Proper grooming is important for all dogs but especially those with high maintenance or long coats. Unfortunately, going to the groomer can be a stressful experience for some dogs, making grooming very difficult.
So why is it that some dogs don’t like going to the groomer and how can we teach them good grooming behaviour?
Why do some dogs hate going to the groomer?
While many dogs don’t mind a trip to the groomer, some dogs can become fearful, anxious and even aggressive at the groomer. But why is this so? There are several reasons why a dog might not enjoy going to the groomer. These include:
- Previous bad experiences at the groomer. For example, if a previous groomer was too rough or accidently hurt or frightened the dog.
- Never been to the groomer before. Dogs fear the unknown. It’s a survival instinct. Going to the groomer can be scary for dogs who’ve never been before because it’s a new environment, an unfamiliar person, and the dog is being handled in a way they are probably not used to.
- Separation anxiety. If your dog has separation anxiety, going to the groomer can be a very stressful experience and may exacerbate their separation anxiety.
Dogs who are scared at the groomers can be very difficult to groom and may show aggression towards the groomer in an attempt to make them stop or move away. This can be dangerous for the groomer but also detrimental for dogs who need their coats maintained for optimal welfare.
The good news is that, with some training, treats, management and kindness, all dogs can be taught to enjoy (or at least tolerate) going to the groomer.
How to train your dog for good grooming behaviour
You can train your dog to both enjoy going to the groomer and to encourage good grooming behaviour, such as staying calm and still when being groomed. Training your dog to be comfortable at the groomers should begin when they’re a puppy as soon as you bring them home.
This training should start with teaching your puppy to enjoy being handled and gently brushed.
The idea is to build a positive association with handling and grooming over time. This foundation of positive experiences will result in a dog who is more comfortable with grooming when they go for their first appointment at the groomers. It’s also important to maintain a positive association with visiting the groomer. Groomers who use treats, praise and attention during the grooming process help maintain this positive association and create dogs who enjoy going to them.
The same process can be used for older or adopted dogs who are visiting the groomer for the first time.
First, work on gradually building a positive association with handling and grooming at home.
Then, progress to building and maintaining this positive association at the groomers.
How to choose the right groomer for your dog
When choosing a groomer for your dog it’s important to select one who is knowledgeable about behaviour and kind and understanding when it comes to dogs who are fearful or anxious. Choose a groomer who is willing to take their time with your dog, reassure them and ensure your dog has a positive experience during the grooming process.
A groomer who is willing to take things slowly and incorporate lots of treats during the grooming process will help build a positive association with being groomed for your dog over time.
Some groomers are less concerned how their canine clients feel and are more inclined to rush them through the grooming process. This can maintain or even exacerbate fear or anxiety associated with going to the groomer. These groomers should be avoided if your dog is fearful/anxious or avoidant when it comes to going to the groomer.
You’ll be able to get a feel for whether or not a groomer is suitable for your dog by asking lots of questions about how they manage and help dogs who are scared, unsure or anxious and by visiting their grooming salon.