Is your dog a vibrating nervous mess as you walk into the grooming salon? Do they try to run out the door or refuse to walk in on their own? Believe it or not this can be an easy fix! Using the following tips and tricks will help make your pet’s grooming sessions easier.
Why are dogs nervous at the groomer?
This can happen for so many reasons! The most common reason is that nervous dogs are the ones that aren’t on a regular grooming schedule. The pets that come in every 4-6 weeks know what to expect and understand what happens in the salon. They know I will put them right in the bath to get them fresh and clean before drying them and starting their haircut. When we see a Pet on an irregular schedule (4+ months between visits) they can be less confident and more fearful of the process. The key is consistency and making professional grooming a regular part of their life. These 5 tips will help your dog be more confident at the spa!
1. Socialize your pup
A key component to a happy, confident and well-rounded dog is socialization from a young age. Expose them to every situation you can when they’re young so they learn how to cope with new environments and stressful situations. Critical socialization periods in a puppy's life begin between 3 and 16 weeks of age. Bring them to dog training classes, puppy socials, and stores that allow pets. Allow them to interact with and manipulate their environments, bring them to meet new people, and bring them on as many car trips as possible.
2. Start professional grooming as early as possible
We recommend that professional grooming starts at 12 weeks old. At this point in a puppy’s life they’re open to new experiences and are very impressionable, it’s SO important to normalize grooming for them so they have nothing to fear. Puppies come to see us once every 2-4 weeks so that we can train them to enjoy the grooming process. Many groomers offer special puppy packages to encourage frequent visits – take advantage of this impressionable time in your puppy’s life.
3. Visit the same Stylist / Salon
All Stylists have unique personalities, routines, and grooming methods. Some pups do just fine bouncing around between stylists at the same salon and others prefer to bond with one stylist. Find a Stylist that you like and be sure to request them for every service; this will take the guesswork out of grooming for your pup. They will know what to expect every time.
4. Stay on a regular schedule
Most dogs benefit from a regular grooming schedule with 4-6 weeks between each session. Dogs that are used to grooming are generally more confident when entering the salon space because they know what to expect! Dogs that aren’t used to regular grooming can be more fearful and anxious when at the salon. They aren’t used to the environment and are unsure of what to expect – commit to regular grooming to put them at ease.
5. No coddling
Several times a week – without fail – a handful of Guests carry their small dog into the salon with them. They’re bounced like babies, squeezed tightly to the chest, and spoken to in weird baby voices. The dogs are trembling, wide eyed, and unsure why they’re being treated this way. Your dog is picking up on your nervous energy and therefore is not comfortable with the situation. Do your dog a favor by walking them in on a leash and remain confident. I groom a Yorkshire Terrier named Ben that I absolutely adore. The difference between drop offs with Mom and Auntie are drastically different experiences. Auntie walks in with Ben on a leash and he runs to me; tail nubbin wagging as he tries to jump over our half door. When Mom brings Ben in for grooming she clutches him tightly to her chest and repeats over and over, “you’ll be okay”. He trembles and won’t even look at me when I approach, he’s actually tried to bite me before! Mom would always comment that Ben hated grooming and she did not understand why. He actually loves grooming and I’ve seen him monthly since he was a baby. As soon as Mom began walking Ben into the salon confidently she no longer saw him as fearful of grooming. If they tremble or whine it’s important to ignore the behavior even though it may seem cruel. By engaging and comforting them you’re positively reinforcing their nervous behavior. They may not actually be nervous but know if they behave that way they will receive love and attention from you. Don’t give in – they know exactly how to get what they want from you! Be confident at drop off and your pup will follow suit.