First off, I hope everyone is staying safe at home with their loved ones during this trying time of COVID-19. Although grooming salons may begin reopening soon you may see an extended wait time to be seen. In an effort to maintain your pet’s comfort between grooming sessions I’ve compiled an easy list of tips with a focus on puppies that can also be applied to pets of all ages. Keep it simple, short, and fun with your pup. Remember that this home grooming time can also be a great bonding experience!
Brushing & Combing
Let’s start with the basics. Certain breeds require regular brushing and combing in between professional grooming sessions. Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzus, Maltese, and similar breeds have a soft coat that can tangle easily. Not only is it important to have a slicker brush handy but you always want to have a comb so that you can check your work. Think of your own hair – we generally comb from the root to the end, which is exactly what you want to do with your dog. Make sure you’re not just brushing the hair on top but that you’re getting down to the skin. After you brush each section follow through with a comb before moving to another section. If you get snagged – you’ve still got some work to do! If your puppy is very resistant to brushing you don’t need to brush their entire body in one sitting. Focus on one leg or body part a day. Keep it short and sweet.
Do: Reward with positive reinforcement and treats before, during, and after combing
Don’t: Reward biting the brush or comb and don’t stop if they do. Remember, if you reward their bad behavior they will learn that biting or growling will make the brush go away!
Desensitizing you puppy’s feet to being handled is very important. Play with their toe beans and hold their feet. Don’t be intimidated when they pull away or whine. As long as you’re not squeezing their foot or holding it at an awkward angle you aren’t hurting them – they just don’t want you to do it! Our pets are excellent at tricking us into feeling guilty. Reward them immediately with lots of happy praise, their favorite toy, or treats when they are calm and let you handle their feet. The key is to keep holding their foot even as they try to get away. If they learn that you will let go if they pull, flop over, or flail then you will just be reinforcing a bad behavior. Remember when they hated their collar or leash when they first wore it? Desensitizing their feet and other body parts are a similar process.
Do: Be firm but gentle. Puppies may be small but they’re durable!
Don’t: Reward them by letting go of their foot if they whine or pull
If you have a longhaired dog chances are at some point clippers are going to have to touch their body. If you have an electric toothbrush at home or your own hair trimmers this step is a breeze to practice. Get your clippers (or toothbrush), treats, and puppy ready to practice desensitizing them to the buzzing sound. Turn the clipper on and see how your puppy reacts. If they’re curious and come close, let them sniff the clippers but be sure to keep the blade away from their face and body. Reward them with a treat and lots of praise. Next, try holding the clippers (blade facing away) and run it along their body so they can feel the weight and vibration. Don’t let them wiggle away or bite at the clippers – ignore the behavior and continue. As soon as they calm down immediately reward them with praise and a treat. Repeat this process several times a week until the buzzing sound is no longer a big deal.
Following the three puppy grooming tips above will desensitize them to the regular grooming process. Consistent training and bonding at home will ensure they become tolerant of the handling they will receive while at a professional grooming salon. If you want to learn how you can make professional grooming more comfortable for your pup be sure to read our related post on Setting Your Puppy Up for Grooming Success.