Grooming Dogs with Anxiety: What to Do & How to Help

It can be difficult grooming your dog at home, especially if they get anxious, nervous, scared, or fidgety. Today, our Lafayette vets explain ways you can keep your dog calm during grooming, even if they have anxiety.

Grooming Your Anxious or Nervous Dog

It's important for your dog's wellbeing that you groom them regularly. Matted fur, goopy ears, and nails that are too long are uncomfortable for your dog and can cause serious health conditions if they go unattended.

From bathing to brushing, ear cleaning to nail trimming, grooming can turn into a nightmare fast if your pup is anxious or nervous about the grooming process.

How to Calm Your Dog for Grooming

Start Grooming When They are Young

Whether you are grooming your dog at home or bringing them to a professional groomer it's best to start a grooming routine when your dog is very young. By starting a regular routine of brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning early, your pooch will start seeing grooming as normal and not something to be afraid of.

  • Professional Groomers: If your puppy is anxious or fearful, professional groomers are trained in a range of methods to help put your dog at ease. Taking your puppy to the groomer when they are still young will help to teach them that visiting the groomer is a normal and fun day out.
  • At Home Grooming: Starting to groom your pooch at home while they are still a young puppy is a great way for both of you to begin feeling calm and comfortable with the grooming process. Starting to groom your puppy while they are still small and manageable can also help you become more confident.

Stay Calm

Whether you are getting ready to groom your dog yourself, or just preparing to take your dog to the groomer, it's essential to stay calm. If your dog senses that you are nervous they will think there is something to fear.

  • Professional Groomer: If you can, consider walking your dog to the groomer. The extra exercise a walk provides is a great way to burn off nervous energy and help your dog feel calm and confident by the time you arrive at the groomers.
  • At-Home Grooming: Have all the grooming tools ready before bringing your dog into the room. Being prepared will help you stay calm during the grooming process. Talk to your dog calmly and let your dog safely sniff and explore the tools including the clippers and brushes. Wait until your dog is calm before starting to groom them, and have treats on hand to reward good behavior.

Exercise

One of the best ways to get your dog calm before grooming is with vigorous exercise. Long walks, running, chasing a ball, or playing with other dogs at the dog park are great ways to sedate your dog without the help of medications. As soon as your pooch has used up all of its energy, grooming will be a more simple and relaxed process.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective method for training your dog to stay calm and relaxed for grooming. Giving them treats and praise when they sit still to be brushed or your dog lets you clip a nail will teach them good grooming manners. Take it slow, even if that means only clipping one nail at every attempt, stay calm, patient, and positive.

Touch

Dogs love to be patted and pet and grooming time is no different. Patting and holding your nervous dog during the grooming process can help reassure them that everything is alright and that there is nothing to be frightened of.

Aromatherapy

Similar to humans, a number of scents are known to have a calming effect on dogs. To help keep your dog calm while grooming, try rubbing some lavender essential oil onto your fingertips then run your fingers through your pup's fur. The relaxing scent of lavender, combined with the calming effect of touch could help your dog feel more relaxed.

Dog Appeasing Pheromones

If your furry friend is nervous or anxious despite all of your efforts to help keep them calm while grooming, you might want to try using a synthetic pheromone diffuser. Pheromones are chemical compounds that transmit signals between animals. Scientists have isolated the compound that transmits a sense of calming relaxation to dogs, and have created a range of products that can help to keep pets calm during grooming.

Using a synthetic pheromone diffuser bathes your room in an odorless, non-sedative, synthetic hormone that can help dogs relax, but doesn't have any effect on humans or other animals. Talk to your vet to learn more about using a synthetic pheromone diffuser to help calm your dog during grooming.

Medication to Calm Your Dog for Grooming

If your dog is extremely anxious or fearful during grooming you might have to visit your vet to discuss options for medical sedation.

While there are a handful of effective anti-anxiety and sedation medications available for dogs, not all sedation medications work for all dogs. Sedation medications that your vet might recommend for your dog could include diazepam, acepromazine, gabapentin, or fluoxetine.

Never give your dog sedation medications without consulting your veterinarian first.

Does your dog have anxiety when being groomed?  Contact our vets at St. Francis Veterinary Hospital in Lafayette today. Your vet can offer solutions to help calm your nervous dog.