Do you have a puppy? Are you wondering when you should start grooming them? Well, the plain and simple answer is right now! No matter what breed your puppy is, they all need some grooming. Here are some tips on starting your puppy off right when it comes to being groomed:
Step 1. Get your puppy used to being ‘manhandled’
All puppies love attention. But playful attention is not the goal here. The goal is to introduce your puppy to being physically manipulated in preparation for grooming. Puppies also need to learn how to cope with being handled by different people. See Socializing Puppies With People.
Getting your puppy used to having their paws handled is also crucial. Often trimming nails is the toughest part for dogs and groomers, if your pup has learned to be fearful of the dreaded nail clippers. So take extra time every day gently holding and massaging each and every toe. Physically but gently manipulate their little toes and nails.
Step 2. Introduce your puppy to grooming supplies
Now that your puppy has learned to accept being handled, start introducing them to some grooming supplies. Start slow. Bring out some hand grooming tools like a brush, comb and clippers. Let puppy sniff them, then give them a treat. Treats will imprint your puppy with positive feelings when they see these objects.
Next, pick up the brush and place it on their back or neck. Take one or two gentle strokes and stop. But make sure you stop because YOU chose to, not because your puppy was fussing. You don’t want pup to learn that their fussing ends the sessions. Having said that, never force a long session that your puppy doesn’t have the attention span for.
And now for the nail clippers. Show them to your puppy. Now take the clippers in one hand and your puppy’s paw in the other. Bring the clippers to their paw, hold them there for a second or two, then put the clippers down and give your puppy a treat.
Repeat these sessions daily for a couple weeks before you start grooming.
Step 3. Groom your puppy
Time to start grooming! Are you gonna take your puppy to a groomer or are you gonna do it yourself? Here’s what to do in either scenario:
If you choose to take puppy to a groomer:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK! There are lots of great groomers out there. But unfortunately there are also some bad ones. So make sure you pick the right one for your puppy. The wrong one can not only undo all your hard work, they can leave poor pup with a terrifying memory. So ask around. Go to dog parks and chat with people about what groomer they use. Look them up online. Talk to some groomers and visit some grooming shops. Observe the dogs, but keep in mind that the best groomers in the world may be grooming a dog that had a negative experience with a bad groomer. So your observations may be inaccurate.
Now that you’ve picked a groomer it’s time to drop them off for their first appointment. If you’re nervous or anxious your puppy will pick up on that and feed into your fears. DO NOT BE THAT PUPPY MOM! When it’s time to drop puppy off, stay calm. Once the groomer has all the information they need, hand them over and LEAVE! Don’t stay, coddle, and stress your pup out. The longer it takes for you to say good-bye the more anxious your puppy might become.
If you choose to groom your puppy yourself:
When grooming your puppy, don’t feel you have to finish in one session. Puppies have short attention spans. If you only groom for 5 minutes, so be it. As long as it was successful and ended on a positive note. And when it comes time to clip their nails, you may only get one or two at a time. That is totally OK. Nail trimming can be stressful for pup’s. So don’t force it. Get the few nails they have the patience for then stop. You can get a few more tomorrow or in a few days.
Why is grooming so important?
Whether you have a long haired breed or short haired, grooming is necessary. For short haired dogs it may seem redundant. But brushing brings the natural oils from the skin down through the hair, making their coats softer and healthier. It also massages the skin and circulates the blood.
For long haired breeds it goes without saying. On top of the benefits listed above, long haired breeds can mat badly in their undercoats. Those mats can actually tear their skin. Not to mention what can get buried in their coats. See post Why Is My Dog So Itchy?
If handled right, grooming can be a great bonding experience with your dog. So take the time, be patient, and let the grooming begin!
Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Dog Trainer and Natural Nutrition
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