only are these clippers highly rated, but they also have a variety of colors to choose from to make the act of grooming fashionable as well! 

Great for mobility and faces, not so much for anything else. The downside of these clippers comes with durability and versatility of use. Due to the “fragile” nature of the blades, giving your pup more of an overall makeover with these clippers is not the best idea. Reviews say that the clippers stutter on thicker coats and battery life is not quite as represented. When it comes to the charging station, reviews say it is a let down, taking hours to charge. That having been said, these are still some of the highest rated clippers on Amazon! Check this clipper out here.

  1. Best Clipper for Poodle Face (#2)-Wahl Bravura Lithium-Ion Cordless Clipper

This clipper is another fantastic option for getting a great cut on your poodle’s face and feet. It includes 5 different blade lengths and oil for the blades to get that best cut. The battery died? No problem! You can plug it in and continue right on going! The clippers also run cooler, making it more comfortable for you and your dog. As for the price, it’s a great value for the ease and the results you’ll get.

This is a great option for homes with multiple dogs. The battery lasts for 90-minutes and only takes 60 minutes for a full charge. The clippers are also lightweight (coming in at 8.8 ounces) making it more comfortable for you to hold longer. This means less arm fatigue, especially if your dog is not a fan of having their feet touched. These clippers come in a variety of colors, includes a charging stand, 6 blade guards, oil, and a soft bag to keep everything in one place.

The only questionable downside to the Bravura clippers is their durability. Lightweight and fantastic maneuverability gives way to possibly facing buying a new clipper sooner rather than you would like. Overall, reviews seem positive. But, for versatility and ease, we still say go for it!

See the price of this clipper here on Amazon.

  1. Best Clipper for Poodle Body on a Budget-Hansprou Dog Shaver Clippers

When it comes to value and trimming your dog on a budget, these clippers will make it happen for you. It comes with 4 guard combs, low vibration, and plugs into the wall. At-home quarantine cuts shouldn’t be an issue anymore once you have these in your hands. 

The blades are detachable making them easy to clean. Two adjustable modes lead to a convenient change in the cut length of your dog’s fur mid groom. The clippers will make you feel more confident knowing your pup is in your good hands.

On the con side of things, unlike some of the other clippers on our list, these are a little heavier and louder. The larger style can lead to arm and hand fatigue faster than some other models, forcing you to take more time than you had imagined.

Check out the current price of this good and affordable clipper here on Amazon.

  1. Best Clipper for Poodle Finishing Cut-Wahl Professional Peanut Clipper

The Peanut clipper will be your go-to for putting the final touches on making an at-home cut be on point! Typically used by barbers for making fine details come to life on their clients, this is what you can to get from these. The clippers come with 4 different guards and can be easily plugged into the wall to start cutting quickly. These clippers will feel easy to control due to their weight and size. The Peanut clippers only weigh 4 ounces. It works really well for coarse hair, making this an ideal finishing clipper for your pup.

These clippers are not strictly for dogs. We advised against using human clippers for dog grooming, but these are an exception. The style and design of these clippers are made so that they are easier and more gentle for touch-up purposes, human and dog alike. Though the Peanut clippers are not meant for a full-body shave down, nothing can beat them in regard to polish on a fine groom.

Click here to check this clipper out on Amazon.

Clipper Blades for Grooming Poodle

Alright, you’ve got your favorite clippers all picked out and ready to ship. You’re getting really excited for that package to be dropped off and give your dog that at-home cut you know you can do. Wait! Have you checked to see if you have clipper blades?

Clipper blades are essential to providing a great cut for your dog. All professional groomers use blades to get the right length and cut you’ve asked them to perform on your pup before. Now, it’s your turn. Clipper blades, like human clippers, come in different sizes and ‘edgings’. We will cover the different edging and sizes shortly, along with how you use them. 

Some of your clippers may already come with blades. In the six clippers that we recommended above, a couple of them have 5 in 1 blade systems while others only include guards. If you’re wanting your dog to have a longer cut, guards may need to be on order to make that happen. These are not always included in your clipper purchase. However, a number of the manufacturers sell their own guards separately. There are also universal fit options.

Blades come in a variety of ‘edgings’, which perform different outcomes, a bit like a culinary knife. There are ultra edge blades, ceramic edge blades, and show edge blades. The ultra edge blades are made of carbon-infused steel. They keep the blades lasting longer and helps with more difficult cutting areas. The ceramic edge blades resist heat and make it more comfortable for your dog. The show edge blades are to give your pup that final stylized look with no blade lines and making their fur look incredibly smooth.

Now, let’s get into how to pick the right clipper blade for grooming your poodle. We’ve attached a sizing chart for you to take a peek at:

Best Clipper Blade for Matted Poodle

The best clipper blade when it comes to grooming poodles with mats is the size 7F. 

Best Clipper Blade for Poodle Faces and Feet

Poodle faces and feet are best trimmed with sizes 10 or 15 clipper blades.


Other Poodle Grooming Accessories in Addition to Clippers

Elfirly Professional Dog Grooming Scissors Kit

Sometimes our dogs need a little extra when it comes to having their at-home spa day. Here are a few other accessories we recommend: scissors, nail clippers, ear pluckers, ear cleaners, and teeth cleaning. A small pair of hair cutting scissors are nice to have when you are trimming up loose ends. Ear pluckers and cleaners can aid your dog if they a previous history of ear infections by being proactive. Clipping extra hair in the opening of the poodle ear canal and cleaning excess earwax help reduce bacteria build-up. Click here to check out our article on how to prevent ear infections in poodles. Bear in mind not to go inside your dog`s ear. Just like trimming the hair on a human ear, you don`t want to stick the scissors inside the canal and risk injury.

Dremel 7300-PY Dog & Cat Nail Grinder Kit

Nail clippers are the final touch. A word of advice when it comes to nail trimming: Be sure to not cut the quick on the nail bed. It can cause your dog a lot of pain and could make them bleed. Err on the side of less is more when trimming their nails. A good rule of thumb is to purchase nail clippers with guards built-in. If your dog has clear nails, you will be able to see where their quick starts. If you do not feel comfortable clipping your dog`s nails, dremels like this one are always an option. This piece of equipment is a small, rotating sander for nails. This prevents you from quicking your dog.  

Preparing Your Poodle for Grooming

Before we get into full-on clip mode with our loveable furry friends, there are a few things we must do. First, give them a good bath. Removing the dirt from their coat will make your cut go a lot more smoothly. Once you’ve washed them, be sure to give them a good dry and then brush them out. This process should be very similar to us humans when we get to the salon. But remember, if there are any mats or severe tangles in the fur, get these out prior to the bath.  

Photo courtesy of Best in Show Dog and Cat Grooming Plainfield IL

Grooming When it Comes to a Standard, Mini, and Toy Poodle

When it comes to all poodles, be sure to have a daily routine of brushing them. This will help keep their coats in top condition, make their skin feel wonderful, and keeps mats to an absolute minimum. Each type of poodle can have similar cuts and styles done making them one fashion-forward bunch no matter the size. Some cuts are better suited for various sized poodles, though. The Puppy Cut, for example, is more aesthetically pleasing on miniature or toy poodles. But this doesn`t mean you can`t cut your standard to look like a forever puppy! Don`t let anyone tell you how to cut your poodle! Be a pioneer of dog fashion.

Tips for Safely Grooming So You are Accident-Free

You want to make your at-home grooming experience safe and enjoyable for all involved. Here are a few tips to make sure this is a positive experience: 

  • Storage: Keep all your clipping equipment stored in a safe place. If you do not have a container for your clippers and other grooming accessories, be sure to acquire one.
  • Lighting: You will want to have a well-lit area where you will be completing your dog’s cut. This will help you see any trouble areas and make sure all your cuts line up.
  • Positive, fun experience: Since you are feeling more confident about giving your pup its next haircut, be sure to make it a positive space for them, too. A nervous dog and parent can make the event more stressful. This doesn`t need to be a negative experience for either of you. Treats are always a bonus, human and dog alike!
  • Elevated surface: Your safest surface to use would be a grooming table. This way you will have a stable surface for your pup to stand on. You can get to all the hard to reach places and have all-around access.
  • Dog restraint: Most grooming tables you find come with a harness. Use it. It will keep your pup still and keep them safe while you are confidently giving them their first at-home spa day.
Photo courtesy of Community Bark Bayview WI

Conclusions

We hope these tips and tricks lead you to feel more confident as you move forward in your grooming adventures. Keep an eye on your poodle and its coat. If you feel they could use a trim, then go ahead and get those clippers out. While you don’t have to follow anyone else’s schedule, be mindful of what is a healthy and reasonable length for your dog. Ensure to take care of mats and tangles as they come up, especially in the chest area. 

Do your own research on different coats and styles. There are tons of different looks we did not cover. You could invent one yourself! Once you get more comfortable grooming your dog, become adventurous. Who knows! Your pup’s new look could be the new rage at all the dog shows. 

Choose your clippers with care. Don’t go cheap! If you know your dog’s coat, you know what they need. Not all poodles are created equal. Consider the needs you and your dog have. What is most important to you? Ease and comfort? Or durability and power? You don’t have to adhere to our top six. All clippers have their pros and cons. Like any product, read reviews, and research for yourself. We just want to provide a solid ground for starting out. With your clippers come accessories. Toothbrushes, combs, nail clippers; all of these items will come in handy when giving your pup the spa treatment.

Always keep safety in mind for everybody. Designate a space to do the grooming for your pup so he or she knows what to expect. Keep a routine and familiar methodology. Above all, remember to have fun with it! If you mess up the first couple of times, your pup will still love you. So go on! Pick up those clippers and give your pup a personal touch from the one who loves them most!