With patience, understanding – and using our 5 tips below – you can keep a pet calm during a grooming session and make it a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Pet groomers fill a vital need in the lives of animals, keeping dogs, cats, and other companions clean, removing excess fur from their coats, and trimming their claws. The care and attention contributes to socializing animals, helping them create healthier bonds with the world around them.
Despite its benefits, however, grooming can be incredibly stressful as the pet finds itself in a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar humans, and inundated with sights and sounds that aren’t part of its normal environment. That’s why it’s a good idea to be proactive about keeping the pets in your care reassured, comforted, and calmed throughout their grooming session.
Breaking the Instinct Barrier
Domesticated animals, including dogs and cats, have been trained and socialized to be our companions over generations, but the instincts that kept their ancestors alive are still very much there. In stressful situations and unfamiliar environments, you’ll need to work against these instincts to keep your four-legged client calm.
1. Use Calm Tones and Slow Movements
Make sure you’re putting the animal at ease from the moment it’s walked in the door. Greet the owner and pet cheerfully, making sure you’re in front of both of them and within their line of sight. Use calm, positive tones and confident body language to help communicate there’s nothing to worry about.
Before petting the animal or taking their leash, offer the back of your hand for them to sniff, allowing them to meet you and keeping your movements smooth, gentle, and non-threatening.
Animals are naturally curious, and satisfied curiosity can be reassuring. Before using any new piece of equipment–from the pet grooming hose to the clippers or nail grinder–offer it for inspection. Once the equipment is switched on, allow a moment for them to get used to the new sound before putting it to use.
Likewise, letting them inspect equipment like clippers after you’ve used them can help reinforce the positive experience and set the groundwork for a more comfortable grooming session the next time they visit.
Take small breaks during grooming sessions to give animals a chance to relax. This can be especially important for long-haired animals and those with thick undercoats.
Take short breaks to praise them, talk to them, pet them gently, and even play some. This helps get them ready to be still and attentive as you get back to work. If the animal is pulling away or becoming over-agitated, don’t be afraid to take them to a kennel or quiet waiting area where they can relax away from sources of overstimulation before resuming the grooming session later.
Dogs and cats are very food-motivated. Training treats can be a good way to distract nervous animals, reward calm and well-behaved ones, or capture the attention of energetic grooming clients.
Keep a variety of flavors and textures on hand to suit every interest, and make sure you’re checking with owners about food preferences on drop-off.
For extremely nervous dogs and cats, you may need some teamwork from their owner to keep their grooming sessions calm. Familiar sounds, a favorite toy, or a blanket that smells like home in their kennel can help them feel more relaxed and secure while reducing feelings of abandonment.
Just remember that anything that gets dropped off with the pet needs to return with them so it can be used again next time to create their comfort zone.
Grooming is part of keeping companion animals happier, healthier, and better socialized. Keeping them calm during the process helps you work more efficiently, builds better bonds with the animals in your care, and improves your reputation among the pet owners in your community.
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