One of my favorite breeds to groom is the Poodle—and I groom an abundance of Poodle pets. I love grooming them to breed standard with shaved or clean faces and feet. No matter the style or length of the haircut, or whether it’s a show dog or pet, the lines on Poodles do not change.
Of course, we can tweak things on individual dogs. For example, if I’m grooming a very large Standard Poodle, I shave the "V" on the throat lower to elongate the neck. If I have a dog that has short legs, I will lower the line on the foot to give the illusion of a longer leg.
Below, I’m going to illustrate some rules of thumb for setting shave lines, as well as some tricks too. My subject is Gary, an older poodle that was a contest dog of mine in his younger years. I keep him in a modified German trim.
Shaving a Clean Face
I use either a #10, #15, or #30 blade on my Poodle faces. Here, I use a #30 blade on Gary.
Shave from the outside corner of the eye to the ear. This should be a sharp, straight line—almost as if drawn by a pencil. I find flipping the ear back allows a better view.
Shave a small inverted V between the eyes.
Shave under the eyes, continuing down the snout to the nose. Shave the entire muzzle, making sure to lift the top lip and check for any hairs. Be sure to shave the tiny hairs around the nose, as well.
Place your thumb in the corner of the mouth and stretch the skin to shave the bottom lip, making sure to shave out the flews well.
Shave the bottom part of the muzzle.
Shave the throat from the ear down into a V shape. As a rule, I shave three finger lengths above the breastbone, or right above where the neck starts to cave in. If you shave into that area, the dog will appear U necked.
Here’s a useful tip:
Shave with the grain to set the throat and V, then shave against the grain once the pattern is set.
Clean or Shaved Feet
I use a #30 or #40 blade on my poodle feet. There are many different lightweight, quiet and cordless clippers that work great.
Start by shaving the V-shaped space between the large pad and toe pads on the bottom of the foot.
Shave above the large pad, using a finger length to judge how far up to shave.
Approaching from the bottom, get as much hair off the toes as possible.
Run your hand down the leg and stop at the knuckle. Taking your clipper blade straight into the hair and, using your hand as a guide, clip straight in and down toward the toes. This sets the bevel on the leg and saves a lot of scissoring.
Shave the toes against the grain. Use the fingers on your hand that is holding the foot to spread between the toes as you're clipping.
Finish up by turning you clipper around and pushing up into the nail to get the tiny hairs at the cuticle. Using the clipper this way makes it less likely that you will nick the cuticle.
The German Tail
The biggest mistake I see in Poodle grooms is the tail being left too full. You want the length on the ears to match the length on the tail. Remember, this is a German trim tail on a Poodle, not a terrier. My go-to blade for this is a 7F.
Shave the entire underside of the tail.
Shave both sides of the tail.
Shave the top last third and the tip of the tail.
Use shears to blend the remaining hair on the top of the tail and leave a little fill at the base of the tail into the topline.
Professional groomer Anne Francis is a grooming competitor and speaker. She works at The Village Groomer in Walpole, Mass.Is there a breed or cut that you’d like to see featured in the Grooming Table? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.