The question we're most often asked isn't How do you raise a puppy, it's How do you take care of their coat?
Poodle people already know what to expect from the poodle's coat but for folks that are new to all that fine, beautiful hair, read on!
Poodle puppies are bundles of fluff. Their hair is soft, plush, even silky. The curly coarse coat comes in at around a year of age. Your puppy will need to be groomed, very often! A regular bristle brush will NOT do. You must have a comb or brush with steel pins to get through the thick coat to the skin.
We have laid the foundation by brushing and clipping your pup's hair and by frequent handling and trimming her nails so your puppy is familiar with grooming. It's important to continue brushing the coat and handling the feet between full grooming sessions. Not only does it help the puppy relax when the real grooming takes place, but gentle grooming sessions also help the bond between the owner and the puppy.
How often should your dog be groomed? We suggest every 4-6 weeks, with baths more often if needed. We Our recommendations for grooming products are shown in bold below.
BRUSHES AND COMBS
Your puppy's fine, fluffy hair will not stay that way! Contrary to popular belief, poodles lose hair just as people lose hair. It just doesn't drop on the ground like other dogs and has to be brushed out. Between the ages of 8 and 16 months, your standard poodle's fine puppy hair will begin to be replaced by the coarser poodle coat, and any puppy hair that isn't brushed out during this change will mat. You will want to brush your dog's hair every day because if you do not, you WILL find felted mats and they develop fast! A good pin brush and slicker brush can help pull out loose hair. We like Paws Brothers Extra Long Hard Pin Slicker Brush for around $15. Also consider the Chris Christensen's T-brush - they are effective and will provide years of use, long after the puppy phase ends. Your slicker brush doesn't have to be expensive, but it does have to have long, firm pins to be able to get through the coarse hair.
Besides a good pin brush, a 10" Steel Grooming Comb (also called a greyhound comb) is essential to get down to the skin. This comb is invaluable in making sure mats are discovered and worked through during regular brushing sessions. Traditional bristle or boar brushes are generally not useful for the poodle coat. For home bathing, invest in a handheld shower sprayer for your tub.
SHAMPOOS AND CONDITIONERS
Shampoos we like include Groomer's Edge Grimeinator Deep Clean Concentrate which leaves the coat squeeky clean and smells pretty good, too! Grimeator is a concentrated formula so get yourself a 32oz mixing bottle for concentrated formulas. Also consider EQyss Premier pet shampoo, Crown Royale Biovite #3, or Chris Christensen Clean Start, Spectrum One, or Day to Day shampoos.
Helpful tip from the show circuit: A light drizzle of regular Dawn dish soap on the dog along with the regular shampoo does wonders for degreasing, removing product build-up and dirt and mud from a very dirty dog. Just be sure to follow it up with a good conditioner as it can dry out the hair and will remove the natural oils from the skin.
Conditioners include EQyss Premier, Crown Royale, or Chris Christensen conditioners. SynergyLabs Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiparasitic & Antiseborrheic Medicated Shampoo for Dogs will skin irritations sometimes found on the belly and inside the thighs, especially those pesky yeast spots. This shampoo is good for people, too!
Clippers that we like include the Andis AGC 2-speed with #10, #7 and #3FC blades for regular (non-show) grooming. They're heavier than our cordless Wahl which makes them harder to maneuver around the feet and face, but they are highly recommended for body work and general grooming. If you're going premium, we also like the Wahl Bravura clippers. We also like the inexpensive Wahl Rechargeable 9590, which is lightweight and powerful for a cordless (we use it with the cord for sustained power). Our Wahl clippers have been going strong for more than 7 years!
For trimming the face and feet, we have found the Wahl Mini Arco cordless trimmer to be both reliable, powerful, and easy to maneuver. Replacement blades for any of these clippers can easily be sourced online. Be sure to use a reliable vendor as there are substandard blades masquerading as originals out there. When our blades need sharpening, we mail them to Franlins Sharpening (Franlins.net) in Ocala, Florida.
If you're ready to learn to groom on your own, there are several resources we can recommend. One has long been the poodle groomer's bible, the illustrated book Poodle Clipping and Grooming: The International Reference by Shirlee Kalstone.
If you're ready to step up your game and give show-quality grooming a try, invest in Poodle University by Leading Edge Dog Show Academy. Allison Alexander with Leading Edge has 50%-off promos a couple times a year and the resources in PoodleU are vast and comprehensive. There are also several show handlers and groomers who do tutorials and personal consults for a fee, usually around $35 per session. They may be found in the Facebook group "New to Showing Poodles."