Grooming is an essential part of a dog's life, but teaching him to tolerate grooming calmly can be a challenge. The key is in positive training. Although you can get a few things to make the job easier, what you do and how you train is what calms a dog who's nervous about grooming. But with the right tools and game plan, you can convince your dog that grooming is a good thing.
The Shopping List
Make the job easier with the tools you'll need. Start with high-value treats to teach your dog that grooming is a good thing. Use these treats only during your grooming training sessions. Invest in a grooming table where your dog can safely stand for brushing and trimming, rather than attempting to keep him quiet on the floor or a large open space. You can also designate a raised, flat surface in your house to use for this purpose. Place a towel on top so it's not slippery. Buy the proper tools for your dog's coat. You'll need a pin brush, a slicker brush and a comb for basic grooming. Have these handy before you start, and never leave your dog unattended on the table.
Make It Fun
Start early, as soon as you bring your puppy home. The younger you acclimate your dog to the grooming process, the easier it will become. It's not too early to begin teaching a puppy at 8 weeks that grooming is routine. Begin by getting the dog used to being touched. Place him on the couch or floor and sit beside him. Run your hands all over his body, scratching and massaging gently. Handle his feet. Talk to him while you pet him. Do this for several days or until he's used to it. Once he's relaxed, use a soft dog brush and run that lightly over his coat. Give him a treat and praise him when he's quiet. This method is also effective with adult dogs who are not used to grooming.
Timing Is Key
Time your training for when your dog is tired, after exercise or play. Put him on the table for short periods to start. Scratch, pat and praise, but don't groom him yet. Spend a few days to a week putting him on the table until he associates it with treats. Then introduce the brush again. Keep it brief, and slowly extend the grooming session, praising and treating the dog when he's calm.
Slow and Easy
A nervous dog will need more time to get used to being groomed. A puppy has a short attention span and won't stand still for long to be groomed. The key is to teach the process slowly enough that your dog gains confidence and realizes the dog brush is not the enemy. For several days, you may be able to do no more than put him on the table and show him the brush before you're able to use it. Teach him to associate a brushing with your high-value treats.
Herbal calmers such as Bach's Rescue Remedy, a combination of flower essences that's available at health food stores, can help a nervous or frightened dog adjust to being groomed. The dose, a few drops on the dog's tongue, is determined by his weight and should be given an hour or so before you plan to groom. Ask your vet or holistic practitioner whether this is appropriate for your dog if positive training is not enough.