How to Groom an Anxious Dog

Medium
40 - 60 Minutes
2 Months

Introduction

Not every dog enjoys having a fresh haircut and a nice bath. In fact, it can be a stressful time for many nervous dogs who aren’t accustomed to being fawned over and pampered. With nail trims, loud hair dryers, water, and pointy objects like scissors or clippers, it can be a true test for any dog that is anxious. Working him through the process of grooming can help to cut down on that anxiety and make the session much less of an issue. However, this can certainly take some time.

Dog's Perspective

Grooming can take quite a bit of time and contain any number of stressful situations. Being handled by strangers at the salon can be nerve-wracking in and of itself. Then you introduce noisy objects, the tugging of hair and fur, and lack of personal space, and it can be a recipe for disaster. There are few situations in a dog’s life where their senses are being so flooded with stimulation.

The Desensitize Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Scissors
Pin Brush
Clipper
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Introduce each tool
Bring out the tools you’ll want to use one by one including brushes and clippers of any kind. Have your dog sniff and explore these items while they are sitting by themselves on the floor. Once he is used to them simply being there, turn on any electric items such as clippers in your hand so your dog can get used to the noise.
Step
2
Reward for exploration
Throughout these exploration moments, offer plenty of high-value treats to your nervous pooch to reassure him that the objects are good things! Make sure you only reward when the objects are out and in your hand. You’ll want him to get used to the rewards being offered only during grooming time. He’ll begin to gradually look forward to it.
Step
3
Use in between grooming sessions
Bring out the brushes or clippers in between your usual grooming sessions and either use or pretend to use them on your dog. This can help him get used to their presence being a normal near everyday occurrence rather than a once-in-a-while terrifying surprise.
Step
4
Keep rewarding randomly
Once your dog has had a chance to get used to the grooming tools, you can begin to actually groom with them. Continue to reward intermittently and then reward only when you have finished using the tool. For example, give your dog one or two brushes before rewarding him, then do four or five brushes, then back down to two or three brushes and so on. Keep increasing the time gradually, but keep it somewhat random so your dog won’t know when to expect the treat but he still knows it’s coming!
Step
5
End on a high note
Whenever you’ve finished with each part of the groom, offer a very quick play time with a toy or offer a nice treat. Keep things light and end each bit on a high note so that your dog always looks forward to his next groom rather than dreading it.
Recommend grooming method?

The Low Impact Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Scissors
Pin Brush
Clipper
Towel
Step
1
Avoid loud noises
Try not to use things like hair dryers, as they can startle your dog too much. Use soft towels and just take the extra time necessary to soak up as much water from her coat as possible. Try to use clippers that are quieter as well, to avoid using anything that can be too noisy when it’s close to your dog’s ears.
Step
2
Keep sessions short
Try to keep each portion of the groom down to the least amount of time as possible. Drawing out long sessions may only serve to build up anxiety and nervousness as you progress. The quicker you can move through the process, the better.
Step
3
Use calming agents
There are some natural remedies or things like pheromone releasing collars that can help ease anxiety in your dog before you begin your groom. Do plenty of research and ask a veterinarian about the best options for your dog’s anxiety level.
Step
4
Offer plenty of affection
Throughout the process, don’t hesitate to offer plenty of pets, verbal praise, and comfort as needed! Your dog may need to know that you’re still there to keep her safe and comfortable, so use the opportunity to bond with her in a variety of ways. Your voice may have a calming effect as well.
Step
5
Use a muzzle if necessary
For dogs that are prone to biting or nipping out of fear, look into purchasing a cloth grooming muzzle that can fit over your dog’s snout temporarily while you groom her. These are not meant to be worn for long periods of time, so keep the use as limited as possible. Always remove the muzzle as soon as the grooming is finished.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Have a veterinarian check your dog for any lingering health issues that may be affecting his anxiety and comfort during grooming sessions.
  • Consider having another member of the family help you with grooming if your dog is larger or harder to handle due to his anxiety.
  • Keep your dog on a leash to prevent the possibility of him leaping off of a table or running away from you while you are working.
  • If your dog is biting or snapping at you or the groomer, a sedative may be necessary to prevent any injury. Always consult a veterinarian before purchasing or using any type of drug or sedative on your dog! 
  • If all else fails, consider taking your dog to a professional groomer who has experience with nervous, anxious, or fearful animals. These professionals may know best how to groom your dog without causing him stress.

Conclusion

While some dogs can get away with a quick bath and brush, some others may need some extensive clipping and cutting in order to stay trimmed and free of mats or tangles. Either way, grooming should be an essential part of any dog’s routine and it should be something that is quick and painless. You may need to work extensively on helping your dog conquer his fears, but a little patience and understanding can go a long way to providing reassurance.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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