How To Deal With Anxious Pets for Grooming
7 min read
Remember how terrifying going to the dentist was when you were younger? You may still get chills down your spine when you hear the whirring of those mysterious tools.
Well, that’s how a lot of pets can feel about going to the groomer.
The thunderous sound of hair dryers, the handling of their paws and ears, and the general commotion of a bustling grooming salon can overwhelm and confuse our furry friends.
If your client’s pet is anxious about being groomed, keep reading. In this guide, we’ll explore various anti-anxiety products and helpful training techniques so you can learn how to calm a dog for grooming. We’ll also explain why mobile grooming services may be the right choice for anxious pets.
Recognizing Grooming Anxiety
As a pet groomer, you’re responsible for providing your canine and cat clientele with preventative healthcare and quality service. But you’re also responsible for ensuring your client’s comfort during the grooming process.
For many pets, a trip to the grooming salon can be a traumatic experience. Unaddressed dog grooming anxiety not only increases the risk of developing more serious behavioral issues, but it can also turn grooming into a dangerous situation for both the groomer and pet.
An anxious dog may instinctually bite or scratch you during the grooming process as a way to defend themselves. They may also try to escape the situation altogether. If you’re in the middle of clipping a dog’s nails or coat, a sudden movement can sometimes result in serious injury.
To stay ahead of this behavior, it’s important to recognize the signs of dog grooming anxiety.
These can include:
- Rapid breathing
- Aggressive behavior
By recognizing a dog’s anxiety, you can change your approach and utilize calming techniques and products to ease your client’s stress.
How to Keep a Dog Calm While Grooming
If you work in a brick and mortar grooming salon, your clients are exposed to an assortment of potentially stressful stimuli, including sounds from:
- Hair dryers
- Electric clippers
- Running water
- Other groomers
- Other pets
Excessive noise can be especially stressful to young puppies who are unfamiliar with such a level of commotion. One way to offer relief is by providing your client with a pair of Mutt Muffs.
Mutt Muffs are essentially ear muffs, but rather than protecting human ears from blistering cold temperatures, these muffs are designed to protect puppy ears from loud noises. While this product may not completely eliminate a dog’s anxiety, it can help alleviate some of their stress.
Because grooming requires washing, shampooing, drying, and ear cleaning, Mutt Muffs can only be worn for portions of the grooming routine. A more popular way to provide anxiety relief throughout the grooming process is by using treats as positive reinforcement.
Although treats won’t eliminate bustling salon sounds, they’ll provide your client a welcome (and tasty) distraction and train them to see grooming as a rewarding experience.
How Mobile Groomers Can Ease Grooming Anxiety
While Mutt Muffs and treats can make grooming more enjoyable for your clients, the most effective way to ease grooming anxiety is by providing mobile services.
What anti-anxiety benefits does mobile grooming have to offer?
Actually, there’s quite a few, so let’s break them down.
Just the Chew Of Us
A mobile pet grooming salon is the exact opposite of a crowded brick and mortar salon. Instead of several different groomers working on several different clients, a mobile grooming salon focuses on providing services to one pet at a time.
This significantly reduces stress for pups who experience anxiety from loud noises or from being around unfamiliar animals.
Sit and Stay Home
For some dogs, traveling in the car can cause anxiety, especially if they suffer from motion sickness. Travel can also cause unnecessary stress for older dogs who have a harder time getting around.
By offering mobile grooming services, you bring the salon directly to your client, eliminating the need for travel altogether.
In a busy brick and mortar grooming shop, dogs are almost always crated. Imagine the confusion and stress of feeling trapped in an unfamiliar place.
Since mobile grooming salons only provide service to one or two dogs at a time, there’s no need for your canine clients to be crated. Another one of the mobile pet grooming benefits is that pet owners are right there outside your mobile grooming van in case they are needed. This advantage not only provides comfort to the pet, but also to the pet parent.
As a mobile groomer, you have the luxury of creating your own schedule. That means you can dedicate additional grooming time to your more anxious clients. Take this extra time to test out various calming techniques to find the best way to ease each nervous dog. One of the reasons mobile dog grooming prices tend to be slightly higher than salon prices is because pet parents are looking for more time and special attention dedicated to their pup.
Grooming a Special Relationship
With the additional time and attention you can dedicate to each client through mobile grooming services, you can build trust more quickly, fostering a stronger relationship.
One way to do this is by starting with a non-grooming visit. This allows your client to simply take in all the sights and smells of the vehicle, the grooming tools, and you. The next visit will be one of familiarity, rather than of strange and new.
Tips for Clients on How To Calm a Dog for Grooming
As a professional groomer, you can also work together with pet parents to teach anxious pets to become more relaxed about grooming. Show owners how to calm a dog down before grooming and how to keep a dog calm while grooming with behavioral training.
Some helpful training methods include:
- Touching and massaging sensitive areas – For many dogs, grooming can be a stressful experience because it requires touching sensitive areas on their body, including their paws, groin, rear, belly, and ears. Encourage pet parents to practice gently touching and massaging these areas at home while their pet is relaxed.
They can start by touching a less sensitive area first, such as the shoulder, and then slowly running their hand down to the dog’s paw. They can reward their pup with a treat afterwards to further reinforce to their furry friend that being touched in these places does not pose a threat.
- Desensitizing their pet to grooming sounds – Desensitization is an effective technique for treating animal anxiety. For grooming, this can involve running nail clippers or a blow dryer next to the pet in short intervals and rewarding them with a treat afterwards. With repeated practice, the pet will adjust to these once-terrifying sounds and learn that they’re nothing to fear.
- Simulating the experience at home – When dogs aren’t familiar with being groomed, the steps involved can be startling. For instance, some dogs become anxious when they’re lifted onto the grooming table. To help ease this anxiety, owners can practice lifting their pups onto a raised surface at home and brushing them or massaging them from that height.
- Creating positive grooming associations – To maintain their pet’s appearance in between grooming sessions, owners should take the time to brush their furry family members. This also provides an opportunity to build positive grooming associations. While brushing, owners should feed their pup treats and give them praise in an excited, upbeat tone of voice.
- Taking a long walk – Before any grooming session, owners should take their four-legged friends on a long walk to release any excess energy. That way, when it comes time for grooming, clients are relaxed and ready to enjoy some well-deserved pampering.
Identifying the Cause of Anxiety
With behavioral training, pets can learn to be less fearful of their grooming experiences. But to understand which treatment method will most effectively relieve anxiety, owners will have to uncover what specifically about the grooming process causes their pet stress.
Common reasons for pet grooming anxiety include:
- Traveling in the car – If traveling is the cause of a pet’s anxiety, mobile grooming is the solution. With mobile grooming, there’s no need for a pet to travel in a car. They can simply walk (or run) to their grooming appointment.
- Being handled or touched in sensitive areas – For pets who are anxious about being touched in sensitive areas, practicing gentle touching and massage will prove the most beneficial method of training.
- Experiencing trauma in the past – Rescue dogs are often victims of past trauma. In order to overcome anxiety, owners should focus on positive reinforcement training.
- Experiencing pain due to an underlying condition – Grooming anxiety may be caused by experiencing excess pain while being touched or handled. This could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as arthritis. To rule out this possibility, owners should take their pet to the vet for a thorough examination.
Mobile Groomers: Your Dog’s Second Best Friend
Training techniques and calming products can be useful tools in helping to ease anxious pets during grooming, but the most effective way to create a truly stress-free experience is by relying on a mobile groomer.
If you’re a pet groomer, consider embarking on a career in mobile grooming with Wag’n Tails. As the leader in mobile grooming vehicles, Wag’n Tails offers flexible financing options, 24/7 business support, and an in-house marketing team to make starting your own mobile grooming business easier than ever before (and much less stressful than a trip to the dentist, we promise).
Contact us at Wag’n Tails today to start providing your clients with the best grooming experience paw-sibble.
Community Care College. 5 Ways to Overcome Your Dog’s Grooming Anxiety. https://communitycarecollege.edu/news/5-ways-to-overcome-your-dogs-grooming-anxiety/
BeChewy. Keeping Your Pet Calm During Grooming. https://be.chewy.com/keeping-pet-calm-grooming/
Wag! How to Groom a Dog with Anxiety. https://wagwalking.com/grooming/groom-a-dog-with-anxiety