Originally posted 2/3/2012:


Ok, so your dog doesn’t like it’s nails trimmed, mouth touched, tail messed with, hates the hair dryer and could live life happily for the rest of his/her life without another bath. You know it and now so does your groomer L You are getting this tip sheet because both your groomer and I want Fido to accept, if not like, his trips to the groomer. So with a little work on your end and patience on the part of your wonderful groomer, I bet we can improve this situation in no time at all. But where do you start…

I call it “Cradle and Massage” and it is something every dog owner should do with their furry best friend! The earlier we start, the faster we get Fido to like his visits to the groomer. Don’t freak out if your dog is 3 or 4 years old; we can still improve the situation, making the visit safer and more pleasant for everyone involved. So, just what is “Cradle and Massage”? It is a simple but effective desensitization program for dogs of all ages in regards to the common spots most dogs just plain don’t like having messed with, the feet, mouth, tail and ears. Ironically the same spots our unfortunate groomers have to touch every time.

This technique will need to be done 3-5 times a week for 10-15 minutes. I want you to get on the floor with your dog, even while watching TV, and simply cradle the dog between your legs and massage each of the above mentioned body parts, followed by a treat after each part! The goal here is to convince Fido that touch is good (rewards) and relaxing (kind, gentle touching). By the time you get this perfect, your dog should be comfortable lying on their back, being touched and will be totally relaxed. Don’t be upset if you can’t even get close to this description the first time you try this. Take it slow and progress in baby steps. Consistency and being gentle will pay off in the end!

The other thing that needs to be done immediately is to change your dog’s view of being at the groomer (or vet for that matter). I want you to commit to going to the groomer’s location at least once a week, (2-3 times a week starting off is even better) and just go in sit in, the lounge and give Fido some treats. Let the staff know what you are doing and ask them to give treats to your pooch as well. After 10 minutes or so, just get up, get in your car and go home! The reason for all this subterfuge is simple, the only time you ever take your dog to the groomer (or vet) it is an unpleasant situation (at least for those who don’t practice “Cradle and Massage). By adding weekly short trips full of treats and rewards, your dog starts to associate more visits as being positive and less being negative. This makes an overall positive association about going on these field trips!

Last thing, ask your groomer or vet to attempt to give your pooch a treat during the groom or examine and report back to you whether or not the dog took the treat. Ironically, one of the best ways to determine a dog’s level of stress or fear (leading cause of snarkiness) is to see if they are comfortable enough to eat. This litmus test needs to be your final goal, not to mention a vet or groomer that gives gifts (treats/rewards) isn’t all that scary anyways. The goal here is not to label, categorize or belittle your dog, but rather to help you his Mommy or Daddy, make his or her visit less scary and hopefully more fun!  
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