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Make no mistake, people love Poodles. For decades, Poodles have reigned as one of the world’s favorite breeds, consistently ranking in the top ten most popular dogs. In fact, for 22 consecutive years between 1960 and 1982, the Poodle was the number one most popular breed in the U.S.
American’s love for the curly-haired breed combined with a global pandemic and nationwide stay-at-home orders makes for a lot of Poodle parents with a need to groom their most adorable furry friends at home. And, while the fancy hairstyles, like the Continental Cut or the English Saddle might best be kept to the professionals, with the right tools and techniques, any determined Poodle parent can easily give their pet a trim at home.
Andis Grooming educator and Chicago groomer, Valerie Partynski, demonstrated 10 simple steps to trim your Poodle at home along with some tips and tricks for keeping your dog looking and feeling great between grooming appointments. Plus, these tips, tricks, and techniques can be used to trim other breeds and breed mixes, too!
As with any at-home groom, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Whether you’re working with a full-sized Standard Poodle, a lap-sized Miniature, a pint-sized Toy, or any variety of Poodle-mix, you’ll want to prepare a designated grooming station. If you have a portable grooming table already, great! If not, any sturdy, elevated surface will work just fine. Many pet parents use a washing machine or countertop for smaller dogs or a lower table for the bigger breeds. Just be sure to lay down a non-slip mat or towel to help your dog feel secure and never leave them unattended while they’re off the floor. Once you’ve prepared your work surface, gather your supplies.
What You’ll Need:
In the video below, groomer Valerie Partynski and her adorable demo dog, Harpo, go step-by-step through the entire process. Feel free to follow along, pause, and rewind while you groom your Poodle at home!
1. The Three B’s
Make sure your dog has been bathed, blow-dried, and brushed before beginning any grooming procedure. The entire coat should be clean and completely dry. The coat should then be brushed from head to tail with a slicker brush to make sure there are no knots. Pay particular attention to friction areas, like the armpits and behind the ears, gently checking with your steel comb for any knots you may have missed.
2. Feet First
For this simple Poodle pet trim, Valerie recommends starting with the paws first, trimming away any hair that’s grown out between the paw pads and continuing around to shave the feet. For the paws pads, she uses the Andis Pulse Li5 cordless adjustable blade clipper with the blade set to 40, the shortest blade setting. Holding your dog’s foot in a comfortable, natural position, gently clip away hair from between pads. Continue clipping hair around the pads, stopping about a finger-width above the top pad, marking the shave line that will continue all the way around the Poodle’s foot.
Once the pads are clipped, change your blade setting to 15 and continue around the top of the foot from the toenails up to the shave line you created while clipping the paw pads. Remember, while clipping your dog’s feet, use a scooping motion to clip between toes, careful not to knick the webbing between their toes.
For more detailed information and a video demonstration of how to trim toenails and paw pads, refer to this article, How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails and Paw Pads.
3. That Fabulous Face
Trimming your Poodle’s face starts with first neatening up the neck. With your clipper blade set at 15, begin shaving from the neck indentation upward to the chin. Hold your dog’s head with their nose upward to pull the neck skin taut and prevent any nicks.
Moving onto the face, continue clipping from the inner ear in a straight line toward the outer corner of the eye on each side of your Poodle’s face. Then, finish trimming the neck by connecting the area clipped beside the ear down to the clipped area on the throat. Then, trim from the inner corner of the eye, down to the nose. Remember to use a very light touch, being extra careful around the eyes. Continue trimming the face by stretching the dog’s lips back into a smile and gently glide the clippers along the lips, under the chin, and finally, around the nose. It will be helpful to watch the video below for a demonstration of this process.
4. Bum and Backside
Using the same adjustable blade clippers on the 10-blade setting, conduct a simple sanitary trim to clean up your dog’s bum and backside. For more detailed instruction and a demonstration on how to give your dog a sanitary trim, click here. A sanitary trim involves clipping some delicate areas on your dog and special trimming and clipping methods should be used.
5. Trimming the Torso
To trim your dog’s body, you’ll want to use a clipper with attachment blades and a guard comb. Valerie recommends the Andis 5-Speed Excel clipper because of its compact, easy-to-grip size and adjustable motor speed. First, back-brush the dog’s coat to fluff hair away from the body for a more even trim. Then, using a 10-blade and a ½” guard comb, clip along the natural contours of the dog’s body, from the neck back toward the tail. Trim from the back downward toward the belly. Clip down from the dog’s neck, stopping just above the elbow. Continue around to the neck, clipping down the chest. Then, clip underneath, from the base of the rib cage toward the armpits, being careful of delicate armpit skin.
When the entire body has been clipped, comb the hair to check for any missed spots or stray hairs, and clip again as needed.
6. A Leg Up
If you prefer your dog’s legs to be trimmed to the same length as the body, continue this step using the same blade and comb combination. If, like Valerie, you prefer a slightly longer leg hair, switch to the ¾” guard comb to trim the legs. Starting at the top of the leg, trim all the way down the leg. Gently lift the leg in a natural position to trim toward the ankles and to reach the inside of the opposite leg.
When the legs are complete, use the same blade and guard comb combination to quickly blend the longer hair on the head with the shorter hair on the body.
7. Easy At-Home Bevels
To easily create beautiful beveled ankles at home, comb the leg hair straight down. With your adjustable blade clippers on the 40-blade setting, clip straight in along the edge where the thicker leg hair and shaved foot meet, going all the way around the ankle. Clean up any stray hairs with your grooming shears.
8. Beautiful Blending
A great tip for blending the shorter neck shave with the longer body hair on the chest is to skim over the shaved edges using your clippers with a 7-blade attachment.
9. Top Knot-ch Tips
To create a top-notch top knot, you’ll first need to build up a foundation for the hair to rest on. Begin by setting in your side lines, starting from the shave line along the eye’s outer corner to the ear, up over and around the ear. Move the top knot out of the way, comb down the ear hair, and use your shears to trim from the face straight back. Repeat on the opposite side so that both sides of the head are even. Again, referring to the video below will be helpful in trimming your Poodle’s top knot.
After the side lines have been trimmed, comb all of the top knot back and only bring forward a small amount of hair. Use your grooming shears angled outward to trim the hair just above the eyes. Bring forward another small section of hair and repeat the process. Do this about 3 times to create a foundation for the top knot to sit upon without hanging over your dog’s eyes. Then, part the top knot in the center, brushing each half outward and continue trimming front to back, with your shears angled outward. Finally, comb the entire top knot to one side and trim away any longer hairs. Repeat on the opposite side. Then, brush the top knot upward and use your shears to trim and shape as desired. Remember to check your top knot from all angles to make sure the shape is even and nicely blended.
10. Excellent Ears
At this point, your Poodle’s ears have been banded and kept out of the way, so it may be necessary to use a conditioning spray and brush out any tangles that may have formed. Use your slicker brush to brush the ear hair straight down and, using your fingers as a guide, trim the ends using your grooming shears. Use thinning shears to blend edges and create a nice, clean edge.
Once you’re finished with this 10-step easy Poodle pet trim, brush your dog to check for any longer hairs you may have missed and trim them away with your shears.