For some dogs, getting groomed can be a stressful situation. And the experience can be just as unpleasant for you as it can be for your dog. Trying to keep your dog from making a not-so-clean getaway from the bathtub or the dog grooming salon can be so frustrating, you may be tempted to throw in the towel. But despite the anxiety it can cause, dog grooming is necessary to keep your best friend healthy. Unkempt fur can lead to matting, irritated skin and even infections.
“We’ve seen extreme cases where matted fur begins to restrict movement of the legs and bruise and pull the skin,” says Lisa Futo, a volunteer groomer at the Arizona Humane Society. “Ears can become matted down to the side of head, creating a lack of air, and fur in the ear canal can collect debris, creating ear infections.”
Cutting dogs’ nails is also an important part of the grooming process. Without regular trimming, toenails can grow into your dog’s skin and make walking, standing or running painful, Futo says.
To help make pet grooming a more pleasant experience for you and your dog, try incorporating calming products into your grooming routine and following these tips from expert groomers.
Take the gloom out of grooming equipment
Whether you’re grooming at home or at a pet grooming salon, the key to easing anxiety in dogs is familiarizing them with the smell, touch and sound of grooming equipment, says Sally Berger, volunteer groomer for the Nevada Humane Society.
“Start by brushing or combing them gently, touch their feet to get them used to having their nails trimmed, run a damp washcloth over them, then reward with a treat or playtime,” she says.
Dryers can be a problem for some dogs, especially those that are afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks or other loud noises. To help ease noise-related stress, try using a hair dryer around your dog before using it on them, Berger says. And keep plenty of dog treats on hand. Try calming treats like NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid Dog Soft Chews or Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming Dog Chews, which taste great and contain natural ingredients that help reduce stress.
Dog hair clippers can also be a bit jarring if your pet has never been groomed before. To help get them used to the vibration, gently touch your dog’s backside with the clippers before using them, Futo says. “Animals are smart. Once you trim a few strips of fur, they understand what you’re doing as long as you give them time to warm up to the process.”
Bathing dogs in baby steps
When it comes to dog nemeses, the bath ranks up right there with the postal worker. But you can help get used to the idea with a little warm water and a lot of treats like Nutramax Cosequin Calm Chewable Tablets Dog Supplements, which are tasty, bone-shaped, chewable tablets that alleviate common signs of anxiety. Be sure to line the bathtub with a towel or mat to prevent your dog from slipping. Then, with a shower spray attachment or a cup, gradually wet the fur down, starting at the paws and working your way up to the legs, body and head. Use a soothing pet shampoo like Buddy Wash Relaxing Green Tea & Bergamot Dog Shampoo & Conditioner, which contains natural calming botanical extracts like rosemary and mint.
Start salon visits early on
If you decide to take your dog to a grooming salon, the sooner you start, the sooner they will create a positive association with the experience, especially puppies.
“Puppies love new experiences, people and any type of positive handling. This early exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of the grooming salon makes for the best introduction to the process,” Futo says.
If you have an older pet that’s never been to a grooming salon, make sure your groomer knows it’s their first visit and allow extra time for your dog and groomer to get to know one another, she says. Continue to foster your dog’s relationship with the groomer by visiting the salon just for a treat, not a groom.
Once your dog and your groomer have established a relationship, your dog will know what to expect and the anxiety should lessen, making the process easier for both you and your dog. You can also help reduce anxiety before you head to the grooming salon with calming products like Richard’s Organics Pet Calm, natural and organic drops that soothe nerves, and Vet’s Best Comfort Calm Soft Chews Dog Supplements, which can be given once a day to reduce stress and hyperactivity.
When they look good, they feel good
Regular grooming isn’t just good for your dog’s physical health; it’s good for their emotional well-being too. Just like we feel good after a hot shower or a relaxing day at the spa, your dog feels better after a groom, despite the drama they may experience beforehand.
“The reward for your dog is leaving a groom feeling great and looking great,” Futo says. “They strut out of the salon with their heads held high. The extra attention they get for looking so great also serves as a reward for the entire process.”