How to Cut a Nervous Dog's Hair

Medium
15 - 20 Minutes
1 Week

Introduction

You have a dog who may be anxious about everything from every noise to any person or animal who crosses his path. You can bet if your little guy has high anxieties every day, he’s going to be nervous when it’s time for a haircut. The trick to making your nervous dog comfortable during a haircut is to introduce him to the tools and the actions before you dive into cutting his hair. Once he understands these strange looking scissors, brushes, and clippers are not going to hurt him but will instead, provide him comfort when he feels lighter and better with a new haircut, he will eventually begin to lighten up a little--at least when it comes to cutting his hair, if not other things.

Dog's Perspective

Anxiety is a serious disorder for many dogs. It’s not easy for some dogs to deal with grooming tasks because they don’t understand what could potentially happen. These dogs might be nervous about anything and everything, or they may only be nervous about getting their haircut. Either way, take this anxiety seriously and provide your little guy with lots of comfort.

The Lower Nerves Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Scissors
Pin Brush
Comb
Clipper
Step
1
Acclimate
Show your dog each tool you plan to use for cutting his hair. To avoid overwhelming your pup, introduce one at a time.
Step
2
Sounds
If your tool makes a noise, like clippers, turn it on and let your dog hear the sounds it makes. At first, don’t place the tool near his body, just let him listen. Only leave it on for as long as he can handle. Once he’s listened for a moment, give him a treat.
Step
3
Vibration
If the tool vibrates like clippers do, turn the tool on and let your dog feel the vibration against his skin. Don’t place it on his skin to groom, just against his leg or side so he can feel how it works on his body. Give him a treat after letting him feel one tool at a time.
Step
4
Feeling
If you re using a tool such as brushes or scissors that don’t make a loud noise, place them against the skin in the same fashion so he can see they won’t hurt. With scissors, consider opening and closing several times so he can hear the sound they make before placing them against his skin.
Step
5
Every time
Each time you groom your dog, use a different tool if possible until you have gotten your dog acclimated to all the tools you have and will be using. When possible, only use one at a time and keep your grooming tasks quick.
Step
6
Rewards
Be sure to give your dog rewards as he completes each step of acclimating to every tool. While grooming him, also reward him during the task.
Recommend grooming method?

The Set the Stage Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Scissors
Pin Brush
Clipper
Step
1
Timing
Try grooming your dog late at night after a busy day and evening exercise. He’ll be tired and ready to sleep. Some owners even wait until their nervous dog is asleep to do simple tasks like trimming or brushing.
Step
2
Ambiance
Lower the lights so you can see but so the room is relaxing as well.
Step
3
Diffuse
Diffuse oils such as lavender in the room or light a candle away from your dog with a relaxing scent.
Step
4
Music
Play sounds of nature music such as running water or waves breaking to help your dog relax.
Step
5
Distractions
Turn off the television and remove any distractions such as other pets or people from the room before you begin grooming. If you have someone in your home who can talk softly to your dog or pet him gently to keep him calm while grooming, keep that person around.
Step
6
Cut
Use your scissors and one comb or brush and quietly cut your pup’s hair while he’s resting or relaxing. Go slow and at first, only do a few cuts at a time. Over time, he will allow more to be cut.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • When introducing grooming tools to your nervous dog, focus on one tool at a time.
  • Avoid overwhelming your dog with a pile of grooming tools in front of him. He will be unable to focus on the one tool you are showing him because he’ll be worried about everything else in the pile that you are ignoring.
  • Be prepared for the first several times you groom your nervous dog to not get very far in your task. You may need to groom small sections at a time or just get him used to what the tools do and how they sound and feel before you are able to cut any hair. 
  • Never underestimate the power of treats when it comes to making your dog feel slightly better.
  • You can set an ambiance for an anxious dog by keeping lights low, keeping distractions low, turning on soft calming music or sounds of nature, and even diffusing oil such as lavender to create a calm environment.
  • Though your dog may need a haircut, it's more important to give him time to get used to the activity than to have him looking perfect right away. 
  • Consider cutting only areas that must be cut, rather than his whole coat, as you are training him to tolerate grooming.

Conclusion

A scared or nervous dog can be misunderstood. He can also cause you or himself injury during his haircut. The trick to making him comfortable is to give him more control. When he feels in control, he's more likely to allow those scary scissors near him. Introduce him slowly to your grooming tools and give him time to process each task.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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