By Victoria Schade
If you prefer to leave the dirty work of nail trims and anal gland expressing to someone else, you probably assume that your dog grooming responsibilities end when you drop your dog off with the groomer. Let the groomer worry about mats in the fur and unruly behavior in the tub, because that’s their job, right?
Most groomers beg to differ.
Grooming dogs is a big job no matter the size of the pup on the table. From bathing, drying, brushing and detangling, to cleaning up the ears, eyes and hygiene areas, to finally, hand-scissoring the coat to perfection, getting your dog beautified takes work.
For many dogs who are uncomfortable with body manipulation, the dog grooming experience can be a stressful one. A nervous or fearful dog who doesn’t like to be touched makes the job that much more challenging for your groomer—and that much more unpleasant for your dog.
The following dog groomer tips will help your pup feel comfortable with the grooming process and will help him get the most out of his time in the salon. With a little patience and training, grooming day will be the equivalent of a trip to the spa for your dog, plus your groomer will thank you for your cooperative pooch!
No matter the breed, every dog will require some sort of grooming in their life, even if it’s just a bath when he rolls in something gross or cutting a dog’s nails. You can make the process stress-free if you begin acclimating your dog to grooming early in life.
Get your puppy used to having his paws, ears and tail manipulated by pairing the process with dog treats. Let him check out the tub and dog shampoo (and give him a few treats for doing so) before you begin running the water for a bath.
You can even bring your pup to the groomer for a few low-pressure “getting to know you” sessions before it’s time for the real thing. Groomer Kathleen Sepulveda, director of education at Dirty Dogs University and board member of the Creative Grooming Association, says, “Many pet owners wait too long to bring their pet to the groomer; this can cause your pet to become very scared, not enjoying their day of beauty.”
Bath time with your dog can be optimized with the addition of two products: a simple scrub brush, like the ConairPRO Pet-It boar bristle brush, and conditioner, like the Isle of Dogs silky coating conditioner for dogs.
Sepulveda explains, “Using a scrub brush while bathing will help rid the coat of stuck-on dirt, exfoliate the skin for better health, and help remove dead coat to prevent mats from forming. I always say scrub them like a potato!”
She also suggests conditioner, even for breeds with a short coat. “The shampoo is made to remove dirt and excess oils leaving the skin and coat clean, yet porous,” says Sepulveda. “The conditioner closes up the pores and hair shaft while helping to protect the coat from breakage and tangles.”
Both Sepulveda and groomer Caitlin Kucsan of Pugs and Kisses Petcare in Bucks County, Pennsylvania agree that ongoing maintenance—daily, if possible—will help your dog feel more comfortable during a dog grooming session.
Kucsan explains that dogs who aren’t brushed regularly are more likely to have challenging mats and tangles, which might result in the groomer needing to shave down the coat instead of giving you the teddy bear cut you were hoping for.
“If you spend a few minutes each day brushing your dog in between grooms, the more likely it will be that your groomer is able to leave some length on your pup,” says Kucsan.
Plus, working through tangled fur is unpleasant for the dog and can increase the length of time your dog spends on the table. Kucsan suggests that pet parents should first brush with a slicker brush, like the Andis premium large, firm pet slicker brush, then move on to a fine-tooth comb, like the Andis steel pet comb.
“While your pet might already be a little anxious to be heading to the salon, think about how much worse they must feel if they also have to go to the bathroom,” Kucsan says.
Most busy salons are booked solid with back-to-back appointments throughout the day, which means it’s probably not possible for your groomer to take your dog for a potty break. “Your pet should be relieved prior to arriving at the salon,” Kucsan adds.
“Unless a groomer specifically asks you to stay and help handle your pet, most salons will not and do not allow an owner to stay and help or watch during a groom,” Kucsan says.
Even though you might think that your presence will calm your dog during a groom, being in the room might make your dog more anxious. Your dog might move around on the table trying to reach you, which makes the process more dangerous for him and your groomer, especially when sharp scissors are involved.
“If you trust your groomer, know that although your pet may be anxious upon arrival, they will be much calmer without you there. It also helps them create a bond with their groomer without them needing to look to you for comfort,” Kucsan says.
“Many pet owners enter the grooming salon saying how much their dog hates grooming, and apologizing about having to bring them in. This sets up the dog to be fearful and stressed—not a good way to start a day of beauty,” Sepulveda says.
Rather than acting like you’re dropping your dog off for hours of torture, keep the mood upbeat when you’re heading for the salon. If you’ve followed the other secrets to making dog grooming sessions stress-free, spending time with your groomer should be a pleasant experience for your dog.
“Setting your pet up to be relaxed and excited for grooming will make the entire grooming process less stressful for pet and owner,” Sepulveda says.