As pet owners, we want to support our dogs during grooming sessions to reduce their anxiety. Today, our Laguna Woods vets talk about dog grooming anxiety and what you can do to help.
Recognizing Grooming Anxiety In Your Dog
Our dogs can't clearly tell us what they're feeling, so as their loving caretaker it's up to you to be able to recognize the signs that your dog is anxious or uncomfortable with a situation.
For many pets, a trip to the grooming salon can be an unpleasant or even traumatic experience. If not dealt with, dog grooming anxiety not only increases the risk of your pet developing more serious behavioral issues but can also turn a grooming session into a dangerous situation for both the groomer and pet. If the dog scratches, bites, or escapes during the grooming process it can lead to a highly stressful or even dangerous situation.
Some signs of anxiety include:
- Fast breathing
- Aggressive behavior
Keeping a Dog Calm While Grooming
Keeping your dog calm at the groomers can be challenging so here are a few tips from our Laguna Woods vets and groomers to help make your pooches experience as stress-free as possible.
Make Car Rides Less Scary
Car rides can lead to anxious feelings in dogs, especially if they already have fear or dislike of the car. If your pooch arrives at the groomer stressed or anxious, this could lead to other issues.
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.
Get Them Used To The Grooming Process
Grooming often includes touching sensitive areas of a dog's body, including the muzzle, eyes, ears, paws, tail, rear, and groin. Getting your dog used to or desensitized to having these areas touched can help them relax during a professional grooming session.
Try working with your dog at home to get them used to being handled before you take him to the groomer and reward your dog 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, like the shoulder, and gradually move toward the paw with a gentle touch. Reward your dog with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue and handling the area. Continue training only while your dog is calm, relaxed, and receptive.
Make Visiting The Groomer A Fun Activity
Ask your groomer if you can carry out a training visit without any grooming being done. Instead, combine arriving in the parking lot or lobby with things your dog likes, such as play, treat training, or going on a short walk. Use the visit to accustom your dog to the sights and sounds of the groomer, including the noise of 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.
Muzzle Training For Anxious Dogs
A muzzle can make grooming easier and safer for your dog and for the groomer, especially if your dog already has issues with being handled. 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 his nose into the muzzle by smearing a soft treat (e.g. peanut butter) on the inside, you can use a basket muzzle with small openings; this allows the dog to take treats while wearing the muzzle, which can also help keep the dog calm.
These strategies may not work for every dog, and if training is failing to reduce your dog’s anxiety levels or if your dog is reacting aggressively to any attempts to groom them, seek your veterinarian’s guidance about professional training. Talk to your veterinarian as well about possible medication options to help manage your dog’s grooming anxiety.
Does My Dog Need Sedation?
If you own an unpredictable or aggressive dog, you might be wondering if you can use sedatives to make them feel better while being groomed. Many careful considerations are needed before deciding to go this route, as there are several options.
You should ask yourself the following questions before asking your vet for sedatives:
- Has your dog always been this way, or is this a new behavior that needs to be addressed?
- Have you tried different groomers? Like people themselves, not every dog gets along with every human.
- Have you tried grooming your dog yourself?
- Has your dog ever displayed aggressive behaviors during grooming?
- Does your dog get extremely anxious?
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 need to see your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for confirmation and to be prescribed the most appropriate medication to calm your dog for 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.