All dogs need to be groomed. Whether that’s trimming their fur, brushing their teeth, clipping their nails or maintaining ear hygiene, your dog relies on you to keep them healthy.
If you’ve brought a new puppy into your home, it’s never too early to introduce grooming into their routine. If you leave it too late, you could have a lifelong struggle on your hands. They could become fearful or anxious of the grooming process, making maintenance a stressful experience for both you and your dog.
In fact, I wish someone had told me this before we got Loki. We were new dog owners. After reading articles online we gathered the standard age to introduce grooming was at 6 months.
How wrong we were!
As a big ball of stubborn energy, Loki saw the brush as a nuisance to bite at. I admit we were a little overwhelmed being first-time dog owners and I would have done things differently.
But now at 1.5 years of age Loki tolerates grooming in all its many forms. We achieved this by following the tips below. And if you’re struggling, you can too.
So if you’ve missed the boat and your older dog squirms or fights against you while grooming, you need to go back to basics.
With these steps, I’m sure you’ll see a dramatic difference in your dog’s behaviour when you next bring the brush or clippers out.
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Let them explore the equipment
For a new pup, grooming equipment can be alien and scary. They feel unusual and can make sounds they’ve never heard before. So for all grooming appliances, introduce them slowly.
Hold the brush or clippers in front of your dog and let them sniff and touch the item. Speak softly and give them praise as they gain confidence while exploring. You want this initial introduction to be a pleasant experience. You’re helping them understand they have absolutely nothing to fear.
Put your dog at ease
If you’re feeling calm and relaxed your dog will take your lead. Take a moment to stroke your dog gently to release any stress or anxieties. Praise them softly to help pup settle more easily and to show them calm behaviour is what you want in this situation.
Your touch and attention offers your dog reassurance that nothing bad is going to happen to them.
Mimic the action
Take further baby steps to introduce the grooming equipment. To familiarise your pup with the motions, run the back of the brush over their fur. Don’t use the bristles at this point, just help them feel comfortable with the sensation and movement of the brush.
While the clippers are turned off, run them over their back a few times. Turn the clippers on and let your dog get used to the sound. Let them touch or sniff the clippers if they seem confident enough to do so.
When your dog accepts the presence of the clippers, run the side of the clippers over their back to get them used to the vibrations.
When your pup is comfortable with these stages, you can start clipping or brushing for real.
Groom when they’re settled
Start grooming only when your pup is settled. If they’re in play mode or pacing around your home, don’t attempt to groom at this early stage.
If they’re lying on the sofa or in their bed, go to where they are. Take your brush and gently glide the bristles through their fur. Use slow actions so you don’t disturb them too much from their relaxed state.
For trimming, use your scissors and slowly trim away fur you can easily access. You need to help them feel comfortable with being touched in this way without raising anxiety or panic.
Stop when it gets too much
If your dog starts trying to bite the brush or seems agitated in any way, it’s time to stop. Even if you’ve only managed to brush one side or clip two paws, that’s ok. You can try again in a few hours when they’re settled again.
If you carry on when they’re clearly restless they’ll come to associate grooming with a negative experience. Doing little and often will build their trust in you and help them slowly adjust to their grooming routine.
Reward when they’re calm and still
Always keep a handful of treats ready while grooming. Brush or clip your dog for two seconds, praise calmly and offer a treat.
You want your dog to be sitting still while being brushed before they can have the treat. Slowly increase the length of time between brushing and reward. Offering treats shows your dog good things happen when they’re calm.
Make it a positive experience
Most importantly, be a gentle and calming influence to make grooming a positive experience. You want them to look forward to brush time, or at the very least tolerate the process.
Keep your frustrations outside. Your dog will respond to your stress levels if you react to their behaviour. Don’t yank at your dog or shout at them for not sitting still. Grooming can be a distressing time for your pup if it’s not handled with care.
If your dog kicks up an almighty fuss every time you groom, you’re unable to give them the attention and care they need.
Our dogs need regular brushing and clipping to keep their coat healthy. They need their teeth brushed to avoid common dental problems, and their ears cleaned to prevent infections.
Put in the hard work now and you’ll have a calm and care-free pooch when they need routine care.
How does your dog react to grooming? Are they a dream to work with or do they need a little encouragement? Let me know how you and your dog get on in the comments below.
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