How to Groom a Dog with Anxiety

1 - 2 Hour
1 Month


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.

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.


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

Grooming Questions & Answers

Kandi Kane
long haired chihuahua
3 Years
1 found helpful
1 found helpful
Kandi Kane
long haired chihuahua
3 Years

My dog will not let me brush her any longer or put her harness on. I need to get her groomed but she goes into these anxiety fits where she can’t breathe well and goes in circles for hours. How can I get her groomed? She has feces built up on her behind and her nails are so long she limps. I feel horrible but don’t know what to do.

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

Thank you for the question. I am sorry to hear that Kandi Kane is having these issues. The first thought that comes to mind is that a vet visit may be the step you need to take. She used to let you brush her and now will not. Why? I think a checkup at the vet may give you an answer. Kandi Kane could have a medical issue such as a dental problem or an injury that you cannot see and that could contribute to the behavior. The vet can also advise you on her anxiety and give advice on how to deal with that. The pain due to long nails could also be associated with the grooming anxiety. The vet can maybe sedate her, cut the nails, and cut the feces out of the fur. I'm not a vet, but I think it may be possible. All the best!

Thank you for your response. I knew I would have to take her to a vet. You just saying those words confirmed it for me. But to answer your question about why she won’t let me brush her or harness her, the harness is because she got spooked when a neighbor tried to attack us both she tried to bite him when he did and then he got in his car and tried to run us over and I yanked her up from the ground. She has no broken bones or ailments from that at all already had her checked out. But the brushing I’m not sure. She let me give her baths and brush her before that so maybe she just lost it all during that chaos. He was a grumpy old person that didn’t like dogs I suppose and had a bad day and we were the ones there for him to take it out on. I never seen him again or even before that so who knows. But I am going to the vet with her to have them sedate her or something. Last time at the vet they returned her to me after. Killing her nails and shots with a mess all over her behind. They didn’t even clean her up first. So a new vet here we come. Thanks again. I’ll keep you posted. I love her so much. I’ll take care of it somehow. Stay safe and healthy. Talk soon.

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