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How to Groom an Aggressive Dog

How to Groom an Aggressive Dog

Aggression is a common behavior that is shown in many dogs during a grooming session. Our Carrollton vets are here to give you some tips to help your dog with their aggression toward being groomed.

What's The Problem With Grooming Aggressive Dogs?

An aggressive dog could bite or exhibit other disruptive behavior during grooming. This could be due to various reasons- anxiety, fear, confusion, or bad previous experiences while being groomed.

If your dog had a bad previous experience with groomers, they may become extra defensive the next time they enter a grooming salon. The dog could bite anyone who approaches or tries to touch it.

Signs of Aggression in Dogs

 Aggression covers a variety of behaviors and can lead to an attack if not handled properly. Signs of aggression in dogs are:

  • Fierce bark that sounds threatening
  • Becoming still and not obeying the owner’s instructions
  • Mouthing a person, against his/her wishes, in a move to control him/her
  • Baring teeth and growling, otherwise referred to as snarling
  • Growling when things do not go according to the dog’s wishes
  • A quick bite that leaves a mark on or tears the skin
  • A bite that causes a bruise or wound
  • Quick succession of bites
  • Biting followed by shaking

Aggressive dogs can display any one of these symptoms or many of these behaviors simultaneously.

Recognizing Grooming Anxiety

Our dogs can't tell us what they're feeling, as a pet owner it is important to be able to recognize the signs that your dog is anxious or uncomfortable with a situation. Sometimes we view anxiety in dogs as aggression, so it's important to understand the difference. 

Some signs of anxiety include:  

  • Rapid breathing
  • Panting
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Hiding 
  • Aggressive behavior 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How To Groom An Aggressive Dog

Since grooming is a necessary part of keeping a pet dog, you want to train your canine companion so that they can tolerate grooming. Experienced groomers know that the less stress a pet is in, the more cooperative and calm they will be.

Desensitize them to the feeling of being groomed

Grooming often includes handling sensitive areas, including the muzzle, eyes, ears, paws, tail, rear, and groin. Desensitization can help your dog remain relaxed with different types of touching. Try working with your dog at home to get them used to being handled before you take him to the groomer and reward your dog with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue. If your dog is sensitive in areas like the ear or paws, start by touching them on an area where it’s less sensitive, like the shoulder, and gradually move toward the paw with a gentle touch. Reward your dog with a treat during or immediately after giving the cue and handling the area. Continue training only while your dog is calm, relaxed, and receptive.

Make the groomer a happy place

Ask your groomer if it’s possible to do a training visit without any grooming being done. Instead, pair being in the parking lot or lobby with events your dog likes, such as play, treat training, or going on a walk. Use the visit to accustom your dog to the sights and sounds of the groomer, including the noise of clippers or dryers, and to practice being lifted on and off the grooming table. Be sure to follow up with lots of treats, so that your dog learns to associate the groomers with good things.

Consider muzzle training

A muzzle can make grooming easier and safer for your dog and for the groomer, especially if your dog is already difficult to handle. Muzzle training can reduce the need for other types of restraint and can protect your pet against the implications of a bite. Train your dog to willingly put his nose into the muzzle by smearing a soft treat, like peanut butter, on the inside or use a basket muzzle with small openings; this allows the dog to take treats while wearing the muzzle, which can also help keep the dog calm. These strategies may not work for every dog.

If training is failing to make a dent in your dog’s anxiety levels, or if your dog is reacting aggressively to any attempts to groom him, seek your veterinarian’s guidance about professional training. Talk to your veterinarian as well about possible medication options to help manage your dog’s grooming anxiety.

Does My Dog Need To Be Sedated?

If you own an unpredictable dog, you may be wondering what sedatives you can give him to make him feel better while being groomed. A lot of careful considerations are needed before deciding to go this route, as there are several options.

You should ask yourself the following questions before asking your vet for sedatives:

  • Has your dog always been this way, or is this a new behavior that needs to be addressed
  • Have you tried different groomers
  • Have you tried grooming your dog yourself
  • Has your dog ever exhibited aggressive displays when being groomed
  • Does your dog get incredibly anxious

Generally, sedatives should be used as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. They should be used in cases where the dog is affected by severe anxiety that doesn't respond to behavior modification or when there are risks for defensive biting.

If you have already tried several options and find that your dog undeniably needs sedatives, then you will need to see your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for the most appropriate medication to calm your dog for grooming. 

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.

Is your dog showing signs of aggression when being groomed? Contact our Carrollton vets to make sure there are no underlying medical issues or to discuss some strategies to help them calm down.

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