How to Groom a Dog with Anxiety

Medium
1 - 2 Hour
1 Month

Introduction


Ever had a dog that was terrified of being groomed, or going to the groomer?  If your dog runs and hides under the bed whenever you bring out the brush or the nail trimmer, or starts shaking when you pull up in the car in front of the groomer's, what can you do to make your dog more comfortable with being groomed?

Dogs show anxiety in several ways; they may breathe faster, pant, whine, shake, hide if possible, or even become aggressive. A dog that is trying to escape or becomes aggressive is especially difficult to groom and poses a danger to himself. Some grooming implements are sharp, and a dog that will not hold still could be inadvertently injured. If the dog bites or scratches out of fear, they could injure the person grooming them. Either way, your dog will not be very popular with the person doing the grooming!  

If you are trying to groom your dog, his being anxious can make the process much longer, and no fun at all. Finding ways to mitigate or overcome anxiety while grooming a dog is necessary to keep everyone safe and get your dog more comfortable with the process. There are several steps you can take to make grooming an anxious dog easier and safer for everyone involved.

Dog's Perspective

Dogs can be anxious about grooming for a variety of reasons.  Your dog may have had a bad experience in the past. Common negative experiences include having nails clipped too short into the quick, which is very painful, having razor burn from clippers that get too hot or from being shaved to close to the skin, or having hair pulled during removal of mats and knots. If your dog has had a previous bad experience, working to create a more positive association with grooming may be helpful. Other dogs are just plain anxious about new situations or strange people, or don't like being handled and manipulated during grooming, especially in a strange place by a strange person. Addressing previous fears or your dog's natural tendencies through medication, behavioral techniques, and physical aids will help make the experience more pleasant for your dog, and hopefully, as time goes by your dog's anxiety will diminish as they have positive interactions while being groomed.

The Desensitize Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Clipper
Step
1
Touch
Handle your dog daily. Massage your dog, touch your dog on all parts of his body, especially delicate, sensitive parts like the groin, belly, and paws. Run your hands all over. Manipulate legs and between toes. Touch the ears and mouth.
Step
2
Groom while feeding
Keep sessions short and work up to longer sessions. Groom often, during feeding and during play.
Step
3
Provide treats
Provide high value treats to your dog while grooming, when your dog is being quiet and still. Associate treats with grooming tools.
Step
4
Gentle and firm
When grooming daily, talk calmly to your dog, be gentle and firm. Praise your dog for being quiet and calm, reprimand firmly by saying "no" when your dog is trying to escape or moving during grooming. Do not reprimand for exhibiting anxiety, only for behavior like growling or moving.
Step
5
Introduce tools
Go slow to desensitize your dog. Start by brushing with a gentle brush and work your way up to harder more invasive brushes and tools. Run a set of clippers next to your dog so they get used to the noise of the clippers. This will get your dog used to the sound of clippers and being handled so they are less anxious at professional grooming appointments.
Recommend grooming method?

The Mitigate Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Scissors
Nail Clipper
Comb
Clipper
Step
1
Seek medical advice
Rule out medical conditions that are causing stress or pain during grooming. Arthritis and skin or ear infections may cause pain that needs addressing. Talk to your vet about providing sedation to your dog if required. Start with the mildest medication such as Benadryl or Melatonin. If these are not adequate, try a sedative prescribed by your veterinarian such as Acepromazine. In severe cases, where a dog urgently needs grooming and is extremely fearful, such as can occur with a rescue dog, general sedation may be an option. If using general anesthesia, remember the dog cannot react to show you if he is experiencing pain or discomfort and special care should be taken not to hurt the dog while grooming.
Step
2
Protect from bites
Restrain and protect yourself and your groomer from aggressive tendencies. A dog that is liable to bite or scratch from fear may need to be muzzled. A basket muzzle may be required during grooming to protect the groomer if this is the case. Groomers should hold the dog against their body with the dog's muzzle pointing away from them to minimize the possibility of being bitten.
Step
3
Secure
If your dog struggles to hide or escape during grooming, the dog could become injured. Restrain the dog with an appropriate neck restraint or harness during grooming. Providing the dog with a grippy mat on the grooming table may also make the dog more comfortable and less likely to struggle during grooming.
Step
4
Go slow
Start with brushing or massaging an anxious dog. Let dogs investigate and sniff tools. Slowly introduce grooming tools; run clippers to get the dog used to the noise before using or use silent clippers that do not make frightening noises. Go slow, be gentle, make sure clippers and blow dryers are not too hot.
Step
5
Schedule at less busy times
Schedule grooming appointments for anxious dogs at professional groomers where and when other dogs are not present. Other dogs make noise and can increase your dog's anxiety. Sometimes playing soft relaxing music calms a dog down.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Make sure the dog does not have a medical condition that is causing discomfort before grooming.

  • Ensure that appropriate equipment is used. Nail clippers should be sharp so that will not crush nails, precautions should be taken so that clippers and dryers do not run too hot, and start by using soft brushes that do not cause discomfort with friction.

  • Use a muzzle to protect the groomer if required.

  • Make sure the dog has good traction so they do not slip and appropriate restraint so they can not escape or jump off the grooming table and injure themselves.

  • Take time and use patience so as not to cause further anxiety. Never use punishment to correct an anxious dog, as this will increase anxiety. Be firm and gentle.

Conclusion

If your dog is more of a scaredy cat than a dog at grooming time, you will need to take some precautions to make grooming time safer and more comfortable for you and your dog. A little consideration and time to create positive associations with grooming time and equipment will go a long way. Remember, you do not want to do anything to increase your dog's anxiety. Have patience and keep yourself, your groomer, and your dog, safe by creating a calm, positive experience that will have your dog loving, or at the very least not hating, being groomed!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions