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Why are puppy grooming introduction sessions important? - Let's start to think like a puppy.


It can be daunting for a puppy coming to the grooming salon for the first time. They are confronted with a place they are unfamiliar with, different noises, smells, and a groomer they have never met before. In addition, they are left behind by their pet parent and for some puppies this could be the first time that they have been separated from their pet parents. All of these coupled together can be an overwhelming and scary time for a puppy.


Imagine if you were to be taken to a foreign country and had to go to hospital – you don’t speak the language, you’re in an unfamiliar place and they are prodding and poking you, but you don’t know what or why it’s happening – wouldn’t you be scared? And it’s the same for our puppies in the grooming environment.


Puppies pass through different life stages as they grow. They must assimilate many different things and learn at each stage and from this they form emotional and physical responses to situations they encounter.


If we take a look at the image below, What is multisensory Integration?, Barking Brains & Behaviour Vets (2021), we can see that the dogs brain has to process information from many sensory stimuli. When a puppy comes to the salon, they are bombarded with lots of information that they must process via their sensory inputs for example, the sounds of driers, showers, clippers, scissors and other dogs barking. They see their pet parent walk away not knowing if they are coming back, they see and feel scissors, brushes, combs, and clippers on their body, and a strange person (groomer). They may have restraints on them such as a neck noose or happy hoodie. During grooming we lift their legs affecting their balance and move them around the table. The puppy has no control over what is happening during the grooming process, they didn’t ask to be there, and if not handled correctly the puppy could view the grooming process negatively.

All of these sensory inputs are processed in the dog’s brain and feed into the dogs’ emotions and nervous system to determine how the dog is going to engage in their reaction, behaviour and how they feel.

Dogs share many common emotions to those of a human being such as fear, anxiety, stress. Their emotions are like those of a two-year-old child.


Dogs like humans have an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which consists of two parts the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) and the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). The PNS is like being on auto pilot it controls for example, walking and breathing the things that we take for granted and which happen automatically without thinking about it. The SNS kicks in when for example, feeling nervous, anxious or stressed. When a dog is in SNS they can take on the following behaviours: fight or flight mode, fooling around (licking or jumping up), freezing on the spot. When a dog is in SNS they are unable to take on new information, unable to learn they are unable to rationalise what is occurring. Their mind is overthinking and makes quick decisions and dogs are unable to process the information that they are faced with. Ideally, we do not want a dog to be in SNS when they are being groomed as it makes it dangerous for the dog and the groomer. Having a puppy in the salon in SNS would not be conducive to the dog being able to learn and associate positive experiences, instead it would more likely be associating what ever is happening as a negative experience. The result would be that its next visit to the groomers would be more stressful for the dog as it would already have a negative experience banked.


We can help puppies by introducing them to a positive grooming experience from an early age, so that they are able to form good memories and positive associations of the groomer and the grooming experience.


The majority of dogs have little or no control over the grooming process

we need to

change the balance of power and enable the dog to be a willing participant. Williamson (2021) Chapter 3 – How does it feel to be groomed? The mental and Emotional impact.


By providing a puppy introduction package, we can help to introduce the puppy in a slow and controlled manner to grooming, we can gain buy in from the pet parents on the approach and benefits of the puppy introduction sessions. Without the pet parent’s cooperation, it would be more difficult to achieve a successful outcome.


Observing the puppy when it first comes in for its session enables us to see how it is emotionally, physically and mentally and is essential in determining the best approach for introducing the puppy. Ensuring puppy remains as calm and stress free as possible, this should be built into any introduction package and monitored throughout.


When the puppy first visits, we allow the puppy to approach us in their own time ensuring that we don’t force unwanted contact on the puppy, allow them to be in control.

Providing a stress-free environment with calm/fun/play associations.


Only introducing equipment, bathing, sounds when the dog is ready to move on. This is so we don’t overload their senses. Allow puppy to have lots of breaks and enrichment activities so that puppy can have a break from the grooming process. We need them to be in learning mode for them to be able to process what they are experiencing in a positive manner.


Building on positive experiences with each subsequent visit until the puppy is confident and then we can progress to bathing, being on the table, having clippers on them to finally the end goal of a full groom. We need to work with the puppy at each session considering their needs in order to achieve a positive outcome for both the puppy and groomer and to gain the puppy’s trust.


Every puppy will react differently and so a tailored approach should be incorporated and discussed with the pet parent. It is essential that the pet parent works cooperatively with the groomer to ensure a successful grooming outcome for the puppy.


The collaboration between groomer and pet parent may extend into how they should be grooming their dog. Giving advice on things like best techniques for brushing, products or handling their puppy. Together this collaboration between groomer and pet parent can help their dogs adjust to the grooming process and helps form bonds between puppy and pet parent. It would not be of any use if the pet parent was forcing their puppy into grooming situations such as holding the puppy down to brush them and then bringing them to the grooming salon expecting their puppy to be ok with being groomed therefore collaboration is key.


Thanks for reading. I hope this helps pet parents and their little puppies to understand why we recommend puppy grooming sessions.


Written by Melanie @ Vanity Fur VIP

Copyright Vanity Fur VIP 2022 (C)


References

What is Multisensory Integration Image. Barking Brains & Behaviour Vets [Posted: 21 February 2021],

Available from:


Williamson, S. (2021) Taking the Grrr out of the grooming salon – techniques for a calmer grooming experience, Amazon, Great Britain.


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