Training puppies for grooming

Establishing a good relationship with a puppy or dog is not just about teaching them to sit, stay or come when called. Grooming is a vital part of their basic training and in my opinion training adult and puppy dogs to accept the grooming process is very much over looked by groomers, trainers and pet parents. The grooming process is not natural for dogs, especially when very aversive equipment like clippers and high velocity dryers are used in the process. Dogs need to be taught to accept the equipment and the handling that inherent in the grooming process.

Puppies such as poodles, have a coat that requires high maintenance and it is important that a relationship with their owners and/or professionals is established based around grooming  as early as possible. This relationship must be one based on trust that they will not be frightened by the equipment required and that the person undertaking the grooming has an ability to observe and interpret canine body language.  If you are not proficient in understanding what a dog looks like when it is scared and how to stop that from happening then you should not be grooming any dog, let alone a vulnerable baby puppy.

Video One shows how to develop a caring and as stress free grooming relationship as possible for a puppy. This miniature poodle puppy is 7 weeks old and step one is to get it used to being up on  a high table and to accept the attention from brushes, combs and being touched in an way that is not natural for a dog. An important point is this is not done after washing a dog. It is undertaken at a totally different time when the pup is totally relaxed. Stacking the activities of a scary wash and then up on  a high table will increase the stress for the pup and set him or her up for failure before you even start.

(the noise in the background of this video is rain on the tin roof)

The second very important point is that restraint SHOULD NOT BE USED during these initial grooming training sessions. My reasoning is that dogs that get frightened of something need to be able to move away from it. Adding any sort to restraint in grooming training will automatically make it an aversive process  so that the pup is unable to learn as it is stuck in fear mode. Learning to handle restraint should be done separately once the puppy is comfortable on the table. The puppy should never be left on the table and all equipment should be placed in advance so that the handler can keep one hand on the pup at all times. This can be done at home by owners using a table with a non slip bath mat. Not only does it train for grooming but it also gives valuable one on one time that enables relationship building. 

The next step in the grooming process is teaching a dog or puppy not to be frightened of a dryer. The high velocity dryer is THE most abusive item of grooming equipment in a dog grooming salon. Most dogs are terrified of it and have every right to be so. It is a piece of equipment designed for groomers who want to do the maximum number of dogs in the shortest period of time. It is one of the big reasons I can no longer subject dogs to the practice of professional grooming. It is vital that any dog that will be attending a professional groomer is trained to accept this practice.  How long it takes for a dog to become ok with this process depends on the skill of the groomer in reading canine body language and the overall socialization and fearfulness of the dog or puppy. This training should NEVER be done when the dog is being presented for its first groom.

The important points to note are:

  • No restraint
  • Diffuser off the dryer
  • Dryer on lowest possible setting
  • Start with counter conditioning to just the noise (i.e. dyer on ground and not pointed at the dog)
  • Dryer aimed at the dog for very short bursts of seconds only and never at the head
  • Watch the dog and stop immediately you see escalation of minor stress signs such as lip licking, freezing,  ears back and yawning.
  • The whole process is performed often for very short periods not rarely for long periods. (This is why is cannot be started in the context of a grooming session)

The next video is with a different puppy and shows some of the signs to look for in a pup that is not ok with the process.

  • Pup stopped eating so counter-conditioning was not being effective as pup was too scared by the process. Dryer needed to be further away.
  • Body Language becomes stiffer, more lip licking, not able to head turn and became stuck in one place on the table.
  • Reward used was not high enough and scary object was too close.
  • Pup startles at 1.30 minutes indicating it went into fear mode.

This is just a quick overview of training puppies for grooming using positive force free methods. It is part of a larger body of work I am putting together. If you need assistance on an particular grooming issues please contact us via the comments section or email.


Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.   |    Like us on Facebook

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About Me 

Posted on December 8, 2013, in Behaviour, Dog Training, Grooming, Mobile & Salon Groomers, Pet Care Businesses, Pet Guardians, Puppies, Puppy relationship training, Relationship Animal Training, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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