How to Brush a Dog That Hates Being Brushed

Medium
10 - 30 Minutes
1 Week

Introduction

Having a challenging dog not only brings challenges to your day-to-day life, but also to things you know must be done, such as brushing out your dog. Brushing a dog who hates to be brushed will take a lot of time and patience on your part. Consider doing the things you hate doing, such as going to the dentist or washing dishes. Your dog feels the same way about being brushed. You know it needs to be done. He knows it needs to be done. But that doesn't make the task any easier. Focus your dog on the rewards he can have during brushing rather than the act he hates. 

Dog's Perspective

You know your dog hates being brushed. So, go into the brushing with empathy and understanding--and lots of treats. Take a slow and gentle approach, and don't expect too much until you've had plenty of time to convince your pup brushing is not as horrible as he might think.

The Brush, Treat, Brush Method

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Slicker Brush
Scissors
Towel
Step
1
Prepare
Arrange a towel or soft bed for your dog to stand or lie down on for your brushing session. Also, prepare yourself with lots of treats to keep your dog happy and engaged or distracted.
Step
2
Position
Sit comfortably with your dog. If you have a medium or large breed, get comfortable with him on the floor. If your dog is smaller, you can have him lie on a towel or bed on a table or counter and sit next to him. Create a relaxing environment for your brushing time.
Step
3
Proper brush
Be sure to have a good brush to do the job right. If your dog has longer fur, consider a slicker brush. Also, be sure to have the right size brush.
Step
4
Scissors for mats
If your dog has mats, it might be easier to remove them with scissors than taking time to brush them out. After this initial mat removal, keep up with brushing to avoid large mats.
Step
5
Treats
Start off by giving your pup a treat. You should have lots of treats on hand for your dog who hates being brushed. Giving him a treat now before brushing will reward him just for tolerating being there and show him how he can earn more treats.
Step
6
Brush
Have your dog sniff his brush and then give him another treat. Start in small sections, brushing your dog in these areas one small area at a time. Get your pup comfortable and brush an area you can get to easily. This could mean brushing one side because the dog is lying on the other. As you move the brush through his fur, offer another treat.
Step
7
Continue
Keep brushing in small areas while giving your dog a treat every few strokes with the brush. This will keep him focused on eating treats and worrying less about being brushed. The first few times you are able to brush your brush-hating dog, you may only be able to brush a few small sections at a time.
Step
8
Reposition
To get to the other side of your dog, use a treat to re-position him. If he’s smaller, you may be able to pick him up and turn him around or over or stand him up to be able to brush the other side. If he’s larger, you may need to stand yourself to get him to stand and then use a treat to have him lie down the opposite way. Treat and repeat brushing in small sections.
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The Puzzle Toy Method

Effective
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Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Step
1
Introduce brush
Pick the perfect brush for your dog. Try to stick with one brush while he is getting used to being brushed on a regular basis. Show your dog the brush and let him sniff it. Each time you bring the brush to his fur, let him sniff it first until he no longer cares.
Step
2
Distract
Distract your pup with a new toy such as a treat puzzle toy or a Kong filled with peanut butter. Let him play with this and then show him the brush again. He shouldn’t be too interested in the brush because, unlike the treat toy, it offers no food.
Step
3
Brush
Brush a small area with the brush. Talk to your dog the entire time you are brushing. Talk about his treat toy or the weather, just keep him focused on the treat and otherwise distracted.
Step
4
Move to reposition
When it is time to brush areas you cannot reach, distract your dog by moving the treat toy. You can take this opportunity to refill it or just reposition the dog to get to the other side.
Step
5
Repeat
Keep brushing as you did before distracting your dog with treats, the puzzle toy, and your soothing voice.
Step
6
Redirect
If your dog takes his attention away from the puzzle toy and is concerned with what you are doing while brushing, give him a different treat. Be sure to let him sniff the brush every so often so he knows it doesn’t offer anything better than the treats in front of him.
Step
7
Patience
It may take time to get your entire dog brushed, especially if he really hates brushing. He might not care too much about the treat toy if he hates brushing even more. But keep practicing with him and eventually, he’ll get that, with repetition and wonderful rewards in the puzzle toy, brushing isn’t so bad.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • One thing to remember with your dog who hates being brushed is that he can't always communicate to you how he feels, such as why he hates to be brushed.
  • The best way to approach a dog who hates being brushed is with love and understanding. This means food for many dogs and patience for others.
  •  Bring lots of treats to your brushing session.
  •  For the first several times you brush your dog who hates to be brushed, brush in small sections at a time.
  • If your dog is matted, work on only the knots and mats until they are all out before you brush your dog from head to tail. Cutting large mats with scissors is faster than brushing. The impatient dog who hates brushing might find cutting mats easier until he allows regular grooming.
  • Working in sections means your dog doesn't have to sit still and be miserable for an entire brushing all at one time.
  • Don't hesitate to give your dog a reward for tolerating a brush in his fur for even just a few seconds at a time. The first several times you commit to brushing your dog, you should plan to go through a lot of treats.
  • Be patient with your dog. He's doing something he does not enjoy. Showing frustration and anger will upset him and set you both back. 

Conclusion

Brushing can put you in the dog house with your pooch. But keep your brushing sessions light and rewarding with fun treats or toys filled with high-value treats. Keeping your dog engaged with rewards rather than focused on the act of brushing will keep him looking fur-tastic.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Grooming Questions & Answers

Question
Riggins
Havanese
3 Years
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Question
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Riggins
Havanese
3 Years

We just adopted this 3 1/2 year old female. She is a sweetheart; gentle as a lamb. BUT when I try to brush her she growls and tries to nip me. She HATES it and won't let me brush her. What can I do? I'm afraid I can't even bring her to a groomer!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hi Lauren, congratulations on your adoption of little Riggins (love the name!). She may have had a bad grooming experience before you came along in her life. I would suggest on an evening after a long walk, to let her relax on the couch with you and try a short brushing session. Praise her, then stop. Each night, just give her a few brushes. If you discover an area where she does not seem to mind it, keep practicing there. Another family member can distract her with a treat, perhaps at the same time. Research a groomer that is used to working with dogs that express fear and aggression. They will probably recommend a few short visits to start. Lastly, make sure that Riggins has a vet checkup to rule out arthritis or another issue that may cause her pain while being brushed. Good luck!

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Question
Reya
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
8 Months
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Question
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Reya
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
8 Months

I'm not sure what type of brush to use on my corgi puppy. Since she sheds so much and hates being brushed, I wanted to find a brush that was effective. All her puppy fur is grown out. Which type of brush would work best for her corgi fur?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hello, you will want to use a brush that can work its way through all of her thick fur. Either a slicker brush or pin brush should do the trick. The pin brush may be a tad more effective, but make sure the brush is not sharp. To get Reya used to being brushed, brush her just 2 minutes a day, going over a different section each time. Then the length of time is short and not much for her to handle. As she gets used to it, you can add a few minutes each time. Finish brushing sessions with praise and a special treat, and soon she'll associate a good thing with the brushing. All the best!

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Question
Rio
Husky
5 Years
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Question
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Rio
Husky
5 Years

My dog hates being brushed; She barks, growls, pulls, and tries to run away if I touch her with a brush. She starts getting riled up if she even sees the brush. She is also a pretty big dog, so I don't want to force her into doing something that causes her so much stress. I've tried treats, but her hatred of the brush outweighs her want for them. She is shedding SO MUCH, and really needs to be brushed, as her fur is literally clumping together in giant tufts. I don't know how to help her! She's a really sweet dog, and she's even gentle enough to play with my 3yo, she just hates brushing! (she's also a sort of short-haired husky if that makes any difference.)

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I agree this can be a problem! Have you tried a metal comb? It may look less daunting than a brush. Or even better, try a grooming glove. The glove fits on your hand and has soft rubber nubs that are quite effective in removing hair. Then, Rio may be more cooperative as she may think she is getting patted instead of brushed. Try giving her a bath in a kiddie pool outside if it's warm enough where you live. The bath may help remove fur as well. Good luck!

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Question
Fauci
mixed terrier
6 Months
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Question
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Fauci
mixed terrier
6 Months

My 6 month old pup does not like to be brushed. He is a terrier mix with mostly short hair but a scattering of longer coarse hairs on his face sides. We have tried a slicker brush and a bristle brush. We introduced each of these slowly and with treats and rewarded sniffing and tolerating light brushing. He did okay until we hit the tangles and the brush made noise. When this happens he turns around and bites the brush (mouths on it). Even if I take the bush away or put it down he bites on it. This has been going on for each brushing session for a couple of months. Am I using the wrong brush? Does it hurt him? How can I make him more comfortable and stop mouthing the brush?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hello, try spraying a detangler on the areas not near the face. This may help make the brushing go more smoothly. If you are working on the face, apply some of the spray directly to the brush. If Fauci seems nervous of the spray, spray it on the brush in an area away from him, and then return to him to do the brushing. (This may require an assistant while you spray the brush on the other side of the room.) The brush type is fine in my opinion, but when brushing an area that is tangled, try to work through the tangles with a spray and your fingers. I don't think it will hurt Fauci, but the pulling on the tangles may be irritating and uncomfortable. Take a look at this guide for a few tips: https://wagwalking.com/grooming/brush-tangled-dog-hair. Keep up the grooming - it's best to persevere so he doesn't begin to be more difficult when being groomed. Good luck and all the best to Fauci!

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Question
Beasley
Miniature Schnauzer
1 Year
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Question
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Beasley
Miniature Schnauzer
1 Year

I have a mini schnauzer who is just over a year old and is normally the sweetest angel, but when I try and brush him he basically turns into an evil, bitey, monster. His hair gets SO matted so easily and it has to be brushed practically daily, but he is an absolute nightmare to brush. I have tried a steel comb to work through the mats, I have tried a wire bristle brush, and a normal hairbrush too. None of them seem to work, and he just gets angry every time I attempt to brush him. I have tried slowly doing it every day to get him to be okay with it, with treats and toys and all, and he just isn't having it. I am tired of him having to be shaved every time he gets groomed because they can't brush him either since he is so mean about it.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hello, you may need to have a trainer come in to work with Beasley on this. You seem to be doing everything right! Can you try wiping him with pet wipes every couple of days to try and smooth out the tangles? Another option is to try a fur detangler that you spray on first, enabling the brush to move through the tangles more smoothly. Chances are Beasley gets angry because of the mats pulling on the skin as he's brushed and he's a bit sensitive about it. Try the Puzzle Treats Method described here step by step to see if that makes the process any better. (It mentions peanut butter - remember to make sure there is no xylitol in the peanut butter as it is extremely toxic to dogs!). Good luck and all the best to little Beasley!

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