How to Groom a Dog without Being Bitten

Hard
5 - 60 Minutes
1 Week

Introduction

Does the idea of grooming your dog cause you to tremble in fear because he likes to bite anyone who even thinks about brushing him or trimming his nails? Often, this difficulty starts off with a single bad experience. Maybe the person trying to brush him was being too rough and it hurt (creating that "hated" brush in your pup's mind). Maybe someone trimmed his nails too short and they bled. No matter the cause, things like this tend to stick in your pup's mind and make him afraid the next time. 

Dog's Perspective

Your dog probably learned to hate being groomed through a single incident such as those above. The mere idea of being groomed sends him into a state of fear and anxiety. He really isn't mad at you, he is mostly just scared and trying to tell you in the only way he knows how. The good news is that with a little time, effort, and patience, you can reach the point at which your pup will let you groom him while he patiently waits for you to make him look his best. 

The Acclimation Method

Most Recommended
5 Votes
Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Deshedder
Dematter
Comb
Step
1
Keep things short
Keep his grooming sessions short at first and start out when he is still a puppy if possible. If he is an adult and has suddenly started biting, you need to determine what caused this onset. You may have to start by showing him the brush or nail clippers, letting him get used to them, and giving him treats to help calm him down. Don't be in a hurry, wait until your pup has become used to being around the tools.
Step
2
Start out very slow
If yours is an older pup who has started biting or a pup who hasn't stopped, try starting out very slowly. Call him over to you, have him stand or lay down (whichever works best for you and your pup), and show him the brush or clippers. Give him a treat and let him find his calm place. Try bringing the brush close to him nice and slow, if he balks pull back and let him get used them again. Then try approaching him with the tools again.
Step
3
Place the brush
Once he will let you get close with the brush, place the brush on his side or back, but don't try to brush him yet. Give him lots of praise and a treat or two, but let him get used to the feeling of the brush on his back with your hands on it. Take your time, in fact, let him tell you when he is ready for the next step.
Step
4
Slow brushes, take it easy
Once you have reached the point at which you can approach your pup and place the brush on his back, repeat this for a few days. Your pup will let you know when you can start moving the brush. Do so very slowly at first, working on his back and sides. Don't go any further, work these areas for a few days, letting him slowly get used to being brushed. Be very gentle.
Step
5
Finish up
By now you should be able to work your way around brushing every inch of his body. Take your time; if he starts to balk, stop and give him time to recover. Once he calms down, give him a treat for doing so and praise him. Make grooming a fun time for both of you, just remember the most important part of teaching your dog not to bite while he is being groomed is to remain calm. If you get excited, so will your pup.
Recommend grooming method?

The Redirect Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Deshedder
Dematter
Comb
Step
1
Take your pup outside first
Be sure you take your pup outside, so he can pee, poop, or both before you get started, this will also help to put him in a calmer mood. At first, you should keep grooming sessions short and be sure to take your pup out for pee breaks and then let him come back to you when he is ready for you to continue.
Step
2
Choose the right location
Find a spot in your home where your pup can see out the window, listen to music, or even watch the television (yep that's right, dogs will watch TV!). You will be using these to help redirect his attention from being groomed.
Step
3
Match his behavior
If he is behaving and allowing you to groom him without trying to bite, be sure to praise him and give him treats (he will associate good behavior with getting treats). If he starts to turn around, gently redirect his attention to what is going on outside, or turn on some soft music (music does soothe the savage beast). You can also find something on the TV for him to watch. By redirecting his attention, it gives him something else to focus on besides what you are doing.
Step
4
Talk to your pup
No matter what else is going on, be sure you are talking to your pup the entire time. Keep a calm tone of voice unless you are praising him for being good. In this case, you should use a mildly excited voice, one that he matches with being praised at other times.
Step
5
Make the process fun
From start to finish, no matter where you are in training your pup not to bite while he is being groomed, remain calm and make it fun for your pup. Short sessions with breaks are a great way to start out. Be gentle and thorough, your pup will eventually learn to enjoy being groomed on a regular basis.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • You should be aware that while fear and anxiety are among the most common reasons why dogs will bite while they are being groomed, this is not the only reason.
  • Dogs who are in pain, have a skin condition, or are suffering from hip dysplasia may bite when you touch the painful areas with a brush.
  • It cannot be stressed enough that you need to take your time acclimating your dog to being groomed once he has started biting during the process.
  • It can take weeks or months before your pup is ready to comfortably submit to being groomed. Be sure to give him lots of praise and treats along the way. Make it fun and he will learn to enjoy the experience. 

Conclusion

Bear in mind it can take a lot of hard work and patience to calm Captain Bite-tastic and get him to stop trying to chew your face off each time you go to brush him. But remember, you can make the entire event fun for both of you, and always have plenty of treats on hand. 

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Grooming Questions & Answers

Question
Molly
Mixed Scottie whippet
7 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Molly
Mixed Scottie whippet
7 Years

Molly is a rescue and quite aggressive with grooming/brushing etc. We manage to brush her gently on main parts but at the sides of her back legs she is really prone to matting. We use conditioner spray which helps but wonder what else we can do. A year ago she had a thorough groom who clipped her short but she was set right back by that so we don’t want her clipped again, and to do it at home where she is happier. She tolerates a bath well but is fearful of anything else. Thanks for helpful suggestions on how we should look after that dry area of her coat

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

Thank you for the question about cute little Molly. There are a few things you can try; I have provided links to a few guides on our site. If she tolerates baths, can someone distract Molly while another person trims some of the mats out of the back area? Trim a bit at a time and once you get the mats cut out, don't worry about brushing it right away because if she cooperates when having that done, that's a good thing. It could be that she is aggressive when brushed because the process hurts and pulls. I always think that in these cases, having the dog mat-free is more important than having the fur looked perfectly shaped. A little bit at a time goes a long way and comfort is more important than looks. Keep using the conditioner to soften the fur, too. https://wagwalking.com/grooming/brush-matted-dog-hair https://wagwalking.com/grooming/wash-a-dog-with-matted-hair https://wagwalking.com/grooming/prevent-dog-hair-from-matting Good luck and enjoy your dog!

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