Grooming is a crucial aspect of caring for every dog. Without regular brushing, washing, trimming, and all-over maintenance, our canine friends can develop skin problems, painfully matted fur, and even bad breath. In addition, a dirty dog means a messy house. Therefore, even if your dog experiences anxiety, they still require the essential pet care that comes with grooming. This makes dog grooming for anxious dogs something we need to discuss!
Did you know Hound Therapy never turns away dogs with special needs? If your pet has dog grooming anxiety, call us and we’ll literally SHOW you how to groom an anxious dog in one dog grooming session.
While some dogs eagerly embrace the experience of a pet salon, others find it overwhelming and fear-inducing. Reputable grooming salons try to create a luxurious and soothing environment for dogs. However, even with these measures, the pampering experience can still be quite scary and intimidating for anxious dogs.
Loud noises from clippers and blow dryers, the handling of their paws and ears, and the presence of other dogs can add to the anxiety, even when they are kept separate. All of this can trigger fearful reactions in your pup, making them more difficult to groom. So how can you make the experience more pleasant for your pup?
In this guide, we’ll explore some techniques so you can learn how to groom an anxious dog and make the routine less stressful. But before we get into the details, let’s take a look at how dogs think and process their emotions.
Did you know Hound Therapy offers one of the most exhaustive dog grooming academies in the country? Headed by Shannon Griffin, you’ll not only gain rare insights into dog grooming but also learn how to build a grooming business from the ground up!
Insights Into How a Dog Thinks:
To truly understand your pup’s fears, it helps to understand the way they think. Dogs rely heavily on their senses to interpret the world around them, and when they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment, they can become overwhelmed.
Dogs also have very short attention spans – so when something new appears, their focus shifts quickly and easily to that unfamiliar item. As a result, even if your pup is comfortable for a moment, they might become anxious and stressed out when something new catches their attention.
All these stimuli can turn grooming into a dangerous situation for both the pup and the groomer. In some severe cases, anxious dogs may instinctually bite or scratch as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from perceived danger. Other signs of dog grooming anxiety can include:
- Rapid breathing
- Trying to escape the grooming area
- Drooling, shaking, or trembling
- Whining, barking, or growling
- Hiding or seeking comfort
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Aggressive behaviors, such as snapping or biting
When you recognize these signs, it’s important to proceed with caution and take steps to make your pup feel more comfortable.
Tips to Make Your Anxious Dog Feel More Comfortable:
1. Take the stress out of the car ride
If your pup is anxious in the car, especially when traveling to the groomer, try keeping them away from stressful sights and sounds by giving them a chew toy or playing calming music to keep their mind off other triggers such as cars or dogs. If possible, schedule the car ride when your pup is most relaxed, such as after naps or play sessions.
Take your pup on car rides at a younger age so they can become familiar and comfortable with the car, as this will help them adjust to the motion of the vehicle and the traffic sounds. Ensure they are always comfortable and safe with doggie car seats and harnesses, as they provide the appropriate support and protection.
2. Try grooming a tired dog
Some dogs can tolerate grooming when they’re pleasantly worn out and fulfilled after a long walk or an exciting game of fetch. Some breeds find it easier to go with the flow of grooming when they’re tired and it is easier to keep them calm. However, some might be edgy and irritable if they’re exhausted, so pay attention to your pup and see what works best.
If you have a particularly energetic breed, try grooming them when they’re worn out from exercise. It helps them associate grooming with pleasant feelings, just like how humans love to take a shower after an exhausting day. Try to schedule grooming sessions around the time your pup is most relaxed, such as after a long walk or play session. It gives them time to relieve stress and work out any nervous energy.
3. Break grooming into manageable sessions
Rather than overwhelming your pup with a long grooming session, try breaking down the activity into smaller, more manageable chunks. Anxiety makes dog struggle with grooming, but with short sessions that ends before the pup turns into a prolonged state of anxiety, you may make it more tolerable.
Split the grooming into several sessions over the course of a few days, focusing on one area at a time. For example, you can begin with brushing on the first day, bathing on the second day then finish grooming with trimming on day 3. This way, it gives your pup time to get used to each step of the process.
You can also break down each step of the grooming process into smaller segments: brushing your pup’s coat for a few minutes, taking a short break, and then continuing with brushing; or bathing one part of their body at a time. Not only that but breaking up grooming sessions will allow them to learn how to relax during grooming.
4. Take your time when grooming your pup
Some dogs can be agitated by fast movements, especially in sensitive areas. Ears, paws groin area, face, tail, and all the other areas will need to be handled. To get them ready, take it slow. Gently pet your pup’s coat and allow them to get used to being handled. Play with her paws, ears, and tail, or simply massage their body to keep them relaxed.
Also, take your time with each step of the grooming process. Give them a massage on a mat or raised table to stimulate the experience of grooming. Your pup should know they are in good hands and shouldn’t be rushed through it. If you’re making sure your pup is comfortable during the whole process, they will trust you more and accept being groomed with ease.
5. Reward positive behaviors
Rewarding your pup when they’re being cooperative is the best way to teach them good grooming habits and make them comfortable with the process. Use treats or verbal praise and give rewards while you brush, comb, or clip their hair. This will reinforce the positive associations between grooming and good behavior, and it will keep the pup from becoming anxious.
Also, avoid punishing or scolding your dog when they become anxious during grooming. This would only make them more scared and further instill fear in them towards the process. Instead, take regular breaks throughout the grooming session to allow them to come out of anxiety or to take a mental break if they become overwhelmed.
6. Make gradual progressions
Introduce your dog to the bathing area and tools gradually. This includes anything from clippers, trimmers, and blow dryers to basic grooming tools such as combs and brushes. Let them sniff them and provide lots of verbal praise while doing so. Showing them that these tools are not dangerous but helpful will build their confidence and create a positive experience.
By gradually introducing the grooming process, your pup will become more comfortable with it over time. Start slowly by simply brushing their hair or playing with their paws and then slowly progress towards using clippers, trimmers, etc as they get used to the experience.
7. Keep a positive attitude
When grooming an anxious dog, it’s important to stay calm and patient with your pup. If they start to act up or show signs of anxiety, don’t panic and try to remain as composed as possible while you take necessary breaks for them to relax. Also, use soothing words such as “good dog” and “it’s okay” to keep them from becoming more anxious. If you can stay positive and reassuring throughout the grooming session, your pup will feel more comfortable with the process.
Things To Remember
Patience is key. It may take time or even multiple sessions to get your pup used to grooming. Your pup can sense your energy, so if you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, they will too. So how do you make it easier for both of you?
- Be patient and take breaks during grooming sessions.
- Introduce your dog to the tools gradually.
- Keep a positive attitude and use soothing words.
- Reward them with treats for positive behavior.
- Get help from a professional if needed.
- Keep it low-stress with appropriate tools
- Be gentle and consistent when handling your pup’s fur, claws, ears, etc.
- Finally, keep up with a regular grooming routine. This will help your pup get used to the process and make it less stressful each time.
Grooming an anxious dog requires a gentle and understanding approach. By considering their unique needs and providing positive experiences, you can help your furry friend feel more comfortable and relaxed during grooming sessions. At Hound Therapy, we are proud to provide compassionate, professional pet grooming services for anxious dogs that need loving touch and extra care. We are not just a grooming salon, but a place where you can give your pup the love and attention they deserve.