Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How To Groom Your Own Dog Series: Training Your Dog to be Groomed

How do I groom my own dog is something that I am frequently asked in the grooming shop. Most of my pet owners are very interested in keeping their pet well groomed at home and either they just don’t know how to groom their particular dog or their dog is resistant to being groomed. And I will start out by saying that this is not something I can cover completely in one post. I am going to break it up into an ongoing series.

Training Your Dog to be Groomed

The most frequent issue that most people have when attempting to groom their own dog is the dog itself. Dogs need to be trained to be groomed. Once trained and if done regularly, the grooming process should be a time for relaxing and bonding with your dog.

Optimally, you will begin to train your dog when it is a puppy and it will grow up enjoying the special time that it spends getting your undivided attention. Most dogs are not trained from puppyhood, however, and chances are that you are starting this process with a dog that is resistant to being groomed.

Dogs learn this resistance because in most cases they are not groomed until they have tangles or matts. Pulling out matts hurts them just as much as ripping tangles out of your own hair. Imagine for a moment someone pulling the hairs out of your armpits. It's not a pleasant thought and not many of us would lie there complacently without complaining.

So how do you train your dog? The most important step is to start out with a dog that is already groomed. The absolute best time to start is the day your dog comes home from the groomer. I know you are thinking that this makes no sense. You just paid money so that you didn't NEED to groom your dog. You would be absolutely correct. Your dog should come home from the groomer tangle and matt free. You should be able to comb and/or brush your dog without it being a painful or long process.

You are going to spend some time retraining your dog to think of grooming as a pleasant experience and not a painful one. You are also going to be retraining yourself to enjoy the process and to incorporate it into your routine. While few of us have time to groom our dogs daily, it should still be a regular routine and one that is rewarding to both you and your dog.

Encourage your dog to lay down on it's side. Pick a time when your dog is calm and relaxed. If your dog is small, have them lay in your lap. If your dog is large, have them lay on the floor and sit beside them. You want your dog to relax so talk calmly to them and pet them for a few minutes. I repeat the word "down" while I am doing this so that it becomes a command.

If your dog struggles against laying down this may be as far as you go for the first groom training session. If your dog is calm, take your comb or brush and run it over the dog lightly. Your goal here is to teach your dog to like being groomed. There should be no issues with tangles or matts so this should be a short pleasant session. Always speak softly to your dog while you are grooming as it will help to calm and relax him. These first few sessions should be more like stroking your dog with a brush or comb.

Try to do this daily for at least a week. The sessions do not have to last more than five minutes at a time and because you started with a freshly groomed clean dog, you can focus more on just getting you and your dog relaxed. Do not try to accomplish much more than having a quiet calm dog. If they have long hair on their ears or tail and are enjoying being brushed, you may want to be sure to comb or brush that part of them.

At the end of the first week, if you have a dog that will lie calmly for 5 minutes while being brushed you have accomplished much. You should be able to start a more thorough brushing and do it less often than daily. You can gradually extend the amount of time that you are spending and you can attempt the problem areas such as behind the ears, under the armpits and the back of the legs.

If at any point in the process your dog struggles or becomes upset, go back to the first steps of lying down and being stroked lightly. Some dogs are resistant to certain areas of their bodies being brushed and you will need to go back to stage one on these areas frequently. Get them used to lying quietly while stroking or massaging the area with your hand. Once they are relaxed, try the brush or comb lightly again.

I usually recommend to my clients that they do this while watching tv in the evening. Both people and dogs are usually more relaxed and winding down from the day. You will not achieve a calm dog if the kids are running around, people are coming in and out and things that your dog wants to investigate or be a part of are going on.

Upcoming in the series, I will cover specific topics such as

  • ¨ How and when to bathe your dog
  • - Health issues that regular grooming can help
  • ¨ Double coated dogs like Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, etc.
  • ¨ Long coated dogs like Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, and Havanese
  • ¨ Non shedding breeds such as poodles and bichons
  • ¨ Harsh coated dogs such as Terriers
  • ¨ General Grooming such as ears and nails
  • ¨ Grooming tools that you will need at home
You will notice that there are several different topics on breeds or coat types. This is because each different type of coats require different types of care including a different types of brushes and different techniques in brushing. There isn't a one size fits all answer and that is why professional groomers spend thousands of dollars on their tools. The brushes that work on a Shih Tzu won't necessarily work on a poodle or a collie.

You can subscribe to get future posts by RSS feed or by email in the form on the top of the page. Feel free to ask questions at any time along the way or throw in a comment about issues you have with your own dogs or things you would like to know.


torontodoggroomer said...

Choosing a dog groomer can be a hard decision. We all love our pets and we want to give them the very best. The groomer will be a big part of your pets life so you want to find one that you can stick with for years to come.

Dog Groomer

Dog Groomer said...

One of the challenges for dog owners is to keep their pet well-groomed. While it may be salient to do it yourself, it is still a good move to find a good groomer to make your dog as beautiful as it can be.

Dog Groomer