Introducing Puppies to Grooming

Posted 02-08-2013 by Lea Ann in Puppies

Puppies are Cute!  Cute little balls of fluff.... or not fluff....but cute nonetheless.  And sooner or later, that cute little mess is going to need to be introduced to the grooming process.  NOW, I want to be very adamant that the sooner you can teach your puppy to tolerate being handled for grooming the better!  Teaching a puppy that it is okay to handled will make them comfortable with the process, and it will also lead to less stress for everyone involved when the big day arrives.

Side Note/Tangent: Short Haired Dogs require grooming too!!!!!!!! It may not be as involved or extensive, however, short haired dogs require baths, frequent toe nail trims, and ear cleanings. Their skin and coat also benefit from frequent brushing that removes dead hair and promotes new growth.  You may be more than capable of doing these things yourself at home, or you may turn to the professionals. Either way, these things are all part of the grooming process.  So, if you find that you have a short haired puppy, please please PLEASE, follow my advice and start practicing with them at a young age to prepare them to accept these procedures with little fuss.

Ok.  So where to start?  The following is general advice that I give my puppy well as random puppy owners I run into....

First of all, it is SO important to make sure that your puppy is having a good experience! If your puppy presents behaviors that you don't like, ignore them and praise the behaviors that you want to promote.  You do not want your puppy to FEAR you!  You want your puppy to trust you, and enjoy your time together. Praise and treats go a long way in helping a puppy understand what you are expecting of them. Make training sessions short, and ALWAYS try to end training sessions on a good note!  If your puppy isn't very successful at what you're working on, go back to something they do well with and end the session on that.

Alright...Feet.  Those itsy bitsy cute wittle piggies....  Play with them often, multiple times a day!!   No, you don't have to take them to market or make them go ""wee wee wee"....BUT I would like to see you picking the puppy's feet up one at a time and hold them, press on them gently, spread the toes, and praise the heck out of that dog for letting you do it!!! If your puppy gets "mouthy" (nippy or trying to gnaw at your hands to make you release the foot),cries out, or pulls his foot back, DO NOT LET HIM WIN!!!! If you release the foot because the dog is throwing a fit, crying, or biting at you, you will only teach him that this type of behavior gets the results that he wants.  This is NOT the training results you are looking for.  Ignore these types of behavior, and wait for a break in them before you release the foot. Then praise and treat.

This may seem silly now, but imagine the day that your dog steps on a thorn or shard of glass, and you need to examine the paw pad or remove the foreign object. You want and NEED you dog to tolerate this kind of handling, incase of such an emergency.  Also, from a grooming standpoint, your dog will have to be able to handle having his feet handled if he is ever to receive a nail trim.  It's so much less stressful for the animal if he is comfortable with having his feet handled, and he Isn't screaming in terror and being wrestled to the ground in order to safely do the nail trim.

Ok.  So next on my list of important things is what I like to call "head work".  This is anything from cleaning the ears, to wiping eye boogies, and trimming hair around the face, eyes, mouth, etc.  I want to take this moment to point out that groomers scissors and clippers are SHARP.  And we are using these sharp tools around your dogs face. Now imagine how much safer it is for your pet when they sit nicely for their groomer....and how dangerous it is when they are darting and dodginging around, or even biting at the tools...  Hopefully, there are very few accidents in your groomers place of business.  That being said, we are working on a living ,breathing, moving animals and accidents can and will happen to even the best of groomers.  Obviously, accidents are less likely to occur if your pet behaves in a manner conducive to safety.

As with the feet, play with your puppy's ears daily.  Pretend theres something interesting in them, and look in there often. Lightly tug on them. Also, lift your puppy's lips and feel inside their mouths. (Think about later in life trying to retrieve something from your dogs mouth it shouldn't swallow.  You will need to be able to safely go in your dogs mouth without being bitten!) Something that I personally appreciate and encourage my puppy owners to do it to hold the puppy's chin hair.  I hold onto a dog's chin hair when I am working around their eyes.  It helps me to keep their head stabilized, and safely do what I need to do around their face. I don't do it hard, but I do it firmly.  And praise, and praise, and treat when they tolerate it!!!!!!  They are the smartest most wonderful bestest puppy in the world!!!!!!

Sometimes puppies are scared of the sound the clippers make.  You can help desensitise them to this noise by often running something over their body that makes a similar buzzing sound.  Many people own an electric beard trimmer (Use the butt end on the dog, not the blades!), or even an electric toothbrush will do.  The key is to keep the sessions short, and praise them when they do well.

OK.  So you've been practicing at home. When is a good time to start visiting the grooming salon?  At the very least, please consider bringing your dog in at the 12 week mark for a bath and tidy up package.  In my salon this means that I trim around their potty area, around their feet, and around their eyes.  They also get a bath, toe nail trim, and ear cleaning.  This is a short little experience that should be considered as an introduction to grooming. It's kept short and sweet, and dotted with lots of treats, praise, and cuddles. I love teaching puppies that grooming isn't a scary evil thing.  It's a fun day where they get lots of attention, and feel awesome when they go out the door.


02-10-2013, Dana said:

Thank you so much for these tips! I recently got two puppies and I never thought about prepping them for a good grooming experience. They do well with their baths and with these tips I think they will handle grooming well too.

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