September 24, 2020

Dogs that Hate Grooming. Dos and Don’ts


by Guzal Arslanova

Dog grooming.   Why do some dogs run into the grooming parlor and greet their groomers with a wagging tail,  and others hide their tail between the legs, shake and avoid eye contact, trying to run away from the salon? The first thing that comes to the mind is the possibility that the dog might have been mistreated. The questions is why one dog that is going to the same salon is happy and another one is terrified?

We will consider different odds and review as many  feasible solutions as possible.  In order to eliminate the chance of the abuse, it would be wise to visit the potential pet salon and do some research before bringing the pup for a grooming session. Does the salon have a good reputation and reviews? What does the neighbor say about the place? Are the groomers educated and sound knowledgeable? Does the salon have good lighting and ventilation system? Does it have a pleasant clean and fresh smell or faul order? Is the staff friendly? It would be helpful to stop by at  the  salon and interact with the team members, observe how they communicate with the dogs, how they approach the pups. Do they seem to care about the dog’s comfort.

Most likely you will be able to tell whether it is a reputable salon or not from just a visit. It will help if you could observe how other dogs react when they come to the shop or while they are at the salon. If out of three dogs two of them feel comfortable, most probably, it is a safe place for your dog as well. Why is it a norm for one dog and a terrifying experience for another one?

One of the causes the dog acts nervous is because he or she was introduced to the grooming too late,  or the introduction was not done properly and the dog has developed negative associations. It is like teaching an adult swimming or illiterate grown up person to read and write. It can be challenging to train a puppy but it is even harder to introduce an older dog to the grooming. It will take a lot of patience and positive reinforcements  for the dog to become comfortable with grooming. Oftentimes pet stylists offer mini grooming for the first time. So the dogs can learn about grooming slowly on their own terms. The more comfortable the dog is during the first time the faster they will get acclimated and accept grooming. However, if  you wait too long, the chances are the coat will be in the condition that would require full grooming, possibly dematting or heavy deshedding.  

Not only  has the dog  missed grooming at the puppy stage, where the learning is easier, but there is a possibility of building negative associations due to the necessity of dematting or deshedding. In addition, all the essential steps of training related to the grooming process have been missed. Everything at the new place can be pretty scary. New noises, barking, dryer, bathing tubs, grooming tables, strange people coming and leaving, handling by a new person, new tools that feel funny and make strange vibration and noise. All of this new things can be very confusing.

If the dogs have never been left anywhere before, they do not understand why they are at the new place without their owners. The anxiety and fear makes grooming even more terrifying. So, sadly but inevitably, the dogs will correlate the salon with all the discomfort they had to go through. The first impression is the strongest one and the hardest one to alter. Therefore, it is not a good idea to wait till the last moment. What will help is bringing the dogs to the salon just for a visit, rewarding them with delicious treats the dogs can’t resist. Even if it is only for a few minutes for a couple of times a week! It will make a difference

Most commonly, the dogs who are terrified of grooming are those who are matted. If the dogs have to be dematted every time they come to the salon, it reminds them about the discomfort and pain during the process. Naturally, they will try to avoid it as much as they can. The feelings that they experience are similar to the anxiety a person would have before the dentist appointment. More frequent visits to the groomer will minimize, if not eliminate dematting, making it more tolerable. Eventually, the negative associations will fade and the dogs will feel more comfortable and less stressed.

What is also important is the skills of reading the dogs body language.  Dogs do not speak people.  They communicate with their body. How we understand their ways of communication is essential. Shaking, not necessarily means fear. It can be a separation anxiety or just an excitement. If the dogs are trained to restrain their feelings they have to release this energy. One of the ways to relieve the energy is shaking. For instance, if the dogs are trained not to jump when they are excited they might start trembling, as a result of fighting their desire to jump.

Some dogs simply do not like to be with other people, different environment or even dogs. Just like people, dogs have different temperaments and some are more social than others. Dogs who visit dog parks, dog daycares, boarding facilities or visit new places on a regular basis and have positive experience, are most likely to be comfortable at the salon.

Some dogs do not like being crated, others love staying in the crate. It is like their safe house. Sometimes the dogs who love going to the parks and be around other dogs get stressed at the grooming salon, even if it is a cage free environment.  Dogs go to the dog park to play and have fun. So, there is a lot of excitement. Grooming is work. Dogs are just like people,  they do not really want to work, but happy to party and have fun. What triggers their emotional state is very similar to what sets the atmosphere in the human society.  If there is one unhappy camper in the pack, it will affect others.

Have you noticed that if one child is crying in the daycare the others will start crying too. If the coworker comes with an attitude it affects everyone around. Same thing happens in the salon. If there is one untrained dog, or matted dog that is unhappy, everyone else will be concerned too. As the consequences, they will correlate this energy with the salon and will try to stay away. The best thing to do is to stay as positive as possible, bring your dog to the salon on a regular basis for the grooming and just a visit, reinforce positive behavior and get the dog trained for the grooming at the early age.

What if you have a rescued dog? Most likely, the history is unknown. Working closely with the groomer and trainer will help establish positive associations. In the worst case scenario, looking for alternative grooming services might be necessary. If the dogs are overly anxious and stressed being away from home, not social or dog aggressive, considering mobile grooming will be an option. One on one experience close to home may be more comforting for some dogs.  Will it help or aggravate the situation if the pet owners stay with their dogs during the grooming session? It varies from the case to case. The owner’s presence can comfort some dogs. However, in most cases, the dogs act more anxious or excited striving for the owner’s attention, being too wiggly, jumping on the owners, which makes grooming much more difficult and unsafe, as groomers work with sharp objects and the accidents can occur.

Therefore, grooming can be stress free but it requires a lot of patience and dedication. It is a process. It takes a teamwork between groomers, pet owners and the dogs to make grooming a comfortable experience. Happiness is essential. Everyone would love to see the dogs pulling to the salon and be happy to see their groomers. It is such a rewarding feeling to have dogs wagging their tails coming to the salon. Happy dogs means happy humans.

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