The Zen of Dog Grooming: Tips for a Stress-Free Spa Day

Posted by Jackie Ly on

a person brushing their dog's fur

We always like our dogs clean but dogs do get dirty and stinky. And like clockwork every few weeks, you can lose your adorable pup’s face under a whole mountain of fur or hair, depending on their breed. 

As the pandemic has taught everyone, we can’t always rely on the groomer, but even then, it’s best if our pups like or at least accept going there! 

Dogs tend to run for the hills as soon as the water for their bath starts running. Teaching your dog that grooming is no big deal requires quite a bit of training—and we have the tips to help you get through it!

Keeping your dog calm while grooming

Ideally, the prep for grooming starts from puppyhood. This is ultimately the only reason dogs are calm during grooming. As puppies when they’re most open to new experiences, they should get used to the water, the clipper, even the noises in the bathroom and the pressure of the water from the showerhead. If you get an adult dog, socialise them to all the tools of grooming just the same, little by little, with positive associations, until bath time isn’t something to dread for both of you.

For high-maintenance dogs, they should be introduced and socialised to the groomers as early as possible. 

Your dog should be okay with grooming, at home or at the groomer’s. 

Get them used to the grooming process. 

At home: Start by doing things like holding your dog’s tail and rump, lifting and touching their ears, gently touching your fingertips to their eyes, opening their mouth and moving your finger along their teeth, holding their legs up one at a time, rubbing their belly while they’re standing, and holding their paw pads and nails. Do this every day to desensitise them. That way, your dog will be less likely to become uncomfortable with these actions. 

Show and let them sniff all the tools you’ll use, like shampoos, brushes, clippers, and nail cutter/grinder. For tools that make noises like the clippers or the hair dryer, turn them on, increasingly louder while giving them a treat or petting them, so they know where the sounds are coming from and it’s harmless.

Progress to actually using the tools bit by bit, with lots of treats and patience, until your dog stays calm and no longer shrinks away. 

At the groomer: Bring them in as early as possible as puppies, ideally, so they can get used to the groomer’s tools and setup. It’s never too late for your adult dog either. You can talk to your groomer for a quiet, meet-and-greet appointment when they’ll only play with your dog and your dog can see what’s going on. Stay with your dog and be ready with lots of assurance and treats.

Firm yet gentle restraint. In the first place, if you think you’ll need restraints, get your dog used to that as well. Some groomers require a muzzle for some dog breeds (as required by law) for everyone’s safety. Never tie them down or hold their fur—that will only make your dog panic even more! Leave the appropriate restraints to the professional groomers, and stick to training your dog to get used to grooming when you’re doing it at home.

Try CBD oil. When you’re in a pinch, or if your dog still has bad anxiety whenever they’re being groomed, try CBD oil. In recent years, CBD oil has been growing in popularity thanks to their calming properties, making it a natural remedy that can help your dog settle down even just for a few moments.

Make sure to talk to your vet beforehand on the suitability of CBD oil for your dog and have them issue you a prescription.

Before grooming

It’s no big secret that preparing your dog for grooming is a lot like planning for battle. Your tactics will determine how easy it will be to get your dog to the groomer’s or to your designated grooming station at home.

Block off all possible escape routes. Close all doors and block off all of your dog’s usual hiding spots before you even bring out your dog’s grooming kit. Do this as discreetly as you can—you don’t want to risk your dog even getting a whiff of what you’re planning!

Get the necessary grooming tools. Make sure your dog’s grooming kit includes the right brush, depending on the length and style of your pup’s fur.

You should also have clippers (avoid scissors and all the horrid accidents of nicking your dog), nail clippers or grinder, toothbrush and toothpaste, cotton balls and eye drops and ear drops as needed, and a microfibre towel or a hair dryer.

Brush your dog. This should be a regular thing, and should be done especially before bathing them. Brushing your dog keeps matting at bay, and makes the bathing process a lot easier.

Don’t yank the brush through tangles. Start from where the hair starts to tangle, then gently and repeatedly brush it through.

Exercise or play with them. This is to get them all tuckered out and calmer for when they actually go to get groomed. The less pent-up energy your dog has, the easier it will be to do more troublesome tasks, like cutting their nails.

Create a safe and calm environment. Treat your dog’s grooming sessions like their own day at the spa! That means putting on some soft and comforting music and busting out those mild scent diffusers.

During grooming

Whether your dog’s in the tub or standing atop a table, you’ve got them right where you want them. Now’s your chance!

Make sure they have a good footing. Give them a secure footing, like a soft rubber mat or a towel, or both. 

Start with soapy warm water. Mix your dog’s shampoo with warm water and use that immediately instead of wetting your dog first. This softens dirt and removes odour. They don’t have to stand in this water-soap mixture if they don’t like their feet submerged. You can prep the mixture in a bottle and squeeze it out as you go. 

Scrub gently, but thoroughly. Make sure to also get some of those hard-to-reach areas, like the spaces between your dog’s toes. 

Trim your dog’s fur. Learn to do basic cuts, especially to keep their hair out of their eyes and to make sure their poop doesn’t get caught in their butt hair. If you’ve done your prep right, your dog should be calm and used to these hair trims, whether you or the groomer does it. 

Exude confidence. Dogs can easily sense our mood, and react to it accordingly. That said, while you’re bathing them or trimming their fur, stay calm. Talk to them normally. Let them know that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

Reward your dog when they are calm and still. Some groomers stick peanut butter to a wall mat for the dogs to lick while they’re being groomed, especially when they start to cut their nails. It works as positive reinforcement, telling your dog that they can get rewards when they’re calm, as well as an opportunity to distract them from their discomfort.

Take your time. It isn’t a race. Get comfortable. Sit on a stool or wear good shoes. No matter what you do, there will be times when your pup finds the grooming process a bit too much to handle. It’s like training. Take breaks when you see them growing unsettled.

After grooming

By now, you now have a clean, dry, and fresh-smelling pup on your hands. What do you do after that?

Go for a walk, give them a treat, or a special meal. Grooming can be very stressful to dogs. Going for a quick stroll along the block or whipping up some premium chow ought to bring their spirits up!

Doing something your furry friend enjoys after grooming helps them create a positive association between the two. They’ll be a lot easier to convince to hop into the tub if they know there’s something they can look forward to afterwards.

Let them rest. If you feel your dog’s too tired to do anything else, leave them be for a bit. Give them a short cuddle for assurance and then let them recharge. Once they’re ready to go, smother your newly bathed and groomed pup with extra love and affection!

Grooming your furry friend is not just about keeping them looking sharp, but also ensuring their overall well-being. Regular brushing, bathing, and nail trims all create a happier pup!

It’s also an opportunity for you two to bond. Beneath all the frantic chasing and being drenched from head to toe from a sudden shake is an experience that’s sure to strengthen the already unique connection the two of you have.

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