As a professional groomer, I’m often faced with the challenge of having to soothe a dog who doesn’t enjoy the experience. While some dogs genuinely enjoy their spa day, there are many dogs who become anxious, frightened, or stressed when they visit. No matter how hard I try to make every dog’s experience a positive one, there’s only so much I can do during the actual grooming process to alleviate a dog’s stress. Believe me when I say that I want every dog to enjoy their grooming—a happy, relaxed dog is much, much easier to groom. I can speak gently, offer treats, give calming touches, and move slowly but if a dog is frightened or stressed past their threshold, none of these things makes a great deal of difference.
5 ways to help your dog enjoy grooming
- Practice At Home
Your home is the place where your dog feels the most comfortable, so help them prepare for grooming appointments by brushing their coat and handling their feet, ears, and faces in the comfort of your home. A dog who is accustomed to the basics of grooming is much more likely to have a happy experience at the salon
- Be Patient
While we groomers always try to finish your dog’s ‘do by the time you specify, we may need extra time to make sure your dog has a good experience. When a dog is stressed, it can become necessary for us to groom them in short stages, giving them time to rest and calm down along the way. If a dog is upset and we keep pushing forward, it can cause a snowball effect that leads to a lifelong fear of being groomed.
- Ask Your Vet About A Prescription
For dogs who already have a fear of grooming, there are pharmaceuticals that can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help calm your pup during the process. The goal when using a mild sedative or anxiety medication during grooming is to create an emotionally calm state for your pet. By inhibiting the release of stress hormones in your dog, I can begin to build a positive relationship with him. By combining prescription pharmaceuticals with positive counter-conditioning, I’ve had incredible results in rehabbing dogs who have had negative grooming experiences in the past.
- Have Your Dog Groomed More Frequently
The more positive experiences your dog has at the groomer, the better. Each visit that isn’t traumatic will build trust between dog and groomer. More frequent visits will also help to prevent matting, overgrowth of toenails, and other potentially painful conditions.
A groomer’s greatest responsibility is the welfare of every dog they handle. This means we must be patient, focused, skilled, and caring. If you doubt any of these characteristics in a groomer, don’t hesitate to find a new one. There’s no licensing required to be a dog groomer, so it’s important to research the person you’re entrusting with your dog. Ask questions and get referrals. A good groomer won’t mind you asking for a chance to speak before you hand your dog into their care.