“Our family just got a new puppy. We want Cinnamon to be good for the groomer. What are some things we can do at home to help that?” – Rachel R.
First, congratulations on your newest family member! Grooming can be a bit scary for a young puppy, but with positive reinforcement and practice, they can learn to enjoy this part of their life.
Most Common Problems
In our experience, the most common problems dogs have during the grooming process are having their feet held, tools near their face, and the sound of the electric clippers. So how do you get them to tolerate and even enjoy these seemingly scary events? There is plenty you can do at home to ensure your new puppy has no fear at the groomer.
Practicing At Home
- Hold and play with your dog’s feet
- Gently move and hold your pet’s feet while they are relaxed and laying down. While they are allowing you to touch their feet, reward them with treats and/or praise so they learn that having their feet touched is a good thing. Holding your dog’s feet even once a day while hanging out on the couch can make a huge difference when it comes time to be groomed at the spa.
- Touch their face, ears, and cheeks
- While your dog is laying down and relaxed, touch their head and face and give them lots of praise when they allow you to do this. Again, the goal here is to build lots of enjoyment and trust while your dog is being handled in this way. Practice touching their ears from base to tip, stroking their cheeks, and holding their head gently in your hand. While you are praising for touching during this exercise, make sure you do not praise for biting. Puppies naturally use their mouths to explore the world but it is important that you set clear boundaries on what behavior you expect.
- Find a household item similar to clippers
- An electric toothbrush usually does the trick, as the sound is very similar. While relaxing, turn the sound on and praise them. Turn the sound on and off until they appear unfazed. Then, begin gently touching the object to a part of their body and again give praise. Eventually, your dog will hear the noise and get excited about what is to come! This is particularly important around their head. Make sure to take it slow!
Visit the pet spa early in their life
Bringing your puppy in for a visit to the groomer is important for them to get used to the sounds, sights, and smells of the spa. We recommend two “introductory visits” before scheduling their first full haircut.
Bring your puppy in for just a bath and nail trim. While you could certainly do this at home, it helps them adjust to being handled by someone new and acclimate to the grooming experience.
On this visit, puppy should experience a bath, nail trim, and light hair trim around their face, feet, and sanitary area. This builds on the previous positive experience, while introducing a new step.
Your puppy should now be ready to experience their first complete grooming! They will be a seasoned pro who will enjoy the feel good experience of going to the spa!
In addition to working on behaviors at home, your local dog club may offer mock grooming visits to acclimate puppies to this life event. Here at Bayside Pet Resort, our Real World Etiquette training course includes a mock grooming visit, mock vet visit, and afternoon out at the cafe with our four-legged students. This helps them build their confidence and allows human students plenty of individual Q&A with the trainer.
At such a young age, a bad experience can have lasting effects on your young pup. By gradually working up to this and practicing at home, your puppy can avoid feeling overwhelmed or scared while with the groomer. Early introductions and positive associations set your dog up for a lifetime of a happiness!