If your puppy has a long or thick coat or one that will need professional care, it is advisable to begin getting it used to the procedures involved with coat maintenance at a very early age. Otherwise, caring for the coat or going to the groomer may become a unnecessarily stressful experience as your puppy gets older, or may even require periodic trips to the vets, with accompanying bills, for the coat to be shaved if things get too bad!
Getting your puppy used to grooming procedures is easily achieved providing you set aside time every day during your puppy’s first year to do this. You will need to accustom your puppy to the following procedures:
- Bathing and drying
- Coat clipping
- Coat stripping
- Ear hair pulling
- Nail clipping
Go slowly, at a speed your puppy can cope with. If your puppy is anxious, it will usually show this by becoming excited, and moving around quickly. If this happens, be more gentle, calm and slow.
Try to ignore any puppy biting. This is more likely to happen if your puppy is excited so slow things down. Offer your puppy something soft to chew on instead of your hands.
Do handling and grooming every day so that it becomes a habit of daily life rather than something you both dread once a month.
Be persistent and keep gently working at what you want to achieve until you have achieved it.
Build up speed at a rate your puppy can cope with – remember that professional groomers need to get through a certain number of animals a day to make a living and so will move fast. If your puppy gets used to this from an early age, it will learn to accept fast movements and not link them with pain or fright, but go slowly to start with.
Most groomers will want your dog to stand so that they can style correctly and for clipping so it would be better if your puppy could learn to stand and wait patiently on command. Your puppy will also need to get used to being tied up by the collar, and to have a strap placed around the area between their ribs and hind legs. This keeps them in position, in a stand, facing one way and stops them from falling off the table. If your puppy will have to go to the groomer, it is a good idea to get it used to being restrained in this way from an early age.
If you can find a sympathetic groomer, try to go early, while your puppy is still young and before it needs any work done, to acclimatise it to everything that happens at the groomers. Stay with your puppy and try to go several times. This will also allow you to check that the groomer is kind to the dogs they are caring for and handles them calmly and efficiently. Avoid groomers who are in a terrible rush, who handle dogs roughly and without compassion.
Puppies differ in their body sensitivities and normal hair tugging to remove knots during grooming may be accepted by some while being painful to others. It helps to work with your puppy and go at their speed, teaching them to lie down and relax while you groom them. Be careful not to tug too hard or go so fast that it is painful for them. Doing a little everyday will help your puppy learn to accept coat care as a matter of routine. In addition, a little work every day will help keep the coat free from mats so that grooming is less stressful for all.
Remember to check hidden places. These are inside elbows, behind ears, under tails, around groin areas, under chin and collar line. To reach these areas easily, ask your puppy to relax and roll over. Be sure to be gentle and do not abuse their trust by tugging. Use a soft slicker brush, followed by a wide toothed comb and ensure this can pass easily through the hair next to the skin. It is necessary to get all knots out before clipping and it is much better that this is done by you while your dog is relaxed in his own home than by a busy groomer in a strange place.
Remember that most groomers will charge a lot more if your dog is matted as it takes much longer to do the job. If coats get really bad, they may have to be shaved off under anesthetic which is very expensive. It is much better for your dog and your bank balance if you can do a little every day to keep the coat in good condition and keep knots at bay.
Bathing and drying
Small baths during puppy-hood, even when they are not really needed, will help your puppy learn to accept the process of getting wet and being dried with a towel. Keep everything gentle and calm, keeping towel movements slow during drying to counter your puppy’s excitement. Be prepared for a mad 5 minutes of racing around once your damp puppy knows it has survived the terrors of bath time!
Puppies are often disturbed by the noise of the hair dryer and dislike hot air blowing in their faces. So begin with a hair dryer set on cool on a low speed blowing on the body and angled away from the face. Spend some time slowly getting your puppy used to this over several sessions, gradually working up to having the dryer on hotter settings, gradually including the face area.
Some dog’s coats that are not shed naturally will need to be clipped when they get long. Although your puppy’s coat will not need to be clipped at first, it is a good idea to get it used to the feel, noise and smell of the clippers from an early age. Try to find an appliance that produces the same noise and vibration as the clippers such as an electric shaver with the clippers removed, and use this against your puppy’s coat during weekly sessions. Start with small areas and light pressure on the least sensitive areas of the body, and gradually work up to larger area, harder pressure and more sensitive areas such as the nose, face and paws in slow stages. Take things at a speed your puppy can cope with, keeping the experience controlled and calm, and finishing with a treat and a game with a toy. Gradually increase the speed at which you move the ‘clippers’ until you can quickly run them all over your puppy’s body, head and paws as if you were really cutting the hair while he accepts this happily and stands completely still.
Some dog’s coats are not shed naturally and need to be pulled out to reveal the new, shorter growth underneath. Small amounts of the old, loose coat are held between a blade and the thumb and tugged out. This shouldn’t cause discomfort but can be distressing for a dog that isn’t used to the sensation.
When your puppy is young, you can get it used to this tugging, pulling hard enough to mimick the tugging that will be needed later but not hard enough to pull out the coat. Ask an experienced groomer to show you how.
Some groomers, although not the best ones, will muzzle all dogs as a matter of course. For this reason, it is advisable to get your dog used to wearing a muzzle so that it doesn’t feel restricted and afraid at the groomers. Begin slowly, putting some tasty treats in the end of the muzzle in the palm of your hand so your puppy has to put his face into the muzzle to eat them. After several sessions and once he accepting the feel of it against his face, link the muzzle with pleasant events by putting it on, fastening it, and leaving it on for a very short time before feeding dinner, playing a game or going out for a walk. Gradually lengthen the time that he wears it until he will accept it happily, waiting patiently in anticipation of something exciting happening.
Ear hair pulling
Some dogs with hairy inner ears and small ear canals need to have the hair in their ears pulled out to ensure the canal stays open and clean. It is best to get puppies used to this from an early age, starting slowly and not doing too much at once. Get a veterinary nurse or a professional groomer to show you how.
Most dogs need to have their nails clipped and it is best to get them used to it from an early age so they keep still when this is done by the groomer making it less likely that the quick inside the nail will be cut accidentally. Your puppy’s nails may not need to be clipped but it’s a good idea to get him used to having his paws held and to the feel of the nail clippers against his claws. If you prefer to clip your dogs nail’s yourself, ask a veterinary nurse or professional groomer to teach you how to do this successfully.
In addition to nails, it is a good idea to get your puppy used to having its feet handled and held. Groomers may need to trim the hair in between the pads as these may otherwise trap dirt and mud.
Some dogs accumulate lots of matter in the corner of the eyes and this can matt the hair in that region producing a hard lump. Rather than let this accumulate, wipe it away with moistened cotton wool regularly. Some dogs with long hair find it very difficult to see. For this reason, and especially while they are growing up and getting used to their world, make sure the hair is clipped or tied up so they have a clear visual field.
How to find the right groomer for your puppy - written by professional dog groomer Karen Barnard
"The excitement is building as you prepare to bring home your puppy. You have bought everything you need, registered with a vets, enrolled in training classes and arranged insurance. But have you given any thought to finding the right groomer?
Dog grooming is an unlicensed industry and all you need to do is search online to find horror stories of grooms gone wrong, unhappy dogs and unhappy owners. But how do you find the right groomer for your puppy?
Word of Mouth is a good place to start. Is there a local groomer who everyone goes to? Speak to people with similar breeds, who do they use and are they happy? Ask your vet if they can recommend someone, do they have a groomer at the surgery or someone local they can refer you to? You can search online, but this can be a dangerous way to start as anyone can advertise online and they won’t necessarily have any experience or expertise. If you have a breed that needs regular grooming, this will be a lifelong journey for your dog so finding someone that you both get on with is so very important as they will be there every 6-8 weeks for 10+ years. Make lots of phone calls and ask lots of questions, do they have knowledge of your breed, how long have they been grooming (remember, it isn’t necessarily a case of more is better)? Do they offer a puppy package and what is included?
You can expect at the very least an introduction to all the equipment and an ‘experience’ within the salon environment. Some groomers for a puppies first visit won’t do an actual bath or any trimming but will work build their confidence with standing on the table, the sound of running water and the driers. They will work with introducing the puppy to a stand, being restrained safely on the table, the brush and the scissors. This would typically be around a 30 minute appointment and you can expect to pay anywhere from £15 for this. A second visit could include a bath and brush with a nail trim, a little trim in front of the eyes if needed and an ear clean.
In an ideal world I would like to see a puppy every 4 weeks from the age of 12-14 weeks. Every visit, we do a little bit more up until a point where I can safely use scissors, clippers and get a good length of time in a standing position to make for a safe groom and a confident puppy. You will know if a groomer cares about your puppy and their development when you pick your puppy up after their first visit. If all you get is “yes, they were fine, do you want to book again?” I would find someone else……
Very few puppies are ‘fine’ on their first visit. A good groomer will give you feedback and homework, tell you what they coped well with and where they struggled. They will ask you what grooming you have done at home and how often, they will demonstrate how to brush safely and how you can train at home to prepare them for their next visit. They will ask if you have thought about what style you want their coat when they are older and how you can help to maintain the coat to achieve that style. They may even advise of something different to what you have thought about.
Most of all they will probably greet your puppy before they say hello to you, they won’t mind if your puppy does an excited or nervous wee over them on the way in, they will get down on the floor and have a cuddle and hopefully your puppy will be as pleased to see the groomer as the groomer is to see your puppy!"