Are your dogs scared of the groomer?

Updated: Mar 25

Mine are.

I don’t have any solid evidence of my dogs’ mistreatment, only a gut feeling – plus their reactions before and after they went to their previous groomer, and the way they continue to behave the moment they see anything related to grooming.

They’ve gotten a tiny bit better since we changed groomers (although there’s still quite a way to go), but it’s left me with feelings of guilt and regret. I should’ve done a better job of choosing a groomer, and I should’ve been alert to the signs. I also should’ve monitored them more closely. 😞

So you don’t make the same mistakes I did

Look for a groomer and grooming studio that specialises in ethical and humane pet grooming, where the comfort, safety and well-being of your pets come first – like Bubbly Petz in Singapore.

Well, that and being more aware of some of the tell-tale signs that your dog didn’t have (or hasn’t had) a good experience with the groomer or their grooming session.

Good thing we have Desmond Chan, Bubbly Petz’s principal groomer and co-founder, who shares with us what to look out for. ↓

“Some tell-tale signs include your pet being extremely reluctant to enter the grooming salon; showing extremely stressful responses towards regular grooming procedures; and being stressed out only on the grooming table or in the bathtub, but not when they’re on the ground,” he states.

What to do then?

Like me, you’ve probably gone and changed groomers. But you still have to think about how to prepare your dogs for their next grooming session, what with their less-than-ideal grooming experience.

Desmond has these five tips and expert observations for us pet owners. 🙂

#1 It’s never too late

“It’s not the end for them if they’ve had a less-than-ideal grooming experience. We can always try to regain their trust with getting groomed or handled, and make them feel safe again. All you need is patience, time, and consistently allowing them to have pleasant grooming sessions.”

(I better listen to this. 😬 There’s a part of me that thinks my dogs are scarred for life and will always see the groomer as the devil.)

Why it’s important: “Just like humans, there’s always a chance to salvage negative associations especially when it’s not helpful to the living being,” Desmond says.

“It’s effective to a certain extent depending on how much trauma the pet has been through. The more trauma the pet has been through, the longer they would probably need to feel safe again. We’ve been able to successfully rehabilitate dogs and cats to feel better towards grooming procedures over a period of time.”

#2 Practise desensitisation

“Whenever your dogs have been exposed to a less-than-ideal experience, they usually associate that particular grooming procedure with a certain feeling,” Desmond points out.

“If we want them to feel less stressed towards the same procedure, we have to desensitise them. One way to do this is to introduce them to a variation of the grooming procedure at home.

“For example, if they have a fear of having their underpaw shaved or their nails clipped, you can always attempt to touch their paws and get them used to having their paws held. In doing so, you need to make sure you don’t break their stress threshold. You’ve got to stop the exposure before they get scared or freak out. This helps to build their resilience.”

Why it’s important: “It does help some animals,” he maintains.

“With proper exposure to stress triggers consistently over a period of time, it’s likely they’ll feel less in danger. Over time the feeling of fear diminishes. We have recommended pet owners to try it out for themselves at home to help desensitise their pets; when they come back for subsequent grooming sessions, it makes it easier for the pets and for us.”

#3 Communicate with the groomer

“If you feel that your pet has been through a less-than-ideal grooming experience, you should sit down with your groomer to discuss how you felt about the session, and hear from the groomer with regards to the grooming process. A good groomer will acknowledge how you feel and come up with an explanation about what could have caused the negative reactions from the pet, as well as what could be done better moving forward so that the pet can have an easier time.”

Why it’s important: “This is key as it’s best to rectify issues especially if your animal’s welfare has been compromised,” Desmond explains.

“We also recommend for you to research and communicate with your groomer prior to appointing them as your pet’s groomer. You would want to know more about the person who will look after your beloved pet, and so you should find out if the person is trustworthy and will put your pet’s welfare and needs as a priority. With some form of prior communication or interaction, it will help pet owners make a more informed decision of choosing a pet groomer.”

#4 Use products with calming effects prior to the grooming session

“There are natural oral remedies (Bach remedies) or topical remedies (lavender essential oil) that can induce calmness or relax your pets.”

Why it’s important: “We have had customers who tried this method, and it had apparently reduced the stress levels of their pets during the commute as well as the grooming session.”

#5 Stay calm

“Our pets can sense our energies and are affected by it. Try to stay calm during the journey to the groomers, so as not to cause your pet to panic,” Desmond suggests.

“One way is to make sure that you’re duly prepared with all the essentials, such as water, poop bags, tissue, harness and leash, etc. Taking deep breaths and focusing on the greenery far away during the car ride will help as well.”

How to be extra vigilant

That’s mostly the “before” – but what about during the grooming session? This stage is important too.

“We usually recommend pet owners to watch out for unusually high stress levels from their pets during the grooming procedure, and how the groomer manages it,” Desmond relates.

“Also, it’s important to look out for gentle and humane handling by the groomers – nobody wants their pets to be roughly handled!”

(I agree. I think we should be there every step of the way, just to make sure that everything goes well.)

We shouldn’t forget the following for the “after” grooming part either:

“Always check throughout the groom to make sure that the essentials are all completed well and good. You can use these questions to guide you,” Desmond reveals.

Ear canals: “Are they thoroughly cleaned? Is there any visible dirt?”

Nails: “Are they properly trimmed? The general rule of thumb for properly trimmed nails is that when your pet is standing, the nail should not touch the ground.”

Fur: “Is the fur under the paw pads and around the sanitary area trimmed thoroughly? Is the fur dried thoroughly, especially around the armpits, beneath the tail, and between the back legs?”

Desmond also emphasises this: “Do check with the groomer to understand which part of the grooming session your pet didn’t like or was particularly afraid of. You can also ask about which parts your pet didn’t mind.

“With this information, you would be able to do some work at home and help your pet desensitise or feel less stressed with certain procedures for future grooming sessions,” he concludes.

For the love of pets

Listening to Desmond, I’d say being around animals must be an amazing job – especially when you see that they’re properly groomed and cared for.

“I love being able to help pets feel clean and look good, and have the opportunity to create safe environments to help them through grooming procedures in the least stressful manner possible by making use of humane handling techniques,” Desmond declares.

“I get especially motivated when pets that used to be fearful, scared, aggressive and tense towards grooming procedures show signs that indicate they feel safe, and that they trust me enough to help them feel better with professional grooming.

“To me, they’re the voiceless, and their well-being lies in our hands. We’re wholly responsible for how they are kept clean, groomed, and physically and mentally cared for. As such it is definitely meaningful and purposeful to be a pet groomer.”

Together with his wife and co-founder Maeve, Desmond also sells natural, eco-friendly and cruelty-free pet products through Bubbly Petz. What’s more, they support causes that fight against breeding mills and animal exploitation.

Oh, and you can fulfil your dream of working with and caring for animals just like Desmond (but only at home and to a certain extent) – they offer dog and cat grooming workshops too.

Speaking of cats, Desmond and Maeve recently opened Hey Good Cat, which he describes as “a cat-exclusive facility that provides grooming services, retail, day care, as well as education courses”.

So when’s your pets’ next grooming session? We hope we’ve given you a few good ideas to turn things around, and make it easier and more comfortable for everyone. 🙂

Find out more about Bubbly Petz here. Follow them on Facebook (they share good news about animals and pets there) or Instagram (because who wouldn’t want to see photos of adorable dogs and cats?) too.

On a personal note: I find solace in my dogs every day, but most especially during uncertain times. I hope you and your pets are doing well.