Recently I had the pleasure of having a long-haired Clicker Savvy Foster (Sabrina) in the house. It reminded me that not many people know the importance of early preparations for puppies/dogs who will need to be groomed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. With that being said, if you have a dog that will need to be brushed nightly to help avoid hair matting, start early! If you get the dog as a puppy, begin to pair the brush with positive reinforcement such as treats, chews, toys or attention and praise. Fortunately for me, while she was here, Sabrina wanted nothing more than to be loved on by people. Her favorite type of reward was attention. As long as we were giving her attention she couldn’t care less as to what else was happening. With that being said, every night I would spend a couple minutes just giving her all the love and praise in the world with one hand while I would gently brush her with the other. **Note: For puppies, it might be wise to do this when they are good and tired.**
Sabrina was what I would consider an easy case. At just 3 and half months she was a very calm puppy. Other dogs will need a little more distraction or a higher valued reward to accept brushing or combing. That’s OK. Here’s an example: If you have a dog who likes peanut butter, take a spoon with peanut butter on one end and hold it out for the dog to lick while you brush the dog with the other hand. When the peanut butter is gone then the session is over. You want to take baby steps and continue pairing good things with brush time. The benefit is that you are teaching the dog that while being brushed good things happen and yummy treats keep coming. Eventually your dog will make the connection and hopefully begin to enjoy brush time.
In the next couple of weeks, we will talk more about other aspects of grooming such as bathing, ear cleaning and nail clipping… stay tuned.