Some dogs absolutely love a grooming session but for others, it is a terribly stressful experience. Grooming is an essential part of caring for most breeds and is vital for their health. Some breeds such as Golden Retrievers, need an occasional clip. Others, such as the Poodle, need regular clipping because they do not molt. It is important to help your pup look their best but it is also important for their well-being. It keeps their nails and coat at a comfortable length and prevents irritation and infections.
Dog owners have the choice of using a grooming shop or doing the grooming routine themselves. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and they require different ways to keep a dog calm. Read on to find out our top tips and tricks to make grooming a pleasure for you and your pooch.
How to Keep a Dog Calm While Grooming at Home
Your dog needs to stay calm so that you can make an efficient job of grooming. The secret of how to relax a dog for grooming lies in preparation and in how you act whilst that grooming is taking place.
Preparation For a Dog Getting Groomed
It is a good idea to get them used to all of the grooming tools a long time before you actually want to groom them. Ideally, this should start when they are a pup. Anxious dogs feel good when they are in familiar surroundings so grooming at home is the best option for them.
Help your dog to check out the equipment that you will be using. They may not mind a brush or comb but anything that makes a noise, such as a hair dryer or clippers, can be more stressful.
You may not be able to rush in and carry out a full-on grooming session with a nervous dog. It would be best to take baby steps and let your dog dictate the pace.
Gather Together Your Supplies
Everything you need for grooming, including products and grooming equipment, should be at hand before you start. Here are some tips on what you will need.
- Suitable brush and comb: These will be the best bristle brushes, the best flea combs and the best curry combs for your dog’s type of coat
- Suitable trimmers: For nail cutting, you need the best trimmers and filing tools to suit your dog’s nails
- Suitable clippers and trimmers: For keeping their coat neat, you need dog grooming scissors and dog thinning shears for their type of coat
- Suitable cleaning products: For keeping them clean, you need dog conditioners and shampoos, dog detangler sprays, and a dog paw washer. A shower spray attachment is also useful for the grooming process.
- Suitable ear cleaning products: To prevent ear infections, you need dog ear cleaners and cotton balls.
You can get all of these from pet stores and on-line.
Keep Your Dog Calm During Grooming
Don’t groom your dog when you are upset or in a hurry. Also, only groom them when you know that they will stay calm – this is most likely after some exercise. Never hold a grooming session if your dog has not been out of the house for days!
Try to make it a pleasant experience that they will enjoy. Here are some tips for keeping your dog calm during grooming
- Play calming music: Familiar sounds and music that soothe your dog will help to keep the situation under control.
- Offer tasty treats: The grooming process can go a lot more smoothly when treats are involved. Any treat will do but dog-safe peanut butter is always a firm favorite.
- Take regular breaks: To begin with, you can ease anxiety by grooming in short bursts. If necessary, you can take a break halfway through or even take regular breaks.
- Know when to stop: It is really important that you learn when to recognize when your dog has had enough. If they constantly pull away or will not keep still, it is a sign that you should call it a day. If you press on at this stage, it will put your dog off grooming and the damage will be hard to undo.
Take a look at our article on the best calming aid for dogs.
How to Calm a Dog for Grooming at the Salon
There are two aspects to a trip to the grooming shop that can cause anxiety in dogs.
The first is the car ride there. Some dogs find the trip to the groomer more stressful than the grooming itself. If your pup suffers from car anxiety, try having a dry run the first time. This means that you get into the car and drive to the grooming salon, but then drive straight back home without going in. If it is at all possible, it is best to walk to the pet groomer!
Stay with your dog if possible so that you can reassure them that the pet groomer is nothing to be frightened of. Make sure that they have a pee just before their appointment.
Finally, take a supply of their favorite snack with you – it works every time!
How to Sedate Your Dog for Grooming
Sometimes, the situation is so serious that you have to sedate your pet pooch before taking them to the groomers. This may be because there are complications with their fur that it will take a long time to sort out. Or, it may be because your pet is especially anxious.
You can use a sedative to prepare your dog for the groomer but this should only be done in extreme cases. Always speak to your vet first and follow their advice.
You can use natural products such as essential oils. Dogs have a fantastic sense of smell and using calming scent room fragrance can be highly effective. Make sure that your dog associates the scents with peacefulness by burning them or spraying them when you are both relaxing in the house. Botanicals such as lavender and chamomile can be highly effective.
If the natural approach does not work, you may need to try something stronger before your trip to the groomer. There are some over-the-counter tranquilizers that you could try that work as dopamine antagonists. Some dog owners use them during thunderstorms and firework displays. The effects last for around six to eight hours. However, always talk to your vet before using this medication and only use it as a last resort, it can have some unwanted side effects.
In cases of extreme anxiety, your vet may need to prescribe a more powerful sedative.
Check out our guide on Over the Counter Medicated Grooming.
- Dr. Jerry Klein, The Dos and Don’ts of Home Dog Grooming and Hygiene – The American Kennel Club
- Katherine Sullivan, The Most Important Do’s and Don’ts When Grooming Your Dog at Home – PETA