Dogs are generally gentle creatures, but some are bred as protection dogs meant to protect you from those who want to harm you. For the most part, many dogs are gentle and otherwise docile. At least until they get stressed. There is a reason for the famous phrase "fight or flight." Many dogs are so well-bred and trained that it never occurs to bring out their teeth. But during grooming, dogs are around many new people, scary noises and getting grabbed and moved around. Dogs don't like it when they get their ears, paws, and legs touched by strangers. Your groomer is left with either a frightened doggy or, like a flip of a switch, a hardened and seasoned warrior ready for combat.
If your dog is sensitive with its paws or ears, it may nip at you too. So what can you do to stop your dog from getting stressed during grooming?
Love & Praise
Praising your dog or heaping lots of love on a stressed dog can help. But before you get too snuggly with your dog, check to see if it's in a nippy mood. You need to watch for dog body language and touch it gently away from its face to ensure it's not aggressive. You may want a professional to come in if it's nippy immediately. But if your dog isn't nipping when it's just near a bath or a brush, then you can start your doggy anxiety reduction process.
Praising your dog should cause it to get more excited rather than stressed. Calming your dog down means encouraging it to see what's going on as a good thing instead of horrifying. And treats provide a level of comfort in an otherwise confusing and overwhelming environment. So, if you can't seem to calm your dog during washing and grooming, consider using treats as an anti-anxiety tool.
Stop for a Minute
At the end of the day, grooming a dog with aggression problems might require patience. It might take several tries and days to get your dog feeling comfortable enough to be washed, especially around its face. Anytime you notice signs of stress, like licking its lips or teeth, you can take a break. Let your dog sit, and if it's in the bath, let it get used to the water and sensation of soap. We've written a lot about how stressful bath time is for dogs, but we will repeat that your dog is stressed. Frightened dogs can be aggressive dogs. To stop doggy aggression giving your dog the space to feel safe can prove effective.
You might even try praise and treats in conjunction with a pause. Allowing your dog extra time to process while giving it additional stimulus through treats gives it time to get used to it. If your dog’s aggression and aggressive behavior tendencies continue, you will need to be more intentional with your solution through training.
Your doggy won't learn from negative reinforcement. A bite returned with a gentle smack will just lead to another bite. However, dogs will learn from positive reinforcement. This can come in a lot of forms. Something as small as praising your doggy when it does something you want can lead to results even though it sounds ineffective.
The most effective training tactic available is to use positive reinforcement. This is why praise works so well. But there's another positive reinforcement trick that helps dogs understand what you want, treats! Treats are more than anti-stress aids or signs of love. They are also one of the most important tools during training.
Treat training is indistinguishable from magic. That might seem like an exaggeration, but the best trainers in history did incredible things using treats. A scientist once taught parrots how to play ping pong. We've trained dogs to do amazing things too! For example, some dogs have been trained to find people quickly during an avalanche. They can use their sniffers to find anyone, even if they're buried deep in the snow. Some dogs have even been trained to detect diabetes in their owners. While you're probably not training your dog to save lives anytime soon, you can help teach them to calm down during grooming.
When you think your dog has been doing a good job of not getting stressed, using treats will help significantly with repeated success!
A Calm Dog Is a Gentle Dog
Anyway, you can calm your dog down is going to help during grooming time. Your dog is not mad at you or the groomer. It's just confused and scared. When you wash, keeping an eye on your dog's body language will stop you from having a bad encounter with a nippy dog.
Treats, training, and patience can all significantly shift your ability to wash your dog. Treats help soothe your dog's agitation. Training and patience help ingrain a sustainable grooming habit. So, don't worry about getting your dog calm during grooming as fast as possible. Just give it the time it needs so both of you can rest easy during grooming