Poodle Bathing: When and How to Bathe Your Poodle

By Nancy Williams •  Updated: 08/26/23 •  17 min read

If you’ve ever found yourself looking at your poodle, wondering when those curly locks are due for a good wash, you’re not alone.

Trust me, I’ve been there too!

As a proud poodle parent myself, I’ve navigated through the aftermath of enthusiastic squirrel chases, playful rolls in the grass, and those irresistible puddle jumps on our walks.

And through all those messy adventures, I learned that bathing our curly-haired companions isn’t just about keeping them looking prim and proper—it’s an essential part of their well-being.

Whether you’re a first-time poodle owner or just searching for some tried-and-true tips, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s dive into the wonderful world of poodle pampering, ensuring that every bath not only cleans but also brings joy to your four-legged friend!

My Poodle’s Bath-time Dilemma: Have You Faced It Too?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably asked yourself, “In the wild, no one’s giving poodles a spa day. So, do they really need all this pampering?

Here’s the deal: While it’s true that many animals groom themselves and Mother Nature isn’t handing out shampoo bottles in the wilderness, domesticated dogs, especially poodles, aren’t quite the same as their wild counterparts. Let’s break this down a bit:

1️⃣ Self-Grooming vs. Poodle Reality: Sure, poodles do their best with the classic doggie shake-off and the occasional self-groom. But those curly, luxurious locks? They’re a different beast (pun intended)! Without our intervention, they can quickly turn from fab to drab.

2️⃣ The Dreaded Matting: Ever tried detangling your hair after a windy day out without brushing? Now imagine that, but tenfold. Poodles have a dense, curly coat. Skip a few baths, and their hair can easily mat. Not only is it unsightly, but matted fur is uncomfortable and can cause skin issues.

3️⃣ Bathing Benefits: Bathing isn’t just about the looks; it stimulates their skin, removes excess oil, dirt, and keeps external parasites at bay. Moreover, with the right pH-balanced shampoo, not only does it remoisturize their skin, but it also lays the foundation for their overall grooming.

4️⃣ The Smell Test: Let’s be honest, after a few rounds of squirrel-chasing, puddle-jumping, and park-exploring, our beloved poodles aren’t the freshest-smelling creatures. Regular baths ensure they’re cuddle-ready, any day, any time!

In a nutshell? While our poodles might not be queuing up for their bath-time, it’s a ritual that ensures they stay clean, comfortable, and healthy.

Trust me, your curly companion will thank you with wagging tails and loving licks!

How Often Should You Bathe a Poodle?

After our dive into the why of poodle pampering, it’s time to tackle another curly question: how often? Like, seriously, is it a weekly spa affair, or more of a monthly luxe treatment?

In my quest for the ultimate poodle bath-time guide, I had heart-to-heart chats with 33 poodle parents, and their insights? Pure gold. Let’s spill the tea:

1️⃣ Weekly Wonders: A surprising 36% of our poodle pros are all-in for weekly baths. One owner mentioned, “A weekly bubble session keeps my poodle looking and smelling fresh, clean, and oh-so-fluffy!” But hey, they did recommend gentle puppy shampoos, which are kind to the skin and light on the pocket.

2️⃣ Bi-Weekly Bliss: Almost half of the crew (that’s 47% if you’re counting) prefers a bi-weekly routine. They feel it strikes the right balance—keeping the poodle pristine without overdoing it. One poodle parent shared, “Every two weeks works wonders for us. By then, my fur-baby looks ready for a little pampering!

3️⃣ Go-with-the-Flow: Now, the remaining 17%? They’re a bit more spontaneous. Depending on whether their poodle had an impromptu mud bath or decided to chase a skunk, they’ll adjust. As one flexible owner put it, “I watch, sniff, and decide. Some adventures demand immediate action!”

Bottom Line: Poodles, with their curly couture, may need a bit more bathing love than your average pooch. But the exact frequency? It’s a blend of your poodle’s lifestyle and your personal preferences.

Bathing a Poodle the Right Way: Every Step Detailed

Bathing a poodle isn’t just about getting them clean; it’s an art, a bonding moment, and a skill refined over time. Dive into our comprehensive guide that breaks down the bathing process into The Five Phases of Bathing (okay, six… because drying is crucial!):

  1. 🪥 Prepping the Pup
  2. 🚿 Setting the Stage
  3. 🧼 Lather, Poodle, Repeat
  4. 💧 Rinsing Your Poodle
  5. 🧴 Applying Conditioner
  6. 🌀 Drying Your Poodle

Let’s dive in!

🪥 Prepping the Pup

A lady brushing her poodle's hair before bathing her

Alright, before we even think about getting that coat wet, there’s some groundwork to lay. Think of this step as setting the stage for a drama-free bath.

First off, let’s tackle those tangles. Grab your brush and work through your poodle’s coat, focusing on removing dead hair and any sneaky knots.

You see, wetting an already matted coat? It’s a recipe for clump-city. And trust me, trying to shampoo through that mess means you’ll have more bubbles trapped in those mats than you bargained for.

And while you’re brushing? It’s the perfect moment to play detective.

Keep an eye out for any unexpected guests like fleas or ticks. Plus, by assessing the state of your poodle’s coat and skin, you can better determine which products will work best for them.

We’ll discuss the different types of shampoos and which one should choose based on your poodle’s needs later in this article, so stay tuned!

🚿 Setting the Stage

Tools required to bathe a poodle

Alright, now that your poodle’s all detangled and brushed, let’s get the bathroom ready for the main event. You wouldn’t bake without preheating the oven, right? The same concept applies here!

Before we get started, let’s get some basics out of the way. Always let your pup have a quick potty break. Trust me; you don’t want any bathroom surprises in the middle of the bath.

Also, give your grooming area a quick tidy up. Lay down a cozy bath towel for your pup to stand on, ensuring they feel stable and comfy. Get that hairdryer in arm’s reach and set up all the supplies you’ll need:

➡️ P.S. – If you’re not in the mood to navigate the maze of Amazon I’ve got you covered! My poodle and I embarked on a soapy quest to discover the best of the best. Click here to jump straight to my recommendations!

Now, quick tip: keep everything within arm’s reach. We don’t want any “wet dog chase” around the house because you forgot the shampoo.

If you’re a newbie to the poodle bath scene or have a pup that thinks bath time is playtime, rock that waterproof apron. Believe me, you’ll thank yourself later.

Depending on your poodle’s size, you could opt for a kitchen sink, laundry tub, or your standard bathtub.

And if you’re getting super fancy with a professional setup, consider a waist-high tub—it’s a game-changer and your back will definitely thank you.

Also, for our canine friends who tend to do the moonwalk in the tub, a rubber mat will give them the grip they need.

Before the splish-splash begins, it’s a good idea to plug your dog’s ears with cotton. This keeps the water out and ensures a fuss-free experience.

If your poodle has sensitive ears, a dab of Vaseline on the cotton helps seal the deal. And for their gorgeous eyes?

If you aren’t using a tearless shampoo, a drop of mineral oil in each peeper prevents any shampoo mishaps.

These little touches might seem excessive, but they go a long way in making bath time smooth for both of you.

🧼 Lather, Poodle, Repeat

A lady applying shampoo on a white poodle

Washing your Poodle can be a bit of an art, and I’ve got a couple of methods that might just suit you and your fur-baby:

The Soothing Soak: This is all about giving your Poodle a bit of a pamper session. Fill your tub with 3 to 4 inches of warm water, then mix in about half a cup of shampoo until you get a bubbly bath ready to go. Carefully introduce your Poodle to the water.

Some really enjoy this little spa moment, so see if yours does. If you don’t have a fancy spray hose, no worries – an old plastic bottle turned into a scoop works wonders.

The Quick Rinse: This one’s a favorite for many groomers. First, place your Poodle in the tub and, using warm water, ensure their coat is thoroughly soaked. I usually start from the back and move to the front, saving the head and ears for last to keep things stress-free.

Got a flea situation? Tackle the head first. It keeps those little nuisances from running to the ears and eyes. A calm, reassuring voice can make a world of difference here.

Now that your dog’s all wet, it’s shampoo time! Squeeze some onto your hand and start working it into their coat, kind of like you’re giving them a little back rub.

Make your way from the tail, to the legs, and all the way to the chest.

For the head and ears, a bit more care is needed. Hold their chin up slightly to steer water away from the nose, and be gentle around the eyes.

Speaking of eyes, if you’re nervous about getting any soap near them, a tearless shampoo or a damp washcloth can be your best friend.

Also, make sure not to get too much water or soap in those ears. A gentle wipe on the outside should do the trick.

💧 Rinsing Your Poodle

A lady pouring water on a poodle to rinse it after shampooing

Moving right along to step 4 of our 6-step grooming journey: the all-important rinse!

Washing is half the job; ensuring your Poodle’s coat is free from shampoo is the other crucial half. So let’s dive into the nitty-gritty:

Double Up on the Shampoo: After your first round of shampooing, give your Poodle’s hair a light rinse, then go in for a second lather. It might seem a bit extra, but trust me, two rounds ensure every bit of dirt is gone.

Final Rinse Strategy: Now, it’s time for the all-important final rinse. Start at the top, literally. Shield your Poodle’s eyes with one hand and gently hold down those floppy ears with the other. This way, you’re making sure water stays clear of places it doesn’t belong.

Using warm water, methodically work your way from the neck, down the back, across the body, beneath the belly, and finally, those legs and paws.

Your aim? Rinsing until the water running off your dog is crystal clear. If your pup’s been standing in soapy water, let it all drain away before this thorough rinse.

🚨 A point to stress: Rinse, rinse and then rinse some more. Leftover shampoo can be a sneaky culprit behind itchy skin, dull-looking hair, and even those not-so-perfect trims. So when you think you’ve rinsed out all the shampoo, give it another go just to be certain.

🧴 Applying Conditioner

A lady applying hair conditioner on her poodle after bathing it

After a good shampoo, your Poodle’s hair might feel a tad bit tangled. It’s pretty much like when we wash our hair – it gets clean, but sometimes it needs a bit of extra love to detangle and shine. That’s where conditioners or creme rinses come into play.

Why Condition?
While shampoo does the job of cleaning, it can sometimes leave the hair a little unruly. Conditioners or creme rinses are fantastic for tackling those knots and tangles.

They help reduce static, making the coat easier to manage and less prone to matting post-bath.

And for those with Poodles who’ve seen better hair days, there are even deep conditioners (which will be discussed later) that hydrate both the skin and coat, restoring elasticity, adding color depth, and making the hair feel brand new.

The Conditioning Process:
It’s pretty straightforward, but let me give you a quick walkthrough:

  1. After your final shampoo rinse, squeeze out any extra water from your dog’s coat.
  2. Apply your chosen conditioner or rinse. Pour some into your hand and gently work it through your Poodle’s hair using your fingertips.
  3. Let it sit for a few minutes. This allows the product to really seep in and do its magic.
  4. Time for another rinse! And remember our mantra: when you think it’s all out, rinse once more just to be sure. Some newer conditioners can be left in for added oomph, but always check the label.

🌀 Drying Your Poodle

A lady drying her poodle with a towel after bathing it

Alright, so we’ve splished and splashed, and now we’re onto the final act – drying your freshly-bathed Poodle! Let’s get our fur buddies comfortably dry.

How to Dry Like a Pro:

  1. Towel-Time: Start off with a super absorbent towel. Now, I know the temptation is to go all rub-a-dub-dub, but trust me, patting down is the way to go. It’s way gentler on your Poodle’s coat and prevents those pesky tangles. For the little paws, just wrap them up in the towel and give a gentle press.
  2. Avoid the Shivers: Even on a toasty day, a wet poodle can get cold real fast. Keep the drying session indoors or in a sunny spot if you’re outside.
  3. The Hairdryer Debate: You might’ve heard some poodle parents claim that using hairdryers is the way to go. And, you know what? They may be right; hairdryers can be a quick fix, especially on cooler days. Just remember, always use the cool setting and hold it at a safe distance to avoid any discomfort. But, here’s my two cents: I’m Team Towel Dry. It’s simple, natural, and I feel it’s the kindest on their coat and skin. Plus, it’s a great bonding moment!
  4. Final Brush and Fluff: After your Poodle’s mostly dry, grab that brush for a quick run-through. It sets the coat and trust me, they’ll appreciate the extra pampering.

🎯 Quick Tip: Keep those grooming tools clean! Regularly check your brushes and combs, removing dead hair and giving them a wash now and then. This ensures you’re not reintroducing dirt and oils back onto your freshly cleaned Poodle.

📜 Story Time:
Did you hear about Philip Howard Price from Montfleuri kennels? Guy was top-notch in the poodle world. He had this stunning poodle, Trilla. One day, after a drizzly walk, Trilla came back a bit drenched. Someone just missed drying her off completely. Seems small, right? Shockingly, she caught pneumonia from staying damp and, heartbreakingly, didn’t make it.

Why am I telling you this?
Always, always dry off your poodle properly. It’s not just about comfort—it’s about health and safety. Such a simple step, yet it can make all the difference. We all love our pets; let’s make sure we’re not missing these crucial details.

What Type of Shampoo Should I Use?

Ah, the shampoo aisle. It’s like a candy store for dog parents, but instead of sweets, it’s filled with bottles that promise to make your Poodle’s coat shinier, softer, and smelling like a field of lavender. But how do you know which one is the best for your fur baby? 🤔 Let’s break it down.

Different dog shampoos

The Importance of pH Balance

First things first, let’s talk about pH balance. You might remember the pH scale from your high school chemistry class—it ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic, and anything above is alkaline. While human skin and hair are slightly acidic, a dog’s skin and hair are more on the alkaline side. So, using your own shampoo on your Poodle is a no-go. Always opt for a shampoo that’s pH-balanced for dogs to keep their coat and skin in tip-top shape.

The All-Purpose Shampoo

All-purpose shampoos are like the Swiss Army knives of the dog grooming world. They’re designed for all coat textures and colors. These shampoos often contain special ingredients like protein, aloe vera, or coconut oil that not only clean but also condition the skin and coat. If you’re looking for a good, all-around shampoo, this is a solid choice.

Tearless Shampoos

Got a puppy or an adult Poodle with sensitive skin? Tearless shampoos are your friend. These are mild formulations that are especially good for washing the head area without causing any eye irritation. 🐶

Medicated Shampoos

If your Poodle is dealing with specific skin issues like itching, scaling, or allergies, medicated shampoos can come to the rescue. These contain antifungal, antibacterial, or antipruritic ingredients that help relieve various skin conditions.

Hypo-Allergenic Shampoos

For the Poodles with extra-sensitive skin or allergies, hypo-allergenic shampoos are a godsend. These are extremely mild and usually free from any fragrances or dyes.

Color-Enhancing Shampoos

Want to make your Poodle’s coat color pop? Color-enhancing shampoos can help intensify the natural coat color. They’re not dyes but use optical brighteners to highlight the coat. So, if you have a white Poodle with a yellowish tinge, this type of shampoo can help.

Texturizing or Body-Building Shampoos

If you’re looking to add some oomph to your Poodle’s coat, texturizing or body-building shampoos can temporarily add body and texture to the hair. Just remember, the results are not permanent.

Insecticidal (Flea/Tick) Shampoos

Fleas and ticks are the uninvited guests we all dread. Insecticidal shampoos contain ingredients like pyrethrin to safely kill these pests while also cleaning and conditioning the coat.

Concentrated Shampoos

These are generally all-purpose shampoos but in a concentrated form. They’re cost-effective, especially if you’re bathing your Poodle frequently.

How often should I bathe my poodle?

Based on feedback from 33 poodle parents, 36% advocate for weekly baths to maintain the coat’s health. 47% support a bi-weekly routine, viewing it as the most balanced approach. The remaining 17% prefer an as-needed basis, determined by specific events or dirt exposure. Collectively, the majority lean towards a frequency of weekly to bi-weekly for bathing poodles.

Can I bathe my poodle while she is in heat?

Yes, you can bathe a female poodle during her heat cycle. It helps manage the blood discharge and any associated odor. When doing so, be gentle, use mild shampoo, and ensure the water is lukewarm. Encourage her with treats, and never force her to bathe.

Why does a poodle get hyper after bathing?

Poodles often exhibit hyper behavior post-bath due to the “zoomies” phenomenon, a sudden energy release. This can be a response to the unfamiliar sensation of being wet or an attempt to dry off. Additionally, the removal of their natural scent during a bath can make them feel different, prompting them to roll or act out to restore their familiar odor.

Why does my poodle hide from bath time?

Poodles may hide from bath time due to past negative experiences, fear of water, or the unfamiliar sensations and sounds associated with bathing. Ensuring a positive, gentle, and rewarding experience can help reduce anxiety and improve their association with bath time.

Is it safe to bathe my poodle with disinfectants like Dettol?

No, it’s not safe to bathe a poodle or any dog with disinfectants like Dettol. These products contain chemicals that can be harmful if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Always use pet-safe shampoos and consult with a veterinarian for appropriate bathing products.

When can I bathe a poodle puppy?

A poodle puppy can be bathed as early as 8 weeks old. However, it’s essential to use a gentle, puppy-specific shampoo and ensure the experience is positive to acclimate the puppy to regular baths as they grow. Always consult with a veterinarian for specific recommendations.

References And Resources For Further Reading

Debas, H., & Grossman, M. (2019, April 28). Chemicals Bathing the Oxyntic Gland Area Stimulate Acid Secretion in Dog. Retrieved August 11, 2020

O. Braun-Falco, H., H. Doehner, H., Draize, J., PD. Eckersall, M., Gerisch, M., DMcE. Jenkinson, R., . . . Zlotogorski, A. (1986, January 01). Comparison of skin pH in domesticated and laboratory mammals. Retrieved August 10, 2020

Dib, P. (2004). The guide to owning a poodle. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications

W. (n.d.). Bathing Your Dog. Retrieved August 10, 2020

Nancy Williams

👩🏻‍🦱 Hey, I'm Nancy! Over at PoodleGo, I'm "that passionate poodle lady". At home? Mom to 3 kiddos 👶🏻, ruled by 2 diva poodles 🐩, and one dramatic Persian cat 🐈‍⬛ who thinks he’s king. Poodles might seem all glam, but they’re more than just fancy fur. Dive into PoodleGo and discover the magic behind these curly superstars ✨. For some behind-the-scenes poodle tales 🐾, don't miss our newsletter 💌. Let's embark on this fluffy journey together! 💯