How To Teach Your Puppy To Enjoy Grooming

Puppies who look forward to having their coat brushed and being groomed grow into well-behaved adults who look good and can easily be examined for health issues.

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Getting an early start on grooming will help your puppy grow up to enjoy the process. cynoclub/iStock/Thinkstock
Teri DiMarino

As a professional pet groomer, I really look forward to a new puppy as a client. They are cute and fun, and it is my hope that I can help train them to look forward to the grooming process. But like any youngster, they must be taught, as some behaviors are acquired and not instinctive. And, like any teacher, there is only so much I can do in the classroom. Much of the training is up to the pet owner in the way of homework. As the teacher, I am more than willing to help the pet owner guide their puppy into becoming a well-behaved adult. It’s easier to form good habits than to break bad ones, so it is very important, and beneficial, to begin teaching your puppy good grooming habits early on.

Establish Good Habits For A Lifetime Of Benefits
Regardless of the size of the dog or type of coat your puppy has, grooming your pet goes farther than just brushing or combing. Good grooming habits allow you to perform such routine procedures as trimming nails or cleaning ears as well as brushing the coat. Forming good routines early on helps you thoroughly examine your pet for any underlying issues as he gets older. This is especially important when it comes to your puppy’s cooperation and comfort during a visit to the groomer or the veterinarian.

Puppies are very impressionable in the first few months of their lives. They respond well to positive reinforcement. Socialization is a very important part of this training, as they may be handled by different people during the grooming process. I like to expose my puppies to as many different people and situations as possible at a young age. It is not recommended to bring puppies to highly populated dog areas until they have had their final vaccinations, but that should not stop you from allowing your puppy to socialize with people and places. Taking your puppy for rides in the car and into businesses that allow dogs are just a couple of the ways I get my puppies used to being greeted and handled by different people in different places.

Conditioning a puppy to accept handling and grooming is also an important part of the bonding process. Gain your puppy’s confidence and build his respect for you as a leader by gently holding his paws, looking between his toes, examining inside and behind his ears, checking his eyes and inspecting under his legs and his belly. If your puppy objects, firmly but gently continue the procedure to show him that these examinations will not hurt him and can actually be very relaxing. Reward good behavior with praise and a treat. Do not stop the examination procedure if the dog becomes cantankerous. If you stop, this tells the dog that you, the owner, are very easily trained and will back off when he acts up. Ignore any poor or objectionable behavior and immediately praise the good.

Grooming Differences For Different Coats
You have probably done some homework on the breed of dog you have acquired and, hopefully, you have researched the care that the coat needs. Some coat types need more care than others, so read up on the breed or consult with a professional groomer on what kind of care your puppy’s coat needs. Short-haired dogs do not need as much care as long-coated dogs, but you can still acquaint your new puppy with the grooming procedure. That baby Shih Tzu, Poodle or Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier may look like a cute, fuzzy little ball of fur, but he won’t stay a puppy for long. These puppies soon grow the long coat that gives their breeds their distinctive look. Even mixed breeds with long- or curly-coated dogs in their backgrounds will need coat care, so it is always best to start the training early. If the puppy is not accepting of grooming, his coat may become tangled and matted, and the groomer may have difficulty making the dog look nice. Ungroomed coat can also hide issues like parasites and skin problems.

Choosing Grooming Tools
It’s good to introduce the puppy to grooming tools at a young age. Consulting with a professional groomer will help you select the proper grooming equipment for your pet. There are different brushes for different coats, and it is important to select the correct brush or comb for the job.

1. Short bristle brushes work well on short-coated dogs, like Beagles and Chihuahuas, as these remove dead hair and dirt while keeping the natural oils of the coat well distributed. Medium-coated dogs, like Golden Retrievers, or long-coated dogs, like Poodles or Maltese, may require several different pieces of grooming equipment in order to keep their coats neat and tangle-free. Soft bristle brushes will not do the job on a long coat, as they will just brush the top hair and will not get down to the skin and separate each hair.

2. Brushes that work well for long coats are often called “slickers” and are composed of many small pins that are spaced closely together. These can be found in varying degrees of “stiffness.” I recommend a gentle, or soft, slicker for your puppy. You can progress to a stiffer brush as the dog grows older and the coat matures.

3. A metal comb is a very handy addition. Try to get one with wide spacing on one side and narrow on the other side. These combs do a good job of making sure all of the dog’s hairs are separated and not matting together.

4. While shopping, pick up a bottle of conditioning spray. These sprays can be used for short- and medium-coated dogs to give shine to the coat, and they are very useful in keeping long coats tangle-free.

5. If you are planning on giving your new puppy a bath, now is a good time to get a recommendation for the right kind of shampoo. Avoid using human shampoos, as the pH value is different than dogs and may result in dry skin and coat. There are tearless puppy shampoos available that are gentle and non-irritating in the event you get some into their eyes.

6. Long-coated dogs will need some kind of conditioner to help keep their hair tangle-free.

7. If you plan on attempting to trim your puppy’s nails, shop for a nail trimmer at this time, too.

Getting Down To Grooming
Now that you have all of your grooming equipment, let’s get everything ready to start working with your puppy. I like to have all my tools close at hand as I never want to step away from a dog to retrieve a tool. While working on the floor or your lap may seem like fun, it is better for the puppy and easier for you to work on a surface that is waist high, like a grooming table or the top of your washing machine. Of course, this may be cumbersome for a larger breed dog, but try to make it as comfortable for yourself as possible. Have a slip-proof mat, like a bath mat, available for the puppy to stand on. They must have good footing and not slip, or they may become fearful of the grooming procedure.

With a reassuring voice, gently run the brush over the puppy’s head, neck, body, legs and tail. Longer-coated dogs may need a bit of pressure on the brush, but you want to make sure the brush passes through the hair, not over it, or you will miss any mats or tangles. Sometimes puppies may initially object to the procedure by nipping at the brush or pulling away. Do not let the little devils get away with this, as they may be testing you. Continue to work, giving positive verbal reassurance and treats. This brushing and training should be part of your daily routine. You brush your own hair daily, don’t you? What makes your dog any less deserving?

Work with your professional groomer in the training of your puppy. The groomer wants a well-behaved puppy to grow into a well-behaved adult dog who will remain a client for a long time. They are happy to help with the process. But you, the owner, have to work with your puppy at home and bring him into the groomer at a relatively young age. With gentle, but firm, handling and positive reinforcement, a puppy can be shown that the brushing and combing process can be enjoyable. This also helps keep the coats of short- and medium-haired dogs clean and dirt free. Regular brushing keeps shedding to a minimum and helps keep long coats tangle free and looking great. Your professional groomer, and your puppy, will thank you for taking the time to teach your puppy that grooming can be enjoyable!

Article Categories:
Dogs · Grooming · Health and Care · Puppies