Standard Poodle Care and Grooming
My family has had five standard poodles over the past 24 years—always two at a time, male and female, three black, one white, and one apricot. They are beautiful, intelligent animals, great with kids and full of personality. We love our dogs—enough to assume responsibility for the high-maintenance grooming that these puppies require.
Standard poodle puppies have fine, soft fur that can resemble curly or wavy human hair. As they mature, their coats change in texture, ranging from coarse and wiry to finer and wavy. Because poodles do not shed, their fur has a tendency to mat, especially close to the skin. This can cause major discomfort for the dog, so it’s essential to keep poodles brushed and bathed in order to keep their skin healthy. We use a regular “slicker” brush on our dogs’ fine, wavy fur once or twice a week. Curlier, denser fur may need an additional run-through with a grooming comb as well, to ensure that all tangles and mats have been removed all the way down to the skin.
Bathing poodles is also an important part of keeping their skin healthy. After a thorough brush-out, we bathe our dogs with a mild shampoo in a tub with a hand-held showerhead, making sure to massage the shampoo all the way down to the skin. Rinsing ALL the shampoo out is imperative—shampoo residue can result in mats and skin irritation. Then we dry the dogs, using a regular blow-dryer and a clean brush to pull the fur gently away from the skin. This keeps the fur from coiling up into the tight, mat-prone curls that result from air-drying.
Of course, the shorter the fur is kept, the easier brushing and bathing will be—I can’t say that I know any standard poodle owners whose dogs sport those famously foofy competition cuts in everyday life—and a basic sport cut is a popular choice for non-competition poodles like ours. Our first two dogs were wedding gifts from a groomer friend who taught my husband how to clip the dogs himself. He still gives them cuts on occasion, if only to remind himself of why we ultimately decided to pay the professionals to do it for us—it is very labor-intensive, especially without a proper grooming table and harness. We ask for a quarter- or half-inch sport cut, with full head and ears, clean face and paws, and a fuller tail, which is a pretty, classic poodle look with relatively low maintenance. There are a lot of options, though, so research and discussion with the groomer is key to getting the cut you want for your dog.
Clipping toenails is a part of dog ownership, but unless you know exactly what you’re doing and have the right type of dog nail clippers, it’s very easy to cut into the quick of the nail and cause pain and possibly infection. Our veterinarian taught me how to clip our dogs’ nails, but your groomer or veterinarian can easily do it as well (although some groomers add an extra charge for this service).
None of our dogs have had problems with tear stains (the dark stains around the inside corners of lighter-colored poodles’ eyes), but it is a fairly common occurrence. Tear stains can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, eye structure, water or diet quality, or yeast and bacterial infections. Consulting a veterinarian is a good idea to determine whether these stains can be eliminated with diet changes or medication. While there are a number of home remedies touted to remove the darkness, these can be dangerous and difficult to keep out of the dog’s eye. Over-the-counter tear stain wipes are recommended as a safe way to lighten these spots.
As mentioned above, poodles don’t shed, so the hair that grows in their ears can cause serious problems with wax buildup. Pulling the hair from the ear canal and swabbing the ear out with a clean, damp tissue and a mild antiseptic solution from the vet’s office will help avoid odor and ear infections. We do this on an almost daily basis during allergy seasons—our dogs are affected by particulate matter in the air, too!—and while they don’t enjoy having hair yanked from their ears, they grudgingly submit to the ordeal and seem to feel much better afterwards.
Dental care is important for all dogs, and we’ve found that starting our dogs off early with a regular dental routine when they are puppies helps them accept having us sticking a brush in their mouths every few days or so. Canine toothpastes are formulated to appeal to the taste buds, and canine toothbrushes make short work of the job at hand. Between brushing sessions, we also give them dental chews that are specially designed to help clean their teeth. Again, it’s not the most fun part of being a dog, but it does minimize the amount of cleaning that the vet has to do as they get older—anything we can do to avoid a full-out dental cleaning under anesthesia is a good thing.
A good diet is also important to good overall grooming and health. We’ve always given our dogs the higher-end dry dog foods from the vet or the pet chains—it’s more expensive, but we’ve found that the fillers in many grocery store brands cause massive stomach and intestinal upset with our dogs, so we’re happy to pay a little more to avoid those problems. Trying out less-expensive brands when they’re younger might help you find one that works well for your dog. Plenty of fresh, clean water is always available to our dogs, and the only “people” food that they’re allowed is the occasional popcorn thrown their way—it’s not only a treat, it’s a fun game to catch it before it hits the floor!
Standard poodles are high-maintenance dogs, but they will reward your diligence and patience with more love and affection than you can imagine—enjoy!