“I hate to clip poodle feet.” I’ve read this on internet grooming forums many times. And when I do grooming demonstrations at trade shows, countless groomers will approach me and ask, in a whisper, “Can you show my how you do feet?”

They also ask, shyly, about where to set the clipper lines on faces. And, because I live in an area that attracts summer tourists, I often style dogs which are groomed elsewhere the rest of the year. From this I see that many groomers struggle with where to set the band on a poodle tail. So, I thought it might be useful to cover some basics. Here goes!

Feet

Clipping poodle feet need not be a dreaded chore. If you have the right tool and a good technique, you should be able to clip 4 feet in just 5–8 minutes. My go–to tool for shaving feet is a good trimmer with an adjustable blade. They are light, quiet, don’t get hot, and are perfect for getting in between little toes and pads to leave a tidy, trimmed foot. Most dogs can tolerate the #15 blade length; many do fine when clipped with a #30. Always work on freshly washed, dry hair.Begin by lifting the foot and working on the underside (Fig 1).

  • Working against the grain, clip the hair up and away from the large paw pad.
  • Scoop the hair out from the area between the toes and the large pad.
  • Starting on the outside edge at the nail on one outer toe, clip from the nail to the desired line, where the foot naturally bends when the dog is standing.
  • On the inside edge of the toes, clip from the nail to where the webbing between the toes begins.
  • Repeat this on both sides of each toe.

Now, flip the foot over and clip the top of the toes and foot (Fig 2). Because you have removed all the hair on the underside and between the toes, this step takes just a moment!

  • Remember: the clipper line should be where the foot bends, (unless the owner requests the dreaded “flood pant” look!)
  • If there are any little “sticky outie” hairs around the nail bed, try setting the clipping length shorter and just touching up those areas to get a nice, clean look.

When grooming a poodle with shaved feet, I make an extra effort to get the nails trimmed and buffed as short as possible. Angling the tip of the nail back towards the body a bit with the Dremmel tool will make them look shorter and neater (Fig 3).

Faces

Setting the lines on faces is not complicated if you remember some simple rules. Clipping clean, dry hair will help your blades last longer and dramatically reduce any incidence of clipper irritation. You will also get a prettier finished look.

  • Clip a line from the inside corner of the ear to the outside corner of the eye on both sides of the face (Fig 4).
  • Revisit those under–ear areas and make sure they are neatly clipped, with no bunches of hair sticking out.
  • Find the dogs larynx, the hard bump on the underside of its neck. This is a basic guideline of where to set your clipper line. You may choose to clip lower than this to create a longer looking neck.
  • Clip against the grain from the larynx area, up to where you clipped under the ears. Now clip the rest of the face to create a smooth look.
  • Pay special attention to the flews, the small fold on either side of the lower lip. Stretch that area out with one finger and clip it well (Fig 5). The prettiest poodle face is ruined if clumps of wet hair are left untrimmed in the flews.
  • Clip closely around the lips, under and over the nose. The hair there is often damp and sticks to the skin, so extra care may be needed to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Clip carefully under the lower lid of the eyes and around the eye corners to remove any protruding hair.

Tails

And those troublesome tails? They are really not so tricky. No matter what size poodle you are grooming; Toy, Miniature or Standard, the guide line is the same:

  • Lay the spine of your comb at the lower edge of the dog’s anus (Fig 6).
  • Holding the comb in position, lower the pet’s tail.
  • Where the spine of the comb touches the tail is your basic guide for where to set your band.

Many, many groomers make the band much too long, creating something that looks more like a palm tree than a proper pom-pom.

So, what if you try this on a dog you have been grooming and find that you have, indeed, been leaving too long of a band? Just set the proper line for this groom, and explain to the owner that you are correcting the trim. Within a few groomings the tail hair will be long enough to correct the shape.

As to creating a nice looking pom-pom, try this:

  • Comb all the hair towards the tip of the tail.
  • Gently twist the hair.
  • Leaving a space between the tip of the tail bone, snip the hair from the end (Fig 7).

If the dog has a long tail bone, you will clip more closely to the tip of the tail. If it has a shorter tail bone, you may choose to leave more hair to create a more balanced look. If the dog has had its tail docked way too short, you can get creative by just clipping in the merest suggestion of a band, and leaving the hair longer to create the illusion of a longer tail.

  • Then, hold the tail up, and comb the hair downwards.
  • Trim any hair that hangs over your clippered band.
  • Next, fluff the hair nicely.
  • Using curved shears, create your desired shape.

If the tail band is clipped the proper length, it makes it much easier to create a balanced pom-pom (Fig 8).

Happy clipping! ✂