Grooming can be a stressful experience for your puppy. Here’s how to prepare your dog well from the start, to ensure she enjoys grooming sessions for life. Written by Kristina Dieta Setiabudi.
This post is part of a training series brought to you by Kristina Dieta Setiabudi from Puppy Colours, an established dog training school in Singapore.
Grooming can be a stressful experience for a puppy.
She will be in a new and potentially scary place, and left there with a stranger for a good part of the day. A stranger will hold her still, and touch her paws, ears, tail, and so on. There will be new objects like scissors, clipper/shaver and nail clippers.
In short, an unprepared puppy may find the grooming salon alarming, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you want your puppy to grow up loving every visit to her groomer, instead of refusing to enter, and then shaking and shivering the rest of the day from the experience, you need to get her ready before her first appointment.
Handle your puppy, and get others to handle her, too
Think about all the ways the groomer will need to handle your pup – holding her feet, ears, and tail; touching her all over; and restraining her. Do these things yourself on a regular basis.
Teach your dog to love this kind of handling by noting any areas of discomfort (when she shies away, pulls her paw away, or tries to leave) and pairing them with treats:
- Get treats ready
- Touch the body part for a second, and give a treat. Repeat
- Gradually increase the time and firmness of your touch, and continue to pair with treats
- Go at your pup’s pace – only increasing time and firmness when you see that your puppy is actively enjoying the game
- If your pup is clicker trained, you can use a clicker to associate being handled with good things
Introduce your puppy to the equipment
Note: The video shows a speeded up version of the process.
Don’t let the first time that your puppy sees nail clippers or hair clippers, or hears the hair dryer be at the groomer’s. Introduce her to these things gradually at home. Here’s how:
- Get bite-sized treats ready. Make sure it’s something that they really like
- Keep the training sessions short – under a minute each time
- Go at your puppy’s pace. The video is speeded up, so in reality, the process is and should be much slower. Make sure she is wagging her tail and having fun. If she seems stressed or nervous, back off to an earlier, easier, less scary step
- Show your dog a hair clipper, then give her a treat. Repeat several times
- Pull the hair clipper (turned off) a good distance away (say, 10 feet), turn it on and off quickly, and toss her a treat. Repeat
- Gradually come closer with the hair clipper (turned off), or better yet, let your puppy come closer to you. Continue to treat, then give her a break from the clipper/ shaver and stop the treats
- Now, turn the hair clipper on at a good distance (say, 10 feet), and start treating again
- Gradually leave the hair clipper running longer, continuing to treat whenever it’s turned on
- When you finally place the clipper/ shaver nearer to her, go back to a single second, treat, and then slowly increase the duration from there
#1 Early bath time can be easier with two people: One to do the work, and the other to give the treats.
#2 Go at your puppy’s pace. Make sure she is wagging her tail and having fun. If she seems stressed or nervous, back off to an earlier, easier, less scary step.
#3 Don’t rush it. You may not actually give your puppy a true bath the first two or three times, depending on how quickly she relaxes and seems to enjoy this game. That’s fine. If the first session is just getting in and out of the tub, so be it. The point is to take things slowly, and set things right for your puppy’s lifetime.