As dog parents, we strive to create warm, loving, and stress-free environments for our furriest family members. From choosing the right food and showering them with toys & treats, to providing quality vet care, training, and exercise, pet parents share a common goal of raising happy and healthy dogs.
Because an important part of raising a happy and healthy dog includes grooming, incorporating these 7 steps into your regular routine will set your dog up for success when it comes time to visit your favorite salon.
1. Play with your dog’s paws.
While some breeds will require more grooming than others, every dog will need their nails trimmed regularly. To help your dog become comfortable with having their nails trimmed and their paws groomed, make it a habit to play with their paws! Massage your dog’s feet, touch his paw pads, look between his toes, and touch his nails.
2. Get your dog used to the sounds and sensations of clippers/trimmers.
Andis Grooming Educator, Valerie Partynski recommends pet owners expose their dogs to the sounds and sensations of grooming early and often. “Think of it like training. If you were only teaching your puppy how to ‘sit’ once a month, it would take a really long time for them to learn.” Most groomers will use clippers during at least a portion of the grooming process, even if just to trim up paw pads, ears, and sanitary areas. If your dog’s first exposure to a clipper is at the groomer, it can be scary and stressful.
Valerie suggests removing the blade from your clippers and turning them on (or if you don’t have clippers at home, an electric toothbrush can be used) and letting your dog hear the noise it makes. Once they’re comfortable with the sounds, move the clippers closer until you’re able to touch your dog with them. If your dog doesn’t react or pull away, reinforce this behavior with treats or praise. Over time, you should be able to touch the clippers to your dog’s feet, legs, paws, and face without him reacting or pulling away.
3. Brush your dog regularly.
Brush your dog as often as possible to maintain a healthy coat and to prevent mats from forming. If your dog develops painful mats that are only brushed out at the salon, he may associate that experience with the groomer. Your best course of action is to prevent mats from developing with regular, even daily, brushing. Be sure to pay close attention to “friction areas” like armpits, ankles, back legs, and behind ears. Valerie recommends using an Andis slicker brush all over the coat for longer-haired dogs, then using a stainless steel comb to check that there are no knots. For shorter-haired dogs, use a curry brush and an Andis rake comb.
4. Play with your dog’s ears.
Just like having their nails trimmed, every single dog will need to have their ears cleaned from time to time. You can help make this experience less stressful for your pup by getting them used to having their ears touched. Every chance you get, gently touch your dog’s ears, lift the ear flaps, touch behind their ears, and gently massage the base of the ears. If their ears are healthy, most dogs will love a good “ear noogie!”
5. Hold your dog’s head in your hands.
At certain points during the grooming process and especially during facial trims, your dog will need to remain perfectly still and calm. To do this, your groomer will often hold the dog’s head in place, usually by gently holding onto his chin or muzzle. You can help your dog feel perfectly comfortable with his head being held by practicing at home. Remember to just gently hold your dog’s head in your hands and reward him for calmly resting and not pulling away. Once your dog will calmly rest his chin on your hand, practice slowly guiding his head from side to side.
6. Get your dog used to standing on an elevated surface.
We don’t generally allow our dogs to stand on kitchen counters or dining tables. So, for a lot of dogs, going to the grooming salon is the only time they’re allowed to stand on an elevated surface—and it can be stressful for dogs that aren’t used to it. To better prepare your pup for going to the groomer, practice safely lifting them onto a sturdy elevated surface and allowing them to stand there calmly. Putting down a non-slip mat will help to make this more comfortable for them. Do not leave your dog unattended. Instead, hold onto their collar or leash with one hand while gently petting your dog, touching their legs, or stroking their tail with the other.
7. Teach your dog to be comfortable in a crate.
Even if you don’t choose to crate train your dogs, there will be many instances in their life where they’ll need to be placed inside a crate such as veterinary visits, during travel, and at grooming salons. A dog that has never been introduced to a crate at home can become stressed and has a much harder time remaining calm inside. You can create a positive association with the crate by feeding your dog or giving him high-value treats and toys inside. As a general rule, never use a crate for punishment but think of it as a calm and quiet retreat for a happy pup.
In this video, Andis Grooming Educator, Valerie Partynski demonstrates all 7 steps above, plus provides more important information, especially about puppy grooming:
Whether you’re raising a brand new puppy or you recently adopted an older dog, incorporating these 7 steps into your regular routine will help make grooming (both at-home and in a salon) more enjoyable for your dog and stress-free for you both.