Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Some dogs simply hate being groomed. They may find it uncomfortable or have negative associations from past experiences. Generally, if a dog is being difficult during grooming, it’s due to anxiety; however, there are plenty of ways to help ease your dog’s anxiety and change his response to grooming.
1. Choose a medication or calming aid. There are a variety of products you can use to help calm your dog down for grooming. Some are medications that your vet would prescribe. Others are herbal supplements you can buy over-the-counter, though they should not be used without consulting the vet first. Some common medications and calming aids include:
Dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP)
Herbs including skullcap or valerian
2. Ask your veterinarian about calming aids. Some medications have side effects or risks. Some may actually produce the opposite behavior of what you’re hoping for. Always run your choice of medication by your vet.
Your vet can advise you on dosing, which will vary depending on the size of your dog.
In severe cases, your vet may also offer your dog general anesthesia before grooming.
3. Administer the medication before your dog becomes anxious. Many calming aids and anxiety medications won’t work if your dog has already become nervous. Give your dog the medication before you get in the car or before he sees the grooming tools.
Hiding the medication inside a treat will also help put your dog in a good mood.
4. Groom your dog as you normally would. Once the medication has kicked in, your dog should be calm enough for grooming. Try to work fairly quickly, so that the medication doesn’t wear off. Use a calm, even voice with your dog to avoid raising any anxiety.
Choose a place for grooming that helps your dog feel calm. If she hates the bathtub, groom her outside. If she is afraid of going in the car, find out if the groomer makes house calls.
Always use clippers (not scissors) on a dog’s hair. Many dog owners accidentally puncture their dog’s skin with scissors, which can lead to a visit to the vet. It also (understandably) gives the dog negative associations with grooming.
5. Reward the dog with treats when the grooming is done. You can do this while he is still in the restraint, if that’s physically possible. This may help increase positive associations with the restraint.
Never reward a dog when he’s exhibiting unwanted behavior such as growling or resisting. This sends a confusing message and will not help him unlearn the behavior.
Just because your dog resists your grooming, doesn't mean he will resist anyone trying to groom him. Many groomers have a wonderful way with dogs. Try sending your dog to a well-respected groomer to see if his response changes.
Grooming your dog regularly helps make grooming easier. If your dog is rarely groomed, it will take more time and effort to effectively groom him each time.
If you decide to take your dog to a professional groomer, be honest with them ahead of time about your dog’s resistance to grooming.
Make sure that water is always at a comfortable temperature, neither too hot nor too cold.
Sometimes, resistance to grooming is an indicator of a medical problem, such as an ear infection. Keep an eye out for this, and bring your dog to the vet if you suspect something’s wrong.
About This Article
Co-authored by: Marie Lin Licensed Pet Groomer This article was co-authored by Marie Lin. Marie Lin is a Licensed Pet Groomer and the Owner of Marie's Pet Grooming, a grooming salon based in New York City. Marie has over 10 years of pet grooming experience specializing in dogs and cats. She earned her pet grooming certification from the American Academy of Pet Grooming New York in 2009 and is also a member of the National Dog Groomers Association of America. She earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Hawaii Pacific University in 2007. This article has been viewed 35,164 times.