It can be a challenge grooming an aggressive dog. In this post, our Rock Hill vets explain why some dogs become aggressive when it comes to grooming and offer tips to help make grooming sessions less stressful for both you and your pooch.

Aggression in Dogs

Many dogs exhibit aggressive behavior, which can be problematic for their owners and families. While almost all wild animals are aggressive by instinct when guarding their territories, defending themselves, or protecting their young, it is critical to address any aggressive behavior with training when animals are adopted as pets.

Aggression can involve a wide range of behaviors that can lead to attacks and injuries (including dog bites when grooming).

Signs of aggression in dogs include:

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

In aggressive dogs, any of these symptoms may appear exclusively or in combination. 

Problems With Grooming Aggressive Dogs 

Dealing with aggressive dogs during grooming sessions takes extra care, caution, and training to keep both your pooch and the groomer safe (whether you choose to groom your dog yourself or make an appointment with our professional groomers at Catawba Animal Clinic). 

An aggressive dog may bite or show other aggressive behaviors during grooming sessions for numerous reasons - whether they are feeling anxious, fearful, confused, or have had previous bad experiences while being groomed. 

If your pup has had previous poor experiences while being groomed, they may act extremely defensive the next time they enter a grooming space. The dog may attempt to bite anyone who approaches or tries to touch them. 

How to Successfully Groom an Aggressive Dog 

Because your canine companion will need to be groomed regularly, you must train your dog to tolerate grooming. When it comes time to bathe and groom your dog, our groomers recommend keeping these tips in mind and building trust with your pup. The less stress a pet is subjected to, the calmer and more cooperative it will be.

Start grooming when your dog is young.

Introducing your dog to grooming (and taking him to a groomer) as a puppy will save you a lot of anxiety and stress later on. Puppies enjoy new experiences and are willing to be socialized and educated. This makes training them to tolerate regular grooming easier. While grooming an older dog with previous bad experiences is not impossible, you will need to invest more time and patience in training.

Use positive reinforcements.

Positive reinforcement is used in training and can also be used in grooming. Giving them a treat before going to the groomer (or before an at-home grooming session) may help them relax. You might want to give them another treat for sitting patiently while they are bathed and groomed.

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

Keep grooming sessions short until your dog is completely comfortable with them, and make an effort to introduce groomers, grooming equipment, and new procedures gradually, giving your pup time to become familiar and comfortable with them. Allow your dog to sniff the grooming area for a few minutes before settling in, followed by praise and a reward.

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

Use preventive measures in emergencies. 

Despite your best efforts, some aggressive dogs may refuse to calm down during grooming sessions. They will, however, require grooming. Special anxiety-reducing jackets (during nail trims), organic and all-natural medications, or muzzles are some possible solutions. Speak with your vet about which option(s) will be best for your dog, and consult your vet before administering any medications to your pup.

If you choose to have our professional groomers in Rock Hill 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 can 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 Catawba Animal 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 schedule a grooming session for your pooch? Contact Catawba Animal Clinic to book an appointment.