How to prepare your dog for the groomer

If you are thinking of taking your puppy or dog to the groomer for the first time, there are some things you can do to make the experience more enjoyable. After all, there are quite a few sights, sounds, sensations and smells that he or she may never have encountered before which can upset even the most easygoing puppy or dog. And though he or she is not likely to complain, we still don't want them to have a "bad hair day."

There are many things you can do in preparation for the big day.

Sensations

From a dog's point of view, grooming can be a stressful experience. The dog may not understand what's happening to them, or why. The best approach is to handle your dog at home in ways to prepare them for the things they may experience while being groomed. New sensations may include:

  • Vibrating and noisy clippers, nail grinders, and blow dryers
  • Brushing and plucking of hair
  • Being bathed, and/or
  • Wet and slippery surfaces

All of these sensations can be introduced carefully and slowly at home. The earlier the better. For instance, you can put your dog in the tub and, using a plastic cup, pour some warm water over his or her body. Try to avoid the eyes and ears. Vibrations can be introduced by placing both your dog and something which vibrates (i.e., a running battery operated child's toy or cell phone) on a bed or couch at the same time. The vibrations will be transmitted through the mattress/stuffing. Dispensing treats and speaking in a calm reassuring voice while doing this will help to make the process pleasurable. Brushing the coat in the direction it grows, as well as against the natural growth is important as both may occur during the grooming process. Some dog breeds are plucked or hand stripped so tugging on their coat lightly (to pull out loose hairs) is good practice. Pick up each paw (one at a time) and hold it firmly. Rub your fingers gently in between the dog's pads. Hang on to the dog's paw and only release it if the dog is relaxed and not trying to pull its paw away from you. Don't try to stop the dog if he or she tries to struggle. Just hang onto the paw, gently yet firmly, until the dog relaxes. Teach your dog to understand the following terms: "sit," "stay," "stand," "off" and "settle." Play with his or her ears and gently hold his or her muzzle.

It is often quite noisy, and exciting at the groomers. Even if you do not have clippers handy, you probably have a blow dryer and he or she has probably heard it at least from a distance. Try to desensitize him or her to the sound of the dryer by bringing the dryer closer to him or her than you normally do. Try blowing the air on his or her feet or tail. The sound of scissors opening and closing is very distinct and easy to introduce your dog to while at home. Without actually clipping any hair, you can introduce your dog to this sound by opening and closing a pair of scissors at a safe distance around their bodies. Safety scissors for young children are a great option! Placing your hand over their muzzle and holding it gently and briefly is another great experience for your dog to learn. Only release the dog when he or she is calm and relaxed. Running the bath faucet while he or she is in the vicinity is also helpful in accustoming your dog to that very distinctive sound. Like all training exercises these steps should only be done in short intervals of time and should always be ended on a positive note with lots of praise.

Sights

Placing your dog or puppy on a table may help them to become accustomed to the views from this height. If you have a Great Dane this may not be possible; but with a small dog you may be able to find a table to practice this with. Keep hold of your dog at all times. Safety is key. If you're able to find a shiny table, all the better. Let him or her see you pick up and bring the following objects close to his or her body: scissors, a blow dryer, brushes of varying sizes and shapes as well as plastic bottles/jugs, and combs.