Not all dogs are afraid of the groomer, but many are. Some dogs have so much anxiety about being groomed that they start getting nervous on the car ride to the grooming shop. Nervous dogs will shake, pant, pace, and squirm, making them virtually impossible to groom.
It helps dogs with grooming anxiety to be groomed at home by someone they know and trust. Bringing them to a strange place to let an unfamiliar person trim their nails and groom their coat can be terrifying. The cost of professional grooming can also add up, which makes at-home grooming even more enticing.
No matter how your dog's fear presents itself, it is wise to take precautions to help her calm down before the fear escalates to aggression or a full-blown panic attack.
If you have a fussy dog like I do, then you know just how hard it can be to settle her down to trim her nails, give her a bath, or even just brush a couple of knots out of her fur.
There are ways to handle your dog in order to groom her effectively, but restraining her or muzzling her may make the situation even worse.
Over the years, I've found some great products that can help calm your dog without the use of physical force or scary devices. With a little time and patience you can turn grooming time into a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your Fido.
How to Calm Your Dog Before Grooming
To begin, give your dog a little bit of space. If you can, always keep a bag of long treats on hand for these occasions as well. I use Farmers Market Natural Salmon & Vegetables Recipe. They're long, give off quite a smell, and my dog loves them. Give her one half of the treat, which is why they need to be long, and set the other piece aside where she can see it.
Hopefully, if your dog is like mine, she will focus on the other half of the treat and temporarily forget about her anxiety. Giving your dog a distraction is a great way to occupy her mind, and we all know that food is the number one way to distract anyone of the canine species (and it usually works well for humans too).
Now, it's time to bring out the big guns. There are many products available to help dogs calm down before you leave the house for a couple of hours. Many of these products also work well when you need to keep your pet calm for grooming purposes. My favorite product to use in this case, is Burt's Bees for Dogs Calming Spray.
It has a lovely lavender scent which helps dogs to calm down quickly and naturally. Following the instructions, lightly spritz your dog down her back and behind her ears. The green tea in this product helps to soothe your dog, so she can be completely calm before you begin grooming her.
Your dog may become a little resistant, or too curious, when you spray her with the Calming Spray, but after awhile she will let you do it freely. After repeated use, every time you groom your dog, she will no longer get touchy about it.
Once you have an even layer spread out on your dog, brush her lightly, using any type of brush you want. Although, if you know for a fact that your dog gets very nervous during grooming time, use a very soft bristled brush, so you don't irritate her even more.
If you notice your dog becoming fidgety and nervous, bring her attention back to the rest of the treat. It's very natural for dogs to get upset when they're about to be groomed, especially if they are not a fan of it. Showing your dog the treat, that it's still there, will be more calming to her, because her reward for behaving is still in sight.
If your dog is not a fan of baths, like mine, then you have multiple options available. Unless my dog has been rolling in mud, I prefer to use waterless shampoo. Obviously, if she is very dirty I need to throw her in the tub, and you should still give your dog a real bath occasionally to get their skin and coat completely clean. My rule is for every three times I use waterless shampoo, I give my dog a traditional bath.
Grooming wipes can also come in handy when your dog only has a bit of dirt on her face or has something stuck in a small part of her fur. Grooming wipes are just like baby wipes, but for dogs. They allow you to clean a small area effectively and leave behind a nice scent, unless you purchase unscented wipes, of course.
Using waterless shampoo is the best way to technically bathe a dog who gets too stressed out while in water. Keep in mind that you should never overstress your dog while grooming her. If she begins to pant very quickly, and will not respond after you call her name a couple of times, that's when you know that you need to stop what you're doing.
Now, let's talk about nail clippers. I use Hartz Groomer's Best Nail Clippers. Before you begin to clip your dog's nails, first you must allow her to become familiar with the clippers. Put them in front of your dog, let her smell them and look at them, without you holding onto them. Once your dog has stopped reacting to them, then you can begin clipping her nails.
Remember that it's not unusual for your dog to become uneasy at this point, and that's to be expected. If she begins to pull her paw away once you start clipping, don't worry. Give her a minute to relax, use a little more calming spray, and remind her that her treat is still waiting for her once you are finished.
After you've trimmed your dog's nails, it's likely that they will become a little rough. To avoid this, a nail file solely for your dog is a great idea. Thankfully, the clippers pictured above, the ones I personally use, come with a nail file specifically for dogs.
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Once again, let your dog become familiar with what you're about to do. Put the nail file on the ground in front of her, and let her smell and look at it for a couple of minutes. Lightly file your dog's nails, feeling each one individually after you have finished, just to see if they are still sharp or have a jagged edge.
The Worst is Over!
If your dog struggled throughout the entire ordeal, that's perfectly fine. As long as you keep using the following methods to calm your dog before and during the grooming process, by the third or fourth time they will learn to expect it. If you groom her consistently, it should get a bit easier each time you do it.
Another trick that I recommend is to “groom” your dog every day when you're first starting out. For the first 7-10 days, you can spray them with water instead of waterless shampoo, touch their nails with the clippers without actually clipping them, and brush through their fur. This will get your pet used to grooming much faster than just grooming her once every few weeks.
It's natural for a dog to be uneasy with new methods. Remember to be patient, give her a break if she needs one, and always be gentle when grooming your dog. Also, remember to praise your dog, let her see you put all of the grooming tools away, and don't forget to give her the rest of the treat for a job well done!