All good dog owners know that grooming isn’t just about primping your pet to look cute; it’s also about maintaining good health.
The first time you groom your puppy is an important occasion that requires careful preparation and dedication. Don’t be put off by your inexperience; it’s easy to do once you know how. If you approach the situation armed with good advice and confidence, all will go smoothly for you and your furry friend.
Puppies are obviously going to be more challenging to groom than an older dog, and the first grooming experience is much like a child’s first haircut, i.e. expect some tears and tantrums!
In the weeks before grooming, concentrate on building a positive relationship with your puppy and ensure he is as comfortable as possible with touch and being handled in anyway. This is probably the most important thing you can do to prepare for grooming. Your aim is to make each session a calming, bonding experience.
You can practice this with positive reinforcement whenever you feed your puppy from your hand; stroke your puppy as it is lying down and gradually teach that being held by you is not dangerous.
Create a friendly environment so that your puppy immediately knows that whatever is about to happen is safe and enjoyable. Show affection with petting and soothing words so that the puppy is relaxed.
Keep your first groom session short, that way the puppy won’t misbehave and when you are ready for a second session, your puppy will be more used to the process and you can gradually go for longer each time.
Keep your puppy loosely restrained so that you can maintain your control without frightening him is also important.
Begin with a nice, relaxing bath using puppy shampoo and conditioner. Take care not to get soap in the puppy’s eyes. To really put your dog at ease, you can give it a massage as you work your way lathering down the back towards the tail and back legs.
For the first session keep the brushing to a minimum. Be aware that any brushes, clippers and tools might alarm the puppy so show each brush or comb to the pup first before giving a treat as a reward. Do this a few times before then giving the puppy a few short strokes with the item. Be mindful of sensitive areas at first like inner legs and tail.
Remember that clipping your dog’s claws is not the same as trimming your own nails. Cut at a 45-degree angle so as to avoid trimming the blood vessel that runs into the nail (which will be a painful experience for your dog if it gets cut by mistake!). You need to only cut the part of the nail that extends beyond this blood vessel known as a ‘quick.’
If unsure about clipping claws you should seek advice from a vet beforehand.
Grooming sessions at first should be short but done fairly often so that your puppy becomes accustomed to them and learns to associate them as just another fun activity to share with you.