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5 Simple Tips to Make Even the Most Skittish Dog Learn to Love Grooming
Do you and your dog dread bath time? These 5 tips will help you desensitize your dog to grooming, and make primping your pup an activity you and your pet will both enjoy!
Grooming your pets is important for keeping them healthy and clean, as well as for keeping your home tidy. However, some pets are scared of grooming, which can turn keeping your pets clean into a huge hassle. Many dogs can become frightened by the sensations and sounds of bath time, and need you to reassure them so each grooming session doesn’t turn into a catastrophic event! Luckily, we have some tips that can help desensitize even the most skittish dogs to grooming, and help your furry friend learn that it can be a safe and enjoyable experience.
Pet and Hold Your Dog Outside of the Bathroom.
The most important tool you will use when making grooming a positive experience for your pup is trust. The best way you can show your dog they can trust you is by consistently providing love through petting and stroking their fur. In addition, you are also preparing your dog for grooming by handling various parts of their body. Make sure your dog is comfortable and relaxed with your touch before you add the stress of grooming, whether that is as simple as gently holding their paw, or scratching under their chin.
If there is an area on your dog’s body where they become agitated when touched, help your dog become more comfortable by lightly petting that area for a short amount of time, and then praise your dog with vocal cues and treats. Stay vigilant and observe your dog’s body language, backing off if your dog starts to growl or snap, as that reaction means you are moving too fast. As your dog becomes more comfortable with your touch, slowly increase the amount of time you pet that spot. Before long, your dog will be too relaxed to even notice your hand is near their once problem area.
Get Your Dog Used to The Noise.
One of the most common tools used for grooming dogs is nail grinders. Unfortunately, nail grinders are also notorious for scaring dogs due to the noise, as well as the weird vibrating sensation on their nails. One way to mimic the sound and sensation of nail grinders is by using electric toothbrushes! The vibrating sensation and buzzing noises of an electric toothbrush can serve as practice before they try the real deal nail grinder.
The first step is let your dog get used to the sound of the electric toothbrush. When your dog is no longer bothered by the noise, bring the soft head of the toothbrush to your dog’s nails to let him feel the bristles spin on the edge of his nails. You may have to start slow, and only touch one nail at a time for a few seconds, before slowly building up to brushing all your dog’s nails in one sitting. Once your dog is used to the electric toothbrush, introducing them to the nail grinder should be much easier, although you may have to repeat parts of the process for your dog to completely relax. However, many pet owners opt to brush their dogs’ teeth with an electric toothbrush as well, so you are desensitizing your dog to multiple tasks at once and not wasting any valuable training time by taking it slow.
Introduce Your Dog to Any Kind of Brushing Slowly.
While reaching toward your pet with a brush in your hand may seem harmless to us, your dog could be frightened by this simple but necessary act. Sometimes, dogs will interpret the brush coming toward them as something that is about to hit or hurt them. Before you brush your dog’s fur for the first time, give them a chance to investigate the brush and see that it’s safe. Let them smell the brush on the ground while you reward and praise your furry friend. After your dog has a chance to investigate, start lightly brushing their fur and rewarding them with every stroke. As your dog learns that brushing is a good thing, you can start to slowly space out the rewards.
Use High-Value Treats.
While desensitizing your dog to grooming, you will want to keep their favorite treats close. Anytime your dog demonstrates good behavior or visibly relaxes, you will want to reward them with praise and something tasty. Plus, you can encourage your dog to learn to love grooming tools by placing the tools on the ground with some of the pup’s favorite treats. When your dog investigates the tool, they will start to positively associate grooming with their favorite snack.
Treats are also a great way to teach your dog to allow you to brush their teeth. One of the easiest ways to introduce your dog to dental hygiene is by putting peanut butter or baby food on your finger, and bringing it to your dog’s lips. When your dog opens his mouth, rub a couple teeth with your dog’s favorite flavor. As your dog learns that tooth brushing tastes good, they will become more accepting of your finger and you can start finger brushing more of their teeth. Eventually, you can repeat this process by using a dog toothbrush instead of your finger. Once your dog is comfortable with the toothbrush, exchange the food for dog-specific toothpaste.
If all else fails, treats can also be used to create a distraction while you are grooming your pet. If your dog loves to eat or is easily bored, giving them a puzzle treat to play with, or a LickiMat to keep their minds and tongues occupied may help grooming go more smoothly.
Get Your Dog Checked By a Licensed Veterinarian.
If your dog is repeatedly displaying aggressive behavior when you groom one specific body part, or touch them a certain way, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. Sometimes dogs will act out if they are in pain, and there’s a chance a specific grooming activity could be hurting them if they are sick or injured. Your vet can identify any underlying conditions that may be causing pain, so that your pet can be treated and learn to enjoy being groomed again.
If you’ve just brought home a new puppy, it’s important to desensitize them to grooming when they are young. By teaching them good habits as puppies, you are setting your dog up for a lifetime of easy grooming. But if you have an older dog or a rescue dog with an unknown past, these tips, along with patience and kindness, are sure to make a difference in the lives of you and your companion.
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