Why does my dog shake in fear going to the groomers/vet?

A very common occurrence in vet clinics and grooming salons around the world.

I have heard some owners suspect foul play at with previous groomers and after a visit they were shaking in fear. It’s sad to say that this story is a common one.  Go with your gut, if you suspect something odd try another groomer until you are fully comfortable.

I know that deep in my heart I can go to bed comfortably without guilt of being rough with a dog.  I have no qualms about turning business away if a client would require me to rough to a dog just to complete a service.

Lack of Practice

This is merely an opinion of observation in my years of grooming.  I do see dogs come in shivering not wanting grooming and when I get the question “Why are they shaking?”, I can only say that they don’t want to be here.  Every time they visit me, they gets things they don’t like done like nail trimming, ear plucking, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, dematting, blow drying, nail dremel, etc.  The the association is negative since they don’t get home practice.

Dogs that are handled often like show dogs or dogs who I work with weekly are fully conditioned, some even go to weekly classes to perfect their manners  to prepare for their days front of a judge.  The dogs you see on TV dog shows come with hours of practice getting handled by strangers/handlers/trainers/judges, tails lifted, lips (flews) lifted, stacked, ears handled.   Its very routine and they don’t blink an eye with dremeling their nails since its done weekly nor shake in fear.   Its about making it positive and PRACTICE.  I do have owners who requests not to do anything their dog protests to avoid fear at the groomers.

Same concept when going to the vet which included pricking, prodding, rectal thermometer, ear medication, etc.  I made sure to start very young with our dog by teaching them that vet=treats and nail trims=treats.  He loves going to the vet, they give him liver treats, hugs and lots of attention forgetting about his past stomach surgery, abscessed drained with a syringe among many other dreaded ER visits.

Projection of Fear

Another thing I witness often is when an owner who is nervous about leaving their pup for their short visit unknowingly projects their fear onto their pup.  The fear is sensed by the pup, it shivers which then makes Mom/Dad shiver in voice saying “oh no he’s shaking” then pulling them back into their arms with more quivering on both parties.  As their leaders, they look to us for guidance and structure.  If the leader is scared/weary/worried then what message does that leave a your pup.  Like with humans, nervous parents are more prone to having nervous children.  I see the similarities with dogs and owners just as often.

If you feel fully confident and have a good understanding, trust,and relationship with your groomer.  The best thing to do is be positive and leave with confidence yet promptly to avoid  moments of fear.  I cannot tell you how many times  I have to wait until the owner walks out of the door for the dog to stop quivering and walk confidently along side me to the tub.  Its almost like a game of bluff, as if the pup is saying “Darn, they didn’t fall for it..ok lets go to the tub and get started”.

When you return, reward with their extra special item (special treats, stuffed Kong or ball).   Hopefully they might associate groomer or vet with one of the most important rewards ever in their eyes.