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Ask A Groomer: How Can I Reduce My Dog’s Anxiety About Grooming?

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Does your dog start to shake as soon as you pull into the groomer’s parking lot? Have you found a great groomer but your dog is still anxious? Here are four tips to help you reduce your dog’s anxiety about grooming.

1. Develop a positive association with the grooming salon and the groomer.

This is the first thing you’ll want to do! Bring your dog to the salon at least once a week for the purpose of giving treats without any grooming, at least at first.

Bring plenty of your dog’s favorite treat. Reward them once you pull into the parking lot. If they’re too nervous to take a treat, try walking away from the groomer until they calm down before rewarding them. Walk back and give another treat once you go inside. These visits between grooming sessions will help your dog to relax and associate the groomer with positive things.

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2. Ask yourself if your dog is anxious about car rides.

This could be contributing to their fear of the groomer. Desensitize them to car rides by going on short rides around the block and rewarding them with treats. Drive them to a different park for a walk. Take them to pet supply stores and let them pick out a toy. If you associate the car with fun activities, they should be less nervous about the car ride to the groomer. If your dog gets car sick, talk to your vet about anti-nausea medication.

3.  Get them used to being handled at home.

This is especially useful if the groomer has mentioned one or two areas that your dog seems extra sensitive about (like the paws, for example). 

You’ll want to practice in several small sessions per day, every day, if possible. Again, be sure to keep plenty of treats on hand. Start by touching your dog in a place that they don’t mind, perhaps on the back or under the chin. Reward them immediately.

Move on to areas that they don’t like having handled. First, just touch the area briefly, then reward them. Increase how long you touch the area before giving a treat. Do not reward biting.

Remember: letting go when they bite just reinforces that biting stops the thing they don’t like. We don’t want to reward this behavior. They need to learn to accept the thing they don’t like. If you are worried about being bitten, try using a brush to touch them without getting your hands too close.

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4. Keep in mind is that your dog will pick up on your anxiety.

If you are worried about your dog, they will pick up on your fear and become anxious. It is important to keep yourself calm. With a little bit of work and a lot of treats, you can reduce your dog’s anxiety about going to the groomer.

Written by Jennifer Nelson

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