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Poodle  Junction dot com
Grooming
 
Table of Contents
 

Please note: I have discontinued the puppy kit mentioned on this page. The page will be completely updated (and improved) as soon as I have time.

The more often you perform grooming tasks the easier they get. The dog will get more comfortable with them and you'll get better at them. 

Grooming includes routine maintenance of the Poodle's ears, nails, teeth, anal glands and coat. The poodle's coat requires more grooming than most other dogs'. You can choose to take your poodle to a groomer every 4 to 8 weeks or you can do a lot - or all - of the grooming yourself. Even if you take the dog to the groomer regularly you will still need to brush her at home in between grooming appointments and you will probably need to give her at least an occasional bath.

Grooming a puppy is not the same as grooming an adult poodle. The poodle's coat will be very different as a puppy than as an adult. The young puppy coat can be brushed in a minute.  Puppy teeth are temporary and will later be replaced by permanent teeth. Nails seem to grow faster on puppies. (At 8 weeks old your puppy has already had her nails trimmed about 3 times.)

For those who want to do more of their own grooming, a puppy is the perfect starting point. You can start while the puppy is young and grooming is easy. By the time her adult coat has grown in she'll be well trained to your grooming style and will make it easy for you (or for the appreciative groomer you take her to).

The most important aspect of puppy grooming is not really in the grooming at all. It is training the puppy to be easily groomed. No special training skills are necessary for this. It's really easy and it is really important whether you plan to groom your own dog or have her groomed professionally. All you have to do is get her used to sitting, standing or lying still (depending on the task and your preference) while you brush, pluck, prod and tickle her. The specifics on how to pluck, prod or tickle to prepare your babe for each grooming task are detailed under that task's heading.

Brushing and Combing

The easiest way (for you and for the dog) to brush and comb is to do it on your lap. This is the perfect accompanying task to TV watching. I like to do it on the couch so I can position the larger dogs where I want them. Its not messy. All the hair will stay in the dog brush.

In your puppy kit I have included a slicker brush, a comb and a "baby brush".

Most poodle brushing is done with a slicker brush. This is a great brush for grooming an older puppy or adult poodle but you must be careful with it. Try the slicker brush on your own hair using different amounts of pressure. This brush can scratch delicate skin. You want to brush the hair, not the skin. Since the puppy coat is not nearly as dense as the adult coat will be you will not need the slicker brush for a while.

Brush the poodle from one end to the other in the opposite direction from how the hair grows. For example, on the dog's back the hair grows from the head toward the tail so brush from the tail toward the head. Some people have an orderly system of what parts to brush in what order. I usually start with the part that's closest to me. If the dog is lying on her back, I'll start with her chest and belly and do the inside of her legs and then turn her over. The goal here is to leave no spot untouched. The parts that will later tend to mat up are often the parts that the dog is most sensitive about having brushed  (under the ears, armpits, inside of legs). You'll quickly find out what parts your pup is resistant to having brushed and these are the parts on which you should be extra gentle but never skip. She needs to get used to being groomed all over. 

On an eight week old puppy this takes about 1 minute. On a nine month old puppy (with full legs) it takes about 5 minutes. On an adult dog with a dense coat and full legs it takes maybe 15 minutes.

After she is fully brushed, go over her with the comb. This will help you find any tangles or mats that are close to the skin.

Always brush the dog completely before giving her a bath. You will turn tangles into mats if you don't brush them out before the bath.

Did you know?... Felt is made by agitating natural fibers with detergent and water. You can make felt from poodle hair but you should only do so once you've removed it from the poodle. Bathing a tangled poodle will created a felted (or matted) poodle!

As the puppy gets older you will find that she does begin to get some mats in her hair. This means it's probably time for the slicker brush. Many tangles can be brushed out before they become hopeless mats. Most mats can be brushed out with patience. Before spending a lot of time trying to brush out a mat, consider what its worth. If the mat is in the center of the dog's topknot then you'll probably want to brush it out. If it 's on her belly or under her tail, just cut it off. It's not going to be noticeable.

Safely cutting a mat - Some mats are at the end of the hair where they can be easily cut off. Others are close to the skin where you could easily cut the dog while cutting the mat. In this case slide your comb under the mat so that the comb is positioned between the dog's skin and the mat. Then use your scissors to cut the mat as close to the comb as possible holding them so that the blade is flat against the comb. As long as the comb is between your scissors and the dog's skin you can safely cut. There may still be a fraction of an inch of mat left but once the major mat has been cut this can usually be brushed out. Try separating the mat into sections with the edge of your comb then brushing or combing through them. 

Brushing with the Slicker Brush

The slicker brush is great for brushing an adult coat but isn't always needed on young pups. Be careful with the slicker brush it will scratch skin and make the dog hate brushing. Be gentle and try to brush only the hair not the skin. I'll be happy to show you how to brush your dog with the slicker.

Bathing your puppy or dog

How often you bathe your dog depends on how (and where) she goes out, what the weather is, how much sand you can stand in your bed and other factors. (Be sure to see the Dogs & Dirt & Doggie Doors section.) My dogs are bathed about once a week. Skidget tends to get more baths because she gets into more dirt and has long fine silky hair. The main concern regarding frequency of bathing is how the dog's skin is. We've never had a skin problem :::knocking wood::: but I'm always on the look-out since they do get so many baths. While a skin conditions may not in itself  be serious (in a life-threatening way) a dog with any skin condition will dedicate it's life to making the condition worse by scratching or chewing on it.

Puppies under 8 weeks (like the 5 week old puppy above) sometimes like to roll around in their food (which at this age is like gruel) This sometimes necessitates a bath.

You can bathe your puppy right in the kitchen sink, in a laundry tub, in the bathtub or you can hold it and get in the shower with it. When I only had one poodle this was my method. Aside from the need to keep a firm hold on a slippery wet puppy I think this is the easiest way especially if you don't have a hand-held shower head in your shower and your dog gets too big for your kitchen sink.

I have tried many shampoos, cream rinses and conditioners made for dogs. Nothing I've tried does nearly as good a job as Pantene Shampoo (for humans) and Pantene or TreSemme' cream rinse (also for humans). This should not be the case since the PH of poodle hair is more alkaline than human hair but seeing is believing and I'm convinced. Try whatever you like. This works well for me and my dogs smell great.

Dilute the shampoo using about 1/4 shampoo and 3/4 water. Do the same with the cream rinse. I use empty shampoo bottles to keep these mixtures in.  You'll need to shake the cream rinse like mad to blend it well with the water but it's worth it. It will last a long time and diluting it will make it much easier to spread on and rinse off the dog.

Collect your supplies. You'll need your diluted shampoo, cream rinse, a towel (I've included 2 magic towels in your puppy kit) and a non-skid mat. You probably already have one of these for your bathtub or shower. I've included one in the puppy kit for your sink. If you don't have a sprayer you'll also need a container for pouring rinse water over the dog.

Relax. Poodles love water. They may be a little resistant to bathing in new circumstances - or if you're nervous about it - but training a poodle to take a bath is like training a bird to fly. It's a natural.

Stand the poodle in the sink on the skid proof mat holding it under the belly so that it feels secure.  Spray or pour warm water over it from the neck back. (I usually wash my poodle's head first but until they get used to it the water on the head can startle them more than it does on the body.) The only thing you need to be careful of is to keep soap out of the eyes. It will sting just as it stings your eyes. All of my poodles (even Ani, the Independent) will tip their heads all the way back when I have my hand on their head. I think they're trying to see what I'm doing. Soaping the head is easy. Rinsing takes more care. If you have a hard time get a helper to rinse while you hold the dogs head up (and say "Head up". The dog will learn what this means.)

Scrub the whole little darling just as you would your hair. Use a face cloth to wash it's face. Wash the inside of the ear flaps with shampoo but aim your rinse so that the water goes down the ear flap, not down into the ear canal. Get all the hard to reach places like the neck under the ear and the armpits. Rinse very well.

Now squirt the cream rinse on liberally. Again, do it as you would wash your hair. Work it in all over and keep it out of the eyes. Rinse until the water runs clear and then rinse some more. It really takes a lot of rinsing to get all the cream rinse out but keep at it. It's time you'll save on brushing.

Wrap the pup up in her towel and sit down with her on your lap and dry her briskly but gently. The "magic towels" hold a lot of water. You can wring it out and then sop up more water even in the wet towel.

Give her a big kiss.

Blow Drying (Blowing Dry?)

Drying the poodle will keep her from getting a chill and it will keep her from making a swamp of your bed or couch or wherever she would jump to and roll around to dry herself but there is another reason for blow drying a poodle: "Fluff drying" straightens out the poodle hair and the straighter it is the better hair cut the poodle will get. Fluff drying combines blowing dry and brushing the hair at the same time and it seems - at least at first - to require 3 hands. Since you are beginning with a puppy and are probably not going to give it a hair cut at it's first bath you don't have to worry about that yet.

You can blow dry the puppy on your lap at first but if you ever plan to cut her hair yourself I would suggest moving this task to a table as soon as she is comfortable with it. What you would like to achieve is to have her stay in the position you put her in until you move her or tell her to move. That's not going to happen the first time but it's the goal. I like lying the puppy down on the grooming table for most of the drying. Most professional pet groomers I know don't do this but show groomers do and it seems a better position to me. Don't worry too much about her position the first time, just make sure she can't fall off the table.

Make sure while blowing her dry that the heat is not too high on your dryer. If you use one hand to hold/lift the hair you're drying (the way you'd lift and let fall your own hair when drying) you'll be feeling how hot the heat from the dryer is and you'll also be getting in the position you'll need to brush (rather than hold) the hair later.

Puppies sometimes balk at the blow dryer and sometimes are fine. Keep it away from their face and even their head at first if they are fussy. A good top knot will need to be blown dry but there's time in the future for that. Make her love bathing and drying and everything later will be easy. 

When I say "Let's take a bath" in my house, some dogs run to the tub and others hide but even the hiders are pretty good once I get them in there. 

After bathing and drying the dog needs to be brushed again. I LOVE brushing a freshly bathed dog.


Nails

Puppy nails grow incredibly fast. By the time you take home a puppy it will have had it's nails trimmed at least  3 times. Nails need to be trimmed for the sake of the puppy but they need to be trimmed more often for your sake. Those little nails scratch!

Young puppies nails can easily be trimmed with regular nail clippers or with the nail clippers supplied with your puppy kit. These nail trimmers are the only ones we use for our poodles. They are the easiest to handle and will work with puppies but will also work on adult dog nails. (They are the type used by our vet and by many groomers for small dogs.) 

When trimming nails cut from top to bottom (rather than from side to side). Hold the toe as shown in this picture. Pressing on the toe extends the nail. You must be careful to trim just a tiny bit so that you do not cut the quick (the vein that runs through the center of the nail.

When nails grow the quick extends farther into the nail. If the quick is cut it may bleed a little or it may bleed profusely.   You should always have some blood-stop powder on hand in case this happens. (Blood stop powder has been included in your puppy kit.) If you draw blood don't panic. Take a deep breath, talk calmly to the puppy and dip the nail into the blood stop powder. Pack more powder around the tip of the nail if needed. (Note: This is scary when it happens but it is not unusual for a professional groomer to cut too close and draw a little blood. In fact I started cutting my own dogs' nails after two successive groomers drew blood while cutting nails. In both cases there was only a drop of blood and the dogs hardly reacted but it was enough for me to realize that I could do this just as well - and hopefully better - than it was being done.)

Tip: The easiest way to cut a puppy's nails is when she's asleep!

This pup doesn't look too concerned about the nail trimming does she?

 

 

 


Teeth

I must admit that when I first heard of people brushing their dog's teeth I thought it was a little "over the top". Acquiring a wonderful adult dog who had dental problems showed me quickly how important it is to do all the preventive care we can on canine teeth. A Milkbone biscuit won't do the job any more than chewing Dentyne will keep you from having to brush your teeth.

Puppies have 28 baby teeth that are replaced with a full set of 44 permanent teeth beginning around 3 months of age. This gives you a little head start on learning to care for your dogs teeth since they have a "practice" set!

As you know from brushing your own teeth this is not a task that requires any tremendous skill. The only trick  is to accustom your puppy to having it done and the only way to accomplish this trick is to attempt it as often as you can with your pup. By the time brushing is crucial your puppy will be used to having it done and you'll all live happily ever after!

There are toothbrushes sold for dogs. Some are small brushes that slip over the end of your finger. I don't like these and find them hard to use to teach a dog to let me brush its teeth. I've provided you with a toothbrush that has a good grip which I think is the most important feature of a doggie toothbrush.

I get the dog accustomed to brushing before I start using tooth paste even though it is the enzymes in the tooth paste that do more of the cleaning than the brush does, according to my vet. (NEVER use human toothpaste on dogs. Use dog toothpaste which can be purchased in the pet store, from your vet, from me, or mail ordered.)

Your initial objective is to spend about one minute a day on "toothbrush training". Spending 7 minutes once a week won't be nearly as effective. It is the frequency that gets the dog used to the tooth brush and 7 minutes is far too long to expect a dog to sit still for tooth brushing. (Would you?)

You can use two fingers of one hand to spread the jaw open leaving your other hand free for the toothbrush. Keeping the mouth open is the hardest part but don't keep it open for any length of time. Like yourself the pup will want to close its mouth and swallow.

With the jaw open introduce the toothbrush and move it against whatever teeth you can get to. The puppy will be trying to close its mouth, trying to dislodge your fingers, trying to bite the toothbrush and shaking its head from side to side trying to move away. Don't get unnerved. Relax and enjoy the show, it will get easier (and if you get this on video tape it will probably be funny enough for the Animal Planet's funniest videos.)  You may not even manage to get the toothbrush into her mouth on the first try (or the first few tries). Try this twice and then tell the puppy what a good girl (or boy) she is. Any more than two tries will wear you both out and annoy you.

If you do this every day you will get to the point where you can brush your puppy's teeth (using tooth paste). If you don't get to it every day, do it as often as you can. Once you are able to brush her teeth well, doing so  two or three times a week (or even once a week) should keep her mouth in good shape.

Never let the puppy play with the toothbrush, it will only make training harder.

Most groomers now offer tooth brushing service for an extra fee. Keep in mind that if you can't train your puppy to allow tooth brushing your groomer isn't going to have much luck. Also, every six weeks is not often enough to brush teeth (although it's better than never).

Most vets offer a complete tooth cleaning for which they sedate the dog. This should be done annually if your dog's teeth are not being brushed. The cost can be upwards of $150.00 for this service and shouldn't be needed if you spend the time to teach the pup to have her teeth brushed.

Never feed your dog anything containing sugar. They don't need it, it's not good for them and they don't crave it like you may. It will rot their teeth just as it will rot yours but they can't get fillings or dentures. (See Feeding section for more info.)


Ears

Poodle's ears must be cleaned regularly and kept free of hair. This is done by plucking the hair out of the ear with tweezers. It is not difficult to do and the dog doesn't really mind it once she's used to it. (Skidget falls asleep on my lap when I'm doing her ears.)

If the hair is not plucked from the ears it will grow down into the ear canal and make it impossible to clean the dog's ear. At some point this will turn into an infection. There are two types of infections that are common to dog ears. One is bacterial the other is yeast. You can tell when a dog has an ear problem. It will shake it's head (as people do when trying to shake water from an ear) or it will rub the ear and whine.

An ear infection will not take care of itself. You must take action or it will get worse and could cause permanent damage (and a lot of expense).

If a groomer does your dogs ears make sure they are doing a thorough job. (Some do a great job and some barely do it at all.)

I will be happy to show you how to do the dog's ears and give you all the information I've collected when Panama had ear problems (which he no longer does!)


Revised: 10/10/06.
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