How to Calm a Dog Before Grooming

Medium
10 - 30 Minutes
2 Weeks

Introduction

There is little sadness like watching your dog shake, urinate uncontrollably, whine, or wince because he is about to be groomed. Whether your dog is terrified of your groomer or shaking on the floor or table in front of you as you get out your scissors, clippers, and brushes for his regular grooming, you'll need to calm him before you or your groomer can begin. 

Your dog could be anxious for a lot of reasons. The trick to calming your dog before a grooming session will be turning the idea of grooming from a scary experience to a fun and rewarding one. Spend some extra time with your dog showing him the tools for grooming when it is not time for a grooming session. Just a few minutes every day doing touch checks on your dog so he gets used to being handled in similar ways as he is when he's groomed will help to calm him before future groomings.

Dog's Perspective

Try to be patient with your anxious dog before grooming. He's letting you know he is scared or concerned and the best way to help him get through that is to understand and be empathetic. You can offer him treats and rewards and kind words. But over time, the best solution is to get him used to the grooming so he knows what to expect and is no longer anxious.

The Lots of Treats Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Toothbrush
Step
1
Before grooming
You'll want to condition your dog to understand what is happening to him during a grooming procedure and get used to it while expecting to be safe and rewarded at the same time. Before you start grooming your dog, start with behavioral training solely based on touch and reward.
Step
2
Touch and treat
Practice touching your dog in various places where he will likely be groomed, such as his mouth, his face, his paws, his ears, or his tummy. Give him a treat after each touch.
Step
3
Practice
Continue to condition your dog to get used to being touched in normal grooming procedures while treating him very quickly after each touch. Do this several times to condition your dog's behavior. If you have a professional groomer, have them do this as well before grooming sessions to calm your dog.
Step
4
During grooming
Start your grooming process off slow and continue to treat your dog during each procedure. This might mean your dog gets lots of treats during his bath and even more during brushing.
Step
5
Break up tasks
If you can break up your grooming tasks over two different days or different sessions that will help keep your dog calm and tolerant of grooming sessions. For instance, brush your dog's teeth on a different day than cutting his nails.
Step
6
Praise and rewards
Even though you were giving your dog lots of treats during grooming, be sure to give him lots of calm verbal praise and high-value reward at the end of every grooming session.
Recommend grooming method?

The Tool Conditioning Method

Effective
0 Votes
Scissors
Pin Brush
Comb
Clipper
Toothbrush
Step
1
Grooming tools
Bring your grooming tools out and sit down with your dog for a grooming tool conditioning session before grooming. This will get your dog used to the tools you use for grooming without using actually them for the grooming tasks.
Step
2
Get comfortable
Sit on the floor on a comfortable blanket or soft bedding with your dog and your grooming tools behind you.
Step
3
Introduce tools
Introduce grooming tools to your dog one at a time. Bring out a set of clippers or a pair of scissors and set them in front of your dog and give him a treat. Without touching them, let your dog sniff them. When he does so, give him a treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this for every tool you have behind your back until all of the grooming tools you use on your dog from brushes and combs to clippers and scissors and even toothbrushes or cotton balls you may use for cleaning ears, are sitting in between you and your dog. Continue to not touch them. Just let them sit so your dog can explore and sniff. Be sure to treat him as he sniffs.
Step
5
Hold tools
One by one, hold each tool up to your dog's nose and let him sniff it while it's in your hand. You will condition him to understand you will be holding these tools and he will still be safe. Each time he lets you hold a tool in your hand and sniffs it without showing anxiety, give him a treat.
Step
6
Use tools
Without the goal of grooming your dog in mind, plan to use each one of these tools in some way with your dog so he can hear them, feel them on his skin or in his fur, and see how they will be used on him.
Step
7
Tools in place
One at a time, pick your tool and do one thing with it with your dog. For instance, turn the clippers on and just hold them up against your dog's skin so he can feel the vibration. You don't need to clip any fur at this point. Use the toothbrush and just set it gently inside his mouth. Don't brush his teeth, just show him where it will go.
Step
8
Grooming
When it's time to actually groom your dog, only bring out the tools you plan to use for that session. You may just need to brush or you may need clippers or scissors and a brush, or you may only need a toothbrush, for instance. Let your dog sniff the tool and give him a treat. Slowly use the tool for a grooming procedure for a moment and then give your dog a treat.
Step
9
Continue
Continue to use this particular grooming tool to groom your dog while constantly treating your dog. A good way to avoid having to give your dog a bunch of tiny little treats is to hold a larger treat in your fist with just enough hanging out for your dog to chew on. For instance, you could wrap up some deli meats in your fist and leave just enough hanging out for your dog to stick his nose in and chew while you are brushing his body.
Step
10
Practice
Practice some kind of short grooming tasks every day with your dog, using the treat and groom method to condition him to go into a grooming session calm and relaxed and knowing what to expect. Keep those rewards coming as your dog is learning as well as once he's a bit calmer before each session.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • You can talk to your veterinarian about calming aids or even light sedatives if your dog is highly anxious before being groomed.
  • Behavior-based training takes time and patience. If you want your dog to be calmer when it's time to be groomed, focusing on behavior-based training is crucial. But you need to have the commitment and the time to do it consistently in order for your dog to learn from it.
  • Dogs who are overly anxious can be a danger to themselves and to the people around them, especially their groomer. Take this anxiety seriously and help your dog calm down before its time for the procedure.
  • Never underestimate the power of a high-value treat.
  • Your dog will work pretty hard for just about any delicious food. You do not need to take a huge bag full of treats to your grooming sessions, your pup will only require small bits of food to stay focused,¬†motivated, and¬†distracted from the procedure.
  • If you're using a professional groomer, have your groomer get involved in your behavioral training with your dog so your dog understands this training also works when your groomer is the person in charge as well.

Conclusion

Your dog is no scaredy-cat, but it's obvious he has some pent-up anxiety and tension when it comes to grooming sessions. Make these sessions easy for him to get through by offering him a calm environment, a soft tone when speaking to him, patience, and lots of tasty treats to help him get through any task.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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