Dog Vs. Groomer: When Your Pet Hates Getting Haircuts

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Make It Better about how much my Maltese-Shiatsu Jefe hates my husband Dan.


But there’s one person in the world Jefe hates more than Dan – the dog groomer.

In the 7 years we’ve had Jefe, he’s been banned from two grooming establishments because he snips, snarls and bites so much while getting washed and trimmed. One groomer said he “feared for the dog’s safety and the safety of his staff.” On another occasion, Jefe freaked out so much that he got a nosebleed.

All this makes Jefe sound like a bad guy, but he was likely abused horribly before we got him. Something about the clippers, water and a stranger being so close to him just makes him snap.

Jefe’s not the only dog who would prefer to look more like a hippie than a marine. Several people I work with have dogs that also react violently when getting professionally groomed. One coworker has immersed herself if YouTube instructional videos on how to groom a dog at home so that she doesn’t have to bring him to a salon anymore.

So I decided to ask Jefe’s groomer for the last two years, Amanda Cascallares from The Barking Lot, for some advice about what to do with pooches who hate getting prettied up:

Get the dog used to grooming when he’s still a puppy.
Some dogs like Jefe are too old to learn to a new trick. But if your dog is still young, bring him to the groomer often so that he doesn’t grow up fearing the process. “Even if a puppy doesn’t need a haircut, bring him in for a toenail clipping and a wash,” Cascallares says. “That way he’ll get used to the noise and the smells.”

Stick with the same groomer.
It took me years to find a groomer like Cascallares (I tip her big for her troubles). Once you find a groomer who will handle your dog, don’t switch. “Each groomer has his or her own technique,” Cascallares says. “The dog gets to know it and groomer over time. Whenever you switch groomers, you switch techniques.”

Avoid doggie downers.
Sometimes, I want to take a Xanax when I pick Jefe up from Cascallares because I’m so worried about the report I’ll get. I have thought about giving Jefe a sedative, too. But Cascallares doesn’t think walking a dog down Pharmaceutical Parkway is a good idea. “Sedatives shorten their lifespan,” she says. “There are some holistic products you can spray in a dog’s mouth to calm him down though.” While the Barking Lot doesn’t carry such products, they are available at pet stores. If the dog is vicious, however, a sedative from the vet may be in order.

Make sure the groomer knows your dog’s trigger points.
Jefe is usually at the groomer for about four to eight hours. During those long hours, Cascallares gets to know what sets him off. “Jefe hates when I groom his face,” she says. “Other dogs don’t like when I get close to their toenails. Once I know what a dog doesn’t like, I know to go slow around those areas.”

Brush your dog’s hair at home.
“Combing or brushing the dog at home is key,” Cascallares says. “Do it while you watch TV, then give him a treat afterwards.” The more you brush, the more comfortable the dog will be with the grooming process when he goes in.

Jefe (and his groomer) survived his last haircut. Here’s hoping she’ll still talk to me the next time I bring him in!

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