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Grooming Anxiety In Dogs: What To Do & How To Help

Grooming Anxiety In Dogs: What To Do & How To Help

Dog owners do their best to give their pups the confidence they need to manage new situations, although, in situations like grooming, a dog's anxiety can take over. Here, our Jesup vets talk about grooming anxiety in dogs and offer tips that could help you keep your dog calm while grooming.

Signs of Grooming Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs can't tell us what they are feeling, as a pet owner it's essential to be able to recognize the signs that your dog is anxious or uncomfortable with a situation.

For lots of dogs, a trip to the grooming salon can be a traumatic experience. Unaddressed grooming anxiety in dogs doesn't just increase the risk of developing more serious behavioral issues, but can also turn grooming into a dangerous situation for both the groomer and the pup, if the dog decides to bite, scratch, or escape during the grooming process.

Common signs of anxiety in dogs include:

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

How To Keep Your Dog Calm During Grooming

Keeping your dog calm at the groomers can be challenging, so here are a few tips from our Jesup vets and groomers to help make your pup's experience as stress-free as possible.

Begin With The Drive

Car rides can cause anxiety, and dogs that arrive at the groomers stressed or anxious will likely cause other problems. There are a couple of reasons why your dog may dislike the car, they may be anxious about the ride itself or the anticipated destination like the groomers.

Counter conditioning can help ease your dog’s fear and increase their enjoyment of riding in the car. Anxiety and discomfort may also be related to motion sickness, so talk to your veterinarian to see if an anti-nausea medication may be helpful.

Desensitize Them To the Grooming Feeling

Grooming often includes handling sensitive areas, including the muzzle, eyes, ears, paws, tail, rear, and groin. Desensitization can help your dog stay calm with different types of touching. Try working with your dog at home to get them used to being handled before you take them to the groomer and reward your pup with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue. If your dog is sensitive in areas like the ear or paws, start by touching them on an area where it’s less sensitive, such as the shoulder, and gradually move toward the paw with a gentle touch. Give your dog a treat after giving the cue and touching the area. Keep training only while your dog is calm, relaxed, and receptive.

Make The Groomer's a Fun Place To Go

Ask your groomer if you can do a training visit without any grooming being done. Instead, combine being in the parking lot or lobby with events your dog likes, such as play, treat training, or going on a walk. Use the visit to get your dog accustomed to the sights and sounds of the groomer, including the noise of the clippers or dryers, and to practice being lifted on and off the grooming table. Be sure to follow up with lots of treats, so that your dog learns to associate the groomers with good things.

Try Muzzle Training Your Pup

A muzzle can make grooming easier and safer for your dog and for the groomer, especially if your dog is already difficult to handle. Muzzle training can reduce the need for other types of restraint and can protect your pet against the implications of a bite. Train your dog to willingly put their nose into the muzzle by smearing a soft treat, like peanut butter, on the inside or use a basket muzzle with small openings; this allows the dog to take treats while wearing the muzzle, which can also help keep them calm. These strategies might not work for all dogs.

If training is failing to make a dent in your dog’s anxiety levels, or if your dog is reacting aggressively to any attempts to groom them, ask your veterinarian for guidance about professional training. Talk to your veterinarian as well about potential medication options to help manage your dog’s grooming anxiety.

Sedation For Dogs With Grooming Anxiety

If your dog is unpredictable, you might be wondering what sedatives you can give them to help make them feel better while being groomed. A lot of careful considerations are required before deciding to opt for this option, as there are several methods available.

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

  • Does your dog get incredibly anxious
  • Has your pup always been this way, or is this a new behavior that needs to be addressed
  • Have you tried grooming your dog yourself
  • Did you try different groomers
  • Has your dog ever exhibited aggressive displays when being groomed

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 already tried several options and find that your dog undeniably needs sedatives, then you will have to see your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for the most appropriate medication to keep your dog calm while 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.

Contact our Jesup vets today and schedule a grooming appointment for your dog at Wolfe Animal Hospital. Our grooming team will do their best to make your dog as comfortable and relaxed as possible during their grooming session.

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