How to Groom a Dog That Bites

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Dog grooming can be challenging; it's even more challenging when dealing with a dog that bites or nips. Fortunately, there are dog grooming methods that can dramatically reduce the risk of being bitten.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog muzzle
  • A second person
  • Bathtub or grooming tub
  • Dog brushes
  • Dog shampoo
  • Towel
  • Dog nail clippers or file
  • Dog ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls
  • Dog grooming table (optional)
  • Clippers and scissors (optional)
  • Blow dryer or dryer system (optional)

Begin by placing a muzzle on the dog. This will protect you and will not be in the way for most of the grooming session. The muzzle must be properly sized to prevent bites.

Put the dog on your grooming table or other surface and brush the dog to remove dead fur. Using proper brushes for the dog's coat type is vital for efficiency in grooming, but also for the dog's comfort. Most dog bites during grooming are due to fear, but occasionally a dog may bite due to discomfort during brushing. If the dog has long fur around the snout and face, temporary removal of the muzzle will be required. Immediately after the muzzle is removed, a second person must hold the dog's mouth closed while you quickly brush the fur around the snout and face. When this is finished, immediately put the muzzle back on. (See the Resources section for more information on dog brush selection.) It can help to also have this person offer happy, encouraging words and soothing pets to the dog, reducing fear and lessening the chance of a bite.

Clip the dog's nails, using caution to avoid the "quick," the live part of the nail. Cutting the live part of the nail is painful, and this can trigger a dog bite. Using a dog nail file is a good option for dogs with dark nails, as the quick is not visible in these dogs. Reduce fear (and the chances of biting) during this process by bending the dog's foot back at the ankle or knee, with the top of the dog's foot facing the floor. This makes it more difficult for the dog to see the nail clippers or nail file. The sight of the nail clippers or file is frightening to many dogs, so limiting the dog's view of these tools is safer for the groomer.

Clean the dog's ears using dog ear cleaning solution and cotton balls. Warming the ear cleaning solution by placing it in warm water beforehand can make ear cleaning more comfortable, reducing your risk of a dog bite due to surprise or discomfort.

Bathe the dog in a bathtub or grooming tub. This can be done with the dog's muzzle in place. Temporary removal of the muzzle will be required to wash the dog's face. Again, a second person must hold the dog's mouth closed while you work quickly to shampoo and rinse the dog's face. Immediately replace the muzzle. If the dog struggles during the bath, the dog's collar can be left on and a second person can hold the dog in place, with one hand on the collar and one hand on the back at the base of the tail. Again, the second person can focus on offering happy, encouraging words to the dog and soothing pets or massage.

Towel the dog dry after bathing and brush the dog's fur to remove any tangles.

You can use a drying system or blow dryer to speed drying the dog's fur, but it's not recommended for a dog that's prone to fear biting. Air drying is the best option in that case. If you do decide to dry the fur, relax the dog with massage or play during the drying process.

If necessary, return the dog to the grooming surface and use clippers or scissors to trim the dog's coat, with the muzzle left in place. Facial fur is often trimmed, so if necessary, remove the muzzle for this portion of the dog's trim. Again, a second person must hold the dog's snout to prevent snapping and movement that could result in trimming or clipping errors. Don't forget to use soothing and encouraging words with the dog.

After clipping, use a slicker brush to give the dog's coat a final brush and to remove any remaining dead fur.

Remove the dog's muzzle and offer a treat and praise for the dog's good behavior during the grooming process. Giving treats when the muzzle is removed for facial grooming can also help to relax a fearful dog.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a happy, encouraging voice when grooming a dog. This will help to reduce stress and fear. Remove the muzzle only when absolutely necessary during grooming. A second person should be present to hold the dog's snout to prevent snapping and biting.
  • Never leave a muzzled dog unattended.

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