A Different Type of Mindset
We all have had experiences that compel our initial reaction to be an anxious one. This is especially true when we enter into a situation that is new and unfamiliar with our traditional way of doing things. Even though these situations can cause us to have an uncomfortable reaction at first, the anxiety typically lessens as we continue to enter into these situations more and more often.
The anxiety that we experience in uncomfortable situations can go down considerably if we apply certain tactics to our mindset before we even embark on the journey of navigating the uncomfortable. We do not always equate our experiences as human beings to that of animals, but some of our situations may be more similar than we would originally think.
Every Dog is Different
It’s amazing that siblings can live in the same family, experience many of the same events, and yet recall stories quite differently from one another. In the same way, not all dogs are going to experience a visit to the groomer in the same manner. Some dogs may love going to see the groomer and they might get as excited as someone going to get a haircut.
That’s great if they look forward to that visit! However, some dogs may dread a visit to the groomers, and there could be multiple reasons as to why that is. Because each dog is so unique, each one will need to be handled differently so that they can end up having a stress-free or nearly stress-free trip to their groomer. There isn’t always the same solution for different types of problems.
Different Reasons for Anxiety
Similar to the fact that not all dogs are equal, not all dogs experience anxiety for the same reason. One reason to watch out for the existence of your dog’s anxiety is the fact that they could be feeling car sick on their ride to the groomers. Watch your dog closely and see if they become anxious while traveling to other places as well.
If they become stressed out while taking trips to a multitude of places, then the car ride itself could be a source of tension. Also keep a close eye on their behavior during the car ride itself as opposed to just watching their behavior just when you reach your destination. Dogs can exhibit actions that represent stress that are similar to the signs of a stressed-out adult. If your dog only shows sign of stress after they realize that their destination is the groomers, then maybe it is a trip specifically to the groomers that causes them to worry.
Here are some signs that could let you know that your dog is stressed:
- Pacing back and forth
- Abnormal aggressiveness
- Pulling away
New Beginnings Call for New Tactics
Another reason that your dog may be experiencing stress at the groomers is because they are not used to going there. Introverts know how daunting a task it can be to enter into a large group of people with sheer confidence. Sometimes, as a way to self-preserve, they will do whatever it takes to avoid large groups altogether. Similarly, dogs that are not used to going to the groomers very often may want to shy away from the idea of going to be groomed instead of facing them head-on.
Take careful note of how your dog responds to their actual groomer rather than just the grooming process itself. If your dog shows an extreme aversion to the groomer, it might be worth it to try out another groomer. This will be a personal decision, however, and you may want to try a few tactics to ease the grooming process before deciding to switch groomers as it may not be necessary. Just keep in mind that dogs can be perceptive of human nature.
Ask for Help
You will be able to get somewhat of a feel for who your groomer is when you try to implement solutions that will make the grooming process go more smoothly. For instance, if you ask your groomer to partner with you in trying to find a solution for your dog’s grooming anxiety, see how they respond to your proposition. This could indicate whether they are willing and/or have the time to help. One possible solution that will allow your dog groomer to partner with you is suggesting that they allow for a trial grooming session.
In this session, the groomer might not actually go forward with the entire grooming process. Instead, they might just get your dog to become familiar with the grooming products. Depending on the type of grooming tools that your groomer plans to use on your dog, some might make a decent amount of noise. If you already know that your dog becomes skittish from loud sounds, let your groomer know beforehand. Ask if they have any suggestions as far as helping calm your dog down. They might even be able to use tools that are more quiet than the tools they would typically use for grooming dogs.
Transition is Difficult, but it doesn’t have to be
New experiences can be scary and so preparing your pup beforehand can allow for a smooth transition into something new. Sometimes we forget how much difference preparing the road before we reach our destination makes. A kindergartner is much more likely to have a smooth transition from staying at home to coming into the classroom if they can meet their teacher beforehand. This simple action allows them to be comfortable because when the time comes for them to separate from their parents and walk into the unknown, there will at least be someone in the class that is familiar to that kindergartner.
Taking it a step further, if they are even able to meet some other students that will be in their class, they can have an even easier time focusing on enjoying their time in the classroom. While dogs will not have the exact same thoughts racing through their mind at the groomers, the principle behind lessening anxiety is the same. Even if your groomer does not have time for an entire trial session, see if they will allow you to come by with your dog for a “meet and greet.”
Suggestions for the Groomer
Having a good connection with your dog’s groomer will solve part of the problem of the anxiety that is sometimes accompanied by a trip to the grooming process. If you have built up a relationship with your groomer over time, then they may be open to receiving some tips on how they can create a pleasant experience not only for your dog, but also for other dogs that experience anxiety.
Instead of just approaching them in a manner of knowing that you have the answers, start off by asking them if it’s okay if you share some tips. If they say yes, then feel free to let them know what works for your dog. If you are unaware of what will help your dog to become calm, here are some suggestions that could work on any dog:
- Feel and adjust the temperature of the bathwater, if needed
- Use wipes to clean off a dog’s face rather than water
- If your dog is known to be aggressive, use a muzzle if you are comfortable with this
- Sometimes medication can be a solution
What Works for you May not Work for Others
Watch your DemeanorWatch your DemeanorPlease note that the previously mentioned suggestions are just that-suggestions. You know your dog better than anyone else and you will want to treat your dog in a way that they will adhere best to. You may be unfamiliar with the temperature of bathwater that your dog likes the most. If this is the case, try giving them a few baths for the few weeks before you even bring them to be groomed.
Experiment with slightly different temperatures, as long as they are not on the extreme end, and see which temperature your dog likes best. Make sure that the water is not too hot or too cold. Next, you may want to try using clothes to wipe off your dog’s face and see if they enjoy that better than running water. Running water may irritate your dog and cause more stress than that process is worth.
This is probably why those who work at the hair salon have their customers tilt their heads back so far while they are working on them. Could you imagine being comfortable with tons of water dripping down your face at the salon? It’s probably not the most comfortable for dogs either.
The last two suggestions on the list are a little more controversial than the rest of the suggestions- again, use your own judgement. If you already know that your dog is prone to becoming aggressive, especially while enduring what they deem to be stressful events, you may want to put a muzzle on them.
This can prevent them from becoming too aggressive and can also put the groomer at ease while they are working on grooming your pup. The last suggestion is finding a medication that will calm your dog. You will most definitely want to consult with your vet to see if this is a possible (or best) option for your dog. Medication can be used to calm your dog from motion sickness, which they may feel from the car ride to the groomers.
Check in with your vet and even get second recommendations if you are still unsure about the prospect of giving your dog medication. Above all, go with your gut. If your gut is telling you that you should or should not give your dog medication, it’s wise to go with that response. There are many stories of people siding with their gut and being grateful in the end that they stuck to their convictions.
Play is Important
There are many acts of prevention of both the sides of the dog owner and the dog groomer that can take place that will create a calmer atmosphere for your dog. Some of the actions that you can take as a dog owner can take place weeks before the actual grooming appointment, such as giving your dog multiple baths. However, there are also preventative measures that can take place right before the grooming appointment. One solution that may seem a little out of the ordinary is spending time with your dog beforehand just playing with them. Consider what happens when you take the time to play with children before a special outing.
They may become very tired (or they may retain their energy). Every dog is so unique and has a different way of letting out their energy. It can’t hurt to try out this suggestion. If your dog does not lose energy from playing before their grooming visit, then at least they will have had a good time playing with you. However, more likely than not, when you spend an immense amount of time playing with your dog, they will have less energy to put into worrying about what their visit at the groomers will look like.
Music to their Ears
Did you know that some people advocate for children to listen to Mozart so that they will have the opportunity to have a higher IQ? While playing Mozart for a dog won’t work in necessarily the same way, there are certain types of music that can create a calming atmosphere for your dog. If music can change our attitude, think about the benefits it can provide for a dog. In fact, there are those who believe in this method to the degree that they create music that is specifically meant to be heard by dog ears. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that dogs can hear different tones than us humans are used to hearing.
Create a Collection
Perform a quick search at home if you have the time and see if you can find specific music that your dog will find calming. If you don’t have the time to perform trial and error concerts with your dog at home, then ask your groomer if they have any pleasant suggestions. Who knows? Maybe they have already found a collection of songs that they have found to work on other dogs who have experiences certain amounts of anxiety. If your groomer is at a loss for which type of songs to use, check and see if your vet has some suggestions.
They might already have experience in this arena as well. Over time, you can create a collection of music that you know will be soothing for your dog. This method can come in handy for multiple situations. This is definitely one of the more creative solutions for keeping your dog calm in what could otherwise be a nail-biting experience.
Watch your Demeanor
If you have ever been around children for any significant amount of time, you will understand the fact that a child’s attitude will likely follow the attitude of the main adult in the room. Children have a way of mimicking adults, even when few words are being spoken. This is, in part, because children learn through modeling. In other words, children behave according to how they are shown how to behave. This notion is also true when it comes to teaching dogs how to behave.
If you can Become Calm, so can They
If they can feel that you are extremely nervous about a trip to the groomers, then chances are that they will become more nervous because of that. It can be difficult to become aware of what our demeanor is at times, because a lot of our actions are formed out of habits that are hard to break.
However, it is extremely important to become aware of what our demeanor is like when we are spending time with our dog. This is especially true is we are taking them into a situation that is new to us as well. Try your best to stay calm and this could prevent some problems from arising. Dogs are very sensitive to the nerves of others and the more calmly that you can portray yourself, the more calm your dog is likely to be as well. It may be a process for the both of you, but it will be a process that is worth the reward.
Respect what you See
Overall, please ensure that you respect the signs that your dog is showing you. Sometimes we can get caught up in reaching a goal that we have in mind. Of course, we want our dogs to have a great first and even second time at the groomers, but it doesn’t always happen overnight.
If your dog is already an anxious dog, then the process of keeping them calm while at the groomers may take time. Whether the process ends up being short or long, it is still a process that will require strict adherence to. If you start trying some of the suggestions that have been mentioned and you realize that your dog starts becoming aggressive in the midst of them, try to slow down the process. It may take longer than you think, but it could end up taking even longer if we try to force something on our pups before they are ready to take on the challenge.