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Learning to trim 


Poodle coats need constant attention. If you have to pay a beautician to clip a Standard Poodle every four to six weeks it can prove to be a very expensive outlay. You can ring round for prices, but do be sure to choose a trimmer that likes the breed. Find a kind, competent trimmer. Standard Poodles should enjoy their trip to the hairdresser.
   You may decide to learn how to clip your pet yourself. If you intend to show your dog, it is essential to learn to trim the dog yourself, unless you happen to be rich. The best thing to do is to get your dog’s breeder, or an experienced trimmer, to show you the way, and then take lots of practice. Standard Poodles people are generally most friendly and helpful; you may find somebody in your area that will assist you. Or contact your Standard Poodle Club area representative; you will find the address through The Standard Poodle Club, the main Kennel Club, or on line. It is not advisable to learn to trim on a puppy. All puppies wriggle and you could become exceedingly frustrated, which will do neither you nor your puppy any good at all. Even the most perfectly behaved dog can react nervously to a novice trimmer, pulling its feet away continuously when it normally sits as still as a statue. If you do not own an older dog that is used to being coiffured, then do borrow one when setting forth on your first adventure into trimming.
   There are books which give step-by-step trimming advice, but these alone are not a magic formula, and first hand help is the best. Dogs’ are living things, so it is completely natural for them to move about, get more comfortable, and object when you are not careful or considerate enough to their situation. You must learn the difference between a painful, arthritic joint and a dog playing up because it can or is nervous and worried. Learning handling skills is every bit as important as learning the actual clipping. Before you go rushing out to buy expensive grooming equipment, such as clippers, driers, scissors, and more, take a few lessons and watch, watch, watch. It is better to find out if you are suited to the job before spending vast sums of money. 
   Setting up can prove expensive, but the rewards of trimming your own dogs are many. Trimming is a most satisfying and worthwhile experience; if you love it.  
Clipping dogs comes easy to some people, while others have to work extremely hard to get good enough results to walk out in the street with the dog, let alone win with their charges in the show ring. The whole procedure becomes less terrifying and less of an ordeal with practice. If you really do not enjoy clipping your Standard Poodle it will probably be better if you take it to the breeder, or the Poodle Parlour. For those with a burning ambition here a few tips to try to help you, although watching a live performance is also essential. 
   All trims require the feet, face, and tail to be clipped so we will deal with these first, before looking at the different trims and how to do them.  Firstly, having established that we have a good, solid, stable table, standing in a sensible position, preferably against a wall in a corner, so that the learner trimmer is more effectively in control, and not worried about the dog moving, and falling off the table and hurting itself, we need a good pair of clippers. 
   There are many good clippers on the market today. It is best to buy the best, and I recommend getting in touch with a good grooming equipment outlet for a catalogue to enable you to see what is on offer. Another good way to find out more about grooming is to attend one of the marvellous Grooming Road Shows that go around the country, as advertised in the weekly dog papers, by breed clubs, or on line.
   Today we have multiple choices, including the cord-free. Your groomer, or breeder, or teacher will have shown you their preference, but if you can visit a grooming seminar or outlet where you can try different make, and shapes, you will be able to decide what is best for you. A light clipper, a more manual type, cord free, interchangeable blades or sliding all in one – variable sizing ones; usually the cheaper versions.  Cordless clippers are a great asset, but fairly expensive, electric clippers such as Andis and Oster are popular, light and easy to handle. They have interchangeable blades, and they come with a quick guide to attaching and removing blades, fitting attachments, essential maintenance and important warnings. There are also a videos, and help and advice.
   For trimming the feet, face and tail you will need a number 10 or 15 blade. Most clippers come with a free No 10 blade. Closer clipping is usually for the show dog, or very thick coated dog. Clippers come with cleaning fluid for the blades, or you may have to purchase this. Each blade should be cleaned after use, and sprayed with a cool-lubricant during use. During use the blade must be checked on your face for heat. With a novice it may take some time to do the clipping, so it is essential to check the blade is not getting too hot to use. It can burn the skin and put the dog off clipping for a long time. Clean the debris off the clipper after use.
  For the pet dog a winter blade such as the Andis or Mastergroom No 4. And in summer a 5 or 7 can be used on the body, and body and the legs if Sporting style is preferred, depending on thickness of coat.

There are several retail outlets for grooming equipment, including scissors, which are quite a personal item, and come in many prices. The professional groomer will have many pairs of scissors for different trimming, but for the novice, or pet owner trimming their own dog, one pair will suffice to begin with. Try the different scissors and see which suits you.  They are available from retail outlets, at dog shows, and grooming seminars. What is comfortable to one person may be too heavy, too short, too professional or wrong handed. Talk to an expert, professional outlet for advice on what best to start with, before forking out a large sum for something unsuitable, when a reasonably priced pair of scissors will be perfectly adequate.
     There is a lot of scissor work to be done on a Standard Poodle unless it is cut down in pet trim, and only practise will allow the groomer to achieve a smooth, almost satin finish to the well-cared-for coat.  Finishing is an art that some excel in more than others. Different scissors give different finishes and the groomer must try several pairs of scissors in order to find the pair which is right for them.  Most sales outlets are happy to help you choose the right type. Scissors vary in price and in order to sustain the outstanding presentation that some groomers achieve, it is imperative to buy quality products, such as clippers, scissors as well as shampoo and finishing sculpture conditioner.  It really does make a difference and the investment is worthwhile.
     Finishing is achieved by literally skimming over the coat with the scissors accurately placed to edge the coat. As the Poodle coat constantly grows and moves, and has a natural tendency to curl, despite straightening conditioners, this finish will not last but still the dog will look expertly smart for the time being.  
     Good scissoring is an art.  It is fascinating to watch groomers from different parts of the world scissoring in their own style to achieve perfection.  By attending Grooming Seminars you can see this interesting skill in action, and will see that different groomers have their individual styles.  Some fluff the hair outwards before commencing scissoring, and some comb it upwards.  Some will say one way is the only correct way, but I have seen dogs turned out to sheer perfection both ways. 
      The same goes for how you hold a pair of scissors.  There is a correct way of holding scissors, using thumb and fourth finger that will give you more control, once you have mastered it. 

Okay, you have your gear, so let us get going.
With all styles, the Poodle will need to have his feet, face and tail clipped.  We will deal with this first.  There are certain rules to observe.  Apart from the feet, always use clippers with the growth of coat. Where the face is concerned, always clip away from the eye. Unless you are experienced using clippers, it is quite likely that you will need time to get round all the delicate clipped parts of the Poodle, so use clipper lubricant frequently, every five minutes or so, and check the blade of the clipper for heat by putting it on your face.  As soon as it feels more than a little warm, change the blade, or stop until the blade has cooled.  Dogs have been burned with hot blades and it takes a long time for them to regain their confidence. It is best to clip clean hair if possible. As a novice it is better to use a No 10 to start with. It may not leave such a tidy finish, but it is very safe with all colours.

Nearly all dogs have ticklish feet, so they tend to wriggle or pull the foot away from you when you start clipping their toes. However, they soon get used to it and cooperate well. It is best to hold just above the foot firmly, but do not squeeze. Be sure your dog is standing square and is comfortable before taking up the foot, start right rear, front right, left rear, and left front. This way none get forgotten. Be sure to keep the dogs leg under its body, if you pull it out sideways the dog will automatically try to pull it back, and a battle of your doing with arise. Take time to look and feel the dog’s feet; notice they have a web, and do be sure not to jab the clipper into this and cause pain.
   Gentle press the toes apart with your second finger and clip all the hair between the toes. And do take special care no to twist the foot as you clip. It is essential to learn the knack of flexing, or turning your wrist every-which-way in order to complete a neat job of clipping the feet. It is your wrist and hand that must manoeuvre the clippers about: the dog’s foot should never be twisted to accommodate you. Clip from the toe nail up to the base of the toe. At first you will probably find this difficult, but with practice it will become second nature, with a bit of luck. Some people never feel easy with clipping. However, most enthusiasts find it satisfying, and calming and you are at one with your dog.
   Now turn the foot backwards towards the dog’s tail and clip underneath the foot. Toes, or feet, are clipped to about a thumb’s width from the large pad of the foot. Better to leave the clipped area low rather than take too make off and make your dog look as though it has chicken feet. Now to the front foot; sit or stand the dog – some dog’s like to lie down – so that it is facing you; take the lower leg just below the back pad, in your hand and clip the toes as with the back foot. Turn or slightly raise the foot in order to clip underneath the foot.
Blade No 10 - 15 or 30 for a closer finish on the dark colours.
For pet dogs use a Blade No 10 or 15 - Mastercut or equivalent. The show dogs are clipped closer and more frequently with a No 15 or 30, keeping the blade as flat as possible but without putting undue pressure on the skin. The hair should never be clipped so close that it cuts, grazes or damages the skin. White dogs often have more sensitive skin so take this into consideration. Do be careful to tighten any loose skin with your fingers before running over with the clipper.
  Take the dog’s muzzle in the right hand, folding the ear back over the head, and clip from the corner of the eye to the upper corner of the ear in a straight, neat line. Clip under the eye to the inner corner, then from between the eyes (at the stop) down to tip of nose.  Now clip from under the eye towards the muzzle, to the nose.  Repeat on other side of face. From the base of the ear, clip down to the point of the throat – the Adam’s apple.  Clip the chin from edge of mouth to nose, taking care to tighten loose skin at all times.  For the show Poodle the neck is clipped into a U-shape, shaving hair down to an inch or two above the breastbone, depending on style of mane, and emphasis required to show off length of neck.

Stand the dog away from you, or to the side. Clip from the base of the body to a third of the tail length, leaving enough hair on the tail to leave a pom-pom, or plumage. Clip underneath the tail and hygiene area, taking care around the sensitive anus area. No 15 is generally used.

The Poodle is fortunate to have a coat that can be trimmed to suit its purpose – pet, show dog, working. Most pet Standard Poodles are in the Sporting trim for ease, comfort and efficiency. Plus it looks elegant and eye-catching.
   The lamb trim and the sporting trim is the most popular for pet dogs, the sporting trim is now widely seen in many parts of the world. In the show ring over the past few years we have seen a change in trimming.  Not all Standard Poodles are shown in the traditional Lion clip.  The puppy Lion has become increasingly popular. And more sculptured trimming is seen, sometimes to a degree of exaggeration, it has to be said. Here are some of the more well known trims for show and pet Standard Poodles.

LAMB TRIM – No 4 or 5 winter, or 5 or 7 blade summer. Clip from base of head, just beneath the ears, down the top, and underneath of neck.  Lift leg and clip under the arm taking care not to catch the loose skin under the arm, and along the chest to the groin.  Clip neck to just above shoulder level, along the back to base of tail, and just above the hip, then along and downwards over rib cage to groin.  Clip underneath, stomach, groin, carefully taking hair from around nipples and genitals (always holding the delicate parts as you go to ensure safety).
     Brush through remaining hair, trousers, topknot and tail, removing all tangles with slicker brush and wide tooth comb, and where necessary, to prevent causing the dog too much discomfort, the mat-breaker.  Anti-tangle conditioner can be used.
Bath the dog in a suitable natural enhancing shampoo such as tea tree and lavender oil, or protein coat strengthening formula with consideration to colour and condition of coat.  Use a quality conditioner such as sculpture finish, to aid scissoring, or a stay-in conditioner.
     Blow the coat dry, brushing all the time in sections from bottom of leg upwards, with pin or slicker. Bathing the hair will lift it slightly so tidy any clipped areas where necessary by going over with same depth blade as before.
     Hem by scissoring round bottom of leg hair.  Feet should only barely be seen. Scissor the legs going with the contours of the limbs, using a silhouette line, with scissors pointing downwards or upwards but never crossways (apart from when hemming) starting from bottom of leg and keeping the line going to the top, then taking the next line and repeating the process, finally skimming across the hair to blend in.    
    Holding muzzle, comb hair forward and scissor topknot across the eye, upwards, comb hair to the left and trim across the top of the ears and back of neck, then repeat on right side.  Trim over top taking care to leave a nice top, but being sure the dog can see clearly.


Elegant, eye-catching and very comfortable for the dog, this trim is far easier for the novice groomer and most useful for a dog that leads an active life. Here the feet and face are clipped as usual, and the body clipped with a coarser blade to leave about enough hair to give the appearance of close wool or astrakhan.  With No 5 or No 7 blade, clip neck from base of head, down over shoulder, down back to tail, down and along ribcage and under chest, stomach and groin area.  Clip back leg, inside and out to an inch above hock joint.  Then, with an eye line to balance, clip inside and out of front leg to same level. Bath and dry as for Lamb trim. Scissor the topknot as for Lamb. Comb outwards and scissor bracelets into oval shape. Trim tail as for Lamb. Most Standard Poodles look glamorous in this eye-catching trim.

Not so popular, and more effort required to keep looking smart.  Blade No 10. Clip under neck to point of breastbone and on top to about 5cm above withers.  Taking a direct line and shave a blades width between the shoulders, across withers, continue the line to the base of tail.  Clip abdomen from groin to navel and then downwards, incorporating the insides of the thighs.   
Brush through entire unclipped hair. Bath in suitable shampoo and blow dry as for Lamb. Go over clipped part on body to ensure a tidy finish. Scissor the top and tail as for Lamb. Scissor back legs to neat finish, leaving a pronounced curve at edge of clipped parts. Scissor the front area leaving pronounced curve to clipped area.

This is a style used for up to 4-5 months of age for the pet Standard Poodle, or up to one year for the show dog. The feet, face and tail are clipped as normal.  Clip the tummy/abdomen area from groin to navel and slightly down the inside of the hind legs with a No 10 blade. The body hair is kept long, but is sculpted with scissors into an attractive shape to enhance the body contours. Fluff up all body hair, and then allow it to fall, or the dog to shake itself. Scissor the coat to an even length all over the body, including the legs. As the coat grows in length, scissor the hair slightly shorter from the base of the tail, gradually blending the hair up towards the body to obtain an effective, easy-on-the-eye, shape.
   This clip is sometime called the T clip, although it is not strictly as acute as the Scandinavian outline in all countries.
For the novice it is a good idea to put a narrow bandage around the dog at just below this point to distinguish an even line and be sure the balance is right. (Roughly one third is trimmed shorter while two thirds is left for the mane). Cut with the scissors held straight, up the edge of your line or bandage from the near side, up one side, over body and down the other side.  This is more easily achieved when the dog is standing square with its bottom towards you. Remove your ‘guide line’ bandage.
   Scissor back legs to an even length taking in consideration of rear angulations, which are accentuated. Once you are well practised with scissors and have a good eye, using a photograph of a beautifully contoured dog, and copy the up-to-date trimming.  Next, flick the mane with the comb, allow the dog to shake and the hair to settle, then scissor round, rather like skimming over the coat, keeping scissors level, to achieve a blend where mane meets shorter back hair to enhance the appearance of a well defined neck.
   Shape round mane, shaping incline from brisket up towards ear. 
Scissor the front legs to tubular shape, moulding or sculpturing to blend where they join the mane at elbow. Scissor the tail as for Lamb.

Not so popular in the ring today, as the Continental lion clip is so much easier to maintain than the Traditional clip. This trim takes longer to wash, longer to dry, and a lot longer to scissor to perfection. The scissoring here is artistically demanding. However, when it is carried out by an expert, the result is stunning. 
   It is always advisable to clip the mane in before the back end to make it easier to balance. Usually the dog will have been trimmed into Puppy Lion before this so the mane line will already be taken care of. It is useful to have a photograph of a beautifully turned out Standard Poodle to copy from when first attempting this trim.  Clip feet face and tail.  Groom, bath, condition and blow the hair dry as for puppy.
   If you have not already parted the coat behind the rib cage as in Puppy Lion, do this first.  It is always advisable to clip the mane in before the back end to make it easier to achieve a good balance. Again, a bandage can be used for forming lines.  This is always a good idea as you can tie it around at the given points and move it up or down to achieve a balance before putting your scissors in.  Once you’ve snipped, there is no turning back! Apply the bandage about two inches (10cm) above the wrist, (the first joint above the foot) look to see if this will allow you to scissor a nice oval bracelet. Cut above the bandage line, clip with No 10 up the front leg to remove the hair up to the joint of the elbow. Do not clip over the elbow.  Trim bracelet by combing out and tipping ends to an oval shape. It is a good idea to leave the bracelet slightly longer than you think is right, so that you can look at your work and take off more if necessary. You can’t put the hair back on once it is cut off, and it will take time to grow back.
     Scissor round bottom of mane to achieve a ball finish, curved scissors are good for this job. It will take time and patience to learn this art, but it will come with practice. Again it is useful to have a photograph to copy from.
   Now for the tricky part! Again, it is a good idea to use a bandage about one inch thick to help guide your cutting lines. Feel for hock joint (first joint above back foot) and apply the bandage about one inch above.
Feel for knee joint and apply second bandage just above to define. Stand back and check that there is a good balance between the three defined points. Move the bandage slightly up or down until you feel happy that the dog looks right. With the scissors, cut a thin line above the bandage.  These points can be carefully clipped, or more defined with scissors. When starting on the other leg do check that your lines correspond from behind. Be careful not to make your scissor or clipped lines too wide as this may completely spoil your finished picture.
Comb hair upwards and allow it to settle. Scissor each section to a smooth rounded finish.  The pack over loin and hip can be trimmed evenly to a length of about an inch. Poetry in motion is what you are trying to achieve. This trim is far from being easy and takes much practice to get right. Scissor the tail.
Most of the Poodles that are shown in the USA are put into this trim at twelve months of age.  In England this trim is less seen now than it used to be, as our Kennel Club does not demand it.  Certainly it takes less time than the Traditional or Puppy, but there is still a lot of work here to make it as beautiful as it should look. The idea of the clip – apart from tradition – is to show off as much as possible, the Poodle’s good angles. This trim is mostly seen on the Standard Poodle, though favoured in countries such as Japan in all three sizes, but is not popular with the general public as it is rather revelling.
Clip feet, face and tail, bath, condition and blow the hair dry as for Puppy.
Cut in front end (mane) as for Lion, including scissoring to finish.
   For beginners it is a good idea to place a saucer on the hip joint to define a rosette. Take the scissors and cut round the saucer.  Remove the saucer and you will reveal a large rosette.  Depending on whether the dog is longer in back than it should be, or perfectly proportioned the saucer can be moved backward or forward to achieve the best balance before cutting commences.  
   With No 10 blade, start clipping from a position just above the hock joint and clip up to your newly made rosette. Clip round this being careful not to clip the rosette itself. Clip the narrow area between the end of mane and the rosette. Lifting hair with comb, scissor round rosette to achieve a smart round puff of hair. Trim tail as for other trims.
    Poodle coats need constant attention. Pet owners almost invariably skimp on brushing their dogs which then come into the grooming salon every six weeks or so with mats and tangles in their coat. Once upon a time, the only considerate and kind way to deal with such felted mats was to get underneath the mat with a fine blade and clip it off.  Now, with some conditioning spray, combs and mat-breakers, the groomer has a wider choice and more capacity to sort out a neglected coat.  But still, the prime consideration must be to the dog, and if the best solution is to clip off the coat then this must be done.  It will grow again. If you brush and comb your Standard Poodle on a regular basis his coat will always look smart, even after a dig in the garden or getting thoroughly muddy, once dry the coat will brush out marvellously.
   If you are growing the coat to show your Poodle, new grooming techniques will have to be employed.  If you want to show then it is essential for you to be able to bath and clip and groom your Poodle yourself, otherwise the procedure will be very expensive.  Trimming a pet is one thing, turning out a show dog is something else, and takes many people years to perfect.  Luckily Poodle people are generally very kind and helpful.  Breeders and expert trimmers can and do help novice exhibitors with their trimming.  The best advice is to watch, listen and learn.  In time you will, hopefully, be trimming as well as the best.
     It is a good idea to have a professional photograph of a dog in show trim on the wall when you start scissoring the mane and legs of your Poodle, and try to copy it.  Remember no artist ever painted a masterpiece the first time he picked up a paintbrush. It will take time, sweat and tears to perfect scissoring skills, unless you are extremely blessed.
   Your Poodle show dog will need brushing everyday, or at least three or four times a week, depending on its individual coat and whether or not it is at the age (between ten and fourteen months) when it is changing its coat from puppy to adult.  If you brush the dog every day your task of growing the coat will be easier. Brush carefully each strand of hair.  To do this lay your Poodle on its side, start brushing at the bottom of the ribcage, part layers with a tail comb or your fingers and brush the hair downwards.  Brush each layer until you reach the spine; include the neck hair, top and ears.  The turn your dog over and start the other side.  I often do this sitting on the floor watching television, the dog relaxed in front of me.  If you have attended shows you will have seen Poodles being groomed this way.  All dogs are thoroughly groomed before they go into the show ring. 
    De-matting - tangles that have formed overnight on a dog going through a coat change, needs care.  Often it is more beneficial to split the hair with your fingers. Wet hair is more pliable and not quite so susceptible to breakage.  Comb with a wide tooth comb, never a fine one. 
     Use a good conditioner if the coat is dry. Spray-in conditioners are good and can be used at any time. Spray from the bottom of the ribcage up, parting the hair as you go to ensure all the layers are conditioned and the solution has not just run over the top. When preparing a coat for the show ring, use the conditioner without oil and rinse.  
     Show dogs must have their fun regardless of coat.  Exercise is essential to a healthy life.  Bones are essential to clean healthy teeth. Use old socks with the toes cut out to pull over your dog’s bracelets when he is chewing on bones.  The topknot can be protected with a snood.
    Consider what you are spraying into and around your dogs face, nose and mouth. Some sprays and lacquers are toxic.


Extracts from the Complete Standard Poodle by Eileen Geeson

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