How To Groom a Poodle That Hates It: 5 Expert Tips


Poodles are unique and beautiful dogs. Their gallant, thick fur and elegant stride are what set this pooch apart from the rest. With such a voluminous mane, though, comes more work. Grooming a poodle requires time and patience–and that does not only mean for the owner. Some poodles do not enjoy sitting still while having their thick manes combed through–so how can you go about it?

So, how can you groom a poodle that hates it? Each poodle may be different, and they will communicate their likes and dislikes with you, but here are 5 important expert tips:

  1. Use especially soft brushes to brush through their hair
  2. Maintain kind and gentle communication with your poodle
  3. Consider offering him or her a distraction and reward
  4. Use gentle cleansing products
  5. Consider using a natural softening product or oil

Your poodle’s grooming process may be comparable to getting a hair treatment at the salon. Despite the nice results, not everyone enjoys having his or her hair pulled and touched. So, it takes some understanding to empathize with your dog as he or she tries to avoid getting groomed. There are a number of things that can be done to create a better experience for your pooch. 

How do you Groom a Poodle That Dislikes It?

Poodles are often known to bond rather quickly with their owners. However, even an unbreakable bond may not shake a poodle’s dislike of grooming. Some dogs might like it, and some might not. To ensure a better experience for your dog, you can gather some of the following supplies:

  • Soft brushes, such as a slicker brush
  • Chew toys
  • Treats
  • Gentle dog shampoo or cleansing soap
  • Natural softening oil, such as coconut oil, or another product

I will elaborate on how to use these a little later on. But first, we should ask why some dogs dislike grooming in the first place.

Is Grooming Stressful for Dogs?

Depending on a dog’s upbringing, personality, tendencies, and previous experiences, getting groomed can be a distressing time for him or her. Dogs can associate grooming with body manipulation if they are afraid of being touched. Even without fearful tendencies, these animals don’t always like being in water, don’t like the smell of cleansing soaps and products, and generally don’t enjoy being restrained. 

That said, dogs respond to stressors in different ways. Some react aggressively the moment they are faced with the process of being physically treated, others respond in fear, and others may not even display any visible responses until after the procedure. 

The effects of grooming can be both physical and psychological for dogs, at varying levels. 

What Causes a Poodle’s Grooming Stress?

There are numerous reasons why poodles may feel stressed out while getting groomed. Each dog is unique, with his or her own life experiences and characteristic tendencies. Just as it is with humans though, dogs can also experience trauma. 

Some of the factors that may lead a dog to feel stressed out while getting groomed are the following:

  • Being neglected or abused as a puppy or later on in life
  • Being moved around from owner to owner 
  • Being treated with aggression
  • Not having early exposure to grooming 
  • Having previously negative experiences with grooming
  • Having a nervous/anxious personality in general 

These are some of the most common reasons why Poodles often feel very stressed out while getting groomed:

Different Stress Responses From Poodles While Being Groomed

Depending on each dog’s unique response to the grooming process, stress levels can be categorized into different levels. Here are ways a Poodle may react when stressed: 

Mildly stressedDilated pupils

Panting Whale eye (when the whites of a dog’s eye, the sclera, is visible)


Excess drooling

Frequent yawning 


Teeth chattering


Whining or low growling


Howling


Barking 


Wrinkled muzzle
Higher feelings of stressRigid posture

Barking

Shaking or trembling 


Submissive urination 


Snapping


Diarrhea


Vomiting 


Loss of appetite


Inability to focus 

If your dog reacts in any of these ways, pay close attention and determine whether or not you can lessen the imminent stressor, or allow your dog some space to calm down. Adjusting to and accommodating for your dog’s needs are the priority in such moments. If irritable behaviors persist, make sure to discuss possible solutions with your veterinarian. 

Poodles may even show such signs of stress after being groomed, hours, or sometimes even days later.

It is important to note that Poodles tend to have higher feelings of stress in more unfamiliar environments, such as at a groomer. In safe, familiar home environments, Poodles tend to feel a bit more comfortable, as they are typically handled only by the humans they are familiar with. 

5 Grooming Techniques for Poodles That Hate It

Poodles have thick hair that tends to get matted. While many dogs don’t particularly like getting groomed, poodles have it especially difficult because their hair can get tangled, making the brushing process even more aggravating for them (not to mention for their owners as well).

On top of that, if they are not properly and regularly groomed, poodles can develop painful skin infections that require visits to the vet and special treatments. So grooming is not merely done to keep your dog’s “hair” well-kempt and smelling like daisies, it is, more importantly, a means to keep him or her healthy, clean, happy, and infection-free. 

Here are some ways to combat your poodle’s curls while keeping him or her, as well as yourself, calm, and content at the same time

1. Use Specifically Soft Brushes 

Poodle hair can have the same texture as fur. It tends to be softer than the fur of other breeds, and it grows continuously. Issues arise when “puppy hair” transitions into “adult hair,” getting thicker and developing into a full coat. 

This can cause problems when shedding takes place, as the new adult curly hair blocks the shed hair from falling out, potentially leading to mats and tangles, unless consistently and properly groomed. This is where soft dog brushes can help. As opposed to harder ones, this style of brush is gentler on poodle hair. There are popular brushes that tend to work best for grooming Poodles:

  • Soft slicker brushes 
  • Bristle brushes 
  • Pin brushes 

Soft slicker brushes (also known as cocker slickers) have short, thin wires that are tightly spaced. The tips can be rather prickly, so it is important to brush gently, but this tool is really effective at removing mats and tangles in poodle hair, without tugging on the roots too roughly. Slicker brushes also help to remove shed hair that gets stuck beneath the surface.

Bristle brushes specialize in detangling and smoothing out hair. Like slicker brushes, this version also removes mats. As mentioned in its name, this style uses bristles, which help to distribute oils from both the dog’s skin as well as from any external oils on the coat (rubbed on to soften and smoothen).

Pin brushes are very similar in appearance to standard human brushes. While the other two versions are also soft, pin brushes are often known as the best style to opt for when considering the gentlest way to brush your fur baby’s coat, as it is very harmless on the skin. This style has evenly spaced pins on the surface, and it is best used for more sensitive parts of your poodle’s body, such as the head, which often hides mats.

While the three brushes listed above are generally considered softer options for brushing your Poodle’s coat, there are also a couple of other styles (not as soft) that may come in handy for trickier hurdles in your dog’s hair. While Poodles tend to prefer more gentle approaches, it is good to keep these other brushes in mind in case you may need them at some point:

  • Rake brush – this style digs deeper to get to the difficult mats and shed hair that lies closer to the skin (digging too deep can scratch your poodle’s skin)
  • Metal comb – this style is not the most comfortable for your poodle, but it works by detecting where mats and problem areas are (you will have to remove mats with one of the other brushes listed above in order to remove what it detects in the hair)

2. Be Kind, Calm, and Gentle With Your Poodle 

Remember, dogs get anxious just like we do. The last thing they need is a hyper-active, angry human yelling at them to get into the tub for bath time. They may be completely justified to feel nervous about different things while being groomed. While it may sound pleasant to a human to take a nice, long relaxing bath, it doesn’t always work that way for a dog.

If your poodle is feeling anxious during the grooming process, try to be empathic with how he or she is feeling. Offer kind and comforting words of encouragement and love. Let your dog know that you love him or her and that everything is okay. 

Your poodle will feel your energy, even if the anxiety does not necessarily subside. You might even consider softly humming a nice tune for your pup,

At the end of the day, you know your dog best. You know what may or may not work when trying to keep your furry loved one calm. Even then, you can try different tactics. See what resonates with your poodle. You can offer a hug, gently massage different parts of the body, or just offer some peace and calm that your pooch can latch on to. You know best.

3. Offer Distractions and Rewards 

Think about the time you had to get a shot at the doctor’s office as a child. The anticipation of a needle can be a stressful experience for people of all ages, let alone a child. 

Sometimes, doctors or nurses administering a shot will talk to you about different things, or even ask you some questions about your day. Before you can even ask in a trembling voice if they can let you know when it’s over, they tell you it’s finished. 

Distractions can help a lot when dealing with stressful situations. The same goes for dogs. If your poodle is jittery about having to be washed or is trying to squirm out from under your brush, there are a few things you can do to offer your poodle a pleasant distraction while grooming:

  • Offer your dog a chew toy to gnaw on 
  • Install a dog lick pad in your bathtub or shower (wherever you usually wash your dog), so that your poodle will be preoccupied with licking tasty treats 
  • Play some calming music that your dog has shown to generally respond well to
  • Pet your dog in an area that he or she really likes, while brushing out tough spots of the fur with the other hand 
  • Offer treats every so often for your dog to get excited and busy with 
  • Have your dog lie down or get into a comfortable position that he or she usually likes, and try experimenting with ways to continue the grooming process from there 

These are just some of the many possible ways to distract your poodle. Once again, you know best: 

When do you Offer the Treat?

When it comes to rewarding your dog, you can either do so in between grooming sessions (similar to the point on offering a treat as a distraction) for encouragement and positive reinforcement, or you can also do so at the end (or both).

What is nice about leaving a fun reward for the end is that your dog may get used to that pattern and will likely get excited in anticipation of it during future grooming sessions. 

This way, your poodle knows that something good will happen at the end of the process, and he or she may perhaps get through the grooming session a little more smoothly. This does not always work, but it is worth a try. If anything, your poodle will appreciate your kind and generous gesture, even if the grooming process itself wasn’t too great.

4. Use Gentle Dog Shampoos, Conditioners, and Cleansers

Poodles can be very sensitive to certain smells and textures. They tend to dislike overly aromatic shampoos, as they find it irritating. Many of the typical shampoos we humans use can be too intense for dogs and can irritate their skin. 

There are a number of all-natural and chemical-free dog washing products sold online these days. While they may all provide similar results, it is good to see which one your dog responds best to.

The main thing to keep in mind when choosing the right dog shampoo is to keep it simple and as natural as possible. Shampoos should be able to do the following: 

  • Clear your dog’s coat and skin of any germs and insects (including fleas and ticks)
  • Soothe dry, itchy, or flaky skin by providing moisture and nourishment 
  • Nourish the skin with vitamins, minerals, and proteins 
  • Maintain the strength and luster of your dog’s fur 
  • Detangle and soften fur (this can be done with a shampoo-conditioner or with shampoo and conditioner used separately)
  • Replenish natural oils 

Choosing a Shampoo

With conditioners and other cleansers, it is again important to utilize all-natural and irritant-free options. Poodles should generally have a conditioning element included in their grooming routine, as their fur coats are some of the thickest, most voluminous, and easily-tangled of all dogs. 

There are also some examples of DIY shampoo videos online that you may consider looking into. Of course, it is always advisable to do your research before settling for any one product, whether self-made or purchased. 

Another helpful tip is to consider when grooming your poodle is whether the process can be convenient for you. For Poodles that are especially fidgety around water, or for situations where you find yourself on the go and not near a water source, you might also consider waterless shampoos and wipes to keep your dog clean, without the hassle. 

I wrote this article on the 15 best shampoos for Poodles. In it, you’ll find the top shampoos out there for your poodle, as well as the pros and cons of each. Check it out!

5. Use Natural Softening Products or Oils 

Aside from shampoos, conditions, and cleaning products, your Poodle may also need an extra boost of moisture, shine, and softness to enable smoother brushing when grooming. When opting for pre-made products (this also goes for shampoos, conditioners, and cleansers), there are three ingredients that must be avoided at all costs as they are toxic for dogs:

  • Zinc oxide 
  • Diclofenac 
  • Calcipotriene 

Aside from these three main ingredients, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian before deciding on what products to choose for your poodle. 

Using Oils on Your Poodle’s Coat

Natural lotions, balms, and moisturizers can be used to replenish your dog’s hair as well as to offer a smooth conditioner when brushing through your poodle’s tangles and mats. Aside from that, you can also opt for natural and/or essential oils instead, such as:

  • Coconut oil 
  • Fish oil 
  • Primrose oil 
  • Flaxseed oil 
  • Shea butter 

Please consider checking with your veterinarian before opting for any one of these options for your dog.

Make Grooming a Good Experience for Your Poodle

When it comes to grooming your poodle, there are many different facets to consider. Each dog is unique in his or her own way. This article discusses the generally approved and recommended advisable ways to go about grooming your reluctant pooch. 

For in-depth information on expert advice (from the American Kennel Club) for how to groom your dog at both the professional and general level, please consider checking out this article: Oh the Glamour! 10 Grooming Secrets Behind AKC Show Dogs.

Here’s to wishing yourself and your poodle a future filled with wonderful grooming sessions!

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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