Training a Puppy For Grooming

Training a Puppy to enjoy grooming is just one of those tasks that go along with puppy training.

When you think about a training,  you probably think your task is complete after housebreaking and basic commands, but grooming is important not only for looks but for the health of your dog. 

Training a puppy to cooperate and enjoy a grooming session is a must.

This is especially true for long haired small breed dogs that will require a great deal of grooming attention over their life span.  Most puppies must be taught to stand, sit, or lie for grooming because if they do not you will find yourself trying to brush a moving target. 

Since many of the small breed dogs are also lap dogs, you can train your puppy to lie on your lap and accept a little pampering (aka grooming). 

Most Small breed dog dogs learn to love being groomed, but it takes time for puppies to get to this point.  Just like small children, puppies are much too busy to sit, stand, or lie down for grooming.  For this reason, I usually like to keep a chew bone or a few small treats or a favorite toy nearby.  When the puppy has calmed down and is ready for grooming, praise him and give him a treat. 

Grooming a puppy takes some patience and willingness to go slow.  When the puppy does what you want him to do, praise and give him another treat.  To achieve the best results, repeat often.

Training a puppy to stand on a table

You will ultimately want to train your dog to sit, stand, or lie down on a hard surface such as a grooming table or kitchen counter. Unless you plan to show your dog or keep a long haired breed in full coat, a commercial grooming table is not necessary, but very helpful.   

It is easier in the long run to groom a dog this way rather than hoping they will behave on your lap.  You have the most control over the grooming experience if you use a grooming table, and a small one does not take up much space and is easy to transport if you decide you want to get into showing. 

Otherwise, use a counter or table with a height comfortable to you so you do not need to bend over in an awkward position.

When you think about it, sitting or standing on a grooming table can be a scary proposition to a small dog.  The table is at the correct height for you, but it must seem like a mountaintop to a small dog.  

The reason I suggest putting the puppy on a surface other than your lap is that he will eventually need to stand on a table at a veterinary office.  If you plan to take him to the groomers, he will need to stand on the groomer’s table. If he has already experienced this in the comfort of your home and in your presence, these trips to the groomer and vet will be much less stressful.  A small towel or pad placed on the counter helps the puppy feel secure.

Start by taking every opportunity to pick up your dog and sit them on the grooming table or surface you plan to use.  Pet them gently, rub your fingers through their hair; touch their paws, tail, ears, and muzzle. 

Tell your puppy to “sit” or give the “down” command, which is the word you will use to teach him to lie down.  Praise them if they respond and give a small treat.  Do this several times a day, gradually working up to introducing a brush. 

Tips For Training a Puppy for Grooming

  • Use frequent short session
  • Train your dog to stand, sit, lie down on a table, counter or other hard surface
  • Touch areas of the puppy's entire body including paws, tail and under arms
  • Use a soft child size brush initially
  • Use lots of praise, kisses and treats

Training a Puppy to Accept Brushing

The first few brushing sessions should be brief, positive, and enjoyable.  At this stage, do not worry if you are not getting down to all layers of hair. 

A human child-size brush with soft bristles is very calming to a puppy and helps train them to enjoy the experience. It will not get through a thick coat, so you will eventually need to trade it in on the type of brush needed for your breed type. 

In the meantime, you can use this soft brush to go over your small breed puppy’s body—head, neck, body, tail, legs, chest, stomach and watch how he responds. Some puppies will allow you to roll them on their back and brush their stomach in that position. 

Others will tolerate standing on their hind legs while you hold their front paws and brush.  You can also gently pick up one front paw as you brush the chest area and the repeat with the other front paw and then with the back paws, one at a time.  This is generally how groomers get to a dog’s abdomen. 

If your dog protests, go back to the lap method and roll the puppy on its back while holding him in your lap.  Rub his tummy a few times and then start brushing with the soft brush.

Most dogs will be happy for you to brush most of their body but they may resist in some sensitive areas such as paws, under arms and groin area.  Be very gentle in these areas, but make it clear to the puppy that you will need to brush these areas too. 

If they relax and allow you to brush them, reward with praises, kisses or hugs and a treat.  Paws can be especially sensitive to puppies that have never had their paws manipulated.  If this is the case, it can be a problem when you go to trim their nails. 

You should plan to brush your small breed dog’s hair frequently, at least a couple of times per week, but preferably more often, even if the hair does not require brushing as in the case with short haired breeds. 

This frequent grooming not only gets the puppy acclimated to the grooming process, but also gets him used to someone touching his body—a skill he will need throughout his life when he visits the veterinarian.

Training a puppy to accept grooming is just one of the tasks on your to-do list involved in training process, including socialization, teaching commands, and basic obedience.

Training a Puppy to Accept Nail Clipping

Many puppies are skittish about getting their nails clipped.  They may have had a bad experience before they came to live with you or they simply have had no experience at all.  The lucky ones are those that have come from caring breeders who clip their nails several times before they even reach the ripe old age of eight weeks.  If your puppy is not one of these fortunate ones, don't fret, all is not lost.  You can train him to tolerate having his nails clipped.

Some of the problems associated with nail clipping is the fact that puppies may not appreciate your attempts to touch their paws.  While some don't care in the least, others are very nervous when someone starts to mess with their paws.

The first step is to get them accustomed to being touched all over the bodies and particularly their paws.  If yours is one in this category, you will need to slowly acclimate them to nail clipping:

Steps to Condition Your Puppy for Nail Clipping

  • While holding or playing with your puppy, stroke, touch, or gently hold each paw.  You can make a game of it if you prefer.W

"Got Your Paw" 

"Touched your Paw" 

"Gonna Get That Paw

  • Once they feel comfortable with your touch, introduce the clippers.  Squeeze the clippers in the air to allow the puppy to hear the sound of the nail clipper.  Praise and give a small treat.

  • Touch the clipper to the paw but do not clip the nail. Praise and give a treat.

  • Finally, pick the paws that the puppy is least concerned with and clip the tip of the nails.  Some puppies don't mind the back nails being clippped, others will tolerate their front paws being held and nails clipped.  Each puppy is different. Praise and give a treat.
  • Gradually move to all four paws. Clip nails, praise and give a treat.  Click here for more information on clipping your dogs nails.
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