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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The groomer is always a stressful situation for BOTH of my dogs. Thanks for sharing these great tips.
Thanks Christina. Glad you found them useful
Greta tips! As a former groomer, I know it made it so much easier when people had taken the time to get their dogs ready for being groomed. It makes it so much less stressful for their dog.
Absolutely! I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for professional groomers sometimes.
I’ve got an anxious one who was uncomfortable with touch when we got him as a puppy, so we know the struggle. With other guy, he’s pretty chill, but isn’t a fan of the nail clippers. I took an overturned bucket and smeared peanut butter all over it. He didn’t even realize what I was doing! These are excellent tips!
Love that idea Joelle! Loki’s a fiend for peanut butter. If we’d used that trick she’d probably have been fine with grooming sooner!
Layla stresses when I take her to the groomer but I prefer having a professional do it as I have lousy eyes. Though our nightly ritual is brushing her which she loves, she just hears her drawer open (I have one for all her things) and she is jumping on the bed all excited and then just relaxes while I brush. It is one of our favorite times of the day as she knows then also that I am getting into bed and it is cuddle time – Great tips for grooming
Aww, that sounds heavenly Ruth! Sounds like she really enjoys it. Wish I could say the same for Loki, but she does tolerate it now thankfully. 🙂
I consider myself really lucky because my Yorkie loves to be brushed and doesn’t mind getting his hair cut.
That is lucky Cherri! Did you do anything to get your Yorkie used to it or was he naturally fine with being groomed?
I have a 6 month old white Schnauzer who hates to be brushed. His hair is very fine and matts like crazy so I am grateful to hear about the spray. I have had 6 Schnauzer over the years and this is the only one who goes wild when he sees a brush. I hadn’t thought about a muzzle either so that may be my next purchase as well. Thank you for your tipsm
No problem Carol. Glad the article could be of help! Our schnauzer is the same. Has fur like cotton wool that matts so easily. Even wearing a jumper causes matts under her armpits – it’s a nightmare! The spray is great and I also swear by the slicker brush. It really does work to tease out those tangles. I’d only really suggest the muzzle if your schnauzer bites aggressively. Other than that you may like to look at another one of my articles on how to keep a dog calm while grooming. http://www.gonedogmad.com/how-to-keep-a-dog-calm-while-grooming/
I recently got a puppy and I am so glad that I found this article because I did not know that grooming my dog is so important!
Awesome Blog!! Here I found information about health benefits of good dog grooming. It’s useful tips for us. Thanks for this information.
My elderly mothers dog gets very anxious when the mobile groomer visits. He is a 12 yr old Yorkshire terrier. He tries to bite so therefore has to have a mussel on which he hates. He becomes so anxious his breathing gets rapid and he gets very warm. He doesn’t mind his body being done it’s his face and legs we have difficulty with. I end up holding him rather than using the table. What can you suggest please
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that Janet. The key is to go at his pace and not push it to the point he’s becoming overly stressed. At the moment it seems he’s built it up as a negative and stressful experience, so you need to slowly start to rewire the way he percieves grooming. So essentially you need to start associating grooming with positive things. Speak to him in calming, gentle tones, and have his favourite treat on hand when he seems more settled. Do it in short bursts and stop before you can see he’s becoming anxious. You can do this yourself in between your groomer visits, slowly get him used to having scissors and a brush etc around his face and legs. Bring them out a couple of times a day and give him praise while he’s remaining calm while you imitate the movements. Good luck and I hope this helps!
I like how you said to give your dog treats when they behave calmly while grooming them. I don’t how to groom my dog but I’ve been told he doesn’t behave well when he does get groomed. I’ll bring his favorite treats next time and give them to him while they groom him so that he behaves better.
Glad you found these tips useful David! The most important point is to make grooming a positive experience for your pup. And if they seem distressed or agitated, give them a break and try again next time.
Good to hear that others have similar problems to me. Some of the tips sound well worth trying. I have a Tibetan Terrier who has very fine thick woolly coat that mats so easily especially when wet. He is three years old with a wicked sense of humour but hates being groomed. He runs away even at the slightest hint that I am getting a comb or brush even though I have been very gentle and encouraging. He is a very nervous dog in some ways but this is becoming a bit of a game as well I suspect.
Some dogs just hate it! But keep at it with the gentle encouragement, praise and treats and he’ll get there.
Our dog is just about to turn two and from the moment we got him he’s been unable to cope with grooming, becoming vicious and biting every groomer we’ve taken him to. We’ve tried doing it at home slowly, We’ve tried treats, taking breaks and every trick we can find. He still gets so upset and is now getting some matts where he won’t let anyone touch them. Do you have any advice? Trying our best to look after our dog!
Hi Maddie, sorry to hear your dog is struggling to cope. You might find the help of a dog behaviourist could help in your case. You can also buy calming aids for dogs that might help relieve some of the anxiety. Have a look online for calming aids for dogs. Some of them are effective, but you may need to trial and error your options to see which one’s best for your dog. As a last resort you might want to try a muzzle. I hate to suggest it, but it will help keep you both safe and may even have a calming effect.