How to Groom a Small Dog That Bites

Hard
30 - 60 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Small dogs should be handled and trained very similarly to large dogs, and with similar expectations. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Small dogs are often picked up and held close to their owners when they are excited or acting aggressively. This reinforces the aggressive emotional state, and over time this can result in a small dog that bites. As a result, many small dogs can be snappy, especially when in unfamiliar situations, or with unfamiliar people. Also, due to their small size, a small dog may become intimidated if he feels startled, in danger, or experiences discomfort, any of which may occur during grooming if a brush snags a tangle, water during bathing feels unpleasant, or the sound of clippers startles him. In turn, sometimes small dogs develop the bad habit of biting during grooming.  

Whether you groom your small dog yourself or take him to a  professional groomer, you will need to take steps so that you or your groomer does not end up with a chunk of skin missing!

Dog's Perspective

Ever heard of a Napoleon complex? This is the theory that small people, or in this case, small dogs, overcompensate for their small stature with aggressive and dominant social behavior.  While we generally recognize this is not really true of people, it may be true of dogs, to some degree. Because dogs act more on instinct than we do, and a small dog may more easily feel threatened in a world full of bigger dogs and big people, a small dog can learn to react aggressively and even bite when unsure of a situation. 

Grooming is one of those situations your small dog may feel threatened in and react by biting. If you take your dog to a groomer, the sights and sounds of the grooming salon and other dogs may evoke this response. Or, if you groom your dog yourself and your dog doesn't like water, the sensation of a shower, clippers, the feeling of having his fur and skin pulled by a brush, tangles worked out, or trimming with scissors, he may react by biting. Obviously this is a problem!

The Prevent Biting Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Pin Brush
Clipper
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Investigate medical options
Check with your veterinarian to determine if your dog has a medical condition that is causing aggressive behavior during grooming. Discuss using a mild sedation with your veterinarian while grooming to make your small dog easier to handle and reduce biting behavior.
Step
2
Use an assistant
Have an assistant hold your small dog, with their arm under and around the dog's neck, holding the head pointing over their shoulder away from their face, so the dog can not bite them or you.
Step
3
Use a restraint
Use a leash and head halter to direct your dog's head away from your while working, ideally a grooming table with a neck restraint should be used.
Step
4
Use long tools
Use long handled grooming tools to avoid being bitten. A long handled brush or comb, especially around the face, will keep your hands away from your dog's mouth. If your small dog does bite, it is just the comb he will be biting.
Step
5
Use a muzzle
Consider using a muzzle to protect yourself and other handlers from being bitten. Practice using the muzzle at other times when not grooming so your dog does not learn to associate the muzzle with grooming.
Recommend grooming method?

The Distract and Mitigate Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Pin Brush
Comb
Clipper
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Groom frequently
Brush your small dog regularly so that grooming with clippers and bathing is not such a difficult chore. A dog with a tangle-free, relatively clean coat, will be easier to groom and cause less stress to the dog, resulting in less aggression and biting behavior.
Step
2
Exercise first
Exercise your small dog prior to grooming so that excess energy is burned off. This will make your dog less likely to bite.
Step
3
Be prepared
Have grooming supplies handy and ready so that grooming time is reduced and your small dog is less likely to become frustrated and aggressive.
Step
4
Keep occupied
Give your dog a chew toy to gnaw on, to avoid him gnawing on you, or distract him with a toy or food.
Step
5
Don't be intimidated
Try not to withdraw your hand when your small dog attempts to bite, this only rewards him. Wear a protective glove so that he learns that biting does not result in your withdrawing, or redirect your dog's head with a long handled grooming tool, pushing him away when he tries to bite, instead of snatching your hand back in fear. Work confidently, and do not respond to your small dog's aggression with stress or fear.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • If you use a muzzle, be sure to use it at other times (besides when grooming) so your little dog does not come to associate it just with grooming. Have your dog wear it on walks and other occasions.
  • Be sure to discuss sedation with a veterinarian before using it during grooming. Small dogs require caution due to their size when determining dosage.
  • Be sure any assistant is aware of how to hold your dog so as to avoid being bitten.
  • Long handled brushes and combs or gloves can help you handle and direct a nippy small dog.
  • Even a small dog can do significant damage if they bite hard or on a sensitive area like the face. Exercise caution and do not be complacent about their small size.

Conclusion

Dogs that bite can be difficult to groom in a way that everyone involved stays safe. Even a small dog can inflict a serious wound. Because of their size, little dogs may more easily feel threatened when being groomed and react aggressively. Take precautions when holding a small dog that bites. Sedation, muzzles, restrains and use of an assistant may be required. Do not reward a small dog’s biting behavior by becoming scared or stopping grooming. Be calm and firm.Using exercise and toys may be helpful to avoid biting behavior, and being prepared before grooming helps reduce time, frustration and exposure to a small biting dog's wrath!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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