Ferris is a long-haired dachshund, who happens to hate being groomed. In the past, his hair has been pulled and his nails clipped too short. He used to tolerate grooming better when he was younger, but now he is old and grumpy, he does not want to be groomed, and he is not afraid to make that clear. Ferris has learned that by growling and snapping at people who groom him, both at home, and at dog salons, the handler will often stop what they are doing, and in some cases, the grooming session has even ended. Victory for Ferris!
If you have a dog that becomes aggressive when being groomed due to fear or aggressive tendencies, you and any professional groomers working with your dog will need to know how to handle and groom an aggressive dog. Utilizing the right tools and techniques will make grooming an aggressive dog safer for everyone concerned. Even better are techniques that counteract aggressive tendencies and result in different behavior from your dog, making future grooming sessions easier and more pleasant.
An aggressive dog is not just trying to be difficult while grooming, he has a reason, and understanding that reason will help you counteract it and deal with aggression. Dogs can be aggressive during grooming due to pain from current or past medical conditions. Check with your veterinarian if you think this might be an issue. Your dog may have memories of past traumatic events during grooming, such as razor burn or nails cut to the quick. Other frightening and painful experiences that are associated with grooming, such as abuse that may have occurred, can also make a dog react aggressively to grooming. A generally fearful dog that is afraid of new people and new situations, will easily transfer this fear to groomers and salons. A dominant dog may be trying to exert his dominance and control of a situation and become aggressive during grooming.
If you allow your dog's aggression to control you and stop the grooming process, you have just created a positive reinforcement for your dog's aggression, and stopping aggression in the future will be more difficult. It is important not to allow an aggressive dog to control the situation. You will need to be confident and firm to mitigate fear and take precautions to alleviate discomfort, but not show fear yourself as this will only encourage and contribute to the dog's behavior.
Take safety precautions when working with an aggressive dog to protect yourself and others, use restraints and muzzles when necessary.
Make sure restraints and muzzles are used correctly, and the appropriate size so as not to injure or cause discomfort to the dog.
Give an aggressive dog breaks from grooming when they are behaving calmly, to reward them for appropriate behavior and prevent them from becoming tired and frustrated, or escalating stress, which will contribute to aggression.
Be aware of health concerns or medications the dog may require. Get advice from a veterinarian to address issues.
Aggressive dogs can be a challenge to groom, but some precautions and knowledge of useful techniques and tools that will minimize risk and counteract aggressive tendencies will help make grooming sessions with aggressive dogs safe. Understanding the cause of the dog's aggression so that it can be mitigated with adjustments or behavior modification for best success. Tools like grooming tables with restraints, muzzles, and long-handled tools can also be useful. An assistant and knowledge of safe holds to prevent injury to the dog or to others will often be necessary when grooming an aggressive dog.