How to Keep a Dog Calm and Relaxed While Grooming
Let's talk about how to keep a dog calm and relaxed while grooming!
If there’s one thing that I know about, it’s dealing with an anxious dog. I once pet sat a small terrier. The first especially could get very defensive with neighbours and new people.
During my first day with her alone, it took me over 10 times to put her harness on right. It made her stress over me worse. I often ended up sitting on a spot on the floor a couple of feet away from her dog bed. Fortunately, she warmed up to me after several hours and we were able to go for a walk by the end of the day.
However, if you’ve ever wondered why your dog hates going to the groomer as much as they hate going to the veterinarian, you’re not alone. The degree of their anxiety can show up in any form from mild whimpering to panic attacks.
Fortunately, there are many ways as to how you can keep a dog calm while grooming.
Why does my dog hate being groomed?
It’s not usually because of the groomer him- or herself that your dog hates. It’s because their senses of smell and hearing are much more sensitive than ours. They also don’t like being restrained in tight spaces, especially around other dogs. It also involves being touched in every area, including sensitive ones.
To know the best way to calm your dog, the first thing you need to do is look for signs of stress. For dogs, these include looking around for an exit, half-moon eyes, excessive yawning, licking the lips and tucking the tail between the legs.
Here are the first things you should do if you notice that your dog is distressed:
- Give them some space immediately and keep an eye on them from a spot close by.
- Don’t try to approach the pup head-on, make direct eye contact or lean over them. That can make them turn aggressive. Instead, try approaching the pup from the side and if you need to touch them, move from under the belly area.
- If your dog is extremely stressed, try sitting on the spot on a floor at their level. Try to encourage them to come to you. When they do, be sure to reward with a treat.
There are several things that you can do to ease your dog’s anxiety at the groomer’s.
Naturally, the car ride is first. Experts say that desensitisation and/or counter-conditioning works best. Desensitisation is the process of introducing your dog to your vehicle on a step-by-step basis. The second is simply turning your dog’s negative experiences into positive ones.
Here's an example.
Have your dog look at your vehicle for several minutes by sitting close to it, then practice doing turnabouts from your driveway or backing up from your apartment’s parking lot space with your dog sitting in the back, etc.
An example of counter-conditioning is letting your dog play a game like tug-of-war while in the parked vehicle.
Motion sickness is very common for puppies because they’re simply not used to a moving vehicle yet. However, if your adult dog is still having motion sickness issues, it may not hurt to get them checked out and your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-nausea medication such as calming drops for dogs.
One non-toxic medicine that acts as a relaxant to both dogs and cats is our Tranquillity calming drops for dogs.
One to two full pipettes in the morning and night is recommended. However, in the case of a grooming day, depending on your dog’s appointment, I would give it first thing when you’re up for the day and once on the hour if necessary.
Other things you can do are keeping the temperature cool, the windows lowered, limiting their food and drink intake for the last three hours before the trip and exercising your dog about the last 20 minutes before the trip. If you want to, you can spritz some dog pheromones in your car as well.
The second main thing is getting your dog used to being handled on every part of their body. For example, the paws are often a sensitive area for dogs. One thing you can do there is started by touching your pup on the shoulder and using a cue word such as “shoulder” or “leg”. Once your dog reacts calmly, reward with a treat. Then slowly work your way down until your dog tolerates being touched on the paw.
Ask your groomer if they’ll allow your dog to have a train-ahead session at their facility. That is, for you to bring your dog there just to get a feel of the environment without receiving the services.
That’s the time to tell the staff about your desensitisation techniques. That’s also the time to test your dog on the table. If your dog is too intimidated to jump up on it, there should be something like a stool or a ladder available. If it’s the slippery table surface that doesn’t agree with your dog, putting some towels or antislip mats on it should help.
If your dog doesn’t like having water or shampoo dripping on their face, disposal facial cloths should make good substitutes. This also is the time for your dog to get used to the noises of hairdryers, etc.
If possible, also check to see if the facility offers other activities such as play or treat training. Be sure to take plenty of treats with you as it is important for your dog to associate your groomer with fun and good times.
If your dog has a lot of biting issues, they may have to be restrained with a muzzle during the session. Just smear a treat, such as a peanut butter on to get your dog to willingly put their face into the muzzle.
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