How to Calm a Dog for Grooming
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There she was, my large 35-kilogram German shepherd dog covered in shampoo from head to tail, rolling in mud, having run away from “bath time”. Keeping my dog calm whilst grooming felt like a mission impossible. I was equally wet due to the “stylish” shake she did before she escaped my grip. “Puppy” I call through gritted teeth trying to sound calm, kind, and positive, “come here”.
If this sounds familiar to you, if grooming feels like a battle in your household, then you’ve come to the right place. Fur doesn’t have to fly when you’re grooming your dog. With a little practice, you’ll eventually know how to calm a dog for grooming.
The answer is all in the preparation. It takes some time and a little patience but with small simple steps, it is possible.
Recipe for Success – What You’ll Need
When my now three-year-old dog was a pup, grooming was easy. I could pick her up and pop her in the bath when she’d rolled in something unimaginable. These days, however, she is large, strong and heavy, and whilst I have spent many hours training her if she doesn’t want to do something, she simply doesn’t. Grooming under these circumstances can be a nightmare for both of us, so we took a different approach.
Having experienced the scenario above, and just being a regular dog owner, I turned to a dog behaviorist friend for some help and she gave us some pointers. My pup and I can wholeheartedly recommend the following tried and tested tips.
Before anything else, I’ll add a little disclaimer here. This is a process that will take time. There’s no magic wand that can keep your dog calm. A slow and steady approach works best, and sometimes it’s necessary to go back to the beginning. The benefits, however, are amazing and by practicing the tips below, it can make grooming your dog so much better, and the extra groundwork really does pay off.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1) Uninterrupted time with your dog
2) A lot of patience
3) Lots of your pups favorite treats
5 Tips to Help your Dog Stay Calm
Tip #1: Get Them Used to the Environment.
If you’re grooming your dog yourself at home, choose a space where the grooming will take place and introduce your dog to the area. In the first instance, simply spend some time with your dog in the grooming space, give them treats and lots of love, and leave the place having done no grooming at all. Repeat this two or three times so that your dog associates this space with positive vibes.
If you’ve opted to go to the groomers, the same rules apply. Ask if it’s possible to pop in two or three times prior to their appointment so your dog gets to explore the area, sniff around, and meet the staff without any grooming happening. This will get them used to the environment with no other expectation. Give them plenty of praise and treats, and then take them home.
Tip #2: Get Them Used to People.
If you’re grooming yourself, this is already taken care of. However, if you have an assistant or you’re going to need a groomer, allow your dog to meet the people two or three times prior to the grooming. Armed with plenty of treats, praise your dog and let them get used to the people, and the environment in which the grooming takes place.
Tip #3: Get Them Used to the Procedures.
Get them used to allowing others to touch their ears and look at their teeth, and any other activity which may be associated with grooming. Introduce this slowly over a period of time. Touch their ears gently, praise them and give them a treat, do the same for teeth and toes… and repeat
Tip #4: Get your dog used to the tools.
The buzz of hair clippers, the running water, and even the brush can all look like weapons of torture to your dog if they’ve never seen them before. Slowly get your fur-baby used to the tools. Introduce them to the brush, the nail clippers, and any noisy tools you need to use. Give them praise and a treat… and repeat
Tip #5: Create the vibe.
When I first took my pup to train, I’d never done it before. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I checked where the venue was prior to the day and drove past to make sure I knew exactly where to go. On the day of training, we ended up arriving 20 minutes early and driving round and round to kill some time. Needless to say, my pup picked up on my anxiety and when we finally arrived at the class, she wrapped her lead around my legs, pulled me over and ran to the trainer halfway across the field. I needed to learn to be calm myself. Dogs are like sponges when it comes to how you’re feeling. If you’re anxious then they’ll feel it, and if you’re calm they’ll feel that vibe.
Keeping your dog calm whilst grooming is possible. I’ve found that following the tips above can not only ease the stress but create some positive bonding time with your dog too. One final tip, even if on your journey, there are a few soapy moments. Enjoy every minute!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I give my dog medication to calm them before grooming?
There are medications available. It is best to check with your vet for advice and recommendations.
Is it better to send my dog to a groomer than groom them myself?
This depends on your skill and expertise and how much grooming your dog requires. Chat to your local groomer and see what service they can offer.
Should I use a certain shampoo for my dog?
Out of many shampoos available on the market, you should check which one works best. To do so, you should look for product review articles as well as read customer reviews prior to buying.