5 Ways to Prepare Your Dog for a Trip to the Groomer

1. Start professional grooming with your pet at a young age…

preferably as soon as they have had all the required vaccinations. The sooner the better, as they will learn to enjoy grooming and accept the process as a normal routine like going for a walk. The coat doesn’t need to be clipped straight away but getting the Dog used to the bathing, drying and brushing can really be beneficial in transitioning to a full haircut session when it is needed.

One of the biggest mistakes is skipping grooming after thinking your pet has had a bad experience or starting too late (5mths) therefore the pet has no idea what the groomer is trying to do and is more likely to freak out and stress. Holding off on grooming can not only cause lots of discomfort for your pet but it can teach your pet that it is something to fear and then when it gets to the point that the pet needs to be groomed as the coat is no longer manageable at home, the pet becomes very frightened and is less likely to accept the process, which can put the pet and groomer at higher risk of injury.

2. When arriving at the salon, be confident when leaving your pet.

Cuddles and pats are ok but telling your pet that’s “its ok,” or telling the groomer “oh she is so scared, my poor baby she is shaking” rocking them like a baby, and resisting to hand them over to the groomer is teaching your pet that there is something to worry about, that they are in a stressful situation and they will feed off your stress and concerns. They will then be even more hesitant to walk in and relax when it comes to grooming. Most of the time the pet is more concerned about the fact that they know the owner is leaving them not the grooming! And once the owner has left, the pet is quite comfortable and not stressed at all!

Most of my clients’ Dogs pull their owners through the door with excitement and run into the salon, not concerned at all that the owner is leaving, its more the pet leaving the owner out the front after they have raced through ready to be groomed. They are happy and familiar with the environment, they enjoy the grooming and understand what is going on from start to finish. Sticking with the same groomer also helps your pet as they see familiar face every time, it’s like seeing the same vet in a clinic, visiting the same park or the same friend’s house.

3. Keep it regular, groomers don’t have to clip the coat every visit.

The coat can be cleaned, brushed, combed and kept knot free, feet and face trimmed, anything that is required to keep your pet comfortable without having to take any length off at all. A regular schedule is every 6-8 weeks, even for Dogs that never need their coat clipped. Regular grooming assists in keeping the coat clean and healthy, as well as moisturising the skin and promoting a healthy hair growth cycle.

Groomers seeing Dogs on a regular basis are also more likely to notice any changes in skin, coat, weight, condition, behaviour, lumps and any other abnormalities. Regular grooming will also help with your pet learning that grooming is an enjoyable experience and easier for you to maintain at home as well. With a well-maintained coat comes the choice of what style you want to achieve instead of having to get a short clip all over because the coat cannot be brushed without causing pain and discomfort to the pet. Having your pet groomed once or twice a year is not regular!! Also nails should be checked and trimmed once a month, trimming should always be included in the service when visiting a groomer.

4. Groom at home!

Get your pet familiar with as many of the required grooming processes as you possibly can. Just simply washing at home will not prevent knots (it can actually cause them) but brushing, combing, washing and drying will help. It all needs to be performed together to be successful at maintaining a healthy, knot free, comfortable pet. Give your pet a brush and comb while they are on your lap at night, or pop them up on a table or washing machine to let them know it’s not playtime. Use a slicker brush and follow up with a comb to be sure you are combing the hair all the way down to the skin.

Brushing alone will skip over the undercoat and miss knots and snags, which then turn into matts and result in the coat needing to be clipped short. Their hair is just like ours, it needs combing every day to avoid knots, especially the long ears and tails. When we have knots, it hurts so when pets have knots it also hurts. Brush and comb to avoid knots instead of trying to brush knots out, in other words, don’t let it get knots. It is also up to you as the owner to teach your Dog manners. Simple commands such as sit, stay, no etc really help when it comes to getting them to accept the grooming process in a salon.

Also teaching your pet to accept you, as the owner, removing prickles, random garden sticks and other foreign objects from the coat. It’s amazing how many owners will say “oh she won’t let me get the prickles out” and then the groomer attends to the Dog and gently removes all the prickles that Scruffy was literally mauling the owner over!!!

Teach your Dog to accept rather than let them get away with bad behaviour. Use food or treats if you need to, boiled chicken breast or dried liver, but not too much liver or you will have one flatulent pooch!! One thing to remember at home, if you are thinking you need to pick up the scissors and chomp into your pets’ coat, whether its prickles or knots, pick up the phone instead! Ring your groomer and get them to deal with it, you’ll be amazed at what they can do when it comes to saving length in coats and prickle removal, but once you get into it with scissors, the hair cannot be put back!!! (and you are more likely to cut your Dog if you are not familiar with how to scissor a coat correctly- never grab and knot, pull and snip, never!)

5. Talk to your groomer.

If you can’t get something done at home, such as nail trimming or effective brushing, ask your groomer and get them to show you how to do it. Persisting at home and stressing your Dog may result in them learning that grooming is uncomfortable and bad. Then when it comes to going to a groomer, the Dog may really freak out as they have had a bad experience previously. Remember, a groomer cannot undo months of no grooming in a coat, if you can’t get a comb through the coat in 6 mths, a groomer can’t do it in a grooming session. It is unfair to expect your pet to sit through hours of de-matting and any humane groomer won’t do it to them either.

The nicest option is to clip short and start again. Sometimes it is also nicer and less stressful to get a professional to groom your pet instead of spending hours on it at home. Please don’t go to a groomer and tell them that you brush the Dog every day and the knots only appeared after the morning walk that day, or he got into a bush…… we can tell how long knots have been in the coat!

And if you think your Dog looks funny after a groom, don’t laugh at them, you can make them feel very uncomfortable and they will learn that their owner doesn’t like them/makes fun of them after getting groomed.

Article by Marianne Suckling
Owner and Senior Stylist, Mojo’s Grooming Shed, Est 2011

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