How To Introduce A Puppy To Grooming

When a puppy is very young, their doggie mama is all about keeping them nice and clean. Most groom their puppies daily with their tongue, including their eyes, ears, genitals, and anus, so they stay hygienic and healthy. 

Once you adopt a puppy, you take on those same responsibilities to keep your pup clean and healthy. (Thankfully, without having to use your tongue.) For example, bathing your puppy is necessary, clipping their nails, having their anal glands expressed, cutting their hair or fur, cleaning the goop out of their eyes, etc.

Some puppy parents like to do all of these things themself, while others depend on groomers to do it for them. Either way is fine, although going to a groomer every few weeks will certainly end up costing you quite a bit of money. 

Depending on your puppy, some may allow you to groom them with no problem, while others might be a bit of a handful. Also, some dog and puppy breeds are more difficult to groom than others due to their fur, hair, size, disposition, and other factors.

I thought about this subject the other day when I was brushing my dog’s fur, one of the few grooming tasks that some puppies and dogs enjoy. (Mine loves it.) While I sat there brushing away, I thought about the question that many readers like yourself have asked me over the years: how to introduce a puppy to grooming?

The most specific answer I can give you about introducing your puppy to grooming is to do it slowly, gently, and with a low, firm, and soothing voice. Several different puppy grooming tasks need to be performed, and some will go over with your puppy more easily than others. (Expressing their anal glands isn’t for the squeamish, I will say that.)

As that answer is rather vague, I gathered a lot more information on how to introduce a puppy to grooming. For example, how old should a puppy be to start grooming, how do I calm my puppy down for grooming, and where is the best place to get my puppy groomed? 

Please keep reading if you’d like the answers to all of those questions and several more. I’ve got them for you below, vital Information that can be extremely helpful and make grooming time much more pleasant for both you and your puppy pal.

How Old Should a Puppy be to Start Grooming?

Veterinarians and dog experts recommend introducing your puppy to grooming at about 16 weeks. Depending on your puppy, their breed, and their grooming needs, it’s possible you could start a few weeks earlier or a few weeks later. (I’ve seen some vets recommend starting at 12 weeks, for example.)

One thing to consider is that you should start introducing your puppy to grooming as early as possible. Much of what I’ve seen and read points to difficulties when you wait until a puppy is older to start grooming them. The older they are, the more established fears and aggression they usually have.

How do I Calm my Puppy down for Grooming?

The typical puppy is certainly energetic but not overly so and, in most cases, won’t be super anxious at the groomers the first time. It also helps that they’ve never had the experience and thus have no preconceived notions about what to expect.

Some puppies, however, we’ll have a high amount of anxiety no matter every time you bring them to the groomer, whether the first time or the 37th. If that’s your pup, below are a few methods you can use to calm them down. (You can also see my recent blog on how to calm a puppy when clipping their nails. It’s a bit more in-depth.)

  • Take a long, slow walk with your pup right before their grooming appointment. 
  • Give your pup one of the many brands of dog calming treats on the market. 
  • Benadryl, the OTC medication, has been shown to help if they are very anxious. (It’s a depressant like Valium.)
  • Give them a new toy to focus on.
  • Ask your veterinarian to give you a prescription for gabapentin, a common human sedative that works for dogs also.

How To Prepare your Pup For their First Visit to a Groomer

You can do a few things at home to prepare your puppy for their first visit to a groomer. Most can (and should) be started weeks or even months in advance. They include:

  • Brush them daily with the correct brush for their hair or fur.
  • Teach them the “Sit” command.
  • Practice holding your puppy’s face in your hand.
  • Make a habit of gently but firmly holding your puppy’s feet starting as early as possible. (Dogs and puppies, for some odd reason, really don’t like to have anyone touch their paws.)
  • Slowly get them accustomed to the sound of a hairdryer.
  • Work with your puppy to teach them biting is not acceptable. Using treats is recommended.
  • Practice bathing your puppy at home. Some might not like it, but the more they get used to it, the better. That way, it won’t be as much of a shock the first time they go to the groomer.

Where Should I Get My Puppy Groomed? 

The question of where to get your puppy groomed Is not an easy one to answer. It depends on where you live and what you’re willing to pay for your puppy’s grooming needs. 

For example, a big-box pet store can take care of basic grooming for a reasonable cost. However, going to a professional grooming salon is likely to cost quite more. However, their services will be of higher quality as better qualified and experienced dog groomers will be available.

Professional Grooming Salons

The highest level, most experienced groomers usually work at a professional grooming salon. (Often, they’re the owners of the salon.) A professional groomer will usually offer all of the services you could need and be highly skilled in handling puppies of every breed and personality. 

For all of these skills, however, you’ll pay the highest prices for your puppy’s grooming. Also, you will likely need to set up appointments well in advance as the best professional grooming salons are usually booked solid and have a waiting list.

At-Home Grooming Services

A long-established trend in the pet care industry is at-home grooming services, where the groomer comes to you with a salon on wheels. At-home grooming services can be fantastic for people who don’t like to leave the house, don’t have time, or have dogs that hate car rides.

With at-home grooming services, there’s no need to go out in traffic and put your dog in the car (which, for many, is a traumatic event in itself). Plus, if your groomer is late, no biggie, because you’re comfortable at home. 

Lastly, while their prices aren’t as high as professional grooming salons, you will pay a premium with at-home grooming services. That’s typical for convenience services, of course, but many puppy parents will attest the convenience factor is well worth the extra cost.

Big-Box Pet Stores

You’ll typically find the cheapest puppy grooming services costs at a big-box pet store. Also, if you live in a decent-sized town or city, you’re likely to have one pretty close by. However, one thing to keep in mind is that pet groomers typically don’t last at a big box pet store for very long. 

That’s especially true if they’re good and get hired away by a professional grooming salon or start one on their own. It’s a shame, too, as it makes getting your puppy accustomed to a single groomer very difficult. 

All that being said, if you’re not super worried about whether your pup’s haircut looks perfect (and they take to strangers easily), a big box pet store can provide decent grooming services for a reasonable cost.

Final Thoughts

The question of how to introduce a puppy to grooming is an easy one to answer; slowly, calmly, and with a lot of patience. It’s also good to start preparing them for their first grooming session at home several weeks in advance. If you do, the experience won’t be nearly as surprising to your precocious pup.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog and that it answered all of the questions you arrived with. Please see my other blogs if you have more or would like to read more about raising your puppy. I do my best to fill them with usable information, advice, and tips for raising a happy, healthy puppy. Until next time, enjoy every day as a puppy parent. The furry little goofballs grow up quickly!