By John Woods
It’s as clear as day for groomers when they meet a dog who has been well prepared for the grooming salon. Not only is it obvious by the state of their coat, but also by how willing the dog is to being handled and how comfortable they are around the tools of the trade.
It goes without saying that a dog socialized in grooming makes your job much easier, but it also makes the whole appointment a lot less stressful for the dog, too.
So, how does a new puppy owner socialize a dog for grooming to make it as stress-free as possible for everyone involved? Like all socialization—start young.
From the moment the mother will let someone near her pup, she needs to be handled by humans. All parts of her body need to be touched. She needs to learn that human touch is totally normal and safe.
Whilst she is still with her, the mother will carry out most of pup’s grooming. Pup will learn how to groom herself, but for most dogs in the human world, this won’t be enough as she grows. She will likely need regular grooming either by her owner, or by a professional.
As soon as she settles in her new human home, the human handling needs to be continued. Owners should be encouraged to touch the ears, muzzle, tummy, paws and tail. Most dogs struggle with their paws being touched, so it’s worth spending a little more time here. A few minutes every day of handling her paw pads and her nails is ample. If she is a breed who will need regular trims at the groomers, owners should handle around her face frequently, too.
Once she accepts human touch, a brush can be introduced. If the pup has a thick coat or one that is likely to matt, brushing should begin as early as possible. The pup should be allowed to sniff and explore the brush before it is gently run along her body. Sessions should be kept short and repeated a few times each week until the first visit to the groomer, where you can then better instruct the pet owner on at-home grooming.
It’s always a good idea to introduce a new pup to being bathed. Whilst the owner may never plan on bathing them themselves—only the groomer, letting the pup know that it’s nothing to fear will help. This also should be done slowly and with short sessions. To make sure it is a positive experience for the pup, plenty of praise should be given and treats can be offered. You want her to learn that good things happen in the tub.
Introducing them to a hair dryer can also be done in the owner’s home. Have them turn the hair dryer on while the pup is in the same room, leave it on for a couple of seconds then slowly increase the time it is left on. If they are attempting to dry her, someone else can distract her with treats or peanut butter to make it a positive experience.
Nail clipping, ear cleaning, eye cleaning and teeth cleaning can be introduced in the same way. Slowly. The pup should be allowed to explore/sniff the tools and products. Encourage owners to be patient and only move on to the next stage/tool when they are confident that the pup has accepted the one before.
As a groomer you will be thankful for the time the owner spent socialising their new pup for grooming. It also means that veterinarians will easily be able to handle the pup should they need to, as well as the owner. ✂️
John is a dog lover, trainer and member of the association of professional dog trainers. He is the founder of All Things Dogs (www.allthingsdogs.com), a digital dog publication helping educate pet parents on training dogs. He is a graduate in animal welfare and behavior, has two dogs (Jamie and Jeff), who he travels the world with and is a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America where he writes for his love of dogs.