Puppies. We all love puppies, big ones, little ones, fluffy ones, and the cute little button nose ones but we all know that grooming them can be a little tricky especially when the little piranha teeth come out to play. I am going to talk to you about puppy desensitisation and why it is so important.
Puppies are a bit like toddlers. They need lots of desensitisation to new things, lots of positive praise and often a snack to make them happy during the grooming process. Come to think of it, snacks make me happy too! It’s important to start slow with puppies to build trust by getting down to their level and letting them come to you, once the trust is there the fun begins!
Once in the bath, it is important to use a very mild shampoo such asto ensure there are no harsh chemicals. This avoids stripping the coat of natural oils and is gentle on their delicate skin. A dog’s pH is very different to our pH so it is very important not to use human shampoo. Canine skin is more alkaline than human skin with dogs having a pH is around 7.5 compared to a human’s at around 5.5. This means human shampoo could cause skin irritation, especially with a puppy as their skin is even more delicate than an adult dog's skin.
Groom Professional EPO Spray
After towel drying, we are ready for the blow-dry to make your puppy feel puptastic! Start on a low velocity on the back thigh area and make sure you use lots of positive tones to reassure them throughout. Dog groomers get to see dogs up close and personal, so it is important puppies are used to being touched all over the body since we often notice health issues and lumps before the owners do. I usually use a conditioning spray in the coat whilst drying likewhich keeps the coat healthy, adds shine, and reduces static. Some puppies are a bit comb-phobic so this can also help the comb glide through easier.
Puppy grooming tips
When you are combing you should be able to see the skin clearly and get your comb right from the root of the hair all the way out to the ends, by ensuring this is done from a young age means they won’t get matted or be uncomfortable. Matts pull on the skin so it is very important to keep them knot-free. Many groomers offer a puppy package in which customers get a huge discount and 6 monthly visits to the salon before the puppy is 6 months old. The visits range from a playtime session to a full-blown bath and blow-dry. By doing this it creates a well-balanced and confident dog in the salon for the rest of their lives, and who doesn’t want a dog that loves coming to the groomer!? Setting in what you expect from them and desensitising them to the process from such a young age means the groom won’t be a ‘scary’ event and will just become something that they do in their day-to-day life. Normalising the groom is very important as they’re going to have to be groomed every 6 to 8 weeks for the next 10 to 15 years.
Whilst doing puppy sessions and even in day-to-day life, another very important thing to look out for is calming signals. Calming signals are behaviour that is displayed BEFORE the dog reacts to a stressful situation. By picking up on these early signals you can actually distract and divert the dog’s attention before they get to a negative point such as panicking or biting. Believe it or not, nipping/growling are some of the last signals that dogs show. Some calming signals before this include:
- Lip licking
- Head turn/Bow
- Ear flick
These are just a few signals puppies will often show during a groom, it’s very important to reassure them at this point rather than just ignoring it. I use diversion and distraction as positive reinforcement at the point they show any calming signals which makes it a positive experience for them and builds confidence.
It is essential to give pup parents homework to do themselves such as holding the face and feet, combing and touching the dog to help get them used to it.
I finish off the groom with someand a big cuddle!