Dog grooming is an important task to ensure your dog has good hygiene and feels comfortable. It can also make their coats look wonderful and stop them from looking dirty. This task can be incredibly difficult if you have a dog anxious about the process. They may pull their paws away, try to bite, or just wriggle off the grooming table. Injury to you and the dog are very real risks if they are not calm. So if you are wondering how to keep a dog calm while grooming, we have methods to discuss.
In order to make sure that your dog is calm while grooming, it will take patience, training, and ideally working with them from a young age. However, if you have an anxious older dog, there are still options for you to try.
So let’s take a look, shall we?
Familiarize Them with Grooming Equipment
A lot of time a fear originates from not knowing much about something or it being new. Then unknown can be scary! If a dog that has never been groomed is suddenly having their legs pulled about, loud clippers near its face, and being bathed in a loud area, it is understandable that it may not be calm. Getting them gradually used to the equipment, a grooming studio, as well as handling and restraint can help them to feel calmer.
To start with it is a good idea to get your dog used to handling. Touching their ears, holding their paws, and using positive reinforcement to help them learn it is a good thing will help. This will allow a dog groomer to trim their ear fur and cut their nails with less difficulty. Then you can move on to the equipment. Allow your dog to smell the equipment and hold it around different parts of its body and head. Don’t turn it on yet. Take it step by step until you can progress to a point where you can turn it on. Then be sure to praise them! Don’t move to the next step until they are completely happy with the first. Soon your dog will feel much calmer.
Play Calming Music
Did you know that music does not only help reduce anxiety, but every dog has their own favorite style of music? A study found this and this can help us to reduce a dog’s stress. Moreover, it can also give them a positive association with the grooming environment. You can play them some calming music before and during the grooming process to help them reduce their stress. You can also consider firstly creating a positive association with a song or style of music. If your dog loves to play, play this song during every play session. Similarly, if they like to eat, play it during meal times. When they hear this song they will have a positive association of it. Then, you can play it while grooming. You can even ask your dog groomer for them to play it, and it will likely help them to feel better.
If your dog has a favorite song or music genre, then you do not need to create a positive association necessarily. As your dog already likes the song, when it is playing they may focus on this and relax about the grooming. See if you can create a playlist for your dog’s grooming session. That way it is not the same song on repeat each time.
Groom After Playtime
If your dog has a lot of energy then they are more likely to put this into negative behaviors. In the case of grooming, they may show stress or anxiety during a session. The less energy they have before they are in a grooming session, the less they are likely to expel into anxious energy. Therefore, if you can take your dog for a long walk, or give them a long play session beforehand, this may help them to be calmer during grooming.
Try to find what exercise your dog enjoys the most and run with that. Some dogs prefer to play fetch, use chew toys, or engage with enriching toys. Others prefer walks. Finding their favorite exercise is the best way to engage them for a long session to tire them out. If your dog does not particularly want a walk, but loves to play, then grab a toy and spend a while with them! Be sure to get up with them, maybe play a fun game of chase with them. By moving yourself with them they are more likely to engage in movement and wear themselves out.
Give Them Treats
The use of positive reinforcement is crucial to help a dog behave well during a difficult time. It is a way of getting your dog to associate good behavior during grooming with getting a reward. Then, after enough training, they will naturally behave this way. To begin, it may be praising your dog or giving them a treat for letting you hold the tools around them. Promote this to brushing them, holding clippers around them, and even being in a grooming studio. Eventually, your dog will be ready to go to a grooming studio.
There are just two factors to consider. Firstly, you need to make sure that does not progress to the next step of training until your dog is completely calm without treats. If your dog cannot be groomed calmly, even with a little training, then you need to continue on this stage until your dog is happy. You also need to think about the treats. They can quickly lead to weight gain and poor teeth depending on the content and frequency you give the treats. Consider other forms of positive reinforcement as well including verbal praise, toys, and cuddles.
Stop When Needed
It is completely okay that your dog may need a break during grooming. Refer to the canine ladder of aggression to see signs of growing stress and discomfort so you can allow your dog to rest a little before things become too much. Even if you can still groom your dog and they won’t bite, they may still be in discomfort and be feeling a lot of stress. Taking a break does not mean you have a bad dog, nor does it mean they are poorly trained. Some need more time to become comfortable, and others may have trauma which leads to a negative view of things such as loud noises or being touched.
Having patience is key. Furthermore, forcing your dog into an unpleasant situation is more likely to create a negative association. Thereby leaving your dog feeling vulnerable and anxious going into a grooming salon. Taking time with your dog’s training and grooming sessions will allow them to behave better in the future. Turning off equipment or letting them have a brief walk outside the studio can help them be ready to try again.
Keeping Dogs Calm During Grooming: FAQ
Here are a few more pieces of information to help you feel comfortable on the topic of grooming your nervous dog.
Dogs will almost always feel better after grooming. It cuts away a lot of weight holding them back, they are also likely to feel cooler. Too much fur can be uncomfortable and lead to heavy knotting as well. They may feel their fur being pulled constantly and it brings a lot of discomfort. Having the knots and excess weight removed can help movement and comfort. It also improves their cleanliness and allows them to feel better. If their fur is soaked in urine or dirt due to many possible reasons, they may feel a lot better being clean. If they have been unable to clean themselves due to mobility issues or a long coat, then a good groom will help.
You can only shave certain breeds of dog. We strongly recommend avoiding those with double coats unless a groomer recommends doing so. The double coat will never grow back in the same manner and you can have reoccurring coat issues after doing so. Some dogs with double coats include the Siberian Husky, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, and many others.
Each groomer has its own method. However, some of the most common ways to deal with an aggressive dog are to place a towel on their face, use a loop, or muzzle. These methods don’t hurt your dog but are used to restrain them so the groomer is not bitten or injured.
You can groom your dog at home. However, know that this is difficult to do well, and often, safely. We recommend undertaking some training to be able to groom your dog properly. Furthermore, check that you are using the right tools for your dog as different fur types, and areas require different care.
As long as your dog is taken to an understanding groomer, and you help them get used to what you can at home, no. However, bad groomers combined with a dog not being gradually introduced to grooming can lead to a lot of anxiety and fear. It is an area with a lot of noise, movement, and new experiences which can lead to a large amount of fear. Especially when they experience it in one go.
Having patience and getting your dog gradually used to all the elements of grooming can help them to be calm. Do not force them into the situation to make them get better, it will likely cause anxiety and even aggression. If you can get your dog used to grooming at a young age it will help set them up for a lifetime.