It can be difficult to groom your dog at home if they are scared, anxious, or just plain fidgety. Here, our Mandeville vets share some tips for keeping your dog calm during grooming.
Grooming Anxious and Nervous Dogs
Grooming is an important part of caring for your dog's wellbeing. Matted fur, dirty ears, and overly long nails are uncomfortable for your dog and can lead to more serious health issues if left unattended. Grooming also gives you an opportunity to check your dog for any suspicious lumps, bumps, or skin irritations that might require further veterinary care.
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.
Helping Your Dog to Stay Calm During Grooming
Begin Grooming Young
Whether you are grooming your dog at home or taking them to a professional groomer it's a good idea to begin a grooming routine while your dog is very young. By beginning a regular routine of brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning early, your dog will begin to see grooming as normal and not something to fear.
- 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.
- 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.
Whether you are preparing to groom your dog yourself, or just getting ready to take your dog to the groomer's, it's important to remain calm. If your dog senses that you are nervous they will think there is something to fear.
- Professional Groomer: If possible, consider walking your dog to the groomers. 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.
- 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.
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 tire your dog out without the help of medications. Allowing your dog to use up all their energy before the grooming begins is a great way to keep them calm and relaxed throughout the 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, you might begin by letting your dog sniff the grooming tools while offering treats to show your pup the tools are nothing to be scared of.
When you get to the actual grooming process, go at your dog's pace, even if that means only clipping one nail at each attempt. Eventually, with positive reinforcement, your dog may be able to handle the entire process in one sitting.
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, a number of 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 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
If your canine friend is nervous or anxious in spite of your efforts to keep grooming calm you may want to try using 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 in an odorless, non-sedative, synthetic hormone that can help to relax dogs, but has no effect on 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.
Dog Grooming for Difficult Dogs
If your dog is extremely anxious, fearful, or difficult to handle during grooming it may be necessary to visit your vet to discuss medication to calm your dog for grooming.
While a number of effective anti-anxiety and sedation medications are available for dogs, not all sedation medications work for all dogs. Sedation medications that your vet may recommend for your dog include diazepam, acepromazine, gabapentin, or fluoxetine.
Never give your dog sedation medications without first consulting your veterinarian.