There’s a few important things you need to take in consideration before you start to groom a fearful dog. Some dogs have unreasonable fears that they need to overcome before you can groom them safely. As cold as it may sound, the worst thing you can do for a dog with an unreasonable fear is to pet her and try to comfort her.
In fact, when you comfort an animal that is nervous and shaking, you are actually telling her that you like her to be nervous. You are rewarding her nervous behavior. Even though the dog may cling to you when nervous, you really can’t comfort her as you would a scared child.
This is one of the main differences between human and dog behavior. If a dog was in the wild among a pack of dogs and he began to act nervous and fearful, the pack would leave him or turn on him. They would view his behavior as instability, and instability in a pack can get you killed. They wouldn’t reward behavior like that.
The best thing you can do for a dog that is very nervous and fearful is to ignore the nervous behavior. Put the dog in her den or crate. If you haven’t already crate-trained your dog, now would be a good time to do that. Crates can help her feel safe. Dogs are den animals and most dogs like the security of a crate when they are upset.
The best thing you can do for a fearful dog is to be brave for him, ignore the nervous behavior, and praise him when he is calm. If you are worried, dogs notice it and view it as weakness. If you are weak, the dog feels he has to be the tough one.
A very nervous dog doesn’t have what it takes to be the leader, but if he has a weak owner, he will show aggression and become very unstable. This is why many dogs bite out of fear.
In the animal world, it’s eat or be eaten. If a dog shows aggression toward you, you will become afraid and back off. This is where dog psychology comes into play. Dogs have to face their fears in order to overcome them. You cannot show any fear to the dog.
If she acts aggressive out of fear, you have to remain calm and move very slowly. Sudden moves will get you bitten. Don’t baby the dog. You need to be very happy and upbeat.
Before starting the grooming process, you can use desensitization to help your dog overcome his phobias. For example, take a dog that has a fear of the dryer. Start out slowly, and let the dog sniff the dryer when it is off. Touch the dog very gently with the dryer until the dog is calm.
Turn the dryer on low and just let it run while the dog is on the table. The dryer just has to make noise; you don’t want the dog to feel it. While the dryer is running, massage the dog and relax him.
Once the dog is calm, you can pick up the dryer and put it closer to him. Relax the dog again and eventually aim the dryer at the dog’s back. Massage the dog while you dry him.
He will learn to associate the massage with the warm air of the dryer. Nothing bad happens. If you have a dog with a phobia, don’t expect to get perfect results the first time. Fearful dogs take time to desensitize.
The hardest part is not feeling sorry for the dog. Tell yourself that you are the leader and nothing will happen to the dog while she is in your presence. The dog will pick up that attitude from you.
If you feel the need to comfort the dog by talking to her, don’t. Do not reinforce nervous behavior. You can talk a dog into a nervous state of mind. The inflection of your voice when speaking to a nervous animal comes across to her as weakness and gives her more reason to worry. Hum instead! Humming is benign and will help calm your dog.