I'm willing to bet you've had your fair share of trying to brush out the thick mats on your poodle.
Being a professional pet 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 pup 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 Poodle/Doodle looking beautiful and tangle free.
At a Glance: Best Brushes for Poodle and Poodle Mixes
OUR #1 RATED
Coral Slicker Brush
Coral Slicker Brush
Incredibly efficient at removing mats and comfortable for your dog. This slicker is considered the absolute best by every groomer I've met (including me).
A5III Mark III Slicker
A5III Mark III Slicker
The A5III is a more affordable version of our #1 pick, but missing a few features. The pins are not as flexible and more prone to causing brush burn.
Steel Greyhound Comb
Steel Greyhound Comb
A long-pin steel comb is a perfect (and inexpensive) tool for removing deep tangles that a slicker can't reach. We recommend using this comb in combination with a slicker brush.
You can see exactly why I use these two tools in my full review further down. Or just click here to skip ahead.
Let's Talk About Matting
When your Poodle first comes into my shop, before I begin anything I'll sit down and run my fingers through a few particular spots on their coat (more on that in a second).
I'm inspecting to see how matted they are. Only then can we can discuss what our haircut options are.
Light matting can be brushed out with a little help from good shampoo treatments (which I'll cover in a bit)
But, dog's with heavy matting are a different story...
Checking for Matting
Checking and treating matting is an essential part of Poodle ownership. Here's a few ways you can check.
- With longer hair, you should be able to easily separate hairs with your fingers.
- You should be able to separate coat hair on their body and see skin.
- Pay special attention to friction areas.
Think of the areas that rub the most on your dog: between their legs, around their collar, under the ears, and around their butt.
Hairs continually rub into each other creating a breeding ground for tangles.
These areas being most prone to matting, and require the most attention when brushing.
Dogs have a few particularly sensitive points on their body. Brushing out thick tangles in these areas out would be incredibly uncomfortable. Therefore, if we groomers notice matting on these pain points, the only humane option is a shave down.
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 their comfort first.
Look for matting in these sensitive areas
- Behind the ears
- Front of the legs
The Dangers of Tangles
Heavy matting that's right down to the skin not only makes grooming difficult, it is extremely painful for your dog. As time goes on tangles get tighter and tighter, pulling on the skin causing severe bruising and sometimes breaking the skin.
The best way to treat matting is to stop it from ever happening.
So in order to solve this dilemma, owners must not only comb out the surface hair, but get right down deep to find all those hidden tangles, before they turn into painful mats.
Brushing & Bathing Your Poodle Like a Pro
Those thick, beautiful curls need our daily attention or they'll turn into a beautiful disaster.
We'll make use of a slicker, a greyhound comb, and some easy grooming tricks to keep them tangle free.
Before we begin: 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, but leave them slightly damp. Now that those tangles are a little looser brushing them out will be easier.
- Using a high quality slicker brush, begin to work through their entire coat.
- Always brush with the growth of hair (not against it).
- Be very gentle around sensitive areas such as the armpits, the front of their legs, or behind the ears.
- Pay attention to friction areas - these areas are often the most tangled.
- 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.
- Slickers will remove most surface matting, but we need to remove deep tangles as well. Use a greyhound comb (or a soft long pinned comb) to search for hidden tangles near the surface of their skin.
- 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.
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog?
Curly coated breeds should ideally be brushed out twice per week.
Three times per week or more is recommended if they go on many outdoor adventures, or if they have a longer coat.
Also, if your dog has gone for a swim or gets rained on, brush them when you get home to avoid matting.
How Often Should You Bathe your Dog?
Poodles and Doodle mixes are a unique case. You don't want to over-bathe them and cause distress to the skin. However, if their coat is left unkempt it could develop painful tangles (not to mention start to smell).
The ideal bathing schedule is once every 4 to 6 weeks. Using the right shampoo and treatments will keep their skin healthy and their coat tangle-free.
Important Note About Using Shampoo
Shampoo makes a huge difference with matting, but on a few important 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 not get rinsed will clump at the hair roots, causing even more matting and a very difficult groom.
That being said, if rinsed out properly these products will certainly leave your canine's coat feeling soft, and can make future grooming a whole lot easier.
Warning: Wet Dogs = More Tangles
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 heavy-duty matting.
After a bath or swim towel dry your Doodle, and brush them out while they're still a bit damp. When those curls tighten again they won't interlink and cause impossible tangles.
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 grooming sessions.
Get a Slicker Brush
You'll need a good slicker. These are 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 comb through their coat.
Bendable and Smooth Pins
Higher end slickers have very flexible and smooth pins. As you brush your dog the pins bend back, easing up on the applied pressure and stopping them from irritating your canine's skin.
Get a Handle on Things
The handle needs to be comfortable to hold. When you groom pets 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 good tools. 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 tool over a dozen cheaply made ones.
Make sure you pup 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 pet dryers to assist you in the grooming and dematting process. If you're looking to groom from home then go check out my list of the best clippers for poodles and doodle mixes.
What Are The Best Brushes To Use?
I groom Doodles/Poodles 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.
1. A Slicker Brush For Surface Brushing and Tangles
A good slicker will make grooming 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 work through their coat the sharp pins will irritate your dog's sensitive skin. So you'll need a properly engineered tool that is designed to make grooming comfortable.
Also, this grooming tool needs to be dense with pins, so that each pin spreads hair apart and easily dematts as you brush.
So here I've listed the best slickers that are designed to avoid brush burn, and maximize dematting.
Chris Christensen Coral Slicker Brush
This slicker 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 tool is engineered to make grooming comfortable for your pup.
I have been using my Chris Christensen slicker on every single dog in my shop for 3+ years without worrying about brush burn, and it's a miracle de-matting tool.
My Second Pick:
Chris Christensen A5III Slicker
The A5III slicker is typically a more affordable version of the first recommendation, but while missing a few features. There's less flexibility in the pins, so be aware of brush burn and don't go over the same spot more than 3 times. Also, the pin density is slightly lower, but still effective at de-matting.
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.
Andis Pet Steel Grooming Comb
There are a million replicas of this exact comb, but I prefer using Andis because the pins are stronger and the tips are softened to avoid hurting your dog. The long pins reach deep into their coat, unhinging any hidden tangles near the surface of the skin. An absolute must-have for grooming thick coats.
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 clippers for poodles and labradoodles.
Finally, you can use some detangling shampoos or sprays to assist you in your dematting. They do make a big difference, especially for those pups who love to roll around and play (I'm looking at you, every single Labradoodle).
Tropiclean Tangle Remover
The detangler works best after a bath, use a generous amount of detangler spray and let it soak for 10 minutes before grooming.