How to Groom a Dog That Won't Cooperate

Baths might lead to cleanliness, but your dog would probably rather go without them.

Baths might lead to cleanliness, but your dog would probably rather go without them.

Grooming isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least in your dog's mind. Brushes feel strange, ear cleanings are terrible and don't even get him started on nail trimming. But reintroducing him to the grooming process slowly, and with plenty of treats, can help him come around.

Sit in a neutral location in your house. You don't want your pup to immediately think the worst by asking him to come into a room that he hates, such as the bathroom. But you don't want your little guy to associate a positive room with the grooming tools he despises, either.

Place his brush to your side, clap your hands and act extremely excited so your dog will come. Don't call him by his name; let your excitement bring him over. When he comes, don't grab him or force him down; let him come on his own accord. When he sees the evil brush that's caused him so much grief, he might tense up, but he'll probably give it a sniff and eye it up. If he does, give him a treat and lots of praise, as if he just accomplished something huge. If he's extremely afraid, he might bolt when he first sees the brush. In that case, repeat the process every day until he gets closer and closer to the brush.

Pick up the brush and show it to him. Don't shove it in his face, but bring it close to him so that he knows it's just a little grooming tool that can't possibly cause him any harm. Bring out the treats and lay on the praise again if he reacts positively.

Touch his back with the brush. Don't start grooming him just yet; let him feel the brush on his coat, and be sure to reward him with treats and love. This is the part of the conditioning process where most dogs either tense up or flee. If your dog wants to leave, let him go and try again later. Once he realizes that brush on fur means treats in mouth, he'll start associating good outcomes with the brush.

Begin gently brushing your dog's back. Talk to your little guy the entire time, petting him on his chest or rubbing his feet. Make him feel comfortable. Keep your initial brushings short, at two or three minutes. Each day after you can gradually increase the time until your pup sits happily through the entire brushing.

Start introducing other grooming tools and situations one at a time after he accepts the brush as his friend. The worst thing you can do for an uncooperative canine is introduce everything he hates at once. Take the same approach for the other tools as you took for his brush. If you need to trim those long nails that look like daggers, for example, let him sniff the clippers for a few days before physically touching his nails with them.

Items you will need

  • Treats
  • Brush


  • Use soft-tipped brushes. Metal combs and brushes can sometimes remove more hair than soft-tipped brushes, but they can also irritate your dog more or make him more nervous. Something that's soothing and comfortable will always lead to better results when grooming.
  • Getting your pup to accept baths can take a while. You have to take each step slowly, from letting him see the bath to letting him hear the water run.


  • Stay away from sore areas on your dog. If you notice your little guy's ear is causing him pain, don't try to clean his ears. If he has a sore on his skin, avoid brushing that area. Instead, make an appointment with your vet.

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About the Author

Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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