Experts Answer: How to Groom a Dog that’s Scared

Home remedies for fleas in dogs

A long time ago, I lost count of how many times have people asked me “How to groom a dog that’s scared, nervous, or anxious”. Grooming a scared or a nervous dog is a challenge that dog owners must learn how to overcome.

Why is your dog scared of grooming? 

Why is it that so many people are surprised, and even shocked, that their dog is afraid of grooming?

Just try, for a moment, how it looks like from the dog’s point of view: You are holding strange, metal, clanking tools that have sharp edges and make strange sounds. You are also probably sitting in a confined space, and you are also holding the dog steady so they can’t make a move.

Now, if the person doing this is the professional groomer, it would be even worse, because to the dog, these are strangers, and dogs are often not fond of strangers.

You have to admit it looks worrying, to say the least, from the dog’s point of view, doesn’t it?

There are also dogs who are fearful of grooming because they had been through terrible grooming experiences before where they were hurt with things like dog grooming clippers burn or the brush pulling on their coat a bit too hard.

So, this leads us to our question: How to groom a scared dog? Well, to answer this question, I asked a couple of my vet friends, took notes, and will try to explain the answer in the easiest way possible.

How to Groom a Dog that’s Scared    

Don’t force it 

The first step in trying to groom a scared dog is not to force it. You have to be understanding of the situation here. When the dog is fearful of something, they will do exactly what all other animals – including humans – which is activate their fight or flight response.

If the dog is scared, they will try to bolt and flee, and in some extreme cases, dogs have bitten groomers and even their owners to avoid the grooming experience.

So, let’s work on removing the fear part first, shall we?

Choose the Right Dog Grooming Tools

The buzz, the vibrations, the metallic look; It can all be too much for your pooch. This is why you have to choose the right tools that are less likely to make your pooch scared. Choosing the right Dog Grooming tools can make such a huge difference that it’s kind of disappointing how many dog owners don’t give enough attention to it.

This is why I always recommend this amazing Professional Pet Grooming Kit from HOMEGROOMER, It’s so incredibly quiet and low-vibration that my dog has never even noticed that when I’m using it.

HomeGroomer Dog Grooming Kit - How to groom a dog that is scared

The only thing they feel is me petting them while working on their hair. It has worked so great for me and for the thousands that are using it that I highly recommend you take a look at it & give it a chance as it can totally change the grooming experience for your pooch. Get the HOMEGROOMER here 70% Off

Let them explore Your Dog Grooming Supplies 

Before you start using the tools on your dog, you should let them get acquainted with them first. Take the time to let your dog sniff and touch the dog grooming supplies you are going to be using. You can also approach them with the tools and see how they react, if they don’t mind, you can start petting them with the tools and see how they would respond.

Make this a positive experience by praising them to let them associate your dog grooming kit with good things.

If your dog doesn’t respond well and is still wary of the tools, take them away, calm the dog and sooth them before trying again.

This can take a couple of days or even weeks if your dog is fearful of the tools.

Always try to calm a dog for grooming 

How to groom a dog that's scared - Relaxed pup

It’s always a good idea to do the grooming session when your dog is already calm and quiet. This significantly reduces the risk of your dog getting stressed or anxious during the grooming sessions.

You can check out these 7 Proven Methods to Keep your dog Calm for Grooming, I think they will be of great help to you.

 Keep it Short at first

When you start the grooming, you should keep the sessions short at first. You can do the full grooming on more than one session, as many needed, as long as your dog is okay with it.

Keep it short and reward the dog with treats and praise to keep it a positive experience. Gradually and slowly, but surely, increase the duration of each grooming session. Keep at it and you will see your dog getting more comfortable with longer grooming sessions over time.

What If I must groom them while they’re still scared? 

How to groom a dog that's scared - Scared puppy

This is a tough situation, but unfortunately, a very possible one. You could be still in the process of getting your dog trained to like grooming when they fall into mud, forcing you to find a way to bathe your dog right then and there.

What do you do?

Well, here your options are limited to restraining your pup. It’s an unfortunate situation, and we highly recommend against restraining your pup as it can cause you and your pup harm. However, you should still learn how to do it correctly in case you have no other options.

  • If your dog wants to flee

If your dog’s response is to try and flee, then you will need to restrain them during the entire cleaning process. You can use tub tie-outs, body restraints, bathing nooses, or a body sack if you have a small dog.

Never leave your restrained dog alone, they might harm themselves trying to break away.

  • If your dog wants to fight

Here, you should add a muzzle to the before-mentioned restraining methods.

How to groom a dog - muzzle

There are many available muzzles to choose from, but you should choose one that fits your dog well and allows them to breathe, drink, and even eat.

You must put the muzzle on your dog before you begin the cleaning process, and remove it after. Don’t leave it for very long, if you can.

You should know that the muzzle will not make the dog more compliant, it will only Protect you from getting bitten. 
Putting a muzzle on your dog is something we highly recommend against unless it’s absolutely necessary.

It can make it harder for your dog to accept the grooming process later on, and make them more stubborn and aggressive overall.

After removing the restraints, you should reward your dog with praise and treats.

As always, we are more than happy to help you with any questions you might have, just leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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