How to make grooming a positive experience for your dog

Trips to the grooming salon don’t have to be stressful. These tips will help ensure your dog stays calm and collected so he can come out feeling as well as looking his best!

Depending on your dog’s coat type and length, he probably needs to go to the grooming salon now and then. But if he’s easily stressed, it may not be a very pleasant experience for him — or for you and the groomer. Luckily, there are ways to take the tension out of groomer visits, and with patience and persistence, the day should come when he’ll be uber-cool with his appointments.

To start, while we all love our dogs and want to treat them like furry children, we must remember they are a different species and have different psychological needs than we do. Dogs look to their humans for guidance and leadership, so your reactions to various situations count. If you’re calm and collected, chances are good your dog will pick up on this and behave accordingly. Of course, this is just the first step to a positive grooming experience. Follow the tips below to ensure your dog’s visit is as stress-free as possible:

1. Choose the right groomer

Is the salon cage-free, where dogs have access to each other, or are they kenneled for their safety? Does the groomer offer one-on-one appointments to limit time spent at the salon, or does she take more than one dog at a time? Once you’ve asked some preliminary questions, visit the groomer and check out the salon. Is the groomer receptive and informative? Is the salon clean and presentable?

Is the groomer receptive and informative? Is the salon clean and presentable?

2. Exercise your dog before his appointment

If your dog is high energy, it is always a good idea to use up some of that energy before a grooming appointment. A structured walk allows the dog to eliminate as well as establish a positive state of mind before heading to the grooming table.

3. Remain calm throughout

Dogs are very perceptive. If you are anxious when bringing your dog to the groomer, you will project those feelings to him. Walk confidently, with purpose, and limit your conversation with him.

If you are anxious when bringing your dog to the groomer, you will project those feelings to him.

4. Don’t reward unwanted behaviors

If your dog starts to exhibit signs of stress or anxiety, don’t reinforce that elevated energy state with treats or physical rewards. Ignore any behavior that is not contributing to the dog’s well-being, and offer affection only when he calm.

5. Practice at home

Sometimes, dogs have an aversion to certain aspects of the grooming process – blow drying, bathing, nail clipping, brushing, etc. You can try desensitizing your dog at home by repeating the problem task in a comfortable environment. Just remember, the goal is to have your dog accept the process, so you must be diligent!

6. Try essential oils

It is important to keep your dog from getting overexcited even before you arrive at the groomer’s. Using essential oils in the car on the way to the appointment can help keep him relaxed. Be sure to choose high grade therapeutic oils – lavender is a good choice for calming.

7. Schedule regular appointments

Any groomer will tell you that dogs who visit the salon frequently are easier to work with. This is because the dog and groomer build trust, and the dog knows the routine and what to expect. Taking your dog to be groomed more also often means he is less likely to become matted, have overgrown toenails, excessive ear hair, etc., which means the process is not as invasive or unpleasant.

8. Last but not least, talk to your groomer

It’s okay to express any concerns about your dog. Your groomer is the professional, and can often offer suggestions on what will help make your four-legged friend more comfortable while he’s getting his makeover.

Why does my dog dislike grooming?

Many dogs love the attention they receive at the grooming salon. But grooming is invasive, and some dogs can become overwhelmed by all the smells, sounds, sensations, unfamiliar people and other animals in the grooming environment.

If your dog consistently reacts negatively to being brushed, combed, clipped or handled, he may never truly enjoy grooming. But don’t fret. If you have a professional groomer you trust, there’s no need to worry when you drop him off. As long as your dog is being cared for in a safe and loving manner, he’ll eventually learn to tolerate the process every six to eight weeks!

Troubleshooting tip #1: If your dog is showing signs of aggression while being groomed, it is best to consult an experienced trainer or animal behaviorist before proceeding with a grooming program.

Troubleshooting tip #2: Talk to your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s health during the grooming process, so you can rule out any physical reasons for his objection to grooming.


Becki Selby owns a busy grooming salon in Peterborough, Ontario and serves as a sales consultant for an all-natural pet health company. She has worked with animals since 2000 in a variety of capacities, including veterinary assistant, pet food retailer, and pet store manager. Becki has been involved with conformation dog shows and has worked with dog trainers. Her passion is advocating for animal health and welfare.