One of the things we work on in my Puppy Preschool Classes is learning to tolerate and hopefully even enjoy handling and grooming. I wish we had more time to spend on it, and I am thinking about making some changes to my curriculum to incorporate more time for it.
Is it a struggle to give your dog a bath? To brush his coat? To trim her nails? To brush his teeth? To clean her ears? If it’s a struggle from the start, it will often become a bigger struggle as time goes on. Better to start early and make sure these grooming events are not a big deal. While some dogs will never love some of these activities, at the very least I want to make sure they tolerate them well.
How do we do this? By working in small increments. Don’t start with a full-fledged bath or trimming all of your dog’s nails. Start by getting your dog into the bathtub, shower, sink or wherever your dog will be bathed. Make it a pleasant and short-lived experience. You might have a little bit of water but don’t douse your dog. If trimming nails, first get your dog comfortable with the location and position you want her in. Then make sure she is tolerant of you touching her feet. You might have the nail clippers sitting out but you won’t use them yet.
Always start at a point at which your dog is comfortable and build from there. Associate the activity with something pleasant. You should do something first and then reward your puppy for tolerating it and even enjoying it. For example, if I am working toward trimming nails, I will tell my dog what I am going to do first, do it and then reward him for cooperating with me. I don’t treat him first and then try to cut a nail while he’s eating. He needs to earn the treat. Or I might have a rousing game of chase or tug right afterward.
Once your puppy is comfortable with you doing these things, remember to have others work up to doing these things as well. While your dog should be comfortable with you doing these things, remember that your dog will also need to be able to cooperate with your veterinarian and perhaps your groomer as well.
Taking the time to slowly acclimate your puppy to these activities will make life easier for you, for your vet, for your groomer or anyone else who needs to handle your dog. Putting the extra time in now will save you a lot of time in the long run.