By Emma Steadman, from Dogs of Great Style, Bude:
Grooming should be a brilliant, fun, calm bonding time spent with each and every dog and owner. It’s a huge part of every dog’s life (definitely bigger for some dogs – yes I’m looking at you poodles and poo crosses…) so where to start to get that great fun time? Shake away the old and start back at basics…
What does this really mean?
Well, firstly your dog will need to be comfortable with you. Calmly, slowly, looking and touching them ALL over. Sounds easy? Awesome, skip the next bit!
For the 99% rest of owners – this is the hardest bit to conquer…
What does calm, comfortable and cooperative look like?
- Well, they are there out of choice; if they want to move away they can do at any time.
- They are loose, as in no tension in their body; they are not stiff.
- Have a gentle move of your dog’s skin at different times of the day. Feel the difference after a run and snooze; are they a bit stiffer? In the morning still half asleep, how stretchy is their skin then? This gives you a baseline to work from so you know what is normal for your dog.
- Are they carrying tension around their head? Wrinkles between their ears? How are they standing? Leaning away from you? A clear sign to stop what you are doing.
- Evenly on all four paws? That’s what we like to see.
- How are they looking? Nervous? Looking away from you? Or a soft look calmly taking in what you are doing? Are they showing any calming signs?
Calming signs is a book in itself so check out this website for more detailed info on these signals (dog language).
So what do we do with all these observations? We talk to our dogs in their language – any stiffness, we stop – any calming signs, we stop (and yes I really do mean any and all). This gives our dogs trust in us to understand them. It can be a slow progress but that just makes all the small wins all that more important.
Where to start?
- With something they are not familiar with – a paint brush for the extra sensitive dog is a brilliant piece of equipment! Its not as invasive as our hands, we don’t have to get as close and it is soft to touch them, for some you may not even be touching them to start.
- If you think you are progressing slow enough – go slower! Slow and steady with a few bumps and backwards before going forwards is kinda how the world rolls.
- So, setting YOUR expectations is almost the key to succeeding with dog grooming training.
- If you feel the frustration rising, that’s the end of that days training, so start a puppy party (puppy parties are whatever you and you dog find the most fun things to do – a treat party, toy party/game or a dance party with your dog if they like to boogie, too).
If you are struggling moving forward this is where Dog Behaviourists come into their own. This is what they have done A LOT of studying for. They can see the subtle behaviours we may not be tuned into yet, so do ask them for help (always look for the green tick to see the trainer/ behaviourist you have chosen is a member of the UK Dog Training and Behaviourist Charter – again, just like grooming, they are unregulated too, so be sure they are using the latest science based methods and are using positive training) INTO Dogs is another great place to find someone local to you.
Rounding basic grooming up – it’s ‘stuff’ training. Us weird old humans need to be able to touch any weird and random object all over our dogs. So when you can use a toothbrush, the spoon, kitchen tongs or the remote control then we use a brush and comb. If the grooming equipment you have has had a negative experience previously consider throwing them out and getting a different colour/ style set.
To have the basics in place first though means we can then progress a lot quicker with a brush. And where there is a brush there should ALWAYS be a comb. The brush is the doing the comb is the checker – NO TUGGING EVER (how would you like it?) Test out pressure brushing on your arm; it’s more about how many strokes you do than one hard brush though that doesn’t really accomplish anything.
If you don’t have this level of patience and need a professional groomer, then you can contact Emma at …