Most of us would love a day of pampering at the spa. Our dogs? Not as much. A trip to the dog groomer involves many unfamiliar experiences and a certain amount of sensory overload from the sights, sounds and smells of the salon.
Many “firsts” are difficult for dogs, and their first time at the dog groomer is no different. It’s important to make sure this experience goes well, so here’s how to prepare for success:
Step One: Start Slow
You’ll want to make sure your dog has a stress-free start at the dog groomer so that she won’t be anxious about routine procedures like being bathed, brushed, clipped or having her nails trimmed and ears cleaned.
Your first trip to the groomer (try to find a fear-free certified location) should be no more than a social call—much like stopping to chat with a friend you run into on the street. This first time visit shouldn’t include any actual grooming but should just help build positive associations around the grooming salon and the staff who work there.
This step will help your dog become familiar with the salon environment, from the ambient noises, lights and smells to the sometimes shiny, slippery floors.
Step Two: Bring Treats
You’ll want to reward your dog for being so brave during this outing, and a food-based treat is usually your best option. Choose something soft, smelly and small so you can give your dog many small pieces throughout the visit. Diced plain chicken, bite-size pieces of cheese or small training treats are great options. Discover what your dog absolutely loves, stock up on it and head out the door.
During your visit to the groomer, watch for every brave, curious, relaxed or happy thing your dog does and reward her every time she does something positive. Your dog walks past the sliding glass doors? Yay! Treat! Happily approaches a customer pushing a shopping cart? Yay! Treat! Acts curious and friendly towards the salon staff? Yay! Triple treats!
Using positive reinforcement will help ensure your dog feels happy and relaxed when she arrives at the groomer in the future.
Sure, you might make a few trips to the salon before any real grooming happens, but that’s a small investment of time for a dog who’s reasonably happy being groomed for the rest of her clean, healthy life.