Poodle Grooming Tips: How to Brush and Comb Your Poodle's Hair

by K Marie Alto October 07, 2021 8 min read

Poodle Grooming Tips: How to Brush and Comb Your Poodle's Hair

Poodles are a great breed, much like every other breed of dog, but they have some of their own unique challenges. Probably the most common is grooming. We've all seen pictures of show poodles with crazy trims, but even simple brushing can be a chore with the dense, curly fur a poodle has. Luckily, it's a lot easier if you have the right tools and tips on your side.

In this blog post, we will discuss useful tips on how to brush and comb your poodle's hair.

The Number One Challenge of Poodle Grooming

Keeping your dogs well-groomed can be a challenge, but the challenge varies from breed to breed. For some, you might have to worry about the dirt he or she rolls around in. For others, the length of the coat may necessitate frequent trims.

Number One Challenge

For poodles, the number one challenge is mats and tangles in his or her curly fur. Poodles shed, but their naturally curly fur traps shed hairs in place, so they're as close to hypoallergenic as it's possible for a dog to be. Unfortunately, their coat is very high-maintenance, which means they're less than ideal for anyone who doesn't have the time to dedicate to grooming.

It's about more than the haircut, though. Poodles need continual trimming and grooming to stay healthy. If left ungroomed, their fur can trap dirt and grime close to your fur baby's skin, resulting in a skin infection that requires a vet trip and some medication to clear up.

It's a much better idea to stay on top of the grooming, don't you think?

Groom Often

Some people describe poodles as "high maintenance" based on how often they need their fur brushed. General recommendations are to have your pup groomed professionally about once a month (every three to six weeks), depending on his or her personal needs.

Grooming a Poodle

That's just for trims and deep grooming. Your poodle also needs daily or near-daily brushing to keep his or her curls free of mats and tangles and to strip out shed hair that has remained caught in the coat.

The exception to this is if you prefer to keep your poodle "shaved." That isn't to say an actual shave, of course; your fur baby should have at least some coat on to stay protected from the elements. A "shaved" trim is a short coat. Actually, shaved poodles are rare and are typically only seen when the poor pup has such heavily matted fur that there's no salvaging it.

Pick a Clip

Different kinds of haircuts, or "clips," for your poodle necessitate different levels of grooming. You can pick a style and keep up with it, or you can try out different styles every few months and see which ones your fur baby likes the most.

Poodle Grooming Clips

Clip styles include:

  • The puppy clip. This style is usually limited to younger dogs and trims fur around the face, feet, and tail quite close to keep from irritating your youngster.
  • The lamb clip. This is a style that makes your fur baby resemble a lamb by clipping his or her coat short across the entire body. It's simple, easy to maintain, and makes your canine companion look like he or she is wearing a wool coat.
  • Show clips. There are several kinds of styles mostly seen in show poodles, like the Continental clip or the Saddle clip. They tend to be more high-maintenance but very striking.

These are just a few of the style options you can try out with your fur baby. What matters is finding one you can keep up with that looks good and that your pup enjoys.

Use the Right Tools

Do you want to maintain your poodle's coat at home, or do you want to take him or her to the groomer on a regular basis? The choice helps determine which tools you need to keep on hand.

If you want to keep your poodle's hair trimmed at home, with less frequent visits to the groomer, you'll want to make sure you pick up scissors, clippers, and the right kind of dog-safe shampoo and conditioner to keep their coat and skin healthy.

If you're only looking to do some maintenance at home, you'll want two kinds of brushes.

Pin Bristle Brushes

  The first brush is called a pin brush. Pin brushes have widely-spaced, usually metal pins, with safely rounded ends. These help slide through your poodle's coat, working out tangles and mats that form throughout the day as your fur baby frolics through life.

The important part of a pin brush is making sure it has a cushion and that the pins aren't sharp. Poorly-made pin brushes can irritate the skin and cause "undercoat burn," similar to how you might get a rug burn if you rub a stiff, abrasive fabric against your skin.

In other words, a pin brush is stiff enough to work mats out of your fur baby's fur while being gentle enough to avoid hurting his or her skin beneath.

 The other brush you want to grab is a bristle brush. These brushes have denser, more closely-packed sets of bristles. They are more flexible than metal pins and softer. They don't work out mats, but they help to align curls and straighten hair. Usually, a bristle brush is ideal for short-coat dogs and dogs with straight coats, but they work wonderfully on poodles as well, especially when they're trimmed.

The important quality to look for in a bristle brush is natural bristles. The EarthCare Deshedder brush uses boar bristles, for example. Synthetic bristles can cause static electricity to build up, which can be unpleasant and tangle hair further.

The bristle brush is used to straighten fur, remove shed hairs, and gently exfoliate the skin beneath to prevent dandruff and skin issues. It also helps smooth out natural skin and hair oils and sebum, spreading it evenly across your fur baby's coat. That way, your pup will be shiny and lustrous, the envy of the neighborhood.

Other Brushes and Combs

There are other kinds of brushes and combs, but they're often either too harsh for your poodle's sensitive skin or are doing the same thing as one of the two brushes above.

  • Rake brushes are stiff and harsh. They can be fine to work out mats if you're very careful, but it's usually safer to go with a pin brush instead.
  • Slicker brushes are essentially the same as bristle brushes.
  • Metal combs can help you find mats, but you should always use a brush to work the mat out as combs tend to further tighten any knots.

Except for metal combs that can be safely used by almost any pet parent, we highly recommend non-grooming professionals avoid using rakes or slicker brushes as they may injure your dog.

Have you ever tried brushing your hair with a slicker brush? Exactly! We know what you are thinking. If you haven't, we recommend you try it on your hair first. After that we promise you'll never try it on your fur baby. These tools simply take skill. Always get the right tool for the job. Your fur baby will thank you!

Understand Your Fur Baby

Some poodles love being groomed, while others have had bad experiences in the past and don't like it at all. Still, more are averse to certain kinds of brushes, the noise clippers make, or the feeling of fur being trimmed. It's important to how your fur baby responds to different grooming techniques.

Different signs of stress in a poodle include:

  • Excess drooling, frequent yawning, whining, barking, or a wrinkled muzzle can all be signs of mild stress.
  • Rigid posture, barking, shaking, trembling, struggling, snapping, submissive behaviors, urination, and vomiting can all be signs of high stress.

Poodle in Distress

For poodles who don't like being groomed, you'll want to take special steps to make the process easier.

  • Stick with the softer brushes, just in case he or she has sensitive skin, and the brush irritates it.
  • Stay gentle and communicate with your fur baby. Your pup will understand you, at the very least, your tone of voice, and something as simple as talking to your pup will keep him or her calmer while being groomed.
  • Try out a distraction or a reward. Some dogs respond well to simple positive reinforcement or even to basic distractions. You can read more about this in our guide to trimming nails.

We all want what's best for our furry children, so you need to find the right balance between grooming for their health and keeping them calm and happy.

Keep an Eye on the Skin

Poodles usually have very sensitive skin. That's why brushes need to be soft and gentle, so s/he doesn't develop any skin irritation during brushing sessions. It's also why you need to keep on top of brushing their coat, because mats can trap dirt against the skin and result in an infection.

Infections are irritating and painful and will require treatment at the vet. Obviously, you want to avoid putting your fur baby through this, and you don't want to go through it either! Keep an eye out for places where your fur baby is itching, look for redness or welts, and other signs of skin infections.

Keep Eye on Skin

If you notice that your furry friend has signs of a skin infection, you'll want to take them to your vet for a look. Skin infections can be irritating at best and dangerous at worst, so it's always better to get them treated ASAP.

Develop a Grooming System

Patterns are an important part of dog training. You don't want grooming to be an ad hoc affair because then your fur baby will never know what to expect, and that can cause him or her anxiety and stress. So, set up a grooming pattern and stick with it.

Develop Grooming System

 Start with a conditioner. There are many conditioners on the market that you can simply spray across your fur baby's coat. The conditioner helps to rehydrate the coat, makes it easier to remove mats and tangles, and reduces static generated by brushing. Look for a conditioner that doesn't have a strong scent, as poodles are often averse to strong-smelling fur treatments.

 Next, lightly brush your fur baby's coat with a pin brush. This will find and start to work out any mats and tangles that have accumulated since the last time you brushed. Don't brush too deep or press too hard since that can irritate your fur baby's skin. Just lightly brush his or her coat, allowing the conditioner to work through the fur, working out the mats you find.

 Make sure to brush with the right technique! This video, from professional groomer Terrie, shows a good technique you can use with your fur baby.

 Once you've gone over your fuzzy friend's coat with the pin brush, it's time to use a finishing brush. The boar bristle brush we've linked above is generally the best option for most canine companions. This helps smooth out his or her coat, finish working in the conditioner, and remove any lingering shed hairs, all without irritating the skin.

 Finally, give your fur baby the treats and praise s/he deserves! Grooming doesn't have to be a stressful time, and the reward makes it all worthwhile.

Do this every day, every other day, or every few days, depending on how much you have your fur baby's coat groomed and trimmed. If his or her hairstyle is thinner and shorter, you don't have to brush him or her as thoroughly or as often. If you've left the coat longer and thicker, you'll need to brush more often.

Only the Best for Your Poodle

Best for Poodle

Poodle grooming is a unique challenge few other breeds face. You need to keep up with it to ensure the most comfortable pup you can. It's important to know how your dog thinks and acts, understand his or her reactions, and learn when s/he is stressed. Even small stress reactions or aversive behavior can indicate an underlying problem you might need to address.  

Thankfully, many poodles enjoy their grooming and will feel happy afterward. Mats and tangles can be irritating, brushing can be pleasant, and who wouldn't love a treat after their hair cut? Why not pick up a couple of brushes from our store? Before you know it, you'll have the habits down pat, and your fur baby will thank you.

Do you have a poodle or curly coated dog?  What are some of the grooming challenges you’ve faced? If you have any questions or concerns regarding poodle grooming or similar, feel free to reach out at any time! 

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 19K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).


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