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Dog Grooming Anxiety: Grooming for Difficult Dogs

Dog Grooming Anxiety: Grooming for Difficult Dogs

As pet owners, we want to support our dogs during grooming sessions to reduce their anxiety. Today, our Scottsdale vets talk about dog grooming anxiety and what you can do to help.

Recognizing Grooming Anxiety In Your Dog

Our dogs can't clearly tell us what they're feeling, so as their loving caretaker it's up to you to be able to recognize the signs that your dog is anxious or uncomfortable with a situation.

A trip to the grooming salon can be an unpleasant or even traumatic experience for many pets. If not addressed, dog grooming anxiety not only increases the likelihood of your pet developing more serious behavioral issues, but it can also make a grooming session dangerous for both the groomer and the pet. If the dog scratches, bites, or escapes during the grooming process, the situation can become extremely stressful or even dangerous.

Some signs of anxiety include:

  • Fast breathing
  • Panting
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Hiding
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How To Keep a Dog Calm While Grooming

Keeping your dog calm at the groomers can be difficult, so here are some pointers from our Scottsdale vets and groomers to make your dog's experience as stress-free as possible.

Make Car Rides Less Scary

Car rides can lead to anxious feelings in dogs, especially if they already have fear or dislike of the car. If your pooch arrives at the groomer stressed or anxious, this could lead to other issues. 

Counter-conditioning can help reduce your dog's fear and increase their enjoyment of car rides. Anxiety and discomfort may also be associated with motion sickness, so consult your veterinarian to see if an anti-nausea medication would be beneficial.

Get Them Used To The Grooming Process

Grooming often includes touching sensitive areas of a dog's body, including the muzzle, eyes, ears, paws, tail, rear, and groin. Getting your dog used to or desensitized to having these areas touched can help them relax during a professional grooming session.

Work with your dog at home to get him used to being handled before taking him to the groomer, and reward your dog with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue. If your dog is sensitive in certain areas, such as the ear or paws, begin by gently touching them on a less sensitive area, such as the shoulder, and gradually move toward the paw with a gentle touch. Reward your dog with a treat while giving the cue and handling the area. Continue training only when your dog is calm, relaxed, and receptive.

Make Visiting The Groomer A Fun Activity

Ask your groomer if you can conduct a training visit without grooming. Instead, combine your arrival in the parking lot or lobby with activities your dog enjoys, such as play, treat training, or a short walk. Use the visit to acquaint your dog with the sights and sounds of the groomer, such as the noise of clippers or dryers, as well as to practice being lifted on and off the grooming table. Follow up with plenty of treats so your dog learns to associate groomers with good things.

Muzzle Training For Anxious Dogs

A muzzle can make grooming easier and safer for both your dog and the groomer, especially if your dog is already sensitive to handling. Muzzle training can reduce the need for other forms of restraint and protect your pet from the consequences of a bite. You can use a basket muzzle with small openings to train your dog to willingly put his nose into the muzzle by smearing a soft treat (e.g. peanut butter) on the inside; this allows the dog to take treats while wearing the muzzle, which can also help keep the dog calm. 

These strategies may not work for every dog, and if training is failing to reduce your dog’s anxiety levels or if your dog is reacting aggressively to any attempts to groom them, seek your veterinarian’s guidance about professional training. Talk to your veterinarian as well about possible medication options to help manage your dog’s grooming anxiety.

Does my dog need sedation?

If you own an unpredictable or aggressive dog, you might be wondering if you can use sedatives to make them feel better while being groomed. Many careful considerations are needed before deciding to go this route, as there are several options.

You should ask yourself the following questions before asking your vet for sedatives:

  • Has your dog always been this way, or is this a new behavior that needs to be addressed?
  • Have you tried different groomers? Like people themselves, not every dog gets along with every human.
  • Have you tried grooming your dog yourself?
  • Has your dog ever displayed aggressive behaviors during grooming?
  • Does your dog get extremely anxious?

Generally, sedatives should be used as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. They should be used in cases where the dog is affected by severe anxiety that doesn't respond to behavior modification or when there are risks for defensive biting.

If you have exhausted all other options and still believe that your dog requires sedatives, you should consult your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for confirmation and to be prescribed the most appropriate medication to calm your dog for grooming.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Your dog's visit for a grooming session doesn't have to be anxiety-inducing. Get in touch with our Scottsdale veterinary team to learn about options for grooming and bathing services!

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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