The #1 Canine Fear
Hint: It’s Not Public Speaking…
People always ask me: “Why does my dog shake and get so upset when I bring him to see you?” It’s a question that always makes me more than uncomfortable. No groomer likes to think about the fact that he or she is not usually their canine (or feline) client’s favorite person.
Of course, I try my best to make grooming a quick, easy, fun process, but most dogs are less than thrilled to get soaking wet, dried by a very noisy dryer (that’s like the vacuum but louder), and subjected to having their feet, legs and face poked and prodded. Many dogs see it as an invasion of their personal space. However, I can definitely say that a less stressful groom starts at home.
Most of my dogs who are calm, relaxed, and well-behaved (if not completely thrilled) are brought in by parents who calmly hand them to me, say a couple words about how they want their dog clipped, and say “See you in an hour!” Most of my difficult cases are brought in by people who get overly affectionate, worry about their pet, and then say, “Oh Fluffy, why are you shaking?” There is a very big and obvious difference between the way these people act, and it makes a big difference in the way the groom goes.
Your dog looks to you for cues on how to behave. When you are calm, confident, and unconcerned, your dog is more likely to follow your lead. When you are nervous, overly affectionate, or even frustrated with your dog, it will make things worse. When you are petting your dog or giving her attention while she’s upset, you are telling her that upset is the ideal frame of mind! So, I will tell you how I recommend you take your dog to the groomer, the vet, or anywhere else he doesn’t like.
On the day you go to one of these places, act like it’s a normal day. Don’t do ANYTHING differently. Your dog will notice and see even the smallest change as a cue to what may be happening. Don’t say, “Do you want to go see Dr. so and so?” Just snap on your dog’s lead and let her jump in the car. If your dog is still nervous when you arrive, just act relaxed and normal. I am willing to bet you will see a huge difference in your dog.
However, if you suspect that your groomer may not be treating your dog right, don’t hesitate to ask to see a small snippet of the process. Most groomers shouldn’t mind showing you that their dog is not screaming because she’s having her leg sawed off, it’s simply for having her foot held. Many dogs have learned to vocalize even when they are not in pain, simply to get the groomer to stop touching their feet. Many dogs who have had their toenail “quicked” before (and trust me, it happens occasionally, even by the best groomers) are overly reactive to the process. And every dog may just have something they don’t like about grooming. That’s why a responsible groomer won’t push a dog past a certain point, but will not hesitate to ignore “drama.” After all, just as in everything else with dogs, moving on and ignoring unwanted behavior is the first step in stopping it.