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How to Groom an Aggressive Dog

Dog owners often find it challenging to groom an aggressive dog. In this post, our Santa Clarita vets discuss why some dogs become aggressive during grooming sessions and share tips on how to help make grooming less stressful for both you and your canine companion. 

Aggression in Dogs

Aggression is a relatively common issue in dogs, and it can become a concerning problem for owners and families. While almost all wild animals are aggressive by nature when protecting their young, guarding territory or defending themselves, when we adopt animals as pets and have them join our family, it's critical to address any aggressive behavior with consistent training. 

Aggressive behavior can involve a wide range of actions and expressions that can lead to attacks and subsequent injuries (such as dog bites when grooming). 

Signs of aggression in dogs include:

  • Mouthing a person against his or her wishes in an effort to exert control 
  • Threatening to bark or growl
  • Growling when the dog's wishes aren't followed
  • Remaining still and not obeying a carer's or owner's instructions 
  • Snarling (baring teeth while growling)
  • Biting followed by shaking
  • A quick bite (or quick succession of bites) that leaves a bruise, mark or puncture in or on the skin 

Any of these symptoms may appear singularly or in combination in aggressive dogs. 

Problems with Grooming Aggressive Dogs 

Anyone, including professional groomers, who plans to groom an aggressive dog should take extra caution and care during grooming sessions. They should also have the training required to deal with aggression so both your pooch and the groomer stay safe (whether you choose to groom your dog yourself or schedule an appointment with our professional groomers at with our professional groomers at Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic). 

Several potential factors can cause an aggressive dog to bite or display other aggressive behaviors during grooming sessions — whether they are feeling fearful, anxious, confused or hae had previous poor grooming experiences. 

If your pup has had bad experiences in the past while being groomed, they might act extremely defensive the next time they enter a grooming space. The dog may try to bite anyone who approaches or attempts to touch them. 

Successfully Grooming an Aggressive Dog 

Since your canine friend will need to be groomed regularly, you'll need to train your dog to tolerate grooming. Our groomers recommend keeping these tips in mind and building trust with your pup when it's time to bathe and groom your dog. The less stress any pet is put under, the more calm and cooperative they will be. 

Start grooming when your dog is young.

Introducing your dog to being groomed (and being taken to a groomer) as a puppy will save a lot of anxiety and stress down the road. Puppies enjoy having new experiences and are open to being socialized and learning. This makes it easier to train them to tolerate regular grooming. While it's not impossible to groom an older dog with prior poor experiences, you'll just need to invest more time and patience in training. 

Use positive reinforcements.

Positive reinforcement plays a role in training and can be a staple in grooming as well. Giving a treat before visiting the groomers (or before an at-home grooming session) may help keep them calm. You may want to give another treat for sitting patiently during their bath and grooming. 

Allow time for your dog to explore grooming equipment and procedures.

Until your dog is completely comfortable with being groomed, keep sessions short and make an effort to introduce groomers, grooming equipment, and new procedures, allowing your pup time to become familiar and comfortable with them. Let your pooch sniff the grooming area for a while before settling in, following up with praise and a reward. 

Once your dog is able to understand the groomer and equipment isn't intended to hurt them, grooming will go smoother for everyone. 

Use preventive measures in emergency situations. 

Some aggressive dogs may not calm down during grooming sessions despite your best efforts. However, they'll still need to be groomed. Some solutions may include special anxiety-reducing jackets (during nail trims), organic and all-natural medications or muzzles. Speak to your vet about which option(s) will be best for your dog, and consult your vet about any medications you're thinking of using before administering them to your pup. 

If you choose to have our professional groomers in Santa Clarita do the job for you, rest assured that we have the knowledge and experience needed to groom all types of dog coats and work with animals of a wide range of temperaments, including those that are stressed, anxious or aggravated. 

In circumstances where an animal is especially aggressive or fearful, we may recommend sedation during a grooming session. However, most of the time we are able to manage these types of dogs by doing the things listed above, and taking the following steps:

  • Ensuring the environment is quiet, calm, and peaceful 
  • Asking your dog to perform an easy trick or action (such as 'sit' or 'shake paw')
  • Offering treats
  • Taking frequent breaks 
  • Playing music or opening a window. 

At Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic, we always look forward to meeting your four-legged friends and providing advice to help keep your dog happy and healthy. Alternatively, we'd love to take the job of grooming off your hands to get this important task done right, with minimal fuss. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have questions about grooming your aggressive dog, or want to book a grooming session for your pooch? Contact Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic to book an appointment. 

New Patients Welcome

Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our friendly and experienced vets are passionate about the health of Santa Clarita companion animals and horses. Get in touch today to book your four-legged friend's first appointment.

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