I think we can all say that keeping on top of your dog’s grooming routine at home can some days feel a bit of a chore, especially if your dog isn’t so keen on the idea. But never fear – once you get started it can actually turn out to be quite a rewarding task and a positive one too!
Making your dog’s at-home grooming a positive experience will not only help create a strong bond and trusting relationship between you both, it will also set your dog up for success when visiting a professional groomer for his regular haircut and he’ll be able to adapt more easily to the salon experience.
To give you an example, I’ve recently been working with a client and her lovely Shih Tzu called Daisy. When Daisy came for her first groom, it didn’t take me long to find out that she was very sensitive to having her paws being touched. This is very common in the world of grooming, but not something that is easily desensitized in the amount of time I have available. So I gave Daisy’s guardian some advice on how she could help her little Shih Tzu feel better about it. When Daisy came in for her next groom, you could tell she felt a whole lot better about the situation. The owner had been doing some amazing work with her and admitted that she also had fun teaching her ”give paw,” as well as a few other tricks, and along the way they gained a stronger relationship with each other!
Now, I want you visualize something
Take a moment and just imagine that your dog adores being groomed. Play this scene in your mind: When you pick up the brush, your dog comes racing toward you in the exact same way he does when you’re getting him his dinner. Feels great doesn’t it? Most importantly your dog feels great too! As much as we would love that scene to be created overnight, your dog would like you to take things a little slower. This isn’t a bad thing. Enjoy the journey creating a trusting relationship, similar to the one Daisy and her owner have achieved. Slow progress is better than no progress at all and that goes with any type of training you do with your dog. By moving slowly, your dog will be happy and relaxed during each phase of training.
So, how do you do it?
Stage 1 – First of all, the initial step to success is changing the way you think. Grooming can no longer feel like a chore. Instead, think of it has an opportunity to understand your dog.
Stage 2 – Create a daily routine. Put it on your calendar. Make it part of your priorities and this will help you achieve better and likely quicker results!
Stage 3 – Take your dog for a nice long walk beforehand – this will help your dog to settle.
Stage 4 – Now it’s time for you to take the step in making it fun. Every time you take the brush out of the cupboard, it should always be followed with something your dog finds reinforcing. I like to use tasty treats or filled Kong toys. You can also take these items along with you to your groomer so every experience is a positive one!
Stage 5 – Allow your dog to enjoy his favorite treat or food toy while slowly getting him used to being touched with your hand. Start contact on the area of his body he’s comfortable with or can easily tolerate and then gradually, over time, increase to other areas of his body while still giving him continuous treats for being settled. Keep the brush nearby and in his view so he can also begin to see the brush as a really good thing!
Stage 6 – Move on to gently touching him with the brush in exactly the same way as you used your hand. As he becomes more and more comfortable, you can move to the other areas where he may be a bit more sensitive and give him bonus rewards when he gives you that nice, calm behavior you’re looking for. This may take a bit of time to achieve, but with patience and consistency you’ll find that you achieve the best long term results! Remember to go at your dog’s pace, keep sessions short and make it fun!
Good Luck and feel free to post photos or videos of you and your dog on the Cold Nose College Facebook page as you move through your positive grooming practice. We’d love to see your progress!
Lisa West-Robinson is a professional groomer and the owner of Doggie Styles in Bedfordshire, England, is enrolled in the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior and is pursuing a professional dog training career. She’s committed to using positive grooming techniques for all her canine clients. Her goal is to create a positive experience for all dogs and their guardians throughout the grooming experience. Lisa loves spending time with her own dogs, Rollie the Springer Spaniel and Sandy the Border Collie, and enjoys tricks training and agility with each of them. Her friends often refer to her as “The Crazy Dog Lady” and she wouldn’t have it any other way! You can find Lisa on Twitter or by visiting her website www.doggie-stylesgrooming.com