Anxiety is something that we all feel at some point, and animals feel it, too. Dogs get excited for the littlest of things, jumping and yelping at the sight of the walking leash. They can also hide and whimper, or even fight against you when you try to groom them.
For the first few times a dog is being groomed, it doesn’t understand what is going on and might fidget and be antsy. This will obviously make grooming difficult. Luckily there are some ways when it comes to how to calm a dog for grooming. Let’s take a look at some of the best options to keep your pup cool, calm, and collected.
Praise And Affection
Sometimes the best way to calm your dog down is to show them that they will be rewarded for it. Similar to teaching a dog to sit, stay, or rollover, you have to show them what they have to do and show them that doing so will earn them praise.
Show them affection and give them positive reinforcement. Treats are also an excellent way to reward them and can provide them with something to focus on while you brush and trim them. Make sure that the treats don’t become the only way to control them, though, as this can make them feisty and ONLY respond to treats.
Another way to show them to be calm is to have them get used to the feeling of grooming. Leading up to their grooming session, practice “grooming” them by running your hands or a brush along with the fur. Have them rest on their back as you simulate what grooming would feel like. Make sure they see the tools and can recognize what they are for so that they are nice and comfortable.
An easy way to give the tools a positive image to your pet is to provide them with a small treat or pet for each individual item. For example, you can bring out the clippers, hold them up to their face, and give them a scratch behind the ear.
This gives them positive reinforcement for these tools and teaches them that there isn’t anything to be worried about. It may take a few attempts to have them fully accept the grooming tools, but it’s a start and a step in the right direction.
Sometimes what you need to do is to give them a light grooming session. What this entails is entirely up to you. The idea is to show them what grooming requires and to let them become acquainted with the feel of being handled.
Grooming can involve a lot of moving and touching sensitive areas, especially around the face. Hug your pup and trace the contours of their face, slowly letting them get used to the feel of being touched there.
As they grow used to one aspect, introduce to them the positions a groomer would have them in. For example, have them lie on their back so that you can brush their stomach.
Using a brush can also make them grow more used to being handled. Gently brush out their fur and show them what it’s like and how it feels. This can be done at the same time as the “conditioning” seen above. Your dog will then know precisely what sensation matches which tool. Then, they can be less anxious about the handling and feel of brushes and clippers.
When behavioral treatment doesn’t seem to be working and your dog is still quite scared or anxious, perhaps speak to your vet about sedatives. Your groomer cannot legally prescribe any form of medication, so be sure to talk to your vet about what is safe to use to keep them calm. There are a few over-the-counter drugs that are weak enough to work on dogs without too many adverse effects, but you should always speak to a vet beforehand.
One that is commonly prescribed is Benadryl. While this medication is meant for allergies and motion sickness, it also has a minor sedative effect. If you have ever taken this medication, you will have likely experienced drowsiness from taking it. In small doses, your dog can experience this drowsiness, which will help put them at ease.
Benadryl and other similar medications will not work for severe anxiety, however. For this reason, more powerful sedatives are prescribed. An example of this would be Acepromazine. This is a much more powerful sedative, but as with all medication, stronger medicine means a higher chance of side effects. In the case of Acepromazine, it can have paradoxical effects, meaning it can make your pet more energetic or aggressive.
There are many ways to prepare and train your dog to accept the touch that comes with grooming. Some may be more drastic than others. The best advice would be to start with harmless behavioral treatments before moving onto seeking a veterinarian’s advice on what medication to use.