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Grooming - Baths

Giving a Poodle Baths

Poodle after bath


Giving your Poodle a bath is a very important part of grooming, along with dental care and tear stain prevention and will be needed to keep the skin and coat healthy.

Instructions for giving a Poodle a bath varies depending on whether you have a pet Poodle or a show Poodle.

One must be careful not to bathe their canine family member too often (dry skin issues can develop) ...

While one must take care to bathe them often enough so that the coat stays healthy and tangle free.

Let's look at the steps for each and see what the main differences are for the type of Poodle that you have.

How Often to Give a Poodle a Bath

Poodles need to have a bath once every 3 weeks and there is a good reason why. 

When you give your Poodle a bath, both skin and coat have a 'reset'. No matter how much your dog does or does not exercise or whether your not your Poodle accumulated dirt or other debris in the coat, as soon as the last bath was given a process begins. 

The skin releases tiny amount of natural body oils. These work, in part, to moisturize and protect the skin. However, as time passes these oils will accumulate. 

Much of this will remain on the skin since it does not evaporate and the coat holds it in. At the 3 week mark there is enough accumulated that skin pores begin to become clogged. In addition, the oil has trapped enough tiny debris that it begins to smell bad

When you give a proper bath with quality products at the 3 week mark, it will:
  • Rinse away those oils
  • Cleanse away dirt and debris
  • Moisture the skin without leaving heavy residue
  • Protect the hair from damage that can occur from the sun, cold arid air and contact friction

The 5 Stages of Bathing

With both the pet or show Poodle, there will be 5 phases to giving a bath:

1) Preparing your Poodle
2) Preparing the facilities
3) Shampooing
4) Rinsing
5) Applying conditioner or cream rinse

As you will see, there will be just a few variations for the show Poodle, since the coat is often longer & more susceptible to damage if improper techniques are used since these Poodles may need to be bathed more often depending how often they are to make an appearance.

Phase 1 - Preparing the Coat

Preparing your Poodle for a bath is just as important as the bath itself. All of the dead hairs and any tangles must be carefully removed from the coat by brushing and combing before the bath is given.

Keep in mind that even though the Poodle is technically a non-shedding breed, the coat is comprised of hairs that have a life cycle. This consists of growth, rest and release. Therefore, the coat is in constant renewal and hairs will fall off. Some will fall to the floor and others will fall back into the coat. 

Brushing also helps to loosen any dirt. Your goal is to give a thorough brushing from the skin outward to be sure the dog is free of mats before getting wet, as wet mats are much more difficult to remove. In addition, when shampoo is applied to any wet mat, it becomes trapped inside the mat and then is nearly impossible to completely rinse out.

Phase 2 - Preparing the Facilities

After your Poodle is thoroughly brushed and combed, it is best to give your dog an opportunity to relieve themselves, as the bathing and drying process can take a while and you want your Poodle to be comfortable and to stay still for you.   If  you will be using a grooming table, prepare this first by removing any hairs and spreading a large, soft towel over it.  Have your supplies close at hand including a blow dryer, if you will be using one. 

The bath tools and products that you will need includes:
  • A rubber mat for the bottom of the tub or sink
  • A hand-held water hose or a plastic container for wetting and rinsing
  • A shampoo brush
  • A sponge or washcloth
  • Cotton
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Shampoo (color enhancing if the coat is dull or yellowing)
  • Creme Rinse or conditioner
  • Several clean, soft bath towels
Young puppies and toy Poodles often do best in the kitchen sink. Prepare this as you would the bathtub by having it clean and having all your supplies within reach. 

Before you begin the bath, use cotton to gently plug your Poodle's ears so that water cannot enter the ear canal. If your Poodle has any type of chronic ear troubles, you can put a bit of Vaseline on the cotton to make double sure that water does not enter.

For show dogs - All topknot, ear wrappers and bands must be removed. While it is not mandatory, if you show, you may find it helpful to part the long mane down the center of the back with a pin brush, letting the long hair fall to ether side.

Phase 3 - Shampooing

Most owners know this, but it is so important that it must be mentioned: Never use human shampoo. It is vital that the shampoo be Ph balanced for canines, it is essential for healthy skin and coat. All shampoos are either acid, alkali or neutral. The degree of acidity or alkalinity is measured on a Ph scale that runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral.

Anything between 0 and 7 is "acid" and anything between 7 and 14 is "alkaline" You need to use an alkaline based shampoo on a Poodle.

Coats can become stained, colors can become uneven....For this reason, some owners may wish to use color enhancing canine shampoo, which does not contain any dyes but rather intensifies the natural color of the Poodle's coat. For white and light colored Poodles, this will help to remove yellow or grayish discolorations. For black or brown Poodles, it will help to remove any red or orange tipping and make the coat more solid.

There are 2 methods for shampooing a Poodle, the most common being to stand the dog in the tub and then use warm water (with the spray hose or container) to wet the coat thoroughly, avoiding wetting the head or ears. It is very important that the coat be extremely wet, to the roots, before you apply the shampoo. If you are using a hand held spray, hold the nozzle as close as possible to the dog's body, this will force the water to the skin and flush out any dirt.

For show dogs, the Poodle should be shampooed and rinsed 2 times. If you are keeping your Poodle in oil treatments, 3 cycles may be necessary. Please do refer to the AllPoodleInfo Book for full chapters on bathing both pet and show Poodles correctly.

Phase 4 - Rinsing

When rinsing, it is very important to be sure all traces of shampoo are removed. 

The final rinse should begin at the head, with the eyes covered and ear flaps held down by your hand. Warm water should be used (spray nozzle recommended) to work methodically down the neck and back toward the tail, over the sides, then under the stomach, down & under the legs to the feet, rinsing thoroughly until clear water comes off the Poodle.

If any shampoo remains it can cause the coat to look dull, cause irritation that can result in scratching and it will be more difficult to do an scissoring.

Phase 5 - Applying Conditioner or Cream Rinse

Shampooing does a great job of cleaning, but unfortunately can cause tangles at the same time. 

Conditioner is an important step in bathing a Poodle. The shampoo does little to protect the hairs. The conditioner or creme rinse will moisturize the hair and skin, smooth the cuticle, restructure the hair shaft, restore elasticity and add depth of color. 

Excess moisture should be squeezed from the Poodle's coat 1st and then the rinse or conditioner applied by gently working it into the the coat with your fingertips. 
You May Also Be Interested In:
Poodle Tear Staining - How to finally remove all those stains around the eyes, and steps to take to prevent these from reoccurring. 
Poodle Coat Issues - Common yet troubling issues that can happen to the coat. 
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