Fur Goodness Sake: My dog visits the groomer for the first time

Jasper’s short fur rarely seems out of place, except twice a year when he blows his coat, and I have to brush mountains of fur from him. He’s a pretty low-maintenance dog.

Jasper, low maintenance comfort  hound

Jasper, low maintenance comfort hound

Never-shed wire-furred terrier Tucker is best left as nature intended, since  his scruffy coat reverts to it’s natural state no matter what you do.

Tucker, ready for anything

Tucker, ready for anything

Jasper and Tucker are bathed at home, and while they think getting wet is the Worst Thing Ever, it’s a relatively easy process.

But Lilah is a Border Collie mix, with long black fur that gets knotted and matted, even with frequent brushing. And summer’s heat makes that fur coat nearly unbearable.

Pretty Lilah with her dark, thick fur

Pretty Lilah with her dark, thick fur

Usually, I comb and brush and trim Lilah myself, even though I know a professional groomer would do a much better job of it.

Yet in all of her six years with us, I had never taken her to be groomed, because I knew it would terrify her.

Lilah was a fearful dog

I’ve written previously about how sudden noises startled her, new people intimidated her, strange items in her environment scared her. A trip to the pet store was terrifying, from the abrupt swoosh of the automatic door, to the squeaky wheels of the shopping carts to the terror of a Boopy Thing (a pallet truck backing up.)

Our marvelous trainer, Anne Macaulay of On Good Behavior, helped me help Lilah. Anne told us to give dog treats to visitors, so they could toss them toward my skittish pup — until Lilah learned how to trust people. Anne also suggested we play a game with Lilah to help her gain confidence. Any time Lilah encountered a New Thing, she was encouraged to touch it with her nose; she’d get lots of praise and a treat:

At home: A hose. A flower arrangement. A ladder. A suitcase. A hammer. An umbrella; you can read about one.

On our walks: a garbage can. A traffic cone. A parked truck. A bicycle.

Agility and training helped Lilah learn to trust

Anne suggested we enroll Lilah (and her brother Jasper) in agility training. The goal for the first class was just to get our scaredy dog to sit in the field while the other pups used the equipment. We practiced with her at home, helping her gain confidence on the field. By the end of our sessions Lilah was able to run through the course — including the chute.

You can read more about Lilah becoming brave — and learn how she has overcome her fears.

Was Lilah ready for the noise and newness of a session with a groomer?

Lilah  is so much better now; if you met her, you’d never know about her past. But every once in awhile something startles her. Which is why I kept putting off grooming. I needed to be sure she was ready, and it was the right place, with the right person.

This summer, I felt it was time. But then I had to find the who and the where. I took Lilah to meet Kate, the on-staff groomer at Bridgewater Veterinary Hospital, where we take our pets. I wanted to discuss Lilah’s issues, and get a read on how Kate would work with Lilah, what she would do to earn her trust and set the dog up for a good experience.

Meet the groomer

Lilah wagged her approval at Kate, which was a good start. Her calm and quiet demeanor reassured both my dog and me. We talked about Lilah’s skittishness and fears — how a clangy cage may be a problem, how a blow dryer would be a huge stress. I pointed out Lilah’s stress signals — ears back, lowered head, big eyes. Kate got it. And just as important, Lilah seemed comfortable with her. After our discussion, I made an appointment for Lilah to be groomed.

I tried not to show my nervousness when I dropped Lilah off. At Kate’s instruction, I made no fuss when the groomer took Lilah’s leash and walked away. Kate had asked that I not be there, so she could establish a relationship with Lilah, bond with her, gain her trust.

There are not photos of the event; this was about Lilah. Not about my blog. I wanted to focus only on her; the camera stayed home.

Lilah, before. Her fur has been brushed, but it really needs to be thinned and trimmed.

Lilah, before. Her fur has been brushed, but it really needs to be thinned and trimmed.

I counted the hours, and checked my phone for messages, feeling a bit foolish. This was a grooming, not surgery. But I knew my Lilah. And I knew how this experience would feel for her.

Lilah the brave and beautiful dog

A slimmer, beautiful confident Lilah greeted me when I went to pick her up. Kate told me that Lilah did wonderfully. She was okay in the crate. She seemed comfortable with a very soft fan blowing at her — one that was nearly silent. She could tell when Lilah’s stress level increased, and backed off, giving her time and space when she needed it.

Lilah, after her trip to the groomer. She looks (and feels!) so much better.

Lilah, after. She looks (and feels!) so much better.

My brave Lilah.

My pretty Lilah.

My groomed Lilah.

One confidence builder at a time.

Do your pets have fears that you need to work around?

Today we’re participating in the Monday Mischief blog hop. Check out some of the blogs below.


27 Comments on "Fur Goodness Sake: My dog visits the groomer for the first time"

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  1. Elaine says:

    Wow, you have done an amazing job with Lilah! It almost brings tears to my eyes reading about how far she’s come and how your love and patience has helped her so much. Haley had a lot of fear issues too and I know exactly how you probably felt when you left her at the groomers. This was a great accomplishment for you both and I’m very proud of Lilah too! 🙂

    • Thank you. And yes, I was nervous the whole time she was there; I felt a little silly. All that patience and work pays off in the end. If you met Lilah today, you’d never know what she was like as a young dog. She’s really come a long way.

  2. Emma says:

    My hair is wiry, but soft so it tangles easily. Mom could do all my grooming herself, but I fight it like a crazy girl, so we do small stuff at home and then I go to the spa every couple months for a big clean up. I’m always leery about going, but I feel so much better when my coat is stripped and I’m all cleaned up.

  3. Earl Lover says:

    I strip Earl and Ethel myself now, however when they used to go to the groomer’s, they took it well. I also bath them at home, but being wiry terriers, they’re not supposed to be bathed too often.

    • Our terrier Tucker has that wiry fur, so he rarely needs much attention. Mostly, he gets bathed when he rolls in something stinky or when his skin gets dry and he needs more of a therapeutic bath. He hates getting wet, though.

  4. She must feel so much better what a good girl! I don’t go to the groomer because of separation anxiety and mom says there is not enough patience in the world for her to teach me to get over that. Plus I never get my nails trimmed. I’m so proud of Lilah! Love Dolly

    • She does feel better, thank you. Our Tucker had some severe separation anxiety (he shredded his crate whenever we left him), but we were able to help him get over it — and it didn’t take that long, maybe a couple of months.

  5. Hi Y’all!

    Wow, what a beautiful gal!

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  6. Mr. N doesn’t like the groomer but he behaves. Or so I’m told! Lilah looks lovely! Have you looked into mobile groomers? That might be less stressful.

    • I’ve looked into mobile groomers, but my decision on was very much based on the groomer. Plus Lilah had been to the vet’s office before (luckily not for anything painful, so she’s not that stressed), so she’s familiar with the people and the place. So it was a way to keep everything controlled.

  7. Great post! I go to the groomer 3-4 time a year and I always leave feeling naked!!! Have a great Monday! 🙂

  8. Brave and beautiful! Rita has a lot of fears as well. I do the same thing with her – encourage her to approach new, scary things and then praise her when sh does. She’s come a long way, but still has a ways to go with some things. It’s a long, slow process, isn’t it? Glad to see how much progress Lilah has made!

  9. Sandy says:

    Oh brave and beautiful Lilah – you’re even more beautiful after grooming. And congratulations on having the grooming done like a champ!!
    p.s. Yay for mom and Kate to be able to work out the best way to reduce stress for you!!

  10. Lilah is a beautiful dog, I’m so glad she is overcoming her fears. We have a scaredy-cat in our family too – she is getting better as she gets older but lacks the confidence of the other kitties.

  11. I would love to take Rodrigo to the groomer. I think he’d do well, but I’d be afraid to leave him behind. We learned how to lose clippers and we do his grooming at home. NOW we have mobile groomers in our community who will come to your home. Now that is amazing – all the grooming is done in a huge truck or van. So very cool!

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