Petting away grooming anxiety

Not all dogs are scared of groomers, but for some it may be a cause for huge stress. From mild anxiety and trembling to incessant whining and panic attacks, a scared dog can exhibit a variety of symptoms. By the end of the grooming process, the dog looks great, but psychologically, s/he feels traumatised.

There could be many reasons behind a dog’s seemingly inexplicable dread of grooming. These need to be carefully considered by pet parents so that the fear can be addressed effectively.

  • Infection or pain can make an otherwise calm dog irritated upon being touched. Therefore, a sudden change in a dog’s temperament with regard to grooming warrants a trip to the vet
  • Changing groomers frequently can also affect a dog’s behaviour
  • Incorrect handling can make pets wary of grooming. Some groomers might be careless while handling them. It is important to find a grooming professional who is gentle

  • Lack of proper training and exposure to grooming during puppyhood can make an adult dog fearful of grooming.
Puppies which are trained to become used to grooming are often easier to groom later. Pet parents should get their puppies used to being brushed and lifted at home regularly, gradually introduce them to being brushed and lifted by friends so that they get familiar with being handled by strangers.

Make car rides less stressful
Car rides can make some dogs stressful. A dog which reaches the groomer’s salon in an anxious state can be challenging to handle. Therefore, it is important to get the dog used to car rides by associating the ride with a reward such as a favourite treat of theirs.

Alternative options
Grooming does not ‘have to’ be done a certain way. Grooming procedures can be tweaked to suit the dog’s comfort level. Aspects of grooming found unpleasant by the dog can be substituted
with more comfortable alternatives. For example, if being lifted onto the grooming table frightens the dog, makeshift stairs
can be placed to let him climb up on his own.

Natural herb-based sprays and oils such as lavender and chamomile often have a soothing effect on dogs. Pheromones collars and sprays are even more advantageous, as they trigger primal memories of their nursing mothers and reduce stress.

Give him a break
Ask the groomer to put down the tools for a few minutes to give your dog some breathing space. If during this time, he sniffs the grooming table, lets out a big yawn, shakes off or scratches himself; you should know that s/he’s trying to diffuse his stress. Growling too is a form of canine communication, just like barking or whining. In the stressful grooming scenario, growling is usually indicative of the dog’s last attempt to communicate before a bite.

Say ‘no’ to forceful behaviour suppression
Forcing him to stay quiet while being brushed by yelling at him, or using a threatening tone will not cure your pet’s anxiety. Focus on finding and eradicating the root cause of the fear through the use of patience, love, repetition and consistency.

Play soothing music
Playing calming music will engage your pet’s auditory senses and distract him from the grooming procedure. It’ll be soothing and relaxing for him. If your pet is too scared or gets extremely anxious, then you can opt for grooming techniques at home. Or you could also ask for
home visits by professional groomers. This will spare him some stress. But try to make your pet familiar with the process. With some encouragement and treats, it can be achieved.

- By Nitya Ramachadran;

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