It’s not unusual for dogs to find a bath, nail trim, or hair cut a bit unpleasant. The problem is when your dog takes things a little too far and behaves aggressively in those situations. My dog Ryder loves swimming and dock diving, but when it comes to getting a bath, he’d rather pass. As a puppy Ryder would be in the tub at Pampered Pooch Playground, just howling and screaming away as if I was torchering him immensely. Now I was lucky that he just made a little (a lot actually!) noise and didn’t choose to use aggression as his way of telling me he didn’t like what was going on. Others are not as lucky.
When a dog behaves aggressively towards someone grooming him, it is his way of saying that he is uncomfortable with what is going on. I know, it seems like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but really that’s not up to us to decide. 🙂 Your dog quickly learns that putting on that aggressive display will often stop you from grooming him, because well, you don’t want to be bitten. Does this make your dog mean? Certainly not, he is simply learning that aggression gets him what he wants and that is definately not what we want to teach him!
An alternative approach is to pair whatever type of grooming your dog is uncomfortable with, with something pleasant. I love using peanut butter for bathing and nail trims. Stick a little on the roof of the dogs mouth and voila! your dog is so busy working on the peanut butter he forgets about you, atleast for a little while. He also learns to associate those grooming times with good things (tasty things!). If your dog isn’t a fan of peanut butter you can certainly use other treat or toy rewards, but may need someone to assist you with treats while you groom. If your dog loves toys, why not make bath time into playtime? It wasn’t until I started doing this with Ryder that the crying ceased completely. Now he hops right in the tub and waits for playtime (and bath time) to begin.
Most importantly, take your time and work at your dogs pace trying to keep him comfortable and happy. This may mean not actually doing any grooming initially, just associating treats with the presence of the brush or nail clipper, or touching feet or your dogs face as if you were going to trim nails or hair. If your dog seems uncomfortable, slow down and work with what they are comfortable with, slowly increasing the type of grooming your dog doesn’t like until you can actually brush, bathe, trim nails, dry, and cut them.
Note: If you have a groomer do all of these things, ask if you could help them by giving treats etc during their grooming session. You can also prep your dog for their grooming session by mimicking the things the groomer would do such as using a metal spoon to mimick the feeling of the clipper on his nails, or running an electric tooth brush or shaver near your dog to get them accustomed to the noise.
If your dog is displaying an amount of aggression that you are uncomfortable dealing with, contact a dog trainer to help you!