How To Groom A Dog With Anxiety: The Complete Guide

How To Groom A Dog With Anxiety: The Complete Guide

If you have an anxious dog, grooming may be one of the most challenging tasks in your care routine as it involves a lot of activities that can trigger your dog’s anxiety. Even happy dogs can become anxious at grooming time if they’ve had previous experiences that have taught them to fear the process.

When the anxiety kicks in, it can make grooming your dog properly very challenging as they try everything within their power to get out of your grip. They might hide, wriggle around while you’re using sharp instruments, or even get aggressive.

This can be challenging for you at home, and also challenging if you decide to take your dog to a professional groomer. And don’t forget that at the salon there are the additional challenges including being in a strange place around strange people and potentially other animals.

But anxiety isn’t an excuse to leave your dog’s nails to grow out of control, their hair to grow matted, or to let them roam around the house with an undeniable smell.

To keep your anxious dog looking and smelling good, read our complete guide on how to groom an anxious dog.

Train Your Dog To Accept Handling

grooming an anxious dog the complete guide

One of the biggest challenges for dogs during the grooming process can be that it involves touching them in places where they may not like being touched. Some dogs don’t like to have their bellies touched, rebel when you go near their intimate areas, and pull away when you handle their paws. But grooming requires you or the groomer to touch all of these places.

Get your dog accustomed to being touched in these ways by giving them a regular full body massage, just petting them lightly all over their body from head to toe. Also, play with their paws and practice spreading their toes in the way that will happen during grooming.

If they start to get anxious, move on from that area and come back to it later. When they start to accept the petting in the troublesome area, reinforce that positive behavior by rewarding them with a treat.

If you plan on taking your pup to the salon, once they have gotten used to the petting in general, try doing it on a raised table to better prepare them for the situation at the groomer. If you plan to groom at home, you can do it on top of whatever surface you plan to use.

Introduce Them To The Equipment

grooming an anxious dog introduce them to the equipment

One of the other big challenges for dogs can be the equipment used during grooming. Clippers and hair dryers can make loud, disconcerting noises. Scissors and other sharp objects can have fear associations if your dog has been hurt in the past.

Take the time to get your dog accustomed to the equipment that will be used during the grooming process.

Start slow, simply by having the clippers or hairdryer in the same space as your dog, switched off. Leave the equipment there and let your dog approach it and sniff it out for themselves. Once they seem comfortable with these tools, it is time to start turning them on.

At first, just switch them on for a few seconds and see how your dog reacts. If they manage to remain calm, give them a little treat. You can then gradually extend the time, until you can have the equipment on for a few minutes without your dog getting upset.

If your dog continues to struggle, you can invest in specialist equipment such as almost silent clippers, or earmuffs for your dog to block out the sound.

Wear Them Out

Before grooming, make sure your dog has had a full day of exercise and an opportunity to use up any excess energy.

When your dog is tired and happy from an extended period of fun stimulation with you, they will be much more docile on the grooming mat.

Keep Sessions Short

grooming an anxious dog keep the sessions short

If you are grooming at home, don’t try to get everything done in a long one-hour session. It will be hard for any dog to stay still for that long, anxious or not.

Instead, keep grooming sessions short. Focus on cleaning the ears for 15 minutes one day, and then spend 20 minutes trimming their nails on another.

Breaking it up into short sessions will make the entire experience much more manageable for both you and your dog.

Try A Tranquilizer

If it is just impossible for your dog to stay calm for a grooming session, you can invest in an over-the-counter tranquilizer such as Acerpromazine to keep them calm.

Always consult your vet before giving your dog any kind of medication, and only turn to a tranquilizer as a last resort.

Should I Go To A Professional Groomer?

Depending on the source of your dog’s anxiety, a professional groomer may or may not be a good choice.

If they are anxious in general, then taking them out of the comfort of their home and putting them in the hands of a stranger can just make things worse.

But if it is the grooming experience itself they are anxious about due to previous bad experiences, then a professional groomer can be a great choice. The groomer will be faster, and they will be less likely to have unfortunate accidents such as clipping the nails too deep and painfully cutting into the quick.

If you do go for a groomer, make sure to let them know that you have an anxious pup and how they are likely to react. 

Also, arrange to take them on a pre-visit to the salon so they have a chance to get accustomed to the space, the people, and the experience.


How do groomers deal with difficult dogs?

Groomers will have a variety of techniques for dealing with difficult dogs and have practice using a calming voice and soothing mannerisms. They will also be familiar with other techniques such as placing a warm towel over the dog’s eyes.

Some groomers will be better at managing difficult dogs than others, depending on their experience. You can shop around for groomers who specialize in challenging pups.

How can I Naturally Sedate my Dog?

You will find a variety of natural sedatives for dogs which are made from herb and flower extract, and work to varying degrees depending on your pup. Over-the-counter sedatives are more effective, but always consult your vet first.

How Do I Calm an Anxious Dog for Grooming?

The best way to keep your dog calm for grooming is to prepare them for the experience and normalize the things that will happen during the grooming session. If they are already used to the type of touching that will happen and the sound of the instruments, they are much less likely to panic.

What Do you Do if your Dog Hates Being Groomed?

As with most things, getting your dog to accept grooming is a matter of training. Teach them what happens during the grooming process, and reward the kind of behavior you want to see through a process of positive reinforcement.

Is grooming stressful for dogs?

Whether or not grooming is stressful for a dog depends on them. Some dogs enjoy grooming and it is a pleasant bonding experience for them. Other dogs are more stressed because they don’t like being touched in that way, or the sound of the grooming equipment makes them anxious. It depends on your dog’s temperament and previous experience.

Do you have an anxious dog? Create a safe space for them to destress at home with the Original Calming Bed.

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