My rescue dog won't tolerate grooming
(Q)I have a couple of issues with my rescue dog. He's three years old and I'm his third owner. He doesn't like being groomed and he's quite destructive. I want to give him a good life as I don't think he's had the best start and I'd really hate for him to end up back in a rescue home.
(A) Grooming expert Diana North says:
One new owner for each year of your dog's young life - it's no wonder that he isn't keen on being groomed. The guidance of a behaviourist might help, as he or she will be able to analyse his behaviour patterns and guide you, so you can alter these to an acceptable level.
Don't make the grooming a major issue by constantly trying and failing to win your dog round. Whatever form his resistance takes, he has learned to act in this way, so your task is to retrain him. Your dog's breed and background can dictate how he acts and how you should deal with him.
Try to find a sympathetic and experienced groomer who has the experience to deal with difficult dogs. If your dog is naughty for the groomer then they can organise a retraining programme, with the help and advice of a behaviourist.
Retraining will take time and patience on your part and the groomer's. A behaviour modification programme might mean your dog visiting the salon at regular intervals for short periods of time until he learns to accept grooming.
(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says:
Dogs who have been passed from home to home often miss out on the care and attention that they need and so they might have some behaviours that need attention.
Destructive behaviour in adult dogs can result from boredom, habit, or stress. To evaluate the likely cause in your dog you need to ensure he has several interesting items to play with and to chew on at all times. Whenever he shows interest in these give him praise.
What's he destroying? Random items being selected might indicate a search for entertainment, while areas around doorways, windows, or your belongings might more accurately suggest that he's stressed or worried. Does he chew when you're home as well as out? Dogs who have had several homes are more likely to have problems with being left alone, because they've experienced the loss of their packs previously and don't understand that you intend to come home. If you suspect he's anxious then try an ADAPTIL (formerly DAP) diffuser plugged in close to his resting area.
Tolerance to handling is often a measure of experience. Your dog might not have been groomed much before, or found it uncomfortable or stressful when he was. You will have to ensure that every attempt is as relaxed and stress-free as possible. You might have to introduce a muzzle and select a grooming tool that is very comfortable to start with, such as a rubber mitt.
Begin by getting your dog used to being touched all over his body. Praise and reward him for remaining relaxed. Run your fingertips through his hair and continue to offer rewards.
Let him see a brush sitting nearby or in your hand at mealtimes for a few days so he learns not to fear it. Move on to gently touching him with the brush as you reward him.
Build up the contact on the areas he tolerates best and make sure that you offer highly enticing rewards as you do. This process may take some time to achieve depending on your dog's history and temperament but patience and practice usually bring great results.