Grooming an Anxious Dog

Is grooming stressful for your Coton de Tulear?

I don’t know if grooming an anxious dog is harder on you or the dog. But there’s no reason that either of you have to suffer.

It’s much easier when your dog is just a puppy and you can gradually show him that grooming can be a good experience. Older dogs are a little more difficult because they’ve either had bad experiences or they’ve developed bad habits.

Here are some tips to make grooming a positive experience for you AND your dog.

Luc getting a bath

Tips for Grooming an Anxious Dog

  • Start out just touching or massaging your dog and praise him when he doesn’t resist.

  • Let your dog sniff the brush and see that it’s not anything to fear.

  • Make sure you use a soft brush and try it on your own skin first – often pets hate brushing simply because it hurts.

  • At first, keep grooming sessions very short and always end on a positive note. It's always good to get your puppy used to being handled so grooming won't be an unusual or anxious experience. When your dog sits quietly and lets you brush him make sure to reward him with the tone of your voice or a treat.

  • Make sure to stop grooming if your pup starts showing signs of stress. You want him to associate being groomed with a positive experience so NEVER scold or punish him when he doesn't cooperate. 
  • Be consistent and brush your dog every day, even if it's only for 30 seconds. Luc never had an issue with grooming, but Lucy was the worst! She thought we were playing and did everything she could to avoid or eat the brush or comb. Of course, everything is a game to a puppy. But the first thing I did every morning was sit with her and brush her hair for just a minute or two. She was a wiggly mess. But over time, she has become used to this practice and I think she may even enjoy it now. And the groomer has noticed the difference.
  • If your Coton is going to be professionally groomed, it's important to make a grooming appointment as soon as your puppy has had all the necessary vaccines. Lucy had 2 new puppy appointments. This was just to get her used to having a bath and being handled. Don't make their first groom appointment a long one with "the works". Build up to that.
  • Bathing an anxious dog can be a challenge if your dog is afraid of water. If your dog appears fearful, start slow with small steps. First just put him in the tub with a toy, then get him a little wet with a washcloth, then a short bath, etc. Make it a fun experience with lots of praise and a big reward afterwards (treat, toy, hug). 

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