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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Gentle Grooming

Gentling- Building Trust and Leadership

Pet Professional Tip

Offer clients a grooming "start-up" package that includes the first few visits at a reduced rate to introduce the dog to the facility and groomer and to socialize the dog to the bathing area
with treats. 

For older dogs, offer sedation, if needed, to prevent physical or psychological pain.

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Every creature on earth requires some method or grooming to maintain optimal physical and mental health. Puppies and dogs are no exception. In addition to making pets more huggable, grooming can be quality time together and reinforces the human leadership role.

Ideally, bathing is introduced in a positive way during the first few months of life when the puppy is most impressionable.

The goal is to help the dog perceive the  bathtub or sink a positive place. You can do this in many creative ways. One way is to feed the dog in a dry tub for at least three to four days in a row before turning the water on and off to get your dog use to that.

Ease your dog into the bathing experience by working up to a wet surface, then add an inch of water. Use treats and praise to help the dog see being in the tub as one way to earn your attention and treats.

Get the dog use to getting into a tub that has a little water in it. A good time to do this is when your dog is very hungry so that you can lure your dog in and reward your dog for staying in the tub with treats. Once the dog is comfortable with the water, go gently and slowly being very careful not to get water or soap into the dog's eyes or ears. Provide quality attention, praise, and food treats while the dog is in the bathtub.

Make sure the temperature of the water is luke warm. Use a washcloth to massage the water into your dog's coat and to apply the shampoo.

The goal in using sedation is to give the dog the same compassion as you want when you go to the dentist, "Please numb me first!"

Begin slowly and carefully

If you want to use a professional groomer, let the groomer know that your goal is for your dog to perceive professional grooming as a day at the Doggie Spa - a positive experience. Offer to bring your dog in hungry and leave a ziplock of your dogs favorite treats.

A good place to get "high-end" shampoos is from your veterinarian. Use shampoos designed for dogs (not people) since the pH of the human scalp is different and the formulations of the shampoos are significantly different. The highest quality (and usually most expensive) shampoo is usually most gentle on the dog's skin.

Be careful not to get water into the dog's eyes or ears. Use a wash cloth in these areas. Trim fur inside ears that block air getting into the ears especially if your dog is prone to ear infections as a warm, moist environment created by too much fur in the ears blocking air flow invites bacterial infections.

Ask your veterinarian to show you the proper way to clip a dog's nails. You will want to start with one nail tip each day coupled with treats, praise and, if possible, followed by a walk. If you cut of too much nail, the pain of the nail trim will cause your dog to fight or try to avoid the process next time.  If the dog objects, go more slowly. Older dogs may need their toe nails trimmed by the veterinary staff while under mild sedation to avoid pain and a struggle.

Sadly, dogs that have been hurt or scared by restraint during nail trims may become phobic. One goal is sedation to give the dog the same compassion as you want when you go to the dentist, "Please numb me first!"

After the shampoo and the rinse, towel dry the dog with lots of attention, praise, and happiness. You can use a hair dryer if your dog tolerates it. But If he or she does not, then gradually introduce the hair dryer very slowly, coupled with treats and happy talk.

A word of caution

Hair dryers can blow very hot air, making the experience uncomfortable and sometimes even damaging to the dog. Keep the hair dryer constantly moving at a safe distance from the dog. In addition, place one hand on the dog in the area where the hair dryer is being applied and use the other hand to hold the dryer. These precautions will help prevent an adverse response to the hair dryer, as well as injuries.

It may be kinder to dogs with several mats to be clipped short by a professional groomer. If a professional groomer is required, find one willing to proceed slowly, with food treats to reward the dog for appropriate behavior, or find a veterinary practice that offers sedation with grooming to spare your dog physical and psychological pain.

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