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Prepping for the Groomers

We are pleased to invite Nikki Cole from Delightful Dogs Grooming to write us some tips to help our dogs when they go to the groomers.

How to socialize your puppy with brushes, combs, and all things pampering

“He tries to attack the brush.”

“He runs away when I get the brush out.”

“He just thinks it’s a game.”

Its an all too common occurrence. No matter how good the intentions of the puppy parents. You try to brush Puppy, he goes into play mode or self-defence mode, you despair, Puppy’s coat starts to gather knots so you know something has to change. By this point, brushing actually will be an unpleasant experience for Puppy with the knots that have formed and the whole thing becomes an ordeal for all.

Here are my top tips as a dog groomer for setting up a successful routine that your puppy and your groomer will thank you for.

Step 1: Make time

Set aside a few minutes a day. Keep sessions short and sweet. You want to always end on a good note before Puppy has had a chance to get frustrated and reach his limit.

Step 2: Make space

Have a safe surface that you can place Puppy on for these sessions. Maybe a footstool. Puppy will learn that on this surface it is grooming time, not playtime and that means staying still. Have lots of patience! It will take time for Puppy to learn this. Make it a positive place! You could start by practising getting puppy comfortable being on there. Before you think about grooming have some treats on there and if possible, let puppy climb on there to get the treats. Practise puppy getting on the platform of his own accord and is happy to be on there. Then start introducing the short sessions. Keep the praise coming for calm behaviour.

Step 3: Start combing

So, a few minutes each day Puppy goes onto his platform for some grooming. Now, introduce layer combing. By this, I mean, combing the coat in layers, parting the hair so you can see skin and combing right from the skin. So many people make the mistake of brushing the outer coat, not getting down to the skin, which causes mats to form that can be hard to get out.

Often if a groomer is faced with lots of mats tight to the skin they will clip the coat down because it is more comfortable for the dog. De-matting would result in a stressful experience for the dog and put him off the groomers. If you comb the coat through thoroughly every day, there will be no time for tight matting to form and this routine will be a quick, stress-free part of Puppy’s day. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to smooth, short-coated dogs.)

Step 4: The health check

As well as the layer combing, do a little health check. This involves picking up paws, looking inside ears, looking at teeth. This will be so beneficial for vet visits. When Puppy goes for his vaccinations, your vet will always include health check. Watch the vet examine eyes, ears, teeth, paws.

If your dog is comfortable having his paws looked at etc will make life so much easier whenever there is a problem, such as a grass seed or a thorn in their paw and the vet does have to examine your dog. As well as nail clipping and removing hair from paw pads which are a routine procedure at the groomers.

Don’t make it complicated, simply pick up a paw, lots of praise if Puppy is calm. If Puppy starts messing about, simply stay calm and keep hold of the paw and wait for Puppy to stop. Then shower him in praise! Golden rule: lots of positive encouragement for calm behaviour.

Setting them up for success at the groomers

It is natural for puppy to go into self-defence mode when you first try and handle face and paws especially. Short sessions of picking up paws, praise for calm behaviour, followed by picking up paws and examining them for any mats, grass seeds etc with praise for calm behaviour.

Practise a chin rest. Hold one hand open and hold a treat in the back of your other hand so he has to put his muzzle in your open hand to get the treat. Repeat this several times before adding the cue word ‘chin.’ Repeat and progress onto moving the hand away leaving the open hand so this should progress puppy to learning that chin means putting his muzzle in your hands and getting a treat. As he gets used to this you can then eek out the treats. And then use pretend scissors. You could use your hands to make scissor movements pretending to trim face. Treats and praise. You want puppy to feel comfortable having his face handled.

Get them comfortable with the shower. Start by short sessions putting them in the bath and give them praise and treats. This can then progress onto having them in the bath with the shower on but not on the dog. Short sessions of having them comfortable in the bath with the shower on so they can get used to it. Then this can progress onto wetting them with the shower. Short sessions and go back a step if you can see them getting stressed.

Help them get comfortable with a hair dryer. In short sessions on their platform switch the hair dryer on but not pointed at them. Praise and treats for calm behaviour and remember short sessions of letting them get used to the noise. This can then progress onto dryer around back end. Keep these sessions very short and always end on a good note.

If you have an electric toothbrush or even your own hair clippers or if you know of someone who does then brilliant! You can also in short sessions have these turned on around puppy with lots of praise and treats for calm behaviour. Help them get comfortable with noise and sensation of clippers.

Putting it all together

It can be very overwhelming at first. Your adorable, fluffy puppy is not quite so angelic when you try to maintain their coat. Keep going, don’t give up! It’s normal for Puppy to go into self-defence mode when they are not used to being handled.

Have lots of patience and it will pay off. Make sure you keep up with this routine, a short session every day with lots of positive encouragement and always ending on a good note. We comb our hair through every day without thinking about it and it can be the same for our dogs if we just get them used to the process.

If you need more help and advice, do get in touch with me through my facebook page.



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