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Why Can't I Stay with my Dog While he Gets Groomed?--Dog Grooming Q & A's

Hello Animal Lovers,

I created this series to try to answer some commonly asked questions in the grooming world. Getting your dog or cat groomed can create some uncertainty in the owner's world. It is my hope that these Q and A's will be able to help you understand the reasons that we do things the way we do and what it is like from our side (the groomer's side) of things. Thanks for joining and please let me know if you have any questions that I may be able to answer!


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Why can’t I stay with my dog while he is worked on?

In my experience, most of the time, it is the owners who are more nervous than the dogs—the human doesn’t know what to expect at the groomer’s; there are things out of their control—their own dog’s behavior and the groomer’s behavior, they don’t want to leave their baby--I mean dog--with someone they don’t know, and any other number of reasons why a human could be feeling anxious.

Dogs are more nervous when their owner is around mostly because the owner is nervous and they are reading their body language. Also, typically, the owner tends to coddle their nervous dog, so it ends up being a bad cycle of the dog being nervous because the owner is nervous and then the owner coddling the nervous dog.

Coddling a nervous dog is reinforcement for that behavior—it’s rewarding the shaking and whining by hugging and kissing and giving treats. This is instinctual maternal behavior (which can be given by men and women) for humans to want to care for their scared dog, but dogs are not humans and as much as we want to treat them like babies, it is much more beneficial to care for them by having a relaxed, calm nature, and not rewarding nervous behavior. We can best care for our dogs by being a "calm and assertive leader", as famed dog trainer Cesar Milan says.

So, in terms of why this relates to me grooming your dogs is that it is much more difficult to groom a nervous dog than a relaxed dog. I am trying to establish a relationship with your dog with my own calm energy. If you are standing right there next to me, the dog will always be trying to get the attention of you, because of one dog’s best traits—loyalty! They are always going to be most loyal to you, their owner! However, if I am trying to trim a pup who keeps turning his head to look in your direction or is acting nervous to win your approval, it makes for a much more dangerous trim, of which I am not in favor. Grooming a dog is already a difficult task—using sharp scissors on a moving target that you can not vocally reason with to let them know to stay still. Any added distractions are just that—added distractions.

The Solution

The best way to get a dog used to grooming is find a groomer that you trust—stop by and have a chat or bring your dog in and see how they react to the groomer/bather/salon. Bring your dog in just for a nail trim to start—this typically only takes about 5 minutes (unless of course your dog has had a traumatic experience with nail trimming or is completely adverse to it, then this is not the best place to start) and bring loads of treats or a squeaky toy (whichever your dog seems to prefer more) and reward him/her after the nail trimming is done. Allow the groomer to reward your pup as well.

Then bring your pup in for just a bath, allowing him to get used to the smells, sounds, and sights of the entire grooming shop.

And lastly, hopefully by now you have established a pretty good relationship with the people at the shop and are comfortable bringing your dog in and leaving him there for 2-3 hours at a time. Trust that every one of the grooming professionals is there to take the very best care of your dog. Walk in the door confidently, holding the leash loosely and with your shoulders relaxed. Breathe deeply. Bring treats to reward calm, confident behavior in your dog and turn him over to the groomers for his haircut. As a reminder, it is best not to reward the nervous behavior, nor to discipline it--just completely ignore any nervous behavior; act as if everything is totally normal.

In our shop, it is our policy that if the dog is ever too stressed out, or acting in a peculiar or very aggressive manner, we stop grooming immediately and call the owner. We don’t want your pup to be stressed out either. We would much rather have a calm, relaxed dog on the grooming table. Some dogs may take more time than others to reach that state. Every dog (just like every person) is different and is a work in progress—a living, breathing being, who is able to learn calm behavior and procedures in a grooming shop.

Thanks for joining in for Q and A Fridays! Please let me know if you have any further questions on this subject or any questions you want answered in future posts.

Happy Tails and Happy Fall!

—Lindsey Barr Cejer

Owner @ Powder Hounds Grooming Salon

1 comment

1 Comment

Sally a
Sally a
Sep 02, 2021

Hi I understand this but I dont think its fair to generalise when it comes to dogs.

I am the 3rd (;& forever) owner of a support dog with major separation anxiety. Apart from that he's a perfect pooch. I was lucky to find a groomer who'd allow me to stay with him. I now stand outside the room but within his sights so he can't garner strength from my presence but doesn't totally freak out . He used to be such a nightmare - he'd throw up, be aggressive, cry & try to escape non-stop so he needed to be muzzled & restrained at all times. Since I've come along he's relaxed to the point of enjoying his groom…

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