How to Brush a Small Dog That Hates Being Brushed

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Medium
5 - 10 Minutes
3 Week

Introduction

Pete the Pomeranian has a problem. He hates being brushed and being a small, indoor, lap dog with lots of fluffy long hair, that creates a serious issue for his owners. Whenever they pull out the brush to groom him, Pete runs and hides under the nearest piece of furniture, where his owners can't reach him. When they do nab him, he struggles and even snaps at them while they try to brush him.  

Not brushing Pete is not an option; his coat requires brushing or it will become matted and create sores on his body, besides being unsightly. Pete’s owners were not his original owners, and they are unsure of his history, or why he hates brushing so much, but they need a solution regardless. Pete’s aversion to brushing might be because he had a negative experience with it, either someone frightened or hurt him while brushing, or he may just not like the sensation of being brushed. 

Regardless of why your dog doesn't like brushing, it will be up to you to find a way to successfully get him brushed and “change the story” so that your dog comes to enjoy being brushed instead of hating it. There are several options for brushing small dogs that are not always available to their larger counterparts, and the ability to hold a small dog on your lap can be helpful.

Dog's Perspective

If your small dog does not like being brushed it may be because he has had a bad experience with being brushed in the past. A dog that has had his hair pulled when having knots removed or being brushed, may associate brushing with pain. Or if he was rushed into being brushed as a puppy, may have had a frightening experience. This may make your little dog uncomfortable with being brushed and send him scurrying for cover whenever he sees the brush. However, if you have a long-haired dog, brushing is a necessity to keep his coat healthy and prevent mats that will cause skin sores if left. Working to acclimate your small dog to being brushed, so he is not frightened and learns that you will not hurt him, will eventually teach your small dog that brushing does not have to be avoided.

The Techniques and Equipment Method

Effective
0 Votes
Spray
Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Step
1
Use soft brush
Make sure you use a brush in good condition, with no ends missing that will poke your dog. Use a soft bristled brush at first that is appropriate for your dogs hair coat, such as a soft slicker or pin brush.
Step
2
Use detangler
Use detangler or sprinkle cornstarch on your dog's coat prior to brushing to lubricate hair so that it will not tangle and be pulled while brushing, resulting in friction and pain.
Step
3
Create security
Hold your small dog gently but securely on your lap. Be firm but gentle, have an assistant help hold him if possible. Avoid punishing or yelling at your dog for avoiding brushing. Instead, work quickly, calmly and confidently.
Step
4
Carefully work on knots
When you come to a knot or tangle, hold the hair between the dog's skin and the knot to avoid putting tension on the skin. Work the knot out with your fingers, or trim out if necessary to avoid pulling on your small dog's skin.
Step
5
Take breaks
Keep sessions short, take lots of breaks, so as not stress out your small dog with brushing.
Recommend grooming method?

The Acclimatize Method

Effective
0 Votes
Pin Brush
Step
1
Get new brushes
If your dog avoids being brushed, first get rid of all your old brushes, regardless of whether they are appropriate or not, as a negative association has been created. Obtain all new brushes that look different from the old ones.
Step
2
Provide treat
Let your dog investigate the brushes. When he does, provide a high value treat.
Step
3
Associate feeding
When your dog is eating, put new brushes near his dish. Gradually start picking them up and touching him with the brushes during feeding, run the back of brush along his coat, not the bristle side, so he gets used to the brush. Eventually runs the bristles gently over his fur while feeding.
Step
4
Pair with petting
Hold your small dog on your lap and pet with the new brush nearby, gradually pick up the brush and touch your small dog. Turn it upside down and run it against his fur bristle side up, then run bristles over his fur, gently intersperse with petting and praise.
Step
5
Take breaks
Start brushing your small dog on your lap. When he gets restless or seems upset, give him a treat, brush a few seconds more, then stop. Pick up brushing another time. This avoids over taxing your small dog, yet does not teach him that he is in control of brushing time.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Do not punish your small dog for avoiding being brushed as this just increases negative behavior and fear.
  • Make sure the tools being used are appropriate for your dog's hair coat.  If your small dog has a thick coat use a wide-toothed brush, with no ends missing and soft bristles if necessary.
  • Use products to make brushing easier, like detanglers.
  • Be patient, take breaks, and create positive associations with treats.
  • Be careful for yourself or others assisting you. If your small dog hates being brushed he may be prone to nip while being brushed. Hold your dog's head away or muzzle him if necessary.

Conclusion

While most dogs love to be brushed, some dogs seem to have developed an aversion due to negative experiences with brushing in the past.Working to acclimate your small dog to brushing equipment, pairing with rewards, and using the correct equipment and techniques to minimize discomfort will all help you to brush your brush-hating pup. With a  small dog, the option to hold your dog on your lap may be beneficial, as your small dog may find this a comforting place and it allows you to incorporate brushing with petting and access your little dog easier.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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