by Elsebeth DeBiase, BAminSC, ICMG, FFCP, LSHC-S
Coastal Creations Pet Salon, Owner
Puppy ownership is a rewarding experience filled with laughter, play, and snuggles. However, a new 4-legged addition to the family is not without its challenges and anxious moments. Every pet owner wants the best for the pet, and having a knowledgeable team of pet professionals to assist you is helpful. The pet professional team should consist of a veterinarian, a trainer, and a groomer. These professionals will aid in keeping your new friend healthy physically and emotionally. If the pup is a long or curly-haired breed, it will need to visit the groomer more than other professionals. For this reason, setting puppies up to have successful, positive grooming experiences is essential. Home handling and early appointments increase a puppy's chances of accepting and enjoying professional grooming.
Puppies often enter their new homes at 8 to 16 weeks old, an impressionable time in their development. As a result, frightening or painful experiences will undoubtedly shape their view of specific settings. Conversely, repeated positive adventures are written in their memory for life. Puppies introduced to regular gentle handling and home grooming lessons will accept it as a normal part of life. Preparing your pup for professional grooming can be simple and easy. Home handling sessions are a time to bond with your new puppy and should begin when you bring them home. Focus your first sessions on teaching your pup to be comfortable and relaxed while being held. Once you have mastered calm cuddles incorporate the following steps:
1. Touch the puppy's coat all over. Note sensitive areas like the feet, ears, tail, face, or belly.
2. Give them a gentle massage and work on the sensitive areas. Rub the paw pads, the legs, inside the ears, the tail, and the muzzle.
3. Place grooming tools next to the puppy, such as a comb and a soft slicker brush. Allow the puppy to sniff the tools.
4. Introduce the puppy to brushing. Begin with the less sensitive areas like the back and sides. Start with 2 to 3 slow, gentle strokes at a time. Praise and treat your pup for remaining calm.
Puppies have short attention spans and limiting grooming sessions to a few minutes daily is best. Only advance to the next step when the puppy is calm and comfortable. Observe your puppy for signs of stress, including but not limited to excessive yawning, trembling, whimpering, and trying to get away. Puppies may show signs of stress if you advance to the next step before they are ready. Enrolling your new companion in a beginner puppy class will help you navigate introducing your pup to new situations.
Puppies should meet the professional groomer as early as possible after their puppy vaccination series at 14 to 16 weeks old. Vaccinations protect against infectious diseases and are especially important when taking your new friend to public spaces frequented by other dogs. Consider making appointments early to be sure your puppy receives vaccinations on schedule so as not to delay its first visit to the groomer. Carefully select a grooming salon that offers puppy appointments during slower times of the day to minimize distractions. The first few puppy visits will provide time for a positive introduction to the grooming environment with minimal grooming. When your puppy is comfortable with grooming tools, the groomer will focus on trimming high-priority areas such as the face, feet, and fanny. Be patient with your groomer and puppy; it may take one or two sessions before the puppy is ready for an all-over haircut.
Grooming is part of dogs' lifelong training to keep them in their best shape. Routine home care and handling sessions are an excellent way to bond with your pets and keep them happy to see the groomer.