Grooming your dog at home can be difficult if your dog is scared, anxious, or just plain fidgety. Here our Johns Creek 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 untreated.
If your dog is nervous or anxious about the grooming process then grooming can quickly become a nightmare.
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 still a puppy. By beginning a regular routine of brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning early, your dog will begin to see grooming as a normal routine 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 normal.
- 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.
It's important to remain calm whether you are preparing to groom your dog yourself, or just getting ready to take your dog to the groomers. If your dog senses that you are scared they will think there is something to fear.
- Professional Groomer: Consider walking your dog to the groomers or going out and exercising before the appointment. 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: Be prepared. 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 sedate your dog without the help of medications. After your dog has used up all of their energy, grooming will a more relaxed 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 don't need to complete the groom in one sitting. Start small, even if that means only clipping one nail at each attempt, stay calm, positive and patient.
Dogs are tactile animals. They 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. Through touch they know their family is there and will protect them.
It may sound odd but, 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 a room in an odorless, non-sedative, synthetic hormone which can help to relax dogs, but it should have 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.
Medical Sedation for Dogs
As a last resort, if your dog is extremely anxious or fearful during grooming it may be necessary to visit your vet to discuss medical sedation options.
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 to give your dog sedation medications without first consulting your veterinarian.