Grooming Anxiety

For a variety of reasons, some dogs don’t like grooming. For some it’s just not at the top of their priority list: In fact it’s way, way down below sleeping, eating, cuddling, walking, chasing a ball and lots of other activities dogs see as more rewarding than a bath, nail trim and hairstyle. It’s okay if grooming isn’t on their top ten list, though most dogs do tolerate it just fine, are happy enough to see us, will readily eat treats throughout the grooming appointment, and feel really good about themselves when they are all clean and looking their best. If they would rather be out on a fun walk, we don’t take it personally, because that’s just sensible!

Once in awhile though, a dog has much stronger feelings of anxiety about grooming. It might be from a negative association – perhaps a groomer brushed out a painful mat once during a developmental fear stage. Maybe another dog barked in a grooming salon and upset the dog, or a groomer handled the dog too quickly or too abruptly. Usually this is the type of thing dog owners assume when a dog is excessively worried about grooming. Sometimes it is something like that, or sometimes it’s just that the dog hasn’t been introduced slowly enough to grooming and handling, or maybe that the dog is environmentally sensitive and finds strangers, other dogs, water, dryers, etc. stressful. Whatever the cause, it is really important if the dog has a coat that requires a lifetime of grooming, to find a way to reduce his stress level in a grooming situation.

If your dog is anxious, please talk to us about it before you bring the dog in for an appointment. We will give you a lot of advice on how to reduce the anxiety. Depending on the dog, her history, and the level of anxiety we might suggest coming in a few times before the grooming just for a meet, eat and greet. This allows the dog a chance to be exposed the environmental factors without the pressure of the handling that grooming requires. It’s lower stress, higher reward, and your dog will get to know us a little, as will you. The more comfortable you both feel before the dog is left with us for grooming, the better! We might also give you some homework if there are specific stressors, like brushing or foot handling. It won’t be anything that takes a large amount of time, just a few minutes each day for a week or two, and it’s an investment that really pays off for both you and your dog.  We have had a lot of success with this confidence building approach over the years, and it’s truly rewarding to see a dog relax about grooming.

Please note: We do not use sedatives, and we often prefer that dogs not be sedated by their owners before coming in for grooming. Sedatives can be counter productive for the long term if a dog is fearful or anxious about grooming, often making anxiety worse since the dogs feel completely out of control. Sedatives should only be used when all training avenues have been exhausted.