Puppy Grooming Training
1. Never let go. This is the cardinal rule of puppy prep. When you decide to hold your puppy's feet, ears, tail, chin, or whatever, do not let your puppy jerk out of your grasp. Never release your hold when your puppy is arguing or fussing with you. Use your other hand to add more control so he doesn't pull against you so hard he hurts himself, but always wait until he is calm before you release him.
Your puppy may struggle, pull, scratch at you, yell, or try to bite you but you must be strong! If you let go on their terms, they will learn that fighting works, and then they will fight you more. If you hang on, they'll learn that fighting does NOT work. And pretty quickly they'll see that nothing bad is happening and they'll stop fighting your touch. How much your puppy is likely to fuss will vary, but how you deal with it will make the difference between a future of calm, happy grooming experiences and frustrating, scary ones for your beloved pet.
2. Hold your puppy's hand. I mean this quite literally! All dogs are instinctively protective of their feet. The more you handle your puppy's paws, the more comfortable she'll be when it comes time to groom her feet and nails.
You'll also want to play with her ears (most dogs enjoy a nice ear massage), poking your fingers around, rubbing, and tugging gently. If you have electric clippers at home, try to get her comfortable with its noise. Also do this with your hand dryer! Turn it on in the room while she's eating her food or playing or doing other fun things. Start with the clippers or dryer far enough away that they don't startle her and slowly move them closer as she gets used to them. Don’t aim the dryer’s wind towards your puppy; at this point you only want to get her used to the noise.
Get your puppy used to having her chin hair held, too. Groomers do this while they're working around the face and eyes to help keep the dog's head still so they are less likely to be injured by sharp scissors or clippers. Feed your puppy tiny bits of something she really likes (tiny bits of cheese or hot dogs work well) so that she will be less likely to try to pull away and start to associate the chin-holding with a nice treat.
What you’re aiming for is to have your puppy rest her head on your fingers and relax when you touch her chin. She’ll protest at first, but with patience and consistent training you’ll get her to do so.
Remember Rule #1. Never let go! Wait until your puppy is calm and still before you release her.
3. Learn the language. Teach your puppy to stand still as soon as possible. Hold your hand under her belly and say the word, "stand or up." Simply hold her there until she stands calmly for a few seconds. Then release her and tell her she did a good job! Many puppies will instinctively try to lay down when you put your hand under their bellies. Just hold them there gently but firmly until they put their feet down and stand on their own without wiggling or trying to walk away.
We also like puppies to know the word, "relax." It's easy to teach. When your puppy is being calm and quiet say, "good girl!" in a soothing, quiet voice. When you think she's made the connection between the word and the state of mind, trying using the word as a command when you want her to calm down. We also use the word "settle."
4. When in doubt, do nothing. You can teach your puppy bad habits if you are not consistent or improperly using these techniques (remember rule #1). If you're not sure you're handling your puppy the right way, or if she seems to be getting fussier instead of calmer, let the professionals handle it. Don't handle her feet, her ears, brush her, or make her listen to the electric razor. Just enjoy her company and let the groomer handle the training. If your puppy sees her groomer monthly and isn't taught any bad habits at home, she'll learn quickly enough to accept grooming in a calm and comfortable way for life.
5. Be the boss. All of the above rules apply to bathing, brushing, and combing. Be calm, be kind and be consistent. Do not let your puppy decide when your grooming session begins or ends, or how it will go. The less nonsense you accept, the happier your dog will be in the long run. Be confident, comfortable, and calm.
6. Don't train fear. Never comfort a puppy who seems anxious. It might be counterintuitive and maybe even seem mean, but comforting is the worst possible thing you can do! You wouldn't reward your puppy for peeing on the carpet. Don't reward your puppy for being afraid!
Comforting an anxious dog reinforces their anxious state of mind. Comforting trains a dog to be afraid. Some dogs are naturally more anxious or calm than others, but you can help her by resisting the urge to kiss and cuddle her when she is nervous about something. Whenever you take your dog somewhere like the grooming shop or the vet or the boarding kennel, make as little fuss as possible. Be calm. Be confident. Don't comfort your baby and make her think something horrible is going to happen to her! Say, "goodbye, love you, have fun!" and let her relax!
7. Teach your pup to “Stand” quietly. To emphasize this very important point from #3, most all grooming is done with your dog standing up. It is impossible to groom their legs if they are either sitting or dancing about. If you teach your puppy to stand quietly on a table or countertop, even for a few minutes at a time, it will make your puppy more happy and comfortable with the whole grooming process! To have your pup stand, hold her collar with one hand and tell her to “Stand” while you tickle her belly with the other hand until she stands up. Rub her tummy and praise her for standing quietly. Not only will your groomer appreciate your effort to help make your dog a well-socialized, calm pet, but your vet will, too!
Final Suggestions and grooming expectations:
All of these tips will help your puppy to have a good first visit with us at Shaggy To Chic.
Prior to your puppy’s first groom, you are encouraged to bring puppy by for a little visit to hear all the sounds, experience the smells of the salon and to become acquainted with our groomers and the grooming environment. Help us help your puppy to have a good first visit.
Don’t expect your puppy’s first visit to be a perfect groom. Your puppy is experiencing something new and may be a little resistant, uncooperative or nervous. The goal is to have a good first visit, to accomplish the experience of grooming and leave with a little wag in the tail. As the visits continue, puppy will become more tolerant and accepting of the tools, sounds, and handling necessary for a great professional groom.
Shaggy To Chic Dog | Grooming Tips:
The Trouble with Mats!
Preventing mats (solid tangles of fur) in your pet is not only important for his style, but also for his health. Mats occur when adjacent hairs start to tangle together and knot. When the hairs tangle together, they pull on the animal's skin. The larger and tighter the mat, the more it pulls. At best, this pulling is uncomfortable. At worst, it can actually impede the animal's movement. Sometimes mats will actually rip patches of hair out of the skin, leaving bald spots underneath.
Mats also collect dirt and moisture and create a good environment for parasites, bacteria, and other beasties. Skin irritations and infections often develop underneath matted areas. Mats both encourage and prevent dogs from scratching themselves - they can hurt themselves trying to get at an itchy spot without being able to scratch through the mat to get to the spot that really itches!
When matting is severe, the best course of action is to shave the animal and start over. Even in cold weather, your pet is going to be much more comfortable in a short shave than in a matted, moisture-absorbing, itchy coat. And he can always wear a cute, comfy sweater!
The most important tool for mat-prone pets is the Metal Greyhound Comb. If you only have one tool, this is the one you must have. A greyhound comb is a 7-inch long metal comb with teeth about an inch long. Also, different combs have different length teeth. Experiment and find a comb that feels comfortable and works well!
A variation on the comb is the rake. The rake is built the same as a comb except that it is shaped like a "T." Because you are combing at a different angle, the rake is more comfortable to use for dense coats. Also, the teeth are usually longer and spread out more. A rake is a good option if your pet has a thick coat or if you find that using a comb causes pain in your wrist.
With either the rake or the comb, the technique is basically the same. You want to put the teeth all the way down to touch the skin and then turn the comb to pull away from the body. It's very important not to drag the teeth along the skin (the way people usually tend to comb hair). If you hit a tangle, use short tugs to gently unravel it. If it does not unravel easily, you should switch to another tool (more on those later). Although you can get tangles out by pulling harder and breaking the hair, that will cause a lot of problems for you later on! Not only does it cause pain for the dog, but the broken hair is more likely to form tangles in the future. Also, damaged hair is less attractive in flow and appearance than healthy, unbroken hair. Minimizing breakage will give you a much better result!
If you are coming across tangles that do not unravel easily, the slicker brush is a very helpful tool. It has a field of bent metal pins that grab and pull on the tangle, then release. By brushing over the same spot a number of times with the slicker, you can gradually loosen a tangle until it disappears. It's a much gentler way to encourage a mat to separate. However, because its pins don't grab and hold, the brush won't get caught on tangles -- so always use your comb to find tangles and then check with your comb after brushing with the slicker brush to make sure you haven't missed any. Also, the slicker's pins can do a lot of damage to the skin if used improperly. Pull away from the body the same way you do with a comb or rake and be especially careful that you're not hurting your pet if you have to go over the same spot many times or if you're using it on sensitive areas like ears, armpits, or the belly.
If you are still having trouble, there are a variety of conditioning sprays specially formulated to help de-tangle trouble spots. Look for a silicone-based conditioning spray - the silicone makes the hair slippery and easy to tease apart. You can spray it directly on a tangle and then use the slicker brush and comb to separate the hairs. Conditioning sprays are available for purchase at Shaggy To Chic.
Mats that resist the spray, slicker, and comb may require shaving or splitting. At this point, you should consult me, a certified professional groomer! Cutting mats yourself is not recommended as the strong possibility that you may cut your pet may occur. Don’t risk the safety of your pet!
Your pet's ideal grooming schedule will vary based on breed, coat type, and style. Please consult Shaggy To Chic and find out what level of professional maintenance will work best for you and your pet.
For between grooming maintenance at home, a weekly comb-out session is ideal for most pets. Picking a set day and/or time for your comb-out session makes it easy to remember when it was last done and when it should be done again. And on a weekly schedule, it should be a quick and easy process. If once a week is too often or not often enough, adjust the schedule until it works for your pet's coat type and style. And if you find that the maintenance is too much to deal with, you always have the option of visiting Shaggy To Chic more often or switching to a shorter style.
Be sure to go over all the trouble spots - pets typically mat quickly in their “armpits,” under their collar, behind their ears, on the inside of all four legs, and on their tail. Keeping the legs in good shape should be a priority -- you can usually still have a cute haircut with a short body and full legs, but not the other way around!
Be aware that moisture will cause hair to mat more quickly and more strongly. Bathing your dog without a good comb-out either before or after the bath will encourage very tough mats to form. It's far kinder to let your pet stay dirty than it is to allow them to suffer from the tight, painful matting that bathing without combing can cause. But remember, it's not just bathing - swimming, running through morning dew, and spending time in the rain will all help speed up the matting process, so be extra vigilant about combing if your dog is being exposed to moisture.
Be extra gentle with sensitive areas like the belly, throat, and bony areas like the spine or elbows. Always be extremely careful using products or tools near the face in general and the eyes in particular! And if you are unsure or uncomfortable maintaining your pet at home, please let us at Shaggy To Chic take care of it, with a style and on a schedule that works for you and your pet.
How you handle your pet during comb-out sessions will make a big difference in how well he handles the process.
Your pet may fuss, fight, and argue during the grooming process. If you're not hurting him, then he's simply uncomfortable with the process. Part of that may be that you are not confident about what you are doing and he senses that. It may also be that he thinks that fighting will end the process. Puppies, in particular, will fight anything new. It's an instinctive response. But it can cause many problems down the road. Know that your pet will be much safer and happier calmly accepting the things he needs from you and from pet professionals. You have the power to train him either way - to be calm or to fight - based on the way you respond to his fussing.
If you're combing him and he resists, you should never allow him to pull away from you. You should never end the grooming session while he is arguing, either. If you stop what you're doing or let go while they are resisting, you are letting them know that if they fight, you will stop. If you allow them to think this, it's like training them to argue. So don't let go. And don't stop. If you want to end the combing process, wait until your pet is in a calm state of mind, not pulling, fussing, or making noises at you. This will show your pet that good behavior, not bad, is necessary for the comb-out to end. And once they learn to accept calmly, most pets really enjoy comb-out time - it becomes a relaxing, bonding experience.
While you will usually have faster, better results if you start working with a pet when it is very young, even older pets with bad habits can be turned around with regular, kind, consistent leadership.
And keep in mind that when you're doing the best for your pet, there is no reason to feel guilty or sympathetic toward your pet. These feelings actually undermine your relationship with your pet and weaken your emotional bond. You love your pet and want what's best for him. Be someone he trusts and looks up to, not someone he doesn't respect and who gives him confusing emotional signals. Your pet needs you to be the boss, and to be proud of your leadership role!
As edited and borrowed from
TLC Grooming & Supply
Disclaimer: Wendy Rodriguez is neither a certified pet trainer nor a veterinarian. Her advice is based on years of experience in the pet care industry as well as theories and techniques expressed by professional trainers and experienced pet owners through a variety of media and training situations. This advice is not intended to replace or supersede the advice of professional pet trainers or veterinarians. Always consult a qualified professional if you have questions about behavior or medical issues. There are many techniques and philosophies today concerning pet care and behavior; find what works best for you and your pet!