Grooming the dog who doesn't want to be groomed.

                                 So much grooming with a full coated poodle puppy and the beach.

With brush in hand you approach your dog; they in turn and head for the hills.  Another fight is about to begin as you embark on the grooming that must be done.  Does your dog hate grooming?  Many dogs do for many different reasons.  Some hate the pulling and tugging that goes on; others may not like the idea of being made to stay in one spot and then some just hate anything to do with the whole touch thing.  So what are you to do?  It has to be done. 

Elsa hates to be brushed; she doesn't mind nails, ears or trimming but pull out the brush and she makes herself scarce.  I believe it is due to the fact that she had such a huge coat when she was young.  Lots and lots of brushing and mats, oh those wonderfully unavoidable mats.  Many nights were spent watching t.v. and combing mats.  The big hair was short lived and we are both much happier about it.  I hate spending our time together working on mats when we could just be having fun; and she is much happier not being tugged on. 

If you have a dog that hates all or a particular part of the grooming regime then you have work to do.  Of course you cannot make them love it; but you can most definitely create a tolerable scenario.  Treats, yummy, yummy treats is the way to happy grooming.  That and a calm, relaxed and enjoyable environment in which the grooming is done.  By starting over, breaking it all down to very small pieces of enjoyable grooming you can then build a new feeling around grooming.  Take the yummiest treats that you can think of, steak, chicken, jerky, cheese and break it into lots of pieces.  The pieces can be very small, just enough for your dog to know that they are eating something great. 

If your dog is really bad about grooming then start with just having the brush or nail clippers in hand and treat.  Then work on clipping one nail or brushing only once and treat.  Stay calm, this is suppose to be enjoyable.  Keep that "zen" thought in your head while you approach your task of creating a positive experience.  One brush, one treat, another brush, another treat, you get the idea.  Only move onto more brushing between treats once you have success.  When your dog is relaxing, then you can build.  Baby steps is the only way to undo what is already engrained as a negative.  If the negative is all about nail clipping then just work on holding your dog's paw and treating.  Once they are okay with that, then move onto touching a nail with the clippers, treats.  It could take weeks or months to get to their.  That's okay, take the time, it is worth it. 

Force a groom with physical restraint and you are going to create a big dislike for the activity.  The more a dog fights, the more you hold on which causes more fight in a dog.  It is a vicious circle of dread.  You hate it, your dog hates it, it's a lose, lose. 

Elsa still gets treats throughout a groom, although very few.  Both Luke and Elsa get a treat after having their nails done, why not?   Knowing they will get a treat creates a happy aura around something that they do not enjoy.  It's a win, win and that's what we are striving for. 



  1. Lucy's MomMonday, May 12, 2014

    I have a rescue who hates bath time! I think that using treats is a great suggestion along with positive reinforcement. My girl, Lucy, enjoys the toweling off process the most. I make a game out of it so she has something to look forward to. This makes the bathing less stressful for her.

    I think with my last dog, Cleo, the treat rewarding would have been a better way to go. We used to tell her what a good girl she was during a bath. This seemed to reinforce her fears.

    With Lucy we do not use those words. We tell her its all right and tell her how wonderful it is to get a massage instead of using the words "good girl." This seems to make a difference! (??) Maybe its just a different dog with different tolerances??

    I choose to bath the dogs myself so that they know what to expect and how to behave. You never know how they are gong to react to different groomers approaches at places like Pet Co. where there is always a different person on duty. Over protective mommy? You got it!!

  2. Thanks so much for your expert perspective on grooming. I will definitely add treats to what so far has been a positive, praise filled and VERY slow process. It's a sticky hot 90 degrees today in NC, so we may just jump right on the steak suggestion. Some of this lovely apricot fluff has got to go! Thanks again for the inspiration.

    Does your blog have an RSS feed sign up somewhere that I have missed?

  3. Should be here I believe Susanne.


  4. Got it...Blog is great in Flipboard on iPad. That format does your pics justice. Wanted to share my IMMEDIATE positive results with clippers and the zen/treat method. Rather than coax her along with constant dialogue, I quit talking and started the "zen" approach, reinforcing bits of calm cooperation with a piece of cheese...WOW! I focused on the process being calm and relaxing, and quit worrying about the clip job being perfect...she has improved 200% in two days of less than 15 minute sessions. I haven't started on feet yet, but I am confident we can continue to expand and vary daily our sessions. Your advice was brilliant!

  5. Susanne, that is wonderful. It is amazing how a whole different attitude and positive reinforcement can change things. :) Great work.


  6. I'm lucky- one of my spoos thinks grooming day is a trip to the spa but insists on laying down while I groom. She'll hold her arms out straight when I use the clippers, then her legs... turns on one side, then the other... she likes the vibration I guess. It's a hoot. She does the same for being brushed. I have to use treats for the toes, though. My other spoo, who I adopted after he was crated for his entire first 6 months and I believe is sensory-impaired, stands still and straight, my little soldier, endures all without any struggle whatsoever, waiting for the treat at the end. And I agree, a close-cropped clip is the only way to go with spoos unless you have got grooming down to a (fun) science with your dogs!


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