How to Groom a Difficult Dog

Product Sample: A complimentary brush was provided to me from Chewy in exchange for this review.

I don’t know about your pet, but mine is a nightmare. Well, when it comes to grooming at least. How to groom a difficult dog like Rigby has been a challenge, and I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure it out. With many epic fails under my belt, I think I’ve finally figured most of it out. It may not be perfect, but these tips keep us both sane and, for the most part, happy, throughout the grooming process.

How to Groom a Difficult Dog / hellorigby seattle lifestyle and pet blog

How to Groom a Difficult Dog

1. Have a lot of treats on hand: Lucky for me, Rigby is extremely treat-motivated. His mood and mind are easily manipulated with a food reward, which in turn makes grooming an easier task. When Rigby is introduced to a new tool, like the Dual Brush that Chewy.com sent us to try out from Furminator, I introduced it to him with lots of yummy treats before it even touched him. This gives him a positive association with the brush so next time he sees it, hopefully, he will think only yummy things come with the brush.

And when it comes to brushes, I like the Furminator Dual Brush for pulling out loose hairs, especially after a major brushing session. For full coat blow like we’re going through right now, Rigby needs something a little more heavy-duty like a bath and a rake. We’ve also used the Zoom Groom with success though careful leaving this around puppies because Rigby enjoyed chewing on it too. ;)

2. Have someone to help you: When grooming or bathing a squirming dog, having a second set of hands is invaluable. If Rigby is being particularly difficult, sometimes I will just wait until Dave can help me. At the very least, a second person can be a distraction to keep your dog calm while you quickly finish up the grooming process.

FURminator Dual Brush for Dogs from Chewy Review / hellorigby seattle lifestyle & pet blog

3. Take small steps: Don’t push too far ahead too quickly, especially if grooming makes your dog anxious. I think it’s important only to do as much as your dog is comfortable with at a time. For Rigby, this is a nail or two with a Dremel, and one section of brushing in one session. I’ll usually come back to the other sections or nails later in the day.

4. Be open to alternatives: I have an interesting trick I thought I’d share with you for how I maintain Rigby’s nails. It’s not perfect, but he’s much more comfortable filing his nails down than he is having clippers or a Dremel used on them. I still have to go back and clean up the nails that aren’t quite taken care of with this method and Dremel his dewclaws, but overall teaching him this has helped us out a ton!


5. Stay calm: Most of all, keeping yourself calm, cool, and collected will make the overall process much easier. I find it’s helpful to not put too much pressure on yourself to reach any particular goals with grooming to not set yourself up for disappointment and stress. Just do the best you can, and if it doesn’t work this time, try, try again.

Do you have a dog that’s difficult to groom? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks! :)


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76 thoughts on “How to Groom a Difficult Dog

    1. Jenn Post author

      Thanks Brittany! I think a professional groomer can be a huge help, but I know what you mean about the maintenance. It can be so hard to get them to behave!

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Thanks Julia! If he sheds a lot, a rake or the original Furminator would be worth trying – this one is better at grabbing the hairs that are loose at the top of the coat, if that makes sense!

      Reply
  1. Lindsay

    Treats always make everything better! :)

    My two Bichons act all dramatic when I brush them but baths they’re great for. Quick and easy, I just take them into the shower with me and hold them. Much faster and easier than leaning over a tub. Apparently they’re angels for our groomers but me, oh no they are little drama kings lol.
    Lindsay recently posted…Picture SundayMy Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Ha, so true!

      That sounds so easy! Rigby would never let me carry him in with the water running, I wish I could just shower him!

      Reply
  2. Kristin 2z

    That is so cool with the skateboard.
    Keely is just so hard to bath. She’s a labrador that hates water. Ranger loves water, mud, dirt etc.
    My reports from Petsmart are Keely was a good girl but cried the whole time in the crate, Ranger was a good boy but didn’t let us blow dry him. Always the same.

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Thanks Kristin! Haha, at least they’re predictable! Rigby will tolerate the occasional bath, but at the end he always knows and tries to escape out of the tub… and then proceeds to shake all over me. Brat! :P

      Reply
  3. Chelsie

    What a creative way to file Rigby’s nails! Rosie, thankfully, doesn’t mind the dremel too much, especially if she has an empty jar of peanut butter to lick at! We use a combo of FURminator brushes as well; it helps decrease her shedding and helps us check for ticks. I pulled her first one off yesterday and I think I was more traumatized about it then she was!
    Chelsie recently posted…Styled ClassyMy Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      I’m jealous! Rigby used to be better and we would use peanut butter to distract him too, but eventually he just wasn’t having it. Yikes, that would traumatize me too!

      Reply
  4. Amanda

    My Pom Sampson has always been difficult to groom. He had a bad ear infection when I got him, and getting drops in his ears and brushing him on a daily basis became what he dreads the most. I have to get him professionally groomed every couple of months, but I try to sneak a brush on him every now and again.
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  5. Stephanie Volkert

    Squeeee, you have a Doge! Much fluff! Very cute! I had to pull my husband in here to have him watch the video.

    Both of my dogs, Vern and Vinny, absolutely hate having their nails trimmed. It’s apparently the WORST.TORTURE.EVER. I had hoped taking them for daily walks would help keep them trimmed, but it hasn’t. I have a Dremel, but I’m not sure if they would let me use it. They are rescues that were abused, so lots of things scare them, especially if it makes any noise at all. No amount of treats in the world can convince them that nail trimming isn’t torture. And we have hard wood floors so the constant “tick tick tick tick” from two dogs is getting old. Maybe I’ll get a skateboard. At this point I’ll try anything that doesn’t involve sedating them.
    Stephanie Volkert recently posted…Things you shouldn’t be afraid of.My Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Haha! I do. :)

      If you don’t want to get a skateboard, we got the idea from someone who had built a sandpaper board for their dog and leaned it against their couch. I’ve also seen a dog a similar board on the floor. Since my boyfriend has skateboards, we decided to try it before building anything, and then it worked so well we just kept using it. If you need any help teaching your dogs how to actually scratch it, let me know! :)

      Reply
  6. shaun easton

    Thanks for the pet grooming tips! I feel like i would want to get it all done in one fell swoop (the grooming), but i like the idea that if it makes the dog antsy just come back later. I’ll remember this next time i groom my dog!

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      So glad the suggestion was helpful, Shaun! I agree, it can be a bummer to not get it all done at once, but it ends up working out better for my own stress level and my dog’s!

      Reply
  7. Chelsey

    Treats and positive reinforcement have been a big key for us! But yes, be flexible with your grooming routine. I was terrified to use the clippers to trim my dog’s claws, and she HATED the dremel with a passion. We got a coupon for a grooming salon and they did a great job with our dog, and gave us some really good tips to use at home.

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Oh that’s great that you’ve found a salon that works for you! We actually haven’t tried that yet, but we will definitely have to look into ti!

      Reply
  8. Andre Beluchi

    Oh, reading this sure reminded me of my chihuahua and how difficult it is to bathe him. For my kids and I it’s somewhat of a challenge to do the dog grooming for him. That’s mostly because of how he would run away or hide in one of the girl’s rooms whenever it’s time give him a bath.

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  9. Jenn

    It’s so hard to groom difficult dogs by yourself! I don’t have anyone to help me, and my labrador is getting strong enough as he grows, that I just can’t do it solo anymore. Now I take him to a groomer.

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  10. Kaytlyn

    I am a groomer, and the proud owner of a formerly-difficult shiba. In my experience, four out of five shibas are difficult if they are not groomed regularly. Most shops will tell you to bring your dog in every six to eight weeks, just like your human hairdresser would tell you. Getting the puppies in as early as possible is key, because you’re getting them used to the groomer and all the tools that we use. Some have issues with the tubs or the dryers, others have issues with brushing, but most that I’ve seen have issues (and will howl/scream) with nail trims/grinding. Getting the dog in on a regular basis is a huge help, and I cannot stress that enough. My shiba will now sit patiently in the tub and for the dryers, and he doesn’t even flinch for his nails anymore. Part of this is due to the fact that my husband and I played with his feet (and ears and tail) when he was a puppy to get him ready for kids, of which we now have two. He is fantastic with them, and doesn’t get aggressive or possessive of his bowl/toys/treats/etc.

    As a person who loves her black clothing, here’s a tip for the shedding: most grooming salons will also offer some form of a de-shedding package, which includes a shampoo and conditioner to help pull the dead undercoat off of the body, and then some extra brushing in addition to the bath. This is a huge relief when the dogs are blowing out their coats. You can also buy the shampoo and conditioner to bathe the dog at home (brushing with a rubber curry brush before rinsing the conditioner helps to cut down the time you spend brushing after the fact).

    shampoo: http://www.amazon.com/FURminator-deShedding-Premium-Shampoo-16-Ounce/dp/B00I2Y1CNU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453662174&sr=8-1&keywords=furminator+shampoo+for+dogs

    conditioner: http://www.amazon.com/FURminator-deShedding-Premium-Conditioner-16-Ounce/dp/B00I2Y1CJY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1453662174&sr=8-2&keywords=furminator+shampoo+for+dogs

    Because this page is almost a year old, I’m sure there is something like this in the comments section, but I thought I would share my two cents, just in case. Happy grooming!

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Such great advice, Kaytlyn! I really appreciate you sharing your expertise. Rigby definitely has issues with grooming and I definitely blame myself for not getting him used to be handled every day as a puppy. He’s pretty good about being bathed, but nail trims are still a battle. Definitely going to look into the shampoo and conditioner you recommended – his shedding has been especially “fun” this year! ;)

      Reply
  11. Jillian

    I’m a little late to this party, but try “unconventional” nail trimming positions. My Sita would scream like a banshee and try to bite the clippers if I tried to do her nails while she was standing or sitting. But if I rolled her on her back, no problem. Freaked the vet tech out the first time I showed it to them. :)

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Ha! Glad you found a position that works for Sita! Rigby won’t allow it on his back either, but I have found that wrapping him up helps me get through a couple of nails without him losing it. ;)

      Reply
  12. Jason Strong

    My wife and I have a dog that hates being groomed and will fight us tooth and nail before he allows us to give him a bath. With that being the case, we are trying to find ways to help him relax when he takes a bath. Like this article suggests, we just got start taking small steps with him and work our way up.

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Definitely what I would recommend doing! Lots of positive reinforcement for the small steps you guys make and just be patient. Rigby isn’t a fan of the bath either but he gets lots of praise at bathtime!

      Reply
  13. Hazel Owens

    I like your tip to have someone else help you . While my Border Collie is fine with having her nails trimmed, I’ve known plenty of dogs who would rather be doing pretty much anything else. Having an extra pair of hands to help restrain the dog, or using something else to help hold your dog still, can make grooming a lot easier. Thanks for the tips, and Rigby’s adorable!

    Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw thanks Hazel! Rigby detests grooming in general, but nails most of all. I’ve figured out how to manage to get a few done by myself at a time, but having an assistant is definitely helpful too!

      Reply
  14. Petunia Evans

    My husband and I are thinking of getting a dog soon, so I really needed to know these grooming tips. I’ll be sure now to keep treats on hand when I groom. I really liked your idea to use a skateboard in helping you groom your dogs nails, perhaps I could try it out!

    Reply
  15. Jane

    I’ve started raising my dog for several months and I’ve never groom her. Lol
    It’s my sister who always wants to do it for me.

    Reply
  16. Lucky Paws

    My wife and I have one dog and she absolutely loves to be groomed. She always gets really excited when she sees me pick up the brush and I totally agree when you say it promotes quality time. I have been thinking about some more heavy duty dog grooming here in Clayton, NC and maybe getting some tips on what else I can do. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  17. Barbara

    In this case the help of a professional is always the best option, so it is not easy to find a good professional in the market.
    The skateboard tip, I found wonderful.
    Congratulations

    Reply
  18. Meil

    I think it’s all about teaching. Your dog should learn how to get used to the grooming sessions. Dogs are easily trained when using the positive reinforcement method, just like the first tip you’ve mentioned. Give the dog some treats or their favorite toy after the grooming session.
    Meil recently posted…Best Homemade Dog Foods: How to make them?My Profile

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