How do Groomers Handle Aggressive Dogs?

Every dog can use a day at the groomer once in a while.
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It's hard to believe, but not everyone enjoys a day at the spa. Some dogs are frightened of new experiences and would prefer a root canal over a bath and blow-dry. Professional groomers have all sorts of tricks and techniques to handle anxious dogs.

Aggressiveness is Subjective

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Birgit Edler, owner of Canine College and Day Spa in Juno Beach, Florida, has been a groomer for over 20 years. She says, "Not all dogs labeled aggressive by the owner are. They often act very differently with the owner than they do with us. Most dogs are either scared or spoiled and act accordingly. They may growl or try to nip us, but a firm loving hand usually solves the problem." So if the groomer can convince the dog that she is confident and authoritative, the dog will usually settle down. Kind of like the old saying, "If you bully a bully, a bully backs down."

Trade Secrets

If there's a serious aggression issue, groomers will often team up on the panicky pooch. A second groomer restrains the dog using a technique called the "safe hold" in order to keep themselves and the animal safe. If that's not working, they may have to bring out that dreaded apparatus, the muzzle, but only if the dog's owner authorizes it beforehand.

When a groomer has a dog that is overly aggressive, there's a a real risk for both the groomer and the animal. Attempting to groom him causes undue stress on the dog and raises the possibility of an injury to both the dog and groomer. "I have asked an owner to take the dog to the veterinarian for a mild sedation and have the vet's in-house groomer give it a try," says Edler. "I will never push the grooming process; it is not fair to either the groomer or the animal."

Better Living Through Chemistry?

A little Bach flower herbal essence, sold under the trade name Rescue Remedy, is effective for most mildly nervous or anxious dogs. But if the cowardly canine is still acting like a nervous Nelly, groomers may ask the client to speak to their veterinarian for a prescription-strength chill-pill.

Many groomers provide free grooming services to animal shelters to help adoptable animals look their very best. In these cases, the temperaments are unknown. If a dog is terribly matted from neglect, the grooming process can be painful, causing the dog to act out. Keeping the dog comfortable is important, so the shelter vet may have to step in and prescribe a sedative.


Since the grooming visit almost always begins with a nice warm bubble bath, groomers use products that contain herbal essences believed to calm dogs. Shampoos that contain lavender or vanilla have a calming affect on mildly nervous dogs. Scented candles and essential oils are also used for a calming ambiance.

No Forced Grooming

Edler believes that a groomer should never force an animal to be groomed. The dog may have had a bad experience in another grooming shop. "Experience is the key word," she says. "If a groomer knows what he or she is doing and has had many years on the job, it should not be a problem to groom a difficult animal."

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