Achieving the signature look of a Standard Poodle requires loving attention and following grooming best practices.
“The great thing of course about the Poodle is the fact that they do not shed,” says Poodle expert Gail Wolaniuk, a professional Poodle handler and groomer who has shown Poodles for 40 years and has a private grooming practice. “But in return for that fabulous trait is the fact that they require routine grooming. If you choose to groom your puppy yourself it adds to great bonding and training time.”
Along with her partner Joan McFadden—a member of the board of governors of the Poodle Club of America—Wolaniuk breeds Standard Poodles through their Unique Standard Poodles breeding practice, and has been recognized by the AKC as a Breeder of Merit and a 2020 AKC Breeder of the Year. Here’s everything she says you need to know about caring for your Poodle’s coat, skin, nails, and more.
Coat Care 101: Grooming a Standard Poodle
First things first: When you bring your Poodle puppy home for the first time, it’s important to get into good grooming habits right away, starting with brushing to prevent your dog’s hair from matting.
Wolaniuk recommends using a slicker-brush—one with a square or rectangular shape with short, stiff wire bristles—and brushing all the way down to your puppy’s skin. But be careful not to scratch or scrape the skin, she adds.
Pro tip: Groom your puppy up on a table or other elevated surface for more control, says Wolaniuk.
As for baths, you can offer these as little or often as you like (or as frequently as your Poodle gets into something dirty or smelly). Aim for an average washing of every four to eight weeks, depending on how frequently you brush your dog’s hair.
“Since the Poodle has continually growing hair (like our own) and not fur, you can use any of the shampoos formulated for humans such as Pantene or Suave,” says Wolaniuk. “A wide variety of cleansing dog shampoos, whether it be whiteners, bodifiers, or clarifiers are highly recommended.”
Trims can be given as often as baths, about every four to eight weeks, depending on how long you’d like your Poodle’s hair to grow.
If you’d like to trim your Poodle’s hair at home, Wolaniuk recommends Andis or Oster clippers, which offer easy snap-on blades. She uses size 15 or 30 blades for trimming the face, feet, and tail base, with the higher the number of the blade corresponding to shorter cuts. She recommends using a 4 to 7 blade for clipping your Poodle’s body short, depending on your length preference.
Giving a cut at home requires patience and discipline, and Wolaniuk advises taking your time and playing around with styles you prefer. “Remember hair always grows so any mistakes you make will be corrected with time as it grows in.”
Grooming and bath time is a great opportunity to examine your Poodle for any changes that may need attention, such as cuts or growths, parasites (such as fleas or ticks), or anything else that may be worth discussing with your vet.
Grooming Show Poodles vs. Pets
“The same grooming techniques are required for the Poodle whether they are your constant companion, your competing performance dog, or your conformation show dog,” says Wolaniuk. “The main difference is the required trims needed in conformation show dogs. The guidelines to the required trims are outlined in the breed standard, set forth by the parent clubs (Poodle Club of America).”
While younger dogs are shown in what’s called a “puppy trim,” adult Poodles are shown in the “Continental” or “English Saddle Trim,” which are longer and will require more ongoing coat care, she explains.
Nail Care Basics for Standard Poodles
Your Poodle’s nails are too long if you can hear them clicking around on the floor, says Wolaniuk.
You have a few options for keeping them trim: Cutting them, using a grinder, or both.
“If you cut them make sure you have a quick-stop handy in case you cut the quick, which is the blood supply to the nail,” says Wolaniuk. “This is not a problem, just apply the quick-stop.”
With a grinder, you can shorten each nail around once every week or so. Or, if you’d like, you can clip your Poodle’s nails first then grind the sharp edges for a smooth finish.
Keeping Your Poodle’s Teeth Healthy
For ongoing dental maintenance, Wolaniuk recommends making sure your Poodle has something hard to chew on—such as bones, antlers, or Himalayan chews—and that you also brush your dog’s teeth with a dog toothbrush or finger toothbrush, using a liver- or chicken-flavored toothpaste. For extra care, you can scrape tartar buildup using a tooth scaler. And of course, don’t forget to schedule regular dental cleanings with your pet’s vet.
Standard Poodle Ear Care
Because Poodles tend to grow hair in their ears, and since their drop ears are prone to developing wax, it’s important to clean your dog’s ears regularly by either plucking or trimming the hair that grows inside.
“The more hair you pluck out or cut out allows a better airflow to help the inside of the ear to stay dry,” says Wolaniuk. In addition, use an ear-cleaning solution to remove any excess debris, wax, or dirt and help maintain the proper PH levels in your dog’s ear canal, she adds.