Not all of our furry friends are afraid of going to the groomer, but to some it’s one of the worst days of their life, second only to going to the vet. Every pet can react differently – some may have mild anxiety and be irritable and other can have a full-blown panic attack. To ensure your pet’s happiness and safety, here are 5 tips for reducing the fear of the groomer thanks to Vet Street:
Take the Stress Out of the Ride
Car rides provoke anxiety and dogs that arrive at the groomer already stressed or anxious which can be an extra challenge. There are a couple of reasons your dog may dislike the car, they may be anxious about the ride itself or the anticipated destination like the groomer. Counter conditioning can help ease your dog’s fear and increase their enjoyment of riding in the car. Anxiety and discomfort may also be related to motion sickness, so talk to your veterinarian to see if an anti-nausea medication may be helpful.
Get Your Dog Used to Being Handled
Grooming often includes handling of sensitive areas, including the muzzle, eyes, ears, paws, tail, rear and groin. Training can help your dog remain relaxed with different types of touching, even in sensitive spots. Try working with your dog at home to get him used to being handled before you take him to the groomer and reward your dog with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue. If your dog is sensitive in areas like the ear or paws, start by touching them on an area where it’s less sensitive, like the shoulder and gradually move toward the paw with a gentle touch. Reward your dog with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue and handling the area. Continue training only while your dog is calm, relaxed and receptive.
Make the Groomer’s a Happy Place to Visit
Ask your groomer if it’s possible to do a training visit without any grooming being done. Instead, pair being in the parking lot or lobby with events your dog likes, such as play, treat training or going on a walk. If possible, ask staff to practice the handling you’ve trained and following up with rewards. Use the visit to accustom your dog to the sights and sounds of the groomer, including the noise of clippers or dryers, and to practice being lifted on and off the grooming table. Be sure to follow up with lots of treats, so that your dog learns to associate the groomer’s with good things.
Think Outside the Box
Identify the specific aspects of the grooming experience that make your dog uncomfortable and look for alternatives. For instance, if your dog is frightened when he’s lifted onto the grooming table, look for options, like ramps or stairs that let him climb up on his own. If he dislikes the slippery surface of the grooming table, place towels or anti-slip mats under him. Facial wipes or lightly dampened cloths can be used for dogs that dislike running water near their heads. Even small changes like increasing the frequency of treats or adjusting the temperature of the bathwater can help reduce your dog’s stress levels tremendously.
Consider a Muzzle
A muzzle can make grooming easier and safer for your dog and for the groomer, especially if your dog is already difficult to handle and has needed extra restraint or muzzling in the past. Muzzle training can reduce the need for other types of restraint and can protect your pet against the implications of a bite. Train your dog to willingly put his nose into the muzzle by smearing a soft treat, like peanut butter, on the inside or use a basket muzzle with small openings; this allows the dog to take treats while wearing the muzzle, which can also help keep the dog calm. These strategies may not work for every dog.
If training is failing to make a dent in your dog’s anxiety levels, or if your dog is reacting aggressively to any attempts to groom him, seek your veterinarian’s guidance about professional training. Talk to your veterinarian as well about possible medication options to help manage your dog’s grooming anxiety.