If you have an aggressive dog it can make a variety of routine tasks very difficult, such as grooming. Here, our Eastham vets talk about the reasoning behind your dog becoming aggressive during grooming and ways that you can help your dog feel more relaxed during the process.
Why Dogs Are Aggressive
Many dogs show aggressive behavior that can become a problem for their owners and families. While almost all wild animals are aggressive by instinct when guarding their territories, defending themselves or protecting their young, when animals are adopted as pets it's important to address any aggressive behavior with training.
Aggression can involve many behaviors that can lead to attacks and injuries (including dog bites when grooming).
Signs of aggression in dogs include:
- Threatening growl or bark
- Remaining still and not obeying an owner's or carer's instructions
- Growling when the dog's wishes aren't followed
- Snarling (baring teeth when growling)
- Mouthing a person against his or her wishes in an effort to exert control
- A quick bite that leaves a mark, bruise or puncture in or on the skin
- Quick succession of bites
- Biting followed by shaking
In aggressive dogs, any of these symptoms may appear exclusively or in combination.
What Issues Come With Aggression in Dogs?
Dealing with aggressive dogs during grooming sessions takes extra care, caution and training to keep both your pooch and the groomer safe (whether you choose to groom your dog yourself or make an appointment with our professional groomers at Eastham Veterinary Hospital).
An aggressive dog may bite or show other aggressive behaviors during grooming sessions for numerous reasons - whether they are feeling anxious, fearful, confused or have had previous bad experiences while being groomed.
If your pup has had previous poor experiences while being groomed, they may act extremely defensive the next time they enter a grooming space. The dog may attempt to bite anyone who approaches or tries to touch them.
Ensuring Success While Grooming an Aggressive Dog
Since your canine friend will need to be groomed regularly, you'll need to train your dog to tolerate grooming. Our groomers recommend keeping these tips in mind and building trust with your pup when it's time to bathe and groom your dog. The less stress any pet is put under, the more calm and cooperative they will be.
Begin when your dog is still a puppy.
Introducing your dog to being groomed (and being taken to a groomer) as a puppy will save a lot of anxiety and stress down the road. Puppies enjoy having new experiences and are open to being socialized and learning. This makes it easier to train them to tolerate regular grooming. While it's not impossible to groom an older dog with prior poor experiences, you'll just need to invest more time and patience in training.
Positive reinforcement will yield better results.
Positive reinforcement plays a role in training and can be a staple in grooming as well. Giving a treat before visiting the groomers (or before an at-home grooming session) may help keep them calm. You may want to give another treat for sitting patiently during their bath and grooming.
Allow your dog the opportunity to adjust to the process in their own time.
Until your dog is completely comfortable with being groomed, keep sessions short and make an effort to introduce groomers, grooming equipment and new procedures, allowing your pup time to become familiar and comfortable with them. Let your pooch sniff the grooming area for a while before settling in, following up with praise and a reward.
Once your dog is able to understand the groomer and the equipment isn't intended to hurt them, grooming will go smoother for everyone.
Ensure that you always follow all possible safety measures.
Some aggressive dogs may not calm down during grooming sessions despite your best efforts. However, they'll still need to be groomed. Some solutions may include special anxiety-reducing jackets (during nail trims), organic and all-natural medications or muzzles. Speak to your vet about which option(s) will be best for your dog, and consult your vet about any medications you're thinking of using before administering them to your pup.
If you choose to have our professional groomers in Eastham do the job for you, rest assured that we have the knowledge and experience needed to groom all types of dog coats and work with animals of a wide range of temperaments, including those that are stressed, anxious or aggravated.
In circumstances where an animal is especially aggressive or fearful, we may recommend sedation during a grooming session. However, most of the time we are able to manage these types of dogs by doing the things listed above, and taking the following steps:
- Ensuring the environment is quiet, calm and peaceful
- Asking your dog to perform an easy trick or action (such as 'sit' or 'shake paw')
- Offering treats
- Taking frequent breaks
- Playing music or opening a window.
At Eastham Veterinary Hospital, we always look forward to meeting your four-legged friends and providing advice to help keep your dog happy and healthy. Alternatively, we'd love to take the job of grooming off your hands to get this important task done right, with minimal fuss.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.