How to Train Your Dog to Accept Grooming

Easy
1-2 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

As a loving and caring pet owner, there’s a ton of things you adore about your dog. You love the way they greet you after a long day at work. You love the way your pooch helps get you excited about going for that morning walk. You love the way Fido always seems to know when you’re feeling bad and you probably like the way your pooch always seems to be a good listener, even when you babble on about topics he can’t possibly understand.

One of the things you probably don’t love, however, is when your pooch gets a bit…stinky. Proper grooming isn’t only essential for your enjoyment, it also reduces parasites and discomfort to your dog caused by overgrown nails, bad oral hygiene, and a matted coat. It’s a good thing, then, that dogs can be trained to love and accept grooming by their humans and others.

Defining Tasks

While there are specific behaviors you can teach your dog that aid in accepting grooming, much of the training involves general handling. Starting from when your puppy is young you should gently but firmly touch their ears, feet, mouth, and head in order to desensitize them to handling in these areas on the grooming table. If your dog hasn’t been exposed to this type of handling, you can train your dog to be receptive to grooming. Few things are worse for a groomer than running into a dog that is fearful of being bathed and clipped. Your dog will be saved a great deal of stress and discomfort if you start them early and often on the road to accepting grooming.

Getting Started

In order to teach your dog to accept grooming, you are going to need a few basic supplies. You should have a toothbrush and toothpaste specially designed for dogs, which are generally available at your local pet store. A brush and dog nail clipper or Dremel will also be vital for training as well as essential grooming tools you should keep at home for in between-groomer-visits doggy maintenance. Finally, a selection of treats will come in handy for teaching your dog to associate pawsitive and happy experiences with grooming.

The Nail Clipping Method

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Nail Clipping method for Accept Grooming
Step
1
Handling the feet
Dogs naturally have an aversion to having their paws handled. You’ll need to slowly acclimate your dog to having their paws, pads, and nails touched in order to teach them to allow their nails to be clipped. Start out with a selection of treats nearby and with your dog in a relaxed position, preferably lying down. Spend some time briefly touching and lightly squeezing the paws, always followed by a treat.
Step
2
Touching and squeezing the nails
After your dog is used to having his paws handled generally, move to the more sensitive nails. Start by touching the nail for just a moment and then praising and treating your dog. Slowly work up to squeezing your dog’s nail gently to imitate the pressure applied by clippers or a file.
Step
3
Introducing tools
Once your dog is used to your hands touching their nails, you will need to introduce your cutting apparatus. Depending on the size of your dog, you may choose to use a file, clippers or an electronic Dremel. Touch your nail trimmer to your dog’s nail briefly and then treat and praise. Repeat until your dog is not concerned with the trimmer being near or touching them.
Step
4
Begin filing or clipping
Start off filing or clipping briefly, one nail at a time instead of the entire foot. After the first trim, praise and treat your dog. If Fido becomes agitated, you may need to repeat earlier steps, getting your dog used to the trimmer touching their nail.
Step
5
Practice and repeat
Slowly work your way up to two, three and then all the nails. Be sure to work evenly on your dog’s front and back feet, both for practice and in trimming. Nail trimming is an important grooming chore on your dog and an essential behavior for training your dog to allow grooming.
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The Dental Care Method

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Dental Care method for Accept Grooming
Step
1
The touch
Teaching your dog to accept inspection, brushing and other manipulation of the mouth is vital for good oral hygiene. Start out in a familiar and neutral area of the house. Wait until your dog is calm and relaxed and then touch their muzzle gently and briefly. Immediately treat and praise.
Step
2
Lift the lip
After your dog has become used to you touching their muzzle, progress to lifting a lip briefly. After you’ve released the lip, quickly treat and praise to create a strong association with food items and your manipulation of their mouth.
Step
3
Increase duration
Once your dog is accepting regular lifting of the lip, increase the amount of time you touch and hold onto their lip. Hold their lip up and inspect their teeth. When you release, immediately treat and praise.
Step
4
Add the brush
Repeat steps 1-3, adding in a tooth brush instead of your hand or finger. Your dog may be curious about the brush at first. It will be important to only treat and praise when they ignore the implement instead of trying to chew or lick it.
Step
5
Let's get brushing
After your dog is acclimated to the feel of the brush, it’s time to clean their teeth. Start by touching the brush to the teeth and then work your way up to a gentle scrubbing motion. Before you know it, your pooch will be ready to show off those pearly whites to the canine dentist.
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The Brushing Method

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Brushing method for Accept Grooming
Step
1
Introduce the brush
Brushing is a vital part of your dog’s health. Brushing your dog’s coat stimulates growth, eliminates loose fur, and distributes natural oils to help with overall coat health and appearance. To begin teaching your dog to like being brushed, first let them inspect the comb, brush or other grooming tool. Be sure to treat and praise your dog for sniffing and ignoring or otherwise being indifferent to the presence of the brush.
Step
2
Touch with the brush
Once your dog is used to the brush, touch them gently on their body with the brush. Remember to treat and praise after for good associations with the grooming tool.
Step
3
Brush your dog
Once your dog is used to being touched with the brush, start performing gentle stroking motions over their coat. Keep the grooming sessions short, as you are still in the acclimation phase and aren’t actually looking to clean or style Fido at this time. Give plenty of treats to your dog while brushing.
Step
4
Add in other tools
Once your Dog has learned to accept being brushed, it’s time to work in other tools. Shower heads, blow dryers, combs and clippers are all common items used by groomers. Acclimate your dog to one item at a time using steps 1-4 above and your pooch will learn to love grooming in no time.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Pookie
Lhasa Apso
7 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Pookie
Lhasa Apso
7 Years

Hello, my dog is extremely anxious. He hates everything grooming wise except bathing. Taking him to get his nails cut is the most dreadful experience any owner could have. He will bang his head into the pole, jump off the grooming table, bite anyone, and bark violently. Please help.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Samantha, First of all, get Pookie used to wearing a soft, comfortable, silicone, basket muzzle. Do this by giving him a treat whenever you show him the muzzle, touch it to him, and eventually, put it on him. Do this gradually over several weeks, until he is comfortable wearing it. When he is used to the muzzle, then attach one end of a leash to him and the other end to something else nearby while he is standing on the floor. Spend time showing him each grooming tool and every time that he looks at it, give him a treat. When he is comfortable looking at the tools, then gently touch a tool to him without using it, and give him a treat every time that you touch him. When he is comfortable with that, then carefully use the tool on him just a little bit, then give him a treat. Finally, use the tool on him as gently as you can, and after every couple of clipped nails, brushes, or rubs, give him another treat. Do this throughout the entire grooming session. Expect this entire process to take at least a couple of months. If any of the grooming tools make noise or blow air, then spend extra time getting him used to the sound of air by giving him treats while the tool is further away from him. Also be sure that he is not in any pain during grooming from cutting nails too short, using the wrong type of brush or getting out tangles, or being handled roughly. If he has a bad mat, then cut it out rather than brush the tangle over and over again. He needs to learn to tolerate grooming but he also needs to learn to trust his groomer. He gentle but firm. It is not okay for him to bite you, and having the muzzle on him will teach him that biting does not make the grooming stop. If he seems uncomfortable, then go more slowly or be more gentle, but he should believe that his tolerance gets him rewards and eventually freedom, not his aggression. Using a leash when you groom him will keep him from escaping, without risking him falling off of a table. Wait to use the table until he is comfortable with grooming in general at home. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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