Lola is all happy tail wags until she recognizes what neighborhood you’re in: Dog Grooming Town—and she will do anything to get out of dodge. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Pup groomer phobia is incredibly common, and can be difficult for us humans to deal with. We reached out to Scott Sheaffer, expert dog behavior consultant to answer all of our questions on coping with the canine fear.
Why are dogs so scared of the groomer in the first place?
According to Sheaffer, it has to do with the handling and fear of being touched—especially on their paws. While a lot of pups can handle someone poking at their teeth, eyes or even rump, their paws are super sensitive, “Imagine the Jolly Green Giant picking up your hands and trimming them with massive shears?” Ah, yes, that makes a lot of sense.
Then why does my pup start freaking out as soon as we get in the car?
Despite all that useless hole digging, your dog is pretty smart. As Sheaffer explains, he’s made the association between the car rides and the paw trimming. The fear keeps backing up: It starts at the groomer, then on the way to the groomer, then in the car where it all starts. The smarter your dog is, the more associations he’ll make, and the more scared he might get.
OK, so how do I fix this?
“Start at the shallow end of the pool,” Sheaffer advises. Begin to desensitize them to what they’ll experience at the groomer by showing your pup clippers at home and gently touching your dog near their paws. Over time, they should become less fearful of those things. But if your dog is absolutely petrified of the groomer, it might be worth finding a new one—not because your groomer has done anything wrong, but so you can form positive associations with a new person and place.
If I go to a new groomer, how do I avoid the same old fear?
Before you make an official appointment, go on a half a dozen “happy visits,” as Sheaffer refers to them. These are trips to the groomer where your pup doesn’t actually get groomed but they do get a special treat. Your pup will learn to associate only these super special treats with the groomer. Treat your pup at any of the points where she’s learned to back up her fear: in the car, on the groomer’s street, in the waiting area. On the third or fourth visit, take her to the grooming table and give her a treat. Repeat six times!
What if my dog is uber anxious?
Always have a conversation with your vet first, but Shaeffer explains there are some medications that can help calm your pup down in extreme cases. Some pet parents are also experimenting with CBD oil to address anxiety.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.