Imagine walking into a pet grooming salon. You watch all the different dogs being groomed. Some are so relaxed that they are practically falling asleep during the session. Some are growling and trying to bite the groomer during the session. Some look terrified but don't move. Some excitedly wag their tails every time that the groomer talks to them or touches them. The grooming experience is vastly different for each dog.
You look down at your dog, who has never been groomed before, and wonder how he will handle the experience. You begin to feel anxious for him, wondering if there is anything that you can do to make the experience more pleasant for him. Right now he is young, only four months old, but grooming is something that he will have to experience for the rest of his life, especially with his long fur and floppy ears. You want to start your Shih Tzu off right and create positive associations with grooming, so that he will not dread it later.
In addition to making the experience more pleasant for your dog, training your dog for grooming can also make the experience so much more enjoyable for yourself. Grooming a fearful, aggressive, or just plain wiggly dog is stressful. If you dread grooming your dog, your dog will probably either be groomed less often or will have to go to a professional to be groomed, which can be quite expensive over time. Although you might enjoy having your dog groomed by a professional from time to time, simple grooming procedures such as brushing your dog or clipping his nails can easily be done at home between professional grooming sessions if your dog is trained for grooming.
When training your dog for grooming, the method that you choose will depend mostly on which part of the grooming process your dog needs help with. If your dog is uncomfortable being touched, then you will need to use 'The Handling Method'. If your dog is afraid of the grooming tools, then you will need to use 'The Tools Method'. If your dog tolerates the tools and being touched well but is too wiggly to groom, then you will need to use 'The Stand Method'. If your dog is completely unaccustomed to any of the aspects of grooming and is uncomfortable being touched, is afraid of the grooming tools, and will not stand still for grooming, then you will need to use all three of the methods, starting with 'The Handling Method' first, then moving onto 'The Tools Method' second, and then finishing with 'The Stand Method'.
Be patient with your dog while training this. Grooming can be intimidating for a dog, and he will need to learn to trust you and your use of tools on him. It is also important to be gentle while grooming your dog so that grooming is not painful for him. If the grooming is painful every time then no amount of treats and training are likely to convince him that grooming is OK. There will be times when grooming will be uncomfortable for him, like when you encounter a knot in his fur or accidentally cut a nail too short, but if grooming is normally pain-free and fun, your dog will be more likely to recover from the incident and continue to cooperate for grooming because he expects grooming to be fun or at least tolerable most of the time.
If your dog is still young, then start the grooming process as early as possible. The earlier that you get your pup used to being groomed and help him enjoy being groomed, the easier grooming will be in the future. Even if he does not need certain types of grooming yet, practice those types of grooming anyway, to prepare him for what's ahead. For example, if your young puppy's nails have not grown enough to need trimming yet, then spend time getting him used to the clippers by just clipping the tiniest tip of his nail off while feeding him treats. The nail will not be significantly shorter, but he will still be getting used to the feeling of having his nail clipped.
To get started you will need lots of small treats that your pup loves. You will need a calm location, and gentleness and patience. If you are using 'The Tools Method' then you will also need all of your dog's grooming tools to practice with. Such tools might include nail clippers or a nail Ddremel, brushes and combs, a spray bottle with water, scissors or clippers, a dog toothbrush and toothpaste, cotton swabs, possibly a hair dryer or towel, and anything else that you will use to groom your dog in the future. If you are using 'The Stand Method' then you will also need a slip leash or a four or six-foot leash that can be clipped to itself. You also might need something stationary above your dog that you can attach the other end of the leash to, so that you can have your hands free when it is time to practice with the tools. Above all, you will need to be encouraging, to help your dog love grooming and trust you.