Grooming is a necessary but sometimes unpleasant part of owning a dog. The result of routine grooming is a healthy, clean and attractive dog, but it can’t be done without effort. Sure, a dog parent can pawn off grooming their dog to professional groomers, but it’s necessary to do some rudimentary maintenance in between sessions. Let’s face it, most dogs do not like to be groomed, and some downright fear it. Is there a way we can make the process more pleasant for both your fur baby and you? Let’s find out!
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Have an Introduction
Once you have picked the right tool for grooming, whether it is a nail grinder, a nail file, or a nail clipper, you need to introduce the device to your dog. The same goes for brushes as well. We won’t go into too much detail about how to pick the right tool, you can head over to our articles about dog nail trimming for some helpful tips.
Start by letting your dog examine the tool. Dogs explore the world with their noses and mouths, so don’t be surprised if there are some licks accompanying the sniffs. Once your dog feels comfortable with the grooming tool, the next step would be to touch your dog where the grooming takes place with the tool. For example, with nail clippers, the next step is to make contact with your dog’s nails.
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Let him know that is where the action will happen. For dogs that are getting a trim or their hair cut, you have to make sure they can remain still when you introduce the tools because the sharp shears can pierce your dog’s skin if he struggles.
For baths, a quieter shower spray attachment with lower water pressure is usually more acceptable for some anxiety-ridden dogs. Unfortunately for bath time, there are more steps dog owners need to take to introduce the tools. Don’t be surprised if it takes much longer than a week. You need to get your dog used to being inside the tub, familiarize him with the showerhead, and then show him the hairdryer.
The hairdryer can take extra time because of the heat and noise it makes. It’s all very new to your dog, so he might be scared during the first few sessions. Remember to encourage him every step of the way! Hopefully, during hair drying your dog is already on friendly terms with the hairbrush. Combing out his coat after a bath is essential to avoid mats.
The introduction is a long process and can take anywhere from a few days to weeks before you can start with the actual grooming process.
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It’s All about the Space
The next thing you should do to acclimate your pet to the dog grooming process is to create a pleasant space. Dogs are different creatures, but for the most part, they feel the same things we feel. If you were subjected to an uncomfortable activity in an even more uncomfortable space, there is a very high likelihood that you will reject it -the same goes for your dog.
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You can create a nice and calming environment by doing a few things. For example, dog nail trimming will require your pet to stay in one place for a while. Get some comfortable blankets or a special cushion or dog bed just for this occasion. Dogs prefer soft and plush items, so look for ones that are extra soft. You can also permeate the space with calming music, we find calming melodies from virtuosos and legendary composers such as Mozart to be helpful.
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Other than filling their auditory senses with tranquil tunes, you can target your pet neurologically as well. Certain scents from diffusers and essential oils are known to have calming effects on humans and animals as well. Some of these scents include chamomile and lavender. You can purchase these aromatic and calming tools from your local pet store.
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Once you have set up the area, let your dog venture in and explore. Let him smell the new pillow, bed, or blanket you chose and get used to the foreign smells. While he’s in the environment, make sure to pet him in a soothing manner, talk in hushed tones and use encouraging words such as “good boy” or “good girl” to let your pet know this is what you want.
Again, an introduction to the space will also take some time. Be sure to give your pet all the time he needs to become accustomed to the area.
Keep Calm and Carry On
We felt it was necessary to point out that your demeanor throughout the entire process will also have an effect on your dog. How to keep a dog calm while grooming will depend on how you set everything up but on your attitude as well. Always maintain a calming presence with no sudden movements and don’t use negative reinforcement. While your dog is exploring the dog grooming area, you can keep your dog calm with hushed tones, soft pets, snuggles, and cuddles.
Encourage your pet to come over to the space instead of grabbing them suddenly and placing them in the area and forbid them from leaving. Your pet will feel trapped and will start to resist grooming time. You can section off the area with a pen, but try your best to get your dog to come to you either by offering treats or words of encouragement.
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Pick the Right Time
When you decide to commence with grooming will also determine your success. For example, a dog that has a ton of pent-up energy will be more resistant to grooming. If you take the time to tire your dog out by taking him running or playing fetch, then he will likely be less resistant. After all, all the breeders, trainers, vets, and other professionals say that a calm dog is a well-behaved dog.
You will definitely be met with less resistance from a dog that burned all his energy. Don’t forget about mental stimulation! Your dog will require mental and physical exercise to be completely tired out.
You don’t have to get through all 20 toes in one sitting. It’s okay to take breaks, especially if it will help your dog accept the process. There is a chance that after all of the steps above, your dog is still anxious during grooming. You can keep him calm during grooming if you do it slowly and not force it onto him. Every successful trim counts, so after each toe or each brush of his fur, encourage him and shower him with love.
All of these steps will help prep your dog for the groomers as well. Be in tune with your dog and know when he needs a break. He will let you know somehow whether it is through whining, trying to get away, or snatching his foot out of your hand. There is no limit to how long the breaks can be. It’s perfectly fine to start grooming during the day and finish off hours later at night – anything goes to keep your dog calm.
Treats and Bribes
Here comes the good part. The best and absolutely the most effective way to keep your dog calm while grooming is with treats. Since grooming needs to be done fairly regularly, we suggest opting for healthier treats that won’t pack on the pounds.
Some examples of this include cookies, peanut butter, and freeze-dried treats. Don’t be stingy with handing out rewards, you need to give something each time your pet makes a stride. When he sets foot in the area – give him a treat. When he sniffs and touches the tool without being scared – give him a treat, so on and so forth.
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Enough is Enough
By adopting some of our suggestions above, you will most likely have an easier time keeping your dog calm during grooming by this time. Dogs are unpredictable creatures, just like we are. Sometimes he may be a little more agitated because of an upset stomach, or a loud sound outside set him off, regardless of the reason, there are times when it will be more difficult to keep your dog calm during grooming.
Knowing when to stop is important so your dog doesn’t feel forced. If you accidentally hurt your dog during grooming, then it’s definitely time to take a break. For example, if you manage to cut quickly during nail trimming, your dog may be very hesitant to continue. Unfortunately, these mishaps may mean you need to start from scratch to introduce the whole process and get your dog to feel comfortable again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do groomers give dogs sedatives?
Sedatives should only be given to your dog with your permission. Sedatives should be administered before you take your dog to the groomers. Not only will the sedatives need time to kick in, but you should be the one to give them to your dog. There are over-the-counter sedatives but always ask your vet before you try them. In fact, you can even ask your vet for a safe prescription if you have a difficult dog.
How do groomers handle difficult dogs?
Groomers handle difficult dogs much like owners would at home. They will continue talking to the dog, giving him plenty of pats and encouragement. For slightly more difficult dogs, your groomer should have the necessary tools such as a grooming table and harness. It will keep resistant dogs in place to make sure they don’t get injured. Don’t worry, the harness is perfectly safe and won’t harm your pet.
For very difficult dogs, some groomers may use a muzzle. There are very anxious pooches that may resort to aggression, and a muzzle may be the only way to contain them.
What are signs of anxiety in dogs?
How do you know if your fur baby is anxious? There are distinctive traits to look for, but for the most part, an anxious dog is very obvious to spot. Barking and howling are two of the most obvious displays of anxiety in dogs. A pet can also exhibit incontinence, anxious bowel relief, shivering and shuddering as well as destruction. For the more serious cases, you may witness self-harm from a canine and even escaping.
It’s unlikely that your pup will show any of the above signs when grooming, save for howling and barking, but it’s still useful to understand what to look for.
Are some breeds more anxious than others?
Every pooch is different, but there are some generalizations we can make about certain breeds. For example, German Shepherds are categorized as “anxious” dogs. However, we would rather put them under the “alert” category.
We have found that their vocalization is mostly due to alertness rather than anxiety. German Shepherds are excellent watchdogs and are sensitive to weird sounds and intruders. Then you have dog breeds that are anxious due to separation anxiety, and these dogs are usually ones that are from clingier breeds. Another name for clingy dogs is Velcro dogs. Velcro breeds include pugs, labs, and many lapdogs.
The key to keeping your pooch calm during grooming is no help him understand that it’s no big deal and it’s a routine effort. Introduce him to the space and tools and shower him with affection and encouragement. Know when to stop if your dog is a bit resistant to the activity, and only resort to sedatives if you have consulted with the trainer and vet and have explored every other option.
Did You Know?
There are natural sedatives that we spoke briefly about. These calming agents include inviting scents, pheromones, and even thunder shirts that can keep your pooch calm during grooming.
If lack the ability to do it yourself, you can let the groomer take care of your dog. Just be sure to keep up with regular grooming visits to maintain your dog’s hygiene and coat health.