I’ve found that many people are reluctant to groom their dogs at home because it just feels too overwhelming and stressful. I get it. It’s not easy to learn new skills and it can feel even more frustrating because you have to rely on your pup to do their part. And we all know that they have minds of their own! So I’ve compiled some tips to help make the process stress-free for you and your dog(s).
Always start with a plan! Head into your grooming session with a loose idea of what you are going to tackle in that session. Are you going to brush, clip nails, bathe, and clip? Know what direction you’re going in and the dog will follow. I always suggest starting with brushing. It’s doable, it’s easy and this is where good grooming habits start.
My top 10 tips for stress-free grooming:
1. Burn Their Energy
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Before you begin make sure they have had some playtime. I often think of my dogs like I do kids, just as you wouldn’t expect a child to sit still for a long period of time without letting them get their wiggles out first, you shouldn’t expect your dogs to sit obediently without getting some movement in beforehand.
2. Slow and steady wins the race.
Don’t try to rush things. Let them get acclimated and adjust to this new adventure. Give them space to inspect and sniff out the tools and the environment they will be spending time in. This adds time to the process but should only be necessary the first few times you are grooming at home. They’ll eventually get used to the process and learn the new set of expectations.
Be sure to praise the good and ignore the bad. If I were to ever get anything printed on a t-shirt it would probably be this expression. It works in pretty much all dog grooming situations.
Use your voice to praise “Good Dog!” when they do something you like. You can keep soft treats nearby for them to snack on. It’s also helpful to groom when they are hungry so they are incentivized to get the treats. You can even use their kibble and feed them their meal slowly as a reward throughout the process. Give the food out whenever you catch them being good. Nothing beats consistent positive reinforcement when it comes to training your dog. Do use your voice at the same time you deliver treats and say their name “Good Job Daisy!” in case you don’t have food handy.
4. It’s ok to take breaks.
This applies to both you and your dog. When you notice their attention drifting or you find yourself getting frustrated, just take a pause. It’s absolutely ok to do a quick reset. Feel free to get some fresh air, have a snack (for you or your pup), or whatever else you need to do to get things back on track.
5. Keep calm and groom on.
You really are the captain of the ship. When you begin to lose your cool then take a break. If you start to feel stressed then your dog will be able to sense it. Their mood will follow yours so offer lots of praise. Try your best to stay positive and talk to your dog in a more happy-pitched voice so they understand that you are proud of them and want them to succeed. Check out my 4 Easy Commands While Grooming training guide.
6. Be consistent.
Make grooming a regular thing. Dogs love knowing what to expect (don’t we all!!). By keeping a consistent grooming routine your pups will know what’s coming next and know what behaviors are expected of them. A consistent schedule also helps you, the groomer. It keeps everything orderly and helps prevent situations that might be above your skillset (mats, infections, etc.). Having a consistent routine also helps you groom faster of doing The Bath first then Dry, Clip/Style, Scissoring, Nails, and Finish. Getting my DIY Grooming Equipment Checklist can help.
7. Consider botanicals.
I have some clients that have had great success with flower essences for pets. Just be sure you do your research. Not all are compatible with dogs. Some can actually be quite harmful. I recommend running this by your holistic vet first. They are in the know about your dog and their specific needs and conditions.
Having a well-trained dog is important for many reasons including grooming. You want to be sure that your dog knows a few basics like, here, sit, good boy/girl. Be sure to have training sessions outside of grooming times as well so they have the chance to practice and feel proud. Here’s my guide to 4 Easy Commands While Grooming.
Another way to view maintaining control is using world-famous dog trainer Cesar Milan’s 5 Steps to Becoming the Leader. Very useful info to use even while grooming.
You want to make sure you have everything on hand needed to get the job done. Some of my most used tools are shampoo, conditioner (Suave for humans is great), detangling spray, clippers, blades, blade guards, slicker brush, scissors made for hair, Dremel for dog nails, Kwik Stop Styptic Powder, and a high-velocity dog dryer. Get the K9 Kids DIY Equipment Checklist here.
10. Use a grooming loop
They are great for keeping them from wandering off. I like to tether my dogs under their front leg or around their waist to prevent any neck injuries. It also helps to stabilize them. I suggest you wrap the loop of the leash around a doorknob of a closed-door to help keep them secure. Check out my guide on how to make 2 types of harnesses for safe tethering around the chest. Free download here.
More than anything I want my clients to enjoy time with their beloved dogs and I feel that with these tips the process can be enjoyable for everyone. The AKC has lots of great products to help ease stress for our beloved pets if you feel like you need more help with anxiety. Give it a try for a few weeks and let me know how it goes. If you need more guidance please join me and other dog lovers in my Facebook Group, Everyday Grooming By K9 Kids.