Why should you groom?

Many rescue dogs are not used to be groomed and that is because previous owners, when trying to groom the dog in the first place, have been met with fidgeting, trying to escape, biting the brush or/and biting the hand so they have given up and stopped grooming. The dog has learnt a vital lesson if he/she dislikes being groomed, which is in order to stop the grooming you either fidget, try and escape or bite and you will be rewarded with the grooming being stopped.

Grooming has a lot to do with the pack Hierarchy only the high ranking animal is allowed to groom, so if you are not viewed as such, in a way in which the dog understands. This involves no reprimanding or confrontation, and then the dog will not allow you to groom him.

It is very important, for the above reason alone, that we groom our dog and get him use to being touched and handled all over in a pleasant way. If not, we will experience difficulties when visiting the Vet, when trying to wipe muddy paws in the winter and with the hierarchy.

When to groom

Grooming should take place everyday, even in short-coated dogs. Using a soft bristle brush or even a soft cloth to get him use to be groomed. Do not use a harsh brush and be very gentle, making sure you touch all over lightly, that includes the genital area, ears, feet and nails. Being even more careful when looking at your dog’s teeth and gums, especially if it is a puppy and still teething. Being familiar with the colour of your dogs gums when he is fit and healthy is essential, for if he was ever involved in an accident, which caused internal bleeding, you would be able to know by looking at the gums as they would became much lighter than normal.

Grooming a puppy

To make sure your puppy associates grooming as a pleasurable experience, it can be a good idea to distract him, by giving him a tasty chew toy, or even smearing some Marmite on the fridge door at the same height as his head, then whilst he is engaged in chewing/licking, gentle touch him all over and praise soothingly, if he keeps still and allows you to do this. Do not release him from grooming until he has been well behaved.

Grooming an older dog

Start by restraining the dog, you can gently hold his collar with one hand, whilst the other hand grooms him all over lightly. You may also find that by smearing some Marmite on the fridge door, that this distracts your dog in a rewarding way, so he can become accustomed to being groomed in an appropriate manner, i.e. standing still and allowing you to do so.

Be careful when looking at the ears, mouth, feet and nails, as these are very sensitive areas and you would be wise to just touch them and reward until the dog is happy with this, before gradually building up to looking and holding them, before rewarding. Once again, talk soothingly to the dog if he allows you to groom without any unwanted behaviour. Always finish on a positive, with the dog behaving and then do something really nice, like go for a walk with your dog, or have a game with his favourite toy – this will then be seen as a reward to the dog, for standing still and allowing you to groom him.

Grooming a difficult dog

If the dog has learnt to bite the brush or hand that grooms, then it can be more difficult to restrain him, by holding his collar gently. So the best idea here, is to have a lead, not the same one you use for walking and clip it onto his flat buckle collar, the collar must have no chain in it. Now tie the dog up securely, so he can sit or stand comfortably, but could not lie down or turn his head and start biting at you to stop you grooming him. Once again you can smear some Marmite at head height, where you have secured him, to distract him and make life easier. Now you have both hands free to touch and handle your dog all over, very gently. Make sure that all the time he is well behaved, that you talk soothingly to him, praising him. If he tries to bite your brush/hand, escape or fidget – don’t worry, because you have him secured he cannot be successful at his attempts to stop you.

But, you must not remove your hand from grooming or speak to him whilst he is doing this. As soon as he behaves and allows you to groom, praise him lavishly, release him and immediately take him for a walk, give him one of his main meals, play a game with him, but do something pleasant. Now the dog is learning that the unwanted behaviours of escaping, fidgeting or biting no longer work, the only way he can stop you from grooming him is to stand still and not only will you then stop, but something pleasant happens, like a walk immediately after.

In no time at all, your dog will look forward to the grooming session, be easier to handle for all concerned and have the added benefit of seeing you as a higher ranking animal in a rewarding manner.