When I am presented with a dog that has the majority of it’s coat in good condition and one part is consistently matted eg legs, I usually ask the owner what the grooming routine at home is like. Nine times out of ten I hear that the owner starts on the easy bits and leaves the legs until the end because Fido hates having them done. This sets everyone up to fail on two counts;
1. Fido picks up on the owners ‘expectation’ of a battle around the legs and dutifully obliges!
2. Different dogs have different attention/ tolerance levels. Fido is no longer at his most co operative, is losing patience and he decides when enough is enough and ends the session!
The same is often true of completely matted dogs, I have had owners report that the sweetest of pets will growl and even use their teeth (to grab and/or bite) to avoid a grooming session at home. So what makes some dogs rush towards you when they see the brush and others run for cover? Habit developed from previous experience!
Regardless of why Fido hates being brushed, here is a plan of action, which with patience and perseverance should improve the situation and has helped many of my clients in the past;
- Start the brushing regime the evening that your dog returns from the groomer as the coat will be matt free and/or very short. DO NOT WAIT FOR THE COAT TO START TO GET KNOTTY. Brushing knotty hair hurts – ask any child with long hair! If you are guilty of this then it could be how the problem started!
- Make sure you are calm and not rushing off to do something else – our pups are barometers of our feelings and emotions! Stressed owner = stressed dog
- Arm yourself with some delicious treats (they can be tiny pieces of chicken or cheese) and your brush
- Allow Fido to smell the treats and move away so that he follows you to wherever you are going to groom him.
- Treat and Praise
- Run the brush lightly along the back and immediately treat and praise (some dogs who detest being brushed will tolerate this first stroke if distracted by trying to eat the treat from your closed fist at the same time).
- Repeat a few times, but remember small steps! Don’t overdo it! End on a positive note with your dog looking for more treats. YOU decide when to end the session not Fido.
- You are aiming to build a positive and pleasurable association with the brushing action.
- If your dog only reacts badly to one area of the body being groomed the same theory applies. Start by grooming one leg today, little by little, treating and rewarding as you go. Then a quick groom of the rest of the body. Tomorrow start on another leg, treating and rewarding as you go etc.
- Gradually you will be able to reduce the number of treats you need as you move around the body. Eventually you should be able to groom a co operative pooch and both of you should enjoy it.
- This method takes time, patience and consistency. It may be worth booking your dog into your groomer for an ‘in-between brush-out’ to ensure that the coat remains matt free during this process.
I use this method to train all my own puppies to tolerate grooming and still treat and reward all my adult dogs after a grooming session. Unfortunately this causes mayhem whenever I lower the grooming table and they all clamber to be first!!