There are some dogs that love nothing more than to be pampered all day long, where no amount of preening and brushing will ever be too much, and then there are some dogs that turn into a quivering mess, or even worse, an aggressive, snarling ball of anxiety that quakes at the mere sight of a brush. But grooming doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience for you or your dog.
It’s important to consider your dog’s history. If your dog is a rescue dog, or has come from a previous owner, they may have had traumatic grooming experiences in the past. Maybe they just have a history of anxiety during car rides and therefore the trip to the groomers puts them on edge before they’ve even arrived. If your dog is a puppy, this might be their first experience of grooming and they’ll have no idea what to expect from the array of strange tools you’re waving around in front of them.
If you think it might be the car journey that it causing them distress, consider grooming them at home for the time being, or finding a groomer that you can walk to. It might be that your dog simply suffers from motion sickness and requires medication from your vet to reduce their nausea.
It’s important to take things slowly and calmly when grooming your dog. If it’s your first visit to the groomers, maybe ask if you can have a ‘test visit’ where they can spend some time there without having anything done. This will get them used to the sounds and smells of the groomers without the anxiety of being groomed themselves. Pair this with lots of praise and treats and keep it playful and light so that your dog is comfortable in the environment.
It can also help to get your dog used to be handled and touched at home in a similar way that a groomer will deal with them so that it becomes normal to your dog. Areas that your dog is likely to feel sensitive about are his ears, tail, muzzle, groin and paws. Some gentle grooming in these areas at home paired with rewards like treats or praise will help them to feel more at ease when the groomer is present. You can do the same thing when introducing grooming tools that they may be unfamiliar with like brushes or clippers too.
Grooming is an essential part of caring for your dog so it’s important that you get them as comfortable as possible. If they ever display signs of anxiety while being groomed, it’s best to stop immediately rather than cause any lasting trauma.