Learning to groom – and to be groomed – can be rewarding for both you and pup. It’s a new, interesting experience for her and it’s important to maintain a calm, patient approach. Some dogs may be nervous and react poorly if the introduction is rushed though – and enthusiasts may just want to take over.
Puppies will try turn everything into a game but, with patience and repetition, will generally play along. Some may not be readily convinced and need some reassurance. Don’t pressurise this pup as it will only build up negative memories. Simply try again in a few days.
Start in a quiet time, in a quiet room and keep a pocketful of small treats handy. Place a brush, nail clippers and anything else you may use within her sight and begin petting her with long, gentle strokes. Scratch and rub her like an all-over body massage. Talk reassuringly and treat.
As she becomes comfortable, touch her ears, look inside and stroke her muzzle. If she gets uncomfortable, revert back to where she was comfortable. As she settles down again, give her a treat. Begin again and if she’s okay with you fiddling with her ears this time, give her another treat. Her ears need regular checking – they may need cleaning, but poor ear health can also indicate a more serious condition.
Once your fur-ball is used to you handling her ears, pick up her paws, run your hands down her legs and gently squeeze her feet and toes. The goal is to eventually have your pup remain calm as you carry on your inspection.
Stroke her muzzle for a basic temperature and hydration check. Open her mouth by holding the middle of the upper jaw as your other hand gently pulls the lower jaw down. Check teeth condition and colour of her gums and tongue.
The tummy and tail are the most sensitive parts of your dog and exposing them is a common sign of trust. Roll her over and make sure she is comfortable with you inspecting these areas. Hand out treats (or use a clicker if this training has already been established) to affirm each positive reaction.
A puppy will likely see the brush as some new toy to conquer. Again, treat or use the clicker at each positive reaction. Mouthing the brush is not a positive reaction, no matter how cute the enthusiastic growls are; allowing the brush to stroke her fur is. Begin with gentle strokes, gradually increasing the strength and areas covered.
Her nails will also need attention. The sound of clippers next to her vulnerable foot, may frighten her at first. If this is the case, during a grooming session, show her the clippers from a short distance and clip a matchstick. Reward her if behaviour is positive. Repeat a few times and bring it closer. Once she’s comfortable, place a matchstick under a paw and clip the stick. Repeat a few times until she’s ready for her own mani-pedi. Be careful of clipping the nails too short, as the sensitive living part of the nail may be exposed. Any frayed ends can also be gently filed down.