Tips on Grooming for Aggressive Dogs

Grooming a dog can be a bonding and enjoyable experience until the dog exhibits aggression. Grrooming for aggressive dogs should only be done by experienced dog groomers. Groomers that are working with a lot of dogs often come across aggressive dogs who experience fear and anxiety.

Did you know Hound Therapy is known for accepting dogs other groomers turn away? Book a consultation today for your dog with aggressive or special needs.

Dogs may feel the need to defend themselves for a number of reasons. They possibly have had previous bad experiences:

bad dog experience: big dog puts arm around little one after being scared by lobsters

They feel discomfort in unfamiliar surroundings or have potential medical issues. All of these issues make it critical for a groomer to know how to groom an aggressive dog.

Grooming for aggressive dogs is far from ideal, but again, skipping grooming is not an option because it plays a crucial role in maintaining the dog’s look, cleanliness, and general well-being. The situation is further complicated when the dog is too big to be handled properly. 

So, what can you do if your dog is aggressive? Well, there are a few steps you can take to make grooming less stressful and safer for both you and your pet. 

how to groom an aggressive dog

Did you know Hound Therapy holds the most intensive Dog Grooming Classes in the United States? The sessions run a full 8 months and are geared towards learning EVERYTHING you need to know about grooming different breeds as well as how to run and grow a successful grooming business. Click here to read more details about our Dog Grooming Academy.

Insights Into How A Dog Thinks

When your dog visits the groomer for the first time, it’s an unfamiliar environment, and for them, it’s an unknown person that handles the grooming for aggressive dogs procedure. Some dogs interpret these situations as risky or threatening and will resort to a fight-or-flight mentality. Yet, in situations where flight isn’t possible, the instinctual choice often shifts towards aggression (fight) at the groomers.

Usually, this is not a misbehaving or a bad dog necessarily. It’s a dog under stress, unsure of what actions to take, and relying on its innate instincts. Aggression can involve different behaviors that can result in attacks and injuries, including instances of dog bites during grooming.

aggressive dog grooming to calm anxiety

An aggressive dog that’s afraid will:

  • Growl when their wishes are not followed.
  • Remain still and refuse to obey commands.
  • Display submissive body language – lower their head and have the tail tucked between their legs and may also avoid eye contact.
  • Mouth a person against their wishes in an attempt to exert control
  • Lean away or back off from the person.
  • Growl, bark, snarl
  • Employ a swift bite that results in a visible mark, bruise, or skin puncture.
  • Biting and shaking (often seen in larger breeds).
  • Charge and attack without any warning.

Groomers take precautions! This is not the time to touch or try to hold them back, as they will be ready to bite and fight their way out of a scary situation.

grooming for aggressive dogs

Groomers must be aware of these signs of aggression in their clients’ pets, which may appear exclusively or as combinations of the above. It’s also important to note that aggressive behavior can be triggered by many triggers- such as sudden movements, unfamiliar tools, certain words or tones of voice, environmental factors like loud noises and other animals in the room, or simply the presence of an unknown person. 

The groomer must remain calm yet confident and in charge of the situation, even if a dog becomes aggressive. But how can a groomer effectively deal with aggressive dogs? We are just about to tell you the juicy stuff you came here for, so keep reading! 

Keep Your Aggressive Dog Calm During Grooming 

Grooming for aggressive dogs can be both mentally and physically draining. An aggressive dog poses a much higher likelihood of biting the groomer. A single bite to a groomer’s hand can be career-ending. It’s a risk that nobody wants to take, which is precisely why most groomers charge an aggression fee. So, what can be done to minimize this risk? 

1. Divert your dog’s attention

When the dog is focused on grooming aspects they find unpleasant (like trimming nails, brushing teeth, cleaning ears, etc), it may respond with aggression. Distraction techniques like toys, tuning in some calming music, or letting your dog gaze out the window will help them to focus on something positive and hopefully take their mind off the unpleasantness of grooming.

Talking to your dog throughout the procedure is also very important. Softly reassuring them that everything is alright and sharing positive vibes will help keep your dog calm during grooming. For example, if you have a pooch that hates nail trimming, tell them it’s ok and that you’re almost done. 

2. Practice desensitization and counterconditioning 

Desensitization is the process by which you gradually introduce your dog to something that frightens them, in this case, grooming tools and techniques. Counterconditioning is used alongside desensitization; it teaches your dog a new behavior when presented with something that causes fear or anxiety. For example, when introducing nail trimming to an aggressive dog, you can give them something they love (like a treat or toy) every time you handle their paws. This teaches them that the presence of the grooming tool leads to something positive rather than something negative. 

3. Use short but frequent sessions

When training an aggressive dog, shorter but more frequent grooming sessions are a good strategy. Start by picking one procedure for the day and spend no more than 5 minutes on it, gradually increasing the time and difficulty of the task as you go. This helps to reduce the stress levels of your pup while allowing them to get used to this new experience slowly and safely. 

You can start by taking them to a groomer every two weeks just for a bath. Get them used to the tools, sounds, and smells of the groomer’s space. Then gradually move on to more complex tasks like haircuts, nail trimming, etc., when you feel they are ready, though it may take some time. Note that cultivating a rapport with the groomer requires time, and it demands both financial and time commitments. Nevertheless, the investment is highly worthwhile, given that grooming plays a significant role in maintaining your dog’s overall well-being.

4. Use positive reinforcement

When desensitizing your pup and introducing them to grooming sessions, giving them treats will help them understand that grooming is a pleasant experience. Every time you or the groomer handles their paws or any other body part that they may find uncomfortable, reward them with something they love (like a snack) and let them know how proud you are of their good behavior. This way, they will learn that the presence of grooming tools leads to something positive instead of something negative.

Reward your dog with a treat that you will use solely for grooming purposes, so you have to identify what is highly motivating to your pup first. Just like humans, different dogs have different preferences and motivations, so make sure that you use the same reward each time to build positive conditioning. 

 5. Initiate grooming while your dog is still young.

Ideally, start your pup’s grooming routine early on, typically between 10 to 16 weeks of age. Puppies actually like trying out new things and are pretty cool with getting to know stuff and learning. This makes teaching them to be cool with regular grooming much easier. 

Remember, young puppies have much shorter attention spans and more delicate skin when compared to adult dogs. Thus, grooming sessions should be relatively short but also regular so that good habits form quickly. This is especially true for nail trimming, as overly long nails can lead to various issues, such as pain or even lameness. 

6. Get your dog used to grooming tools. 

Let your pup get familiar with the grooming tools. Allow them to sniff, lick and observe these implements before you start using them on their body. When a dog visits Hound Therapy for the first time, we usually don’t give them a haircut. Instead, we only bathe them, tidy up their nails, and gently pass scissors and clippers over their body. This helps them become familiar with the sensations, sounds, and surroundings. Our primary goal is to ensure the dog feels at ease even before we consider attempting a haircut, especially in cases involving a dog that’s nervous or aggressive.

7. Use preventive measures in unexpected situations

For some aggressive dogs, staying calm during grooming might not work out, no matter how hard you try. But they still need grooming. You could think about using special anxiety-reducing jackets, trying natural medications, or using muzzles (for dogs that bite) as possible solutions.

Medications often come with side effects and don’t address the core issue. Nonetheless, there are instances where there’s simply no other choice. Speak to your vet and consider all the options before making a decision. 

dog groomer for difficult dogs is needed for this snarling dog at the beach

Tips to Remember 

  • Start early: It’s best to get your pup used to grooming as soon as possible. 
  • Create a routine: Establishing a regular and consistent grooming routine is key for puppies and adult dogs alike. 
  • Focus on comfort: Make sure the environment is comfortable and inviting, with minimal distractions, noise, and commotion. 
  • Use rewards: Encourage good behavior with treats or toys and reward your pup for staying calm during the process. 
  • Take it slow: It’s important to take things slowly and introduce new tools gradually so as not to overwhelm your dog. 
  • Keep it positive: Speak in a comforting voice and be patient. If you sense your pup is getting anxious, take a break and try again when they’re feeling more relaxed. 
  • Be prepared: Have a plan and be prepared for any unexpected scenarios that may arise during the grooming session. 
  • Seek professional help: If needed, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a professional groomer who specializes in grooming aggressive dogs. At Hound Therapy, you can trust your pup is in good hands.
  • Have patience: Grooming an aggressive dog takes time and perseverance, but with dedication, you can help your pup feel more comfortable and relaxed during the process. 
happy dog after finding dog groomers for difficult dogs


Grooming dogs with aggressive tendencies can be quite a challenge. However, you can make grooming sessions safer by using precautions and learning helpful techniques and tools that minimize risks and counteract their aggressive behavior.

Understanding why the dog is being aggressive helps you make necessary changes or plan for alternative solutions. With patience, consistency, and the help of a professional groomer, you can make grooming sessions much easier and more enjoyable for your pup.

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