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The Chew: When Dogs Fear Grooming Services

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The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Dog Paws n Cat Claws, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, DPnCC offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.

Our new full-time professional groomer, Lux, has a gift when it comes to working with dogs. When her longtime clients arrive for their appointments, the dogs are clearly happy to see her. As soon as they come in, they pull towards her, jump up to say hello or roll over for their customary tummy rub.

Many dogs don’t find a grooming experience pleasurable and may display severe anxiety upon entering a salon. But when it comes to Lux, every day I witness dogs looking forward to the time they share with her.

“You have to keep calm in order to keep them calm. Pay attention to signs of discomfort or stress and give them a break. Talk to them. Reward them. Give them extra love,” Lux explains.

If you’re the owner of a dog who suffers from grooming anxiety, there are several things you can do to help them become more comfortable with grooming services.

Puppy Grooming

When bringing home a new puppy, Lux suggests, “Take them for a groom before they’re three months old.” The younger the dog, the less chance of them developing a fear of the process as they mature.

Adult Dog Grooming

If you’ve rescued an adult dog you may need to do some introductory training, starting at home.’s resident trainer Mikkel Becker advises getting your dog familiar with being touched in sensitive areas before their first grooming appointment, specifically the muzzle, eyes, ears, paws, tail, rear, and groin.

Brush your dog frequently so they’re familiar with how it feels. Go slow at first. Your goal is to make the experience pleasurable for them. Being touched by you — someone they trust — will make them feel more comfortable when handled by a groomer.

Stressful Car Rides

I had a friend whose dog was only taken in the car to go to the vet or a grooming appointment. By only taking him to places where he was poked and prodded, her dog understandably associated the car with bad experiences. Make sure you take your dog for car rides to do fun things, too! This way they won’t automatically associate a car ride with a grooming appointment.

Introduce Them to the Salon

Before their first groom, Lux recommends introducing your dog to the grooming salon. Ask employees to spoil her with attention and give her several treats. When she comes back for the appointment, your dog will associate the salon with treats – something to look forward to!

Another suggestion is to make sure your pup gets 20-30 minutes of exercise right before their appointment. This will tire them out and make it easier for the groomer to finish in a timely manner.

Muzzles and Sedation

You can choose to muzzle your dog, but we recommend purchasing one with holes in the front so the dog can be rewarded with treats. Ask your groomer if they’re willing to give treats for good behavior. Lux is more than willing to oblige to this request from clients.

A dog with a severe case of anxiety may need to be sedated but we urge you to attempt other options before heading to the pharmacy. Try using a homeopathic stress stopper or an Adaptil collar, which contains a calming pheromone. If approved by your vet, try Benadryl and be sure to ask for dosage instructions. Melatonin is also worth trying with your vet’s approval.

Most dogs require regular grooming every 4-6 weeks. Taking the time and effort to get him ready to enjoy the grooming experience will pay off in less stress for you and your dog and make the groomer’s job easier in the end.

Lux is in the office weekly, from Wednesday through Sunday. She grooms cats, too! Call us to book an appointment.

Sara Schabach
In-Home Pet Care Manager

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