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Poodle Pouting over Poofing (Grooming)

Dear John,

I have a 17 month old poodle who is just a great little boy, 95% of the time.  His normal attitude and behaviour are great. However, when I try to clean around his eyes, clean his coat by either using my fingers to remove grass pieces or try to touch his paws, he gets into these fits.  He has bitten, pinching my little finger.  And the sounds like an “alien” as well. He’s worse at the vets and has to be muzzled. I love my little guy and like I said earlier 95 % of the time he is great fun, loving and likes to cuddle, but when he gets peeved off, he gets scary. – Cassidy

Dear Cassidy,

He wouldn’t be doing this if the breeder you adopted him from had done their job correctly. They should have given written instructions on how to acclimatize a pup for future grooming as well as showing you how to do it.

For any dog, the later you start this the harder exponentially it becomes to do. You’re going to have to do the following only much slower. However, before you start this project I’d suggest working with a professional trainer to get this dog so obedient he knows you’re the boss.

Keep the dog or puppy on a leash and many times a day in relaxing situation put the puppy in your lap with his or her leash on and gently pet. When he or she gets “into it” briefly run a finger around and ear, eye, mouth, down the leg, down the flank, gently tug the tail and a toe nail or two, whatever is least likely to elicit a Cujo response. In between each, more cuddling. The leash is on so that if the pup starts to handle the masseuse with his or her mouth the masseuse can straighten out the client without risking more nipping. Don’t let the pup think you’re playing around either.  If it’s a wee breed, use a harness. If it’s a behemoth a flat buckle collar should do the trick. The idea is not to be popping that leash (only to the side) to punish the dog, it’s to put the pup a tad off balance physically and mentally and then hear your unhappy voice. Now the pup has a choice. “I sit still, I get a body massage. If I nibble on the masseuse it get into trouble. That’s called a balanced message. Remember, no mother dog is going to “time out” the puppy, or offer a treat. She’ll startle that pup as quickly as a pay raise in parliament and she’ll turn it off just as fast. Once the pup has settled down which if you did it right will be right away resume the massage.

Every day or even the same day if things are going well, increase the extent of the handling. You’ve got weeks before the first clipping so take your time. It’s not a race. Once the pup learns to sit still, start keeping a hair dryer, nail clippers and an electric razor or something that similarly buzzes handy. Introduce the nail clippers by stroking with them, simulating clipping with the scissors around the hindquarters and eventually the face, the hair dryer from afar pointed away from the pup, buzzing of the clippers. Tug at the fur everywhere, including the ears and face. Also, groomers use those tables that the dog stands on with their head in a rope like collar to keep their head up. Make up a similar collar and start getting him or her used to that sensation, first off the table and then on a table. That has to be a really disconcerting situation and sensation for a dog the first few times so it’s better to get used to it at home. Next, if you haven’t been already get the dog used to being similarly handle by other.

Lastly, visit the groomers for a biscuit as often as is possible. When it’s time for the big day arrange to pay for twice the time they’d normally charge. Do a couple of simulated groomings before you even get there.

If your breeder didn’t go through all of this in writing over and over again, send a copy of this column and a bill for pain suffering (yours and the dogs.)


-John Wade 

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