Expert Advice

Part 3: Bathing, Drying, Wrapping & Banding with AKC Breeder, Cathy McGinnis


Welcome to Part 3 of Poodle grooming with AKC breeder, Cathy McGinnis

Looking for Part 2? Click Here - Poodle Grooming: Pre-Bath Brushing and Clipping


One of the most important things to remember when bathing your dog, is to make sure EVERY bit of shampoo is rinsed out. If any shampoo is left in, it can irritate the skin, create more matting problems, or just look greasy.

+Pro Tip: To apply the shampoo, I use a pump style garden sprayer. I put the diluted shampoo into the container and pump it up to pressurize it. To apply, simply spray evenly over the dog. This will put a fine coat of shampoo evenly upon the dog, and make it easier to lather and rinse.

To wet/rinse the dog, I have a very simple spray hose with an on/off valve right at the sprayer - this allows me to shut the water off while lathering, but maintain the right water temperature.

Unless your dog is clipped very short all over, including the topknot, tail and ears I think it is important to hand dry the hair. If you allow it to air dry, it will get very curly and you will not be able to properly straighten it to finish the groom. Also, because of the tight curls poodles have, when you allow your poodle's coat to air dry those tight curls can lead to future mats.

A big key to having a groom look good longer is the finish drying. If you take the time to brush as you dry and straighten the hair, it will stay fuller and fluffier longer than if you let it air dry and then brush it out. Yes, when you air dry the coat, and brush it, it will look fluffy, but not for long. The curls are set into the hair as it dries, which is why I feel it is important to gently pull the hair straight with a brush as you dry.

If you are working with a long coat, the drying technique is the same as the brushing out technique, except you have a dryer focused on the area you are working on. Because the coat is wet, you do not need to mist it with a conditioner.

Force air drying a lamb trim - I only do this to the point where the dog is damp dry, and then go over with a brush and stand dryer to really straighten & fluff the hair before scissoring.

Finishing the lamb trim bath/drying process by hand fluffing


I use a chopstick to part the coat, and take small sections and rubber band them in such a way as they are not too tight to the skin. I start just behind the eyes, and make this one section. Recommendation: 

Chris Christensen - Tail Comb

Next section goes from here to just in front of the ears.

I link the first two sections together to form one larger section.

When the coat gets long enough, this new group is linked to the part above the ears to keep it further back from the face.

How far down the back you go depends upon how long the coat is, and how much rough and tumble play your dogs do. The more playing and running, the more sections I use to protect the long coat.


If you are just starting to grow coat on your dog, or have a puppy just starting out who does not have enough hair to section and band, or wrap, I still recommend banding a little bit. As soon as my puppies have enough hair to be held together, I use a small band (like the kind used for braces). I will put it at the bottom of the ears holding a few hairs together, and above each eye. The reason I do this is to get the pup used to having something in the ears and in their hair. If they try to rub it out or chew it off (ears) you can train them to leave it, but if they succeed in chewing or breaking off hair, you have not lost much. If you wait until you have an inch or more of hair to protect, and the pup chews off his ear - it can set you back a month or more while you wait for it to grow back.


Some coats are more harsh than others, and do not respond well to being banded. Harsh coats can break easier than the softer and more pliable coats. One of my dogs has a coat that is very harsh, and instead of banding the topknot, I wrap each section in plastic, and then band the plastic. No rubber bands stay on the hair itself.

First thing I do is section the hair and put a band around just to hold each section as I work

And wrap it.

Wrap the hair in the plastic, fold it over and rubber band it securely.

When the wrapper is banded in place, I carefully remove the band that is holding the hair parted into sections.

Once you have finished this, you are done for the moment. Depending upon the coat type and texture as well as the age of the dog, you will need to take everything out and brush/comb the coat thoroughly and then re-band/re-wrap it until the next brushing section.

NEVER try to remove the rubber band. Just CUT them out carefully. I use a small square plastic letter opener - the kind with a point on one side and a small razor set back into the plastic.

This slips under the rubber bands very easily, and you can use it to just slip under the band and ZIP - it's cut, leaving the hair uncut. There are also small scissors designed to cut bands, but why spend the money for that, when you can get a little letter opener for next to nothing?

Feel clumsy wrapping? Don't worry - you will get lots of practice very quickly.

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