Prepare your puppy for the future! Our groomer Madison is very patient with puppies, but if the first time we see a puppy for grooming, they are matted and unprepared, it may end up being a stressful visit. This first visit shapes the way your puppy feels about grooming for the rest of their life!
What can be done?
Helping your puppy to be relaxed and feel comfortable with grooming starts on day one. Training for grooming should be a part of every puppy’s early life lessons along with socialisation and basic obedience. We have put together some training tips to get you started.
Training tips to set your puppy up for a stress-free grooming future
Grooming and handling should be part of your everyday puppy training. Unfortunately you can’t sit your dog down and explain to them the benefits of being groomed. As a result of this, grooming can be something that causes them stress if they have not been desensitised to the processes and “tools” of grooming.
Training should consist of short frequent sessions with plenty of praise and treats! The attention span of your puppy is not very long at this stage. Training a puppy is a slow and steady process and is not going to happen overnight as it requires time and patience from everyone in the family. Putting in the groundwork now will definitely set your pup up for a confident and stress-free future.
- Find a quiet place away from distractions for training
- Choose a time that you are not stressed or rushed and your puppy is a little tired and a little hungry.
- Teach the “stand” command. Start with your pup sitting, facing you. Have a treat in front of their nose and give the command “stand” while pulling the treat towards you and away from the pup’s nose. As their bottom leaves the ground, direct the treat towards the ground slightly. This will make them move forward and stand to try and reach for the treat (rather than jump for it). Once they are standing and still, say “yes” and reward with a treat.
- If you have a small dog, they will be groomed on a table whether they are groomed in a grooming salon or at home. Training on a table will build their confidence when it comes to grooming time. Start with performing basic commands on a table or bench top until your dog is comfortable. Start with “sit” and then reward with a treat, then move on to “down” and then “stand”. At our grooming salon, we use an adjustable table for larger dogs. Practising this at home may be a little trickier though.
Getting your puppy used to the grooming process
- Start by touching your pup all over with your hands, keeping an eye out for any particular areas they are sensitive to you being near.
- Regularly give treats to make sure your puppy is happy.
- Make sure that your puppy is 100% comfortable being touched with your hands before you move on to using any tools like brushes or combs.
- Once your puppy is used to being touched normally, ensure that your puppy is comfortable being touched inside their ears, around their eyes, nose, legs, feet and private parts. Getting your pet to be calm and relaxed while being handled in this way will help not only with grooming, but also with visits to the vet clinic. (Do this routine, on a table if you can, for one to two minutes each session for several sessions per day).
If you are able to do the above 4 steps with your puppy being relaxed and hopefully enjoying themselves, you can move on to a brush or comb.
- Use your hand to brush their coat at first, and then continue to a comb or brush.
- Remember to reward (frequently!) with treats. Your puppy still doesn’t understand the benefits of being groomed, so they need some incentive!
- You should aim to brush your puppy daily, even when the coat has no knots. If they only get brushed when there is a problem they will associate brushing with discomfort. We all know that brushing knotted hair hurts!
- Often the hair in front of the eyes will need trimming in between visits to the grooming salon. Having a pair of scissors pointing towards your eyes can be pretty scary if you don’t know what is happening!
To reduce stress on both of you, start your training off using a metal spoon. This will get your pup used to a cool metallic object touching them near the inside corner of their eye and nothing bad happening. Using a spoon also takes the pressure and stress away from you having to wield a pair of scissors in front of your dog’s eyes. As with everything, start slowly. Place the spoon on the skin between the eye and nose for 1 second and then remove and reward your puppy. Build your sessions up to 30 seconds over the course of a couple of weeks, moving the spoon closer to the inside corner of your puppy’s eye as they become more comfortable.
Then you can move on to using the scissors. Start again by just holding the tip of the scissors on the skin between the eye and nose and then build up as you have done with the spoon.
When your puppy is having their face groomed, the groomer gently supports the chin. Get your pup used to this by having one hand holding onto the chin, the pup sitting calmly and looking at you, then rewarding with a treat. Start with a second-long hold and then build up to 1 minute over several weeks.
By now, your puppy should be used to you touching their legs, between their toes, pads and nails. Use the nail clippers beside your pup to get them used to the sound they make. If they remain calm reward with a treat. Move on to touching the nail or foot with the clippers and then reward calm behaviour.
Nail clipping is a strange feeling to a puppy, but they will need to have their nails trimmed regularly in the future. Start with trimming one nail and then rewarding. If this is a stressful experience for your puppy at the start build up how many nails you do in a session. There is a blood vessel in the nail so you don’t want to go too short. At this young age, their nails will be slender and pointy.
Start with just taking the tips off. This will help reduce the amounts of scratches you get, while they get used to having their nails trimmed. Dogs are very sensitive to people’s emotions. If you are nervous trimming their nails, they will wonder why and be nervous as well. You are welcome to ask us to clip them while you are at the vet clinic for vaccination.
Groomers use a hair dryer, which can be loud and scary to a new puppy. Get them used to the sound and feeling gradually. Remembering to reward calm behaviour with treats. Start with the hair dryer in the room. If you use a hair dryer yourself you can have your pup in the room with a treat or something distracting them so that they are not concerned with the noise. Never chase your pet with the hair dryer or vacuum cleaner, etc. as this will only set up noise fears in the future.
Once your puppy is comfortable being in the same room as the hair dryer, move the dryer closer towards the puppy without directing the flow of air towards them. They need to remain calm and they should be rewarded with a treat. If your pup appears nervous, move the hair dryer away until they are comfortable. Work slowly and patiently to get the hair dryer close to your pup without stress.
Only once your puppy is comfortable with being next to the hair dryer would you direct the flow on to your puppy. Start with a short “wave” of the dryer over their side and then reward with a treat. Build the time your puppy is in the air from the hair dryer over time. Then build up to including the face in the stream of air.
- Learning is a process, it is not something that happens overnight!
- Short regular sessions is much better than longer infrequent ones.
- Always move slowly and reward with tasty treats.
- If your puppy is getting stressed you are moving too quickly. Go back a couple of steps.
- Training sessions should always end on your terms. If your pup learns that they just have to wriggle and squirm and you will stop what you are doing, then they will do that in the future.
Your pup is now prepared to come in for a professional groom. An introductory puppy clip will give them a slow introduction to salon grooming, getting used to the noise of the hydro-bath, loud dryers and clippers. A puppy clip is a shorter version of a full clip so that they learn there is nothing to be nervous about.
An Introductory Puppy Clip will include a 2 to 4 hour stay with our groomer Madison. This is to allow plenty of time for Madison to be able to work at your pup’s pace and to allow them to have rests between processes as often as they require. Their stay will include;
- A warm hydro-wash
- An introduction to the blow dryer
- Nail trim
- Ear clean
- Trim and tidy-up of the face, feet, belly and tail
- Hygiene clip