Trusting the brush! 5 Tips to help ease fear and anxiety towards grooming
As a professional dog groomer, one of the biggest things I've heard pet owners complain about is how hard it is to brush out their dogs between appointments, and one of the biggest reasons is always that their pet doesn't like it. Unfortunately for many pet owners they also really love that fluffy "teddy bear" style, so brushing often truly is essential to maintaining the look. Are you struggling with your dog? Does your dog seem to hate brushing and run away from the tools? Thankfully I have solutions to these problems for you! Using positive reinforcement methods, canine enrichment toys, and training tricks you can strengthen the bond with your pet and have your dog trusting the brush instead of running from it!
1. Start Positive It's important to keep in mind that every interaction your dog has will impact future associations. If you start your brushing session by chasing your dog around the house with the brush, you'll likely be causing rising stress levels, over excitement and confused associations over how to act at grooming time and around grooming tools. It's important to stay calm, positive and mindful of what signals we send the dogs about grooming. Instead of chasing, I recommend teaching your dog the signal to "come" to you, reward the dog, and then after the dog is clearly in a good state, then introduce the grooming tools into the situation.
2. Keep positive, pain free and pleasant Just like the first point, the brushing and grooming should continue to be positive, but should also be pain free and pleasant! If your dog is exhibiting stress signals, you need to figure out what is causing them, change how you're handling and make sure your dogs emotional state improves. Are you constantly pulling on tangles making it an unpleasant experience? If so you're possibly causing negative associations with the process because it's no longer pain free or positive. What are the first signals to know your pet isn't comfortable? Yawning, lip licking, panting, looking side to side, and ears positioned back are some of the first signs typically to know if your dog is silently saying they're uncomfortable with what you're doing. Once your pet becomes vocal, shows teeth, or in any way outwardly tells you, it means you've going past their first warnings, and now they REALLY want you to stop. You really need to look at the silent signals and focus on keeping the dog enjoying what you're doing. Unfortunately going past those signals is dangerous for future brushing sessions with you, and in the salon. If you dog learns that the silent warning signals don't work, and you don't listen you could be at risk of being bitten.
3. Use the proper tools for the job If the tools you're using aren't the proper ones for your pets coat type you could cause pain, discomfort, worsen matting, and cause unnecessary stress for your pet. Go to your groomer at any point and ask if you're using the right tools for your pet. If you're using a comb to dematt instead of a brush, that could be a big reason fluffy doesn't like the brush out!!
4. Use enrichment toys, tools and training tricks Have you taught your dog how to shake a paw? This can be very useful for helping your dog to love grooming! If your dog loves being rewarded when they shake paws with you, switch it up and use it for nail trims! Shake, reward, clip nail while your pooch enjoys the reward! Easy peasy, and positive! it'll help build those positive associations towards nail trimming. Does your dog love digging and hate nail trims? Build a DIY scratch board and reward for digging in the scratch board. It keep your dogs nails filed down, but no one has to be a bad guy in your dogs eyes. A scratch board helps with mental enrichment through physical stimulation. Lickimats, almost empty peanut butter jars, treat filled frozen kongs and many other mentally stimulating rewards can be used to better the grooming experience! Either by distraction, or as a reward themselves. if they're high value enough, they can help to build positive associations towards the handling and tools without much effort. 5. End positively
Your dog should know how proud of them that you are! End on a positive note, show them you love them, show them you care. Grooming should strengthen the bond between owner and dog because you should always be building trust with every interaction.
Don't make your dog fear the brush! They should trust you, the brush and us groomers with brushes. If you're creating fear and anxiety towards the grooming tools at home, we have to navigate those fears in the salon.
Help your dog to be a more calm, confident and brush loving dog. Your groomer won't have to shave your dog if you're maintaining the coat at home, and the first step to coat maintenance is a dog that knows grooming is a positive, pain free experience. If you enjoyed this blog please share with your dog loving friends!