Touch, sight, sounds, and smells, and tastes – the basic five senses that we’re all familiar with is a fundamental place to start.
Before we put all of our attention on the pup, let’s get ourselves in check. You should exude a calm, confident, and nonchalant demeanor throughout any level of training. This will promote an overall relaxing and welcoming environment conducive to learning.
If your pet reacts negatively, avoid coddling, and use an easy tone to point out that everything is all good. “No worries, little friend. We got this. You hear this noise? Good dude! Yeah, good job! What a funny noise!” Comfortable is the tone here. If you are uncomfortable, your pet will pick up on this. Be confident! Encourage the same for your babe!
Bring your best zen vibes, be ready to hype up your little dude, and know when to walk away to reset yourself or the situation. You got this, human!
Your goal here is to spend increasing increments of time dedicated to introducing your pet to the grooming process that will be so necessary for his well being throughout his entire life. This should be a tedious, focused, and FUN learning experience for everyone!
When should you do this? And for how long? Any time! Really. Make any amount of “down time” into real quality time by putting these efforts below into practice. Knock it out while on a Netflix binge. Or schedule specific blocks of time, maybe after a walk when the babe is a little pooped. As long as everyone is enjoying themselves, you can do this any time. But again, increments of time are important here. For starters, maybe do 5 minutes; for quick learners that are hungry to please, you may end up spending 20-30 minutes per session. You’ll find what works.
Now, on to the senses.
Beginning with touch, you can spark engagement and nourish a trusting relationship simply by petting your dog. While you put your dog at ease with pets and pats, this act also simultaneously introduces the idea of where the grooming tools will be operated – which is probably everywhere on his little body depending on the coat he carries!
Important focal points will vary depending upon the mix or breed features. Got a beard that will likely need trimming? Got furry feet? Massive undercoat? Focus there. Don’t forget in between the toes!
Sight and Smell
Now let’s introduce the grooming tools without using them. For instance, just lay each item out on the floor. Start with brushes as they are relatively safe. Reward when they sniff around them or show any interest. Heck, leave them out all day so their presence seems normal. Visit the area occasionally to pick up an item and show your own interest. Once he seems familiar, or exhibits curiosity without fear, lightly use the back side in a brushing motion down his back. Use lots of praise and make it a happy activity! Do this with each tool and the respective part of his body, his face and feet especially.
The buzz of clippers, the hum of a dremmel or automatic nail file, the quick snippy noise of nail clippers, the blast of blow dryers – whew, here we go! Be ready to give the highest praise or use your best treats. Our goal is to desensitize and eliminate big reactions to loud sounds.
Without using the tools on your pet’s body, turn on one tool that needs power to function. If you can safely prop it somewhere it cannot fall or break, that is preferrable. We are just introducing the noise. Spend time just here and let your pet become comfortable with the new sensation.
If you are working with the blow dryer, do not use any heat. If you are working with clippers or another sharp object, please either use a cover or exhibit extreme caution.
If, and only if, your pet is not fussed by the noise, you can move onto holding the tool. If all parties are then comfortable and your pet even seems curious, you can begin to bring it closer. Point whichever tool in the opposite direction as it would actually be used and let the noise fill the area as you casually go about petting and encouraging your little one. Act as if nothing has changed. Starting near your pet’s tail or rear is likely a more welcoming introduction than a straight blow dryer breeze to the face.
High level: do a run of all your basic training commands while the blow dryer is on! Whaaat, y’all are pros.