Grooming is an Excellent Opportunity to Bond with Your Dog

    • Grooming builds a special bond with your dog, but Myself,

Ryan Matthews

    • has found that a lot of pet owners lose out on opportunities to connect and bond further with their dogs. Owners often take their pet to the groomer where they are cleaned and have their nails cut by a third party. In doing this, an owner is missing the opportunity to build more trust with their dog. Groomers are going to work through the bathing process quickly because they have other dogs waiting, rather than take the time to patiently work with the dog, especially if it doesn’t enjoy that experience. An owner can connect with the dog, dispelling anxiety, or even discover how much the dog loves bathing, and make it an even more relaxing experience. Be sure not to miss out on increasing your bond with your dog by grooming her.

A full grooming job can include bathing, trimming nails and cutting the hair. Begin by learning to bathe the dog and work up to trimming the nails. Cutting hair can require special skills and I’m not asserting that you develop such abilities, but the bathing of a dog can be needed much more often than a haircut.

Myself Ryan Matthews as a dog trainer struggled with bathing my own dogs, but I find their boundaries and work around them. Some dogs may freak out when you turn on the water, when it touches their paws, or when you lather with soap. When you find the trigger, stay before it; then gradually work to it until you can work through it. One thing that is instinctive is to talk soothingly to your dog if it is uncomfortable with bathing. Don’t approach any situation when a dog is stressed with too soft a heart because you will actually promote that state of mind. If you have a dog that doesn’t like the water hitting its back, for example, start the water and don’t get the dog wet right away. Instead, turn on the water, then pause and observe. If the dog is not OK with it, you will work through it by letting the water run on their paws and then pet the back, desensitizing the dog. You can scratch and massage the back as if you were lathering it with soap. I am not doing this as a reassurance, but to desensitize. Run the water higher up on the legs, gradually working up to the chest and on to the back after being given the opportunity to become accustomed to the water before it reaches its back.

You can also use rewards to help the dog work through its negative reaction to being bathed. For example, I have a dog that likes cheese, so I give him a little cheese continually as I move the water up the body. By the time the water reaches the back, he receives the “jackpot” of large amounts of the reward (cheese), so it is more interested in what it’s eating than the water on its back. With gradual exposure and reward, the dog can learn to tolerate things it is afraid of.

You may have a dog that isn’t driven by food as much as my dog. Many times, when a dog is extremely stressed, it won’t want food or toys. This is an opportunity to work just below that stressor, and as the dog displays some comfort, we work with it, pushing the envelope a little bit more. Spend time desensitizing, three to five times, such as working the water slowly up the dog as described before. Be sure the dog is reaching comfort levels before moving the water up. Also, the length of time is huge. Some dogs can tolerate a stressor for five seconds, but not up to thirty seconds. So use short repetitions, such as only exposing the dog’s back to water for brief five-second intervals.

People often have unreasonable expectations of their dogs, pushing the pet too much until it ultimately fails, such as leaving the water on the dog’s back for longer than it can remain comfortable. You need to stop the stressor while you are still impressed, not pushing until the dog fails. This is where most dog owners mess up. They get excited about a dog’s progress and expect it for longer than the dog is capable of maintaining.

Want to Become a Trainer?

Book a Discovery Call