If your dog is skittish around the groomer, some preshampoo conditioning can help allay fears, as can using positive rewards for good behavior.
The earlier you start taking your pup to the groomer, the more comfortable he’ll be. This is especially important for dogs who tend to need a lot of grooming, such as poodle and spaniel mixes and long-haired dogs.
Simple grooming practices such as bathing and brushing can be done at home, but clipping and scissor-cutting requires a practiced, professional hand, especially in sensitive areas such as the face, feet and behind. A scared dog is often a wiggly dog, making home grooming a greater challenge and a potentially negative experience for everyone.
Train Your Pooch
A dog who’s gone through obedience training, either at home or with a professional, knows what’s expected of him when he’s given certain commands. This can actually empower a pup and make him more amenable and calm in situations such as grooming, when he follows the command to sit, lie down or stay. If you haven’t trained your pooch on the basics, do it before taking on a potentially nerve-racking salon visit.
Make a Practice Run
Take your dog with you to visit various groomers and get a feel for who your dog takes a shine to. Ask for the opportunity to walk your dog around and let him get used to the sights, smells and sounds of the salon. It may take more than a visit or two for him to be comfortable. If you find a cooperative groomer, you may be able to do brief trial runs, such as setting your dog on a grooming table and brushing him or using a bladeless-clipper to get him used to the sound and feel. Reward good behavior with treats to make it a positive experience. Have the groomer feed the treats to establish goodwill.
If your pup appears anxious or afraid around other animals in a grooming salon, you may need to work on his socialization skills through group training.
Don’t wait too long for a haircut, especially if your dog easily becomes matted. This can make a normal haircut painful or uncomfortable and become a negative experience.
See Your Vet
Some dogs will have anxiety around experiences such as haircuts, in which case you should consult your vet. He may recommend anti-anxiety medications prior to grooming so your pup will be calm and cooperative.