How to Keep a Dog Calm and Relaxed While Grooming

Grooming is a necessity for all dog breeds.  Nail clipping, teeth brushing, bathing, drying, and trimming or brushing their fur can help ensure your dog is comfortable and looking his or her best.  However, some dogs do not like being groomed.  Nervous or anxious dogs may squirm, shake, or even bark when grooming.  This can make it quite difficult to complete the grooming.  Plus, putting your dog through something that is clearly so stressful and scary can be difficult for pet parents.  

I know when I adopted a two-year-old pup, getting him to tolerate grooming without whimpering, shaking, and fidgeting around was a process.  I’d love to share the tips I discovered so you can try them with your dog too!  Continue reading to learn how to keep a dog calm while grooming to make the process more enjoyable for both you and your pup!

how to keep a dog calm while grooming

Why does my dog hate being groomed?

There are a number of possible reasons your dog may hate going to the groomer.  Below you’ll find some reasons dogs dislike going to the groomer.  Read through the list and consider your dog’s individual personality, likes, and dislikes. This can help you pinpoint which reason or reasons may be the cause of their fear or anxiety:

  • Stressed out by other dogs:  Grooming shops can be busy places.  There are often other dogs in the kennel area or on other grooming tables. Some dogs are the only dog at home or don’t enjoy socializing with other dogs. These dogs may feel stressed when they are around other dogs, especially if they other dogs are barking. 
  • Afraid of the strange sounds at the groomers:  Barking isn’t the only sound your dog will hear when they’re at groomers.  There will be other strange and loud sounds as well, particularly the powerful blow dryers groomers use.  A dog’s hearing is very sensitive, which can make these loud sounds seem even louder.
  • Separation anxiety:  If your dog is already prone to separation anxiety when you leave them home alone, it could be the culprit for their fear of the groomer.  When you leave them at the groomer, your dog might feel concerned about being away from you. They may worry that they won’t see you again.
  • Disliking the kennel:  If your dog isn’t used to spending time in a kennel, they may not like being placed in a kennel as they are waiting to get groomed or while they are waiting for you to return to pick them up.  This can cause a lot of stress. Some days may bark or even become aggressive when someone comes to open the kennel door.
  • Negative feelings about touching: Some dogs don’t enjoy having some areas, such as their tails or paws, touched.  If this is the case for your dog, they may feel anxious thinking about having that body part groomed.  Your dog also may have negative associations with the groomer from past experiences.  For example, if you took your dog to the groomer after one of their nails ripped off, they may associate going to the groomer with being in pain.
how to keep a dog calm while grooming

Calming Techniques

If your dog seems stressed or anxious every time you bring him or her to the groomer, all is not lost.  There are a number of tips for how to keep a dog calm while grooming.  Try one of these techniques to make grooming a more positive experience for your pup:

  • Exposure to grooming tools:  Before bringing your dog to the groomer’s, give them a chance to be around the grooming tools they’ll see.  Rub their fur with the flat side of a brush to get them used to brushing. Try turning on a pair of clippers or a hair dryer so they can hear what they sound like.  Give your dog some treats during these practice sessions to help them make positive associations with grooming tools.
  • Exercise:  Before you bring your dog to the groomer, take them for a long walk or play with them in the backyard to get them some good exercise.  When dogs get their energy out, they’re less likely to be as nervous or anxious.
  • Massage:  During the grooming process, the groomer will need to clean up all the areas of your dog’s body.  This includes some of the more sensitive areas that your dog may not like others to touch.  Giving your dog a very gentle massage over their entire body can help her get used to being touched.  After going through this process a few times, repeat the massage on a raised table. This will make the experience even closer to what you dog will experience in the grooming salon.
  • Car ride practice:  The car ride to the groomer could also be the source of your dog’s anxiety.  If your dog doesn’t like riding in the car, try taking them for some practice rides.  If your dog has a prized toy or blanket, put it with them in the car to give them an added sense of security.  Consider taking car rides to more ‘fun’ locations, such as a trail or dog park. This way, you your dog will enjoy himself after the car ride and may begin to feel better about riding.
  • Meet and greet:  Before you actually bring your dog for a grooming appointment, see if you can schedule a meet and greet with the groomer.  Bring your pup into the grooming salon so they can get to know the groomer. They can also become acclimated to the sights, smells, and sounds of the salon.
  • Praise and attention:  When you drop your dog off at the groomers, give them lots of positive praise and attention.  Getting pets from you can help them know that everything is OK.  You can also consider leaving a few treats with the groomer to give to your dog when they are calm and acting appropriately.  This can help reinforce those positive behaviors and reactions that you want to see.
  • Specialty grooming supplies:  If your dog is overly fearful of the loud noises of the blow dryer or clippers at the groomer, consider getting a pair of dog earphones or a dog hoodie to muffle the sounds.  You can even find silent dog clippers to use as an alternative for loud electric clippers.
  • Keep yourself calm:  If you’re feeling stressed worrying about how your dog is going to react, he or she will pick up on it.  This will only cause them to feel more stressed themselves.  Do what you can to keep yourself calm so you don’t worsen the feelings of anxiety your dog is experiencing.
  • Don’t rush the process:  Finally, remember it is going to take your dog some time to really get comfortable going to the groomer.  Don’t expect to see a huge change overnight.  Give the process some time and be sure to reward the positive strides your dog makes.
how to keep a dog calm while grooming

What to give a dog to calm down for grooming?

In some cases, the techniques listed above won’t work to get your dog calm enough to be groomed safely.  In many cases, you may just need to give them some time and additional exposure to the groomer, grooming tools, and other aspects of the visit.  However, you may need a solution for the interim.  Consider one of the following options to help your pup calm down more.  

  • Pheromones:  Dogs send chemical compounds known as pheromones to send signals to other animals.  Research by scientists has led them to discover the specific calming pheromone, which you can pair with a pheromone diffuser before or during grooming sessions.
  • Aromatherapy:  Aromatherapy has been effective for some dogs.  Lavender can be a very calming scent.  Rub a little lavender essential oil on your fingertips.  Then, run your fingers through your dog’s fur.  You can also speak with your groomer about using an aromatherapy shampoo formulated with lavender, chamomile, or other calming scents.
  • Acepromazine:  Acepromazine works to decrease anxiety in dogs.  The tranquilizer, which is available over the counter, is a dopamine antagonist that eases anxiety for between six and eight hours.
  • Medical sedation:  In extreme cases, medical sedation may be necessary for grooming.  Check with the groomer and your veterinarian if you think this is necessary for your pup.

Consult with your veterinarian before using any medications, essential oils, or diffusers with your dog.

How to Keep a Dog Calm While Grooming:  Closing Thoughts

Skipping that trip to the groomers typically isn’t an option if you want to keep your dog looking his best.  Hopefully the tips we’ve shared above have helped you identify a few different techniques you can try to keep your dog calm when it is time for them to be groomed.