The Poodle is a breed that can have many versatile trims. If you want a typical breed trim with topknot, pom-pom tail, and clean-shaven feet and face, this is the way to do it.
First, the Poodle must be clean and dry and all the hair blown-dry straight and fluffed, so your trim looks even.
In the photo on this page, the inverted “V” between the dog's eyes is what you can shave in to keep hair from falling in your dog's face. Never shave hair over the Poodle's eyes to remove excess hair — this ruins the look of the topknot. If you do this, the only way to fix it is to let the hair grow out.
When you shave a Poodle face, hold the skin taut and shave against the lay of the hair from the ear to the outside corner of the eye. This will help define the face from the topknot. Shave the entire face, using a very light touch and being very careful around the lips.
This Poodle is getting her face shaved.
When you shave the dog's face and get to the lip fold on the bottom lip, put your finger inside the corner of the mouth and pull it back to straighten the lip fold and carefully clip the lip fold area. This area is important to keep shaved, as bacteria can build up and cause sores in many breeds, such as Poodles and Spaniels, if it is not carefully shaved and cleaned.
The lip fold is an area that you must shave.
Tails are docked on many breeds, including the Poodle, at least in the United States. If the tail was docked correctly, leaving about two-thirds of the tail length, you can make a nice ball at the end of it. The end of the Poodle tail, if held straight up in the air, should reach the level of the occiput, or back of the head. Whatever is missing in tail will be made up for with hair on the end of the tail. How short the dog's tail is will determine how you clip the tail. You don't want the tail to appear long and gangly, like a ball on the tip of a long stick, and you don't want the tail to look like a bunny tail, with no division between the rear of the dog and the tail. Sometimes, there isn't much choice if the tail was docked incorrectly or if the dog's tail has been amputated short.
This photo shows the length of the dog's docked tail.
Where Do You Trim It?
The tail is an area where many owners that groom their own pets make some errors. You'll notice that this Poodle's tail is docked very short. Extra hair is being allowed to grow on the end to make up for this. This doesn't give you much room to define the ball from the tail. If you trim the tail closer to the end of the tail, there will not be enough hair to form a ball and it will look sparse. In the above photo, the dotted lines show where you should shave the tail very short. The inverted “V” on the top of the tail is an option for a very short docked tail on a dog; this will give the illusion of a longer tail. However, this dog's owner prefers not to have the “V”; therefore, it will be trimmed to their specifications.
Shaved feet on the Poodle help to define the breed. No other breed has shaved feet in their breed grooming standards. The trick is to shave the foot to look bare, but not shave it up too high and show the ankles.
The groomer is holding the foot bones on the sides of the foot to mark where she wants it trimmed.
A pet peeve of groomers is seeing high waters — when someone trims the dog's foot too high up. There are bones on either side of the foot (see arrow in photo above). That is as far as you go to shave the foot; any higher than that and you will have high waters that look rather silly.
The hardest part of trimming Poodle feet is getting between the toes. Most groomers find it easier to trim between the toes from the bottom of the foot. This allows you to spread the toes apart and clip between each toe and get along the toenails easier. Using a small clipper helps. Be sure to shave the underside of the foot and remove all the hair between the pads.
To make a Poodle foot, shave it first from the underside, between the toes, carefully spreading the toes apart to prevent nicking.
When you've clipped the bottom of the foot and between each toe, you can finish the top of the foot and clip off any hairs that stick out around the nail bed. The Poodle's foot should look neat and smooth.
To make a Poodle foot look finished, you have to put a bevel on the leg hair just above each foot. This makes the hair angle down toward the foot and removes overgrown hair that would hide the foot.
The groomer has pulled the leg hair down and is holding it past the foot bones so she can trim the leg hair to make a nice bevel.
Once your Poodle foot is clean-shaven, it's time to set your bevel on the leg hair. Comb down the leg hair and hold it in place just past the bone where you trimmed your foot. Take your clipper and gently touch the foot with the pointed end of the blade and it will take off any hair hanging over. This will leave you with a beautiful foot. Remember, curly hair tends to shrink up; if you cut it too short it will look funny.
The Poodle topknot is its crowning glory, and it can be difficult to make it look right. One mistake many owners make in order to get hair out of the eyes of the dog is to cut into the topknot hair over the eyes. This makes it impossible to straighten up the topknot until it has grown out for some time. Instead of cutting the hair over the eyes, lay your shears on the bridge of the nose and trim the hair straight across.
This photo shows how the face is shaved from the ear to the corner of the eye to set the topknot.
To define the topknot from the ear of the dog, lay your shears over the top of the dog's ear from the corner of the eye to the top of the ear and trim that hair.
This photo shows the groomer using a pair of curved shears to trim the excess hair hanging down past the corner of the eye.
Then you can take the shears all the way around the ear to finish it.
Curved shears work great on Poodle topknots and any area that needs a slight curve. They are another valuable piece of equipment many groomers refuse to do without.