An anxious dog can be difficult to groom, especially if they squirm or become aggressive during grooming appointments. Here, our Baltimore veterinarians share how you can make the grooming process less stressful for you and your dog.
Grooming Anxious & Nervous Dogs
Grooming is an essential part of taking care of a dog. Matted fur, goopy ears, and overly long nails are uncomfortable for your dog and can lead to more serious health issues if left unattended.
From bathing to brushing, ear cleaning to nail trimming, grooming can quickly become a nightmare if your dog is nervous or anxious about the grooming process.
Keeping Your Dog Calm During Grooming
Begin Grooming Young
- At-Home Grooming: Beginning at-home grooming while your puppy is young is a great way for both of you to begin feeling relaxed and comfortable about the grooming process. Beginning grooming while your puppy is still small and manageable will also help you to become more confident.
- Professional Groomers: If you have a fearful or anxious puppy, professional groomers are trained in a variety of methods to help put your dog at ease. Taking your puppy to the groomer while they are young will help to teach your dog that visiting the groomer is a normal and enjoyable day out.
Whether you are preparing to groom your dog yourself, or just getting ready to take your dog to the groomer, it's important to remain calm. If your dog senses that you are nervous they will think there is something to fear.
- At-Home Grooming: Have all the grooming tools ready before bringing your dog into the room. Being prepared will help you to remain calm throughout the grooming process. Speak to your dog calmly and let your dog safely sniff and explore tools such as brushes and clippers. Wait until your dog is calm before beginning grooming, and have treats handy to reward good behavior.
- Professional Groomer: If possible, consider walking your dog to the groomer. The added exercise provided by a walk is a great way to burn off nervous energy and help your dog to arrive at the groomer's feeling calm and confident.
One of the best ways to calm a dog down before grooming is through vigorous exercise. Long walks, running, chasing a ball, or playing with other dogs at the dog park are great ways to sedate your dog without the help of medication. Once your dog has used up all of their energy, grooming will become a relaxed and simple process.
Positive reinforcement is an effective way to train your dog to stay calm and relaxed during grooming. Offering treats and praise when your dog sits still to be brushed or lets you clip a nail will teach your dog good grooming manners. Take it slow, even if that means only clipping one nail at each attempt, stay calm, positive, and patient.
Provide a Calming Touch
Dogs love to be patted and pet and grooming time is no different. Patting and holding your nervous dog throughout the grooming process can help to reassure your pet that everything is ok and that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Just like humans, several scents are known to have calming effects on dogs. To help calm your dog during grooming try rubbing some lavender essential oil onto your fingertips and then running your fingers through your pet's fur. The relaxing scent of lavender, combined with the calming effect of touch may help to make your dog feel more relaxed.
Dog Appeasing Pheromones
One lesser-known but sometimes effective option is a synthetic pheromone diffuser.
Pheromones are chemical compounds that transmit signals between animals. Scientists have isolated the compound that transmits a sense of calming relaxation to dogs, and have created a range of products that can help to keep pets calm during grooming.
Using a synthetic pheromone diffuser bathes your room with an odorless, non-sedative, synthetic hormone that can help to relax dogs, but does not affect humans or other animals. Speak to your vet to find out more about using a synthetic pheromone diffuser to help calm your dog during grooming.
Medical Sedation for Dogs
In some severe cases, your vet might prescribe sedation during grooming appointments. This is usually only suggested if your pet exhibits serious behavioral issues during grooming that puts the groomer or themselves at risk. If your pup has had continued, severe behavior issues at the groomer that has not gotten better with desensitization and training, you might ask your veterinarian about medical sedation.
Keep in mind, medical sedation is usually only an option during the grooming appointment if your dog is being groomed at the veterinarian's clinic, not with an outside groomer.