I'm willing to bet your curly haired dog loves to play and explore (and maybe even roll around a bit?). Much to their glee of rolling around and playing - they don't seem to understand that it's causing a thick mess of mats that you'll be brushing out later.
Being a professional dog groomer I often meet frustrated owners who continually brush their Poodle or Doodle-mix, only to have them full of mats again and eventually forced to have their dog shaved completely.
The key is having the right tools and technique, so you can avoid mats, shave downs, or expensive grooms. So here's a few grooming shop secrets, my personal pick of tools, and some helpful tips to keep your dog looking beautiful and tangle free.
Quick Look: Best Brushes for Poodle and Poodle Mixes
Best Slicker Brush
Best Greyhound Comb
Let's Talk About Matting
One of the first things I look at when a dog comes into our shop is to check for mats (or tangles). Depending on the type of haircut the owner wants; I have to inspect to make sure if it's even possible.
Dog's free of mats make will make grooming a breeze (and cheaper for you), and a little daily maintenance at home using the right tools and techniques will keep your dog looking and feeling good.
Light matting can be brushed out, often with a little help from some good shampoo and conditioning treatment (which I'll cover in a bit).
But, dog's with heavy matting are a different story...
The Point of No Return
Heavy matting on the front of the legs, behind the ears, and in the armpits is the first thing I look for. Why? Because these are tender spots that are uncomfortable for the dog, and can be very painful to brush out if they're tangled.
Also, I look to see if the hair can be easily separated enough to see skin. If I can't separate the hair all the way down, that's another bad sign.
If I see these signs then there is only one humane option - shave them completely. I know many owners hate having to do this (if they prefer longer coats), but as groomers and dog owners we have to think of the comfort of the dog first.
So in order to solve this dilemma, owners must not only brush out the surface hair, but get right down deep to find all those hidden tangles, and brush them out before they turn into painful mats.
Brushing Your Poodle or Doodle
Picking the Right Tools
Brushing everyday (especially after playtime or bath time) is important, but having good tools will make all the difference. If you're still using that pin brush from the dollar store - you're in for some long and difficult brushing sessions.
Get a Slicker Brush
You'll need a good slicker brush. A slicker is simply a brush that's dense with very thin (but strong) bendable pins. Having hundreds of pins close together works at separating hairs, which demats your dog as you brush.
Bendable and Smooth Pins
Higher end slicker brushes have very flexible and smooth pins. When you brush your dog the pins bend back, easing up on the applied pressure and stopping them from irritating your dogs skin.
Get a Handle on Things
The handle needs to be comfortable to hold. When you brush dogs for living like I do, it makes a BIG difference. Also you'll need something that is durable and won't break when it's inevitably dropped.
Avoid Cheap Imitations
I know it's tempting to try a cheap version, but it's better in the long run to get a good brush. Why? Because the pins on cheap brushes will be stiff and sharp which hurts your dog, the handle will break, and the bristles will wear out in no time. You’ll actually save money buying one good brush over a dozen cheaply made ones.
Make sure you dog is 100% mat free with a simple and very cheap tool. In comes the Greyhound Comb to save the day. Gently glide through their coat to "seek and destroy" any of those hidden mats the slicker couldn't quite reach.
Need Some Extra Help?
Optionally, you can use pet shampoos, conditioners, and dryers to assist you in the grooming and demating process. Let's talk more about how bathing and shampoos can help next...
Does Shampoo and Conditioner Help?
Absolutely... BUT, on a few conditions. You absolutely must rinse off all the shampoo and conditioner when you're done, and you have to brush them out afterwards.
What tends to happen is any soap or shampoos that do no get rinsed will clump at the hair roots, causing even more mats and a very difficult groom.
That being said, if rinsed out properly these products will certainly leave your dogs coat feeling soft, and can make grooming a whole lot easier.
But we're not done yet, there's another important step...
Wet dogs = More Mats
Going for a swim or a bath can actually wreak havoc on a curly coat that isn't properly brushed afterwards. Those tight curls will expand when exposed to water, and then tighten again when dried - leading to some heavy-duty matting.
After a bath or swim towel dry your dog, and brush them out while they're still a bit damp. When those curls tighten again they won't interlink and cause impossible tangles.
How to Brush Out Your Doodle Like a Pro
Poodles, Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Schnoodles... they all have the same thing in common: those thick beautiful curls need our daily attention or they'll turn into a beautiful disaster.
Here's my process for grooming a doodle:
1. If your dog is matted, try giving them a bath first, use a fair amount of detangling pet conditioner and let it work it's magic for several minutes before rinsing. Towel dry the dog (but leave them slightly damp). Now that those tangles are a little looser, brushing them out will be easier.
2. Everyday use a good slicker and gently brush through their entire coat. Do not go over the same spot more than 3 times (unless you have a slicker with bendable pins) - you'll irritate their skin and cause brush burn.
3. Always brush with the growth of hair (not against it), be very gentle around sensitive areas such as the armpits or behind the ears.
4. Now use a greyhound comb and glide through their coat, looking for any mats you may have missed, especially those deep tangles closer to their skin.
5. If you bathed them prior - use a dryer on cool (while gently combing) to blow out any remaining coat and dry before those curls contract and create more mats.
What Are The Best Brushes for Poodles or Doodles?
I groom doodles of all shapes and sizes every single day, I've worked with everything from rescue dogs to show dogs. So here are my personal weapons of choice.
Best Slicker Brush
Best Greyhound Comb
1. A Slicker Brush
A good slicker brush will make brushing easy, and comfortable for your Poodle/Doodle. The fine bristles will penetrate into their coat and detangle most of the surface hair, while removing dirt, and debris.
The #1 issue with nearly all the brushes on the market is brush burn. While you brush through their coat the sharp pins will irritate your dog's sensitive skin. So you'll need a brush that is designed to make grooming comfortable.
Also, you want a brush that's dense with pins, so that each pin spreads hair apart and easily dematts as you brush.
So here I've listed the best slicker brushes that are designed to avoid brush burn, and maximize dematting.
My Recommendation: Chris Christensen Long-Pin Slicker Brush
- Each pin tip has been smoothed to avoid irritating skin.
- Long, bendable pins for avoiding brush burn.
- Very dense with Pins, used for seperating hairs and making dematting easier.
- Strong and comfortable design (you can drop it and it will never break).
- Leaves their coat looking "fluffed"
- Expensive. That being said, it's the best brush on the market, and the last one you'll ever buy.
This brush is considered the absolute best by every groomer I've met (including me). The cost may deter you, especially when other slicker brushes are so much cheaper, but every part of this brush is designed to make grooming comfortable for your dog. I use this brush on every single dog in my shop without worrying about brush burn, and it's a miracle dematting tool.
My Second Pick : Chris Christensen A5III Slicker Brush
- More affordable version of my first pick.
- Very dense pins, used for separating hairs and making dematting easier.
- Strong and sturdy design.
- Pins don't bend as much, which may lead to brush burn. Do not brush any part of your dog more than 3 times.
- Pin density is slightly lower, but still good.
This is a more affordable version of the first slicker brush. Again, it's a little more expensive than your typical "pet store" brush, but it's a professional grade tool, and it just works. There's not much flexibility in this brush, so be aware of brush burn and don't go over the same spot more than 3 times.
2. A Greyhound Comb for Hidden Mats and Finishing
I call this my "seek and destroy" tool, I glide through their coat with the long pinned greyhound comb to find any hidden mats. It's perfect for finishing your dog and making sure they're 100% clear and free of tangles.
My Recommendation: Andis Pet Steel Grooming Comb
- Super Affordable.
- Long comb for removing deep mats and debris.
- Quick tool for finishing touches.
- These break down over time, and comb needles get bent. Thankfully, it's cheap to replace.
3. Optional (But Helpful) Product
If you want to give your dog a full groom at home (and potentially save some money), then check out my full list of the best dog clippers.
Finally, you can use some detangling shampoos or sprays to assist you in your dematting. They do make a big difference, especially for those dogs who love to roll around and play (I'm looking at you, every single Labradoodle).
My Recommendation : Tropiclean Tangle Remover
- Cheap and Effective
- Works good for light to medium matted dogs. May not help with heavy or extreme mats.
- Quick tool for finishing touches.
The detangler works best after a bath, use a generous amount of detangler spray and let it soak for 10 minutes, and then brush your dog out.