For the past year, I’ve followed the Instagram playbook on how to make my world a little less bleak: I planted an herb garden, got hold of a sourdough starter (and then killed it), chose my volunteer lessons, and a taste for the art category known as Tiktok . I also acquired an 8 pound-and-count bundle of calamity and joy. His name is puff.
Puff is a Cavapoo, which means he’s part Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and part Poodle, which means he’s got curly hair. Well, some kind of curly hair? Let’s call it a 2C or 3A curl pattern at most. And yet it was enough for our vet to strongly advise me to consult videos on “How to care for poodle hair” on YouTube before Puff’s first visit, because, as she put it, “it’s a process and not as easy as you think!”
I didn’t know what I was going to find in these videos – ultra-precise brush movements? a scissor action? complicated unraveling of the fingers? – but I imagined it wasn’t going to be fun. And then, watching video after video, the truth crystallized: Oh god, my dog’s hair routine is essentially the same as mine.
As with human curls, just like mine, the main enemy of poodle hair is tangles – poodles get more of it than straight-coated dogs. (Fun fact: poodles have no fur at all, just hair, so their coats are smoother and less likely to peel off.) As a lifelong owner of a series of tighter, knot-prone curls, poodle grooming seemed blissfully simple, even basic, to me.
Puff’s hair routine starts with the licking mat, which I cover with peanut butter, freeze for about 20 minutes, then clip it to the side of the bathtub so that it is distracted throughout the process (Tiktok taught me!). Then I give him a good conditioner, followed by a foam of Malin + Goetz ‘dog shampoo (currently sold out everywhere, but not discontinued). Once those paws are properly cleaned and rinsed, I go straight to the conditioner. Dog conditioner is harder to find than shampoo, but it’s non-negotiable for Puff – I need it to untangle him! Chis Keratin Dog Conditioner is my tool of choice. It smells floral, but not sweet, and the scent lasts for days, despite Puff’s best efforts. It also smoothens his hair into feathery softness and keeps it shiny, like CGI in a shampoo commercial. Have i tried it myself? No, but it’s not off the table.
While the conditioner soaks for five minutes and Puff drives into town with his peanut butter, I comb his coat with a wide toothed comb. Then it is rinsed and then dried in a towel (“A microfiber cloth?” Ali Oshinsky asked me. My answer: “No, but that’s a good idea.”)
The next stop is under the dryer, which is a two-person ordeal that my husband holds pouf while I dry and brush his hair at the same time. The hairdryer additive is useful; Puff hates being wet, as our neighbor recently pointed out when I was carrying him on his first “walk” (neighbor: “Poodle doesn’t want to get his feet wet! [insert a guttural laugh loud enough to wake the dead]. ”) The blow drying process smooths his hair a bit, but the curls tend to snap back after a day. And between his twice-monthly washes, Puff is combed a lot, like a couple of times a week, to keep knots and tangles at bay. It’s not that easy; is not a curly routine. But that Puff pinned this routine down before his first birthday? He already has a leg up on me.
– Ashley Weatherford
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