• Beth Sayer

Introducing your puppy to grooming

When bringing home your new family member there will be a list of things you know that are involved every day in looking after your new little companion: feeding, walking and socialising them to name a few. Grooming also falls under this list. It’s very important to introduce your puppy from a young age to grooming as this will instil them with the confidence they need to be groomed with when they become an adult. I always recommend you start introducing grooming to your puppy about a week after you bring them home so they have time to get used to their new surroundings, using a slicker brush and comb or a rubber curry brush depending on the breed or coat type. Your puppy’s breeder should have already been introducing the tools to your puppy before they come to live with you so they will have some experience with being groomed and handled beforehand. Your breeder should also be able to provide you with information on coat care upon collecting your puppy. Poodles usually have their faces and paws shaved by their breeders before leaving to their forever homes to help start the introduction to grooming.

So how do we go about introducing grooming to our puppy I hear you ask?

Well before you introduce grooming, it’s a good idea to have a small play session with puppy and make sure they have been to toilet before beginning. This will help them relax and improve their concentration. Make sure you have plenty of treats to hand and toys to keep them occupied as some puppies often find grooming boring and may try to wiggle away from you. A very good tip I was told from my dog trainer is to use treats you wouldn’t normally use such as little pieces of cheese or cocktail sausage as they will find this more rewarding than the treats they usually have every day. A clicker is another very good tool to have as it helps speed up the learning process- click your clicker whenever your puppy has carried out an act that you desire eg sitting when told to sit. This applies when puppy is calm and relaxed during grooming with no fidgeting or biting. They will associate the click with getting a reward/ treat so they will know they have carried out what you have asked of them.

Find an area where you would like to groom your puppy that is safe and comfortable for you both. You could buy a second hand grooming table online with the correct safety restraints if you feel it would be easier. You can spray some calming spray and put on some calm music while grooming puppy to help calm and settle them. Let puppy see and sniff your tools before you begin, using lots of praise and treats when they respond positively to the tools, slowly introducing them. Again you would need to slowly introduce puppy to being on the table starting with small 5 minute sessions and always make sure you have another person with you supporting puppy from the other side until you feel puppy is older and confident enough on the table.

Begin on an area where your puppy is likely to be less sensitive such as their sides, tummy and chest. I personally like to start near the backend and work my way slowly towards the front but all puppies are different with what they will tolerate. Gently let the brush go over puppy’s body, applying very little pressure to allow them to adjust to the feel of the brush. Remember to treat and praise as you go!

Try to limit grooming sessions to 5 minutes a day to start with until your puppy is comfortable then you can begin to gradually increase the time you spend grooming them. If you try to rush or go to fast with teaching your puppy you could end up frightening your puppy and making them unconfident with grooming so try to find a pace that is best for both you and puppy. An unconfident puppy which wiggles and bites can be a groomer’s worst nightmare, especially as they become an adult and are a lot bigger and stronger to control, it will become impossible to create a decent haircut, if one at all. Try not to spend too long grooming one area; not only will your puppy become bored easily but you can also cause irritation to the skin with your brush.

Once your puppy has nailed the art of being brushed without a fuss, you can begin to include commands. I’ve taught my own dog, Fizz, that Lift means to lift one of her front legs so I can brush under her armpits and her leg hair (I also point to the leg I want or I use the commands Left and Right so she knows which leg I require). I have also taught her to roll over onto her back so I can get to her tummy. This will further tighten the bond between you both as puppies and dogs in general love to learn commands, it is classed as a form of mental stimulation which can satisfy them more than physical exercise.

Grooming your puppy at home isn’t just about brushing their coat. It also involves handling your puppy which is very important for everyday life as they will continuously be introduced to strangers and young children who will want to pet your puppy as well veterinarians and groomers who will need to handle your puppy without issue. You can also clean your puppy’s ears and eyes too during your brushing sessions. Only clean the eyes if there is a build up of gunk. Using a separate piece of clean cotton wool or a cotton pad which has been dampened with luke warm water, gently sweep the pad across puppy’s eye to remove any gunk. Replace with a new clean dry piece and gently sweep across the eye so it is dry. Repeat with the other eye. For the ears, only clean them if you can see there is wax build up on the inside of the ear flaps. You can use any ear cleaning solution made for dogs but my personal choice is Paw Naturel’s as it is natural and fragrance free. A few splashes on a clean dry cotton pad and gently sweep across the pad and grooves by the entrance of the ear (do not dig too deep as you can injure your puppy). Use a clean fresh pad for the other ear and repeat. Remember to allow your puppy to sniff each piece before use. Sniffing is very important to your puppy as this is how they gain information on a situation and the environment.

You can bathe your puppy too so long as it’s not too often as bathing will strip their coat of natural oils. I recommend only a full bath once a month however you can still rinse them off after a muddy walk. Always make sure you thoroughly towel dry your puppy after washing them so they do not become too cold, especially during winter months. Make sure to brush the coat afterwards to prevent the coat from matting. If you are drying your hair with a hair dryer, make sure puppy is in the same room so they can adjust to the noise as larger dryers will be used at a salon. Getting them used to the vacuum cleaner will also be a big help as the noise is very similar to a salon dryer. Remember to use lots of praise and treats to help them associate these situations with being a positive experience.

About a week after your puppy has had their final puppy vaccinations, they will be ready for their very first visit to the grooming salon! This will be around when they are 12-14 weeks of age. If you wait until your puppy is 6+ months of age to bring them to the salon for its first cut, it can be quite a challenge to teach puppy to enjoy grooming and it could be very traumatic for them. There is a lot for them to take in with a grooming session at a salon- a strange person in an unfamiliar environment, having water on them, noisy dryers and noisy clippers vibrating on them, having shiny scissors snipping close to their eyes and ears, tickling their paws and noisy nail clippers to name a few.

Always remember that your puppy is just that- a puppy, it relies on its owner to teach it that grooming is a pleasant and positive experience. It won’t understand straight away that they need to stay still or not bite or scratch so don’t expect a groomer to be able to carry out the perfect cut straight away! Grooming your puppy at home should be a pleasant bonding experience between you both and shouldn’t be viewed as a chore. It is a necessity to help keep your pup’s coat in perfect condition with no knots or matting, removing loose hair so the skin can breathe and regulate your pup’s body temperature as well as helping you to regularly check your puppy for any abnormalities or parasites. If ever you feel stuck with grooming your pup, feel free to give me a call!

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