Most dogs and cats can safely be groomed for the first time when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old and after they have received all necessary shots. But to fully prepare your pet for his or her first grooming, there are four things you can practice for making the first – and future – grooming sessions safe and happy experiences for everyone involved.

Because most first grooming experiences consist of the basics such as a bath, a nail trim, and trimming of the hair on your pet’s footpads, around their eyes, and genital areas, you will need to prepare your pet for being handled for grooming. You can do this by gently stroking them in the places they will be groomed, especially their face, mouth and feet. Repeating this process daily for a week or more will accustom your dog or cat to being handled for grooming. Reward good behaviors by giving a small treat.

Because most dogs and cats are groomed on a raised surface that’s three feet or more off the floor, you will need to prepare your pet for being on this type of surface. To encourage quiet and calm behavior while standing on a raised surface, cover a tabletop with a towel, blanket or pad that won’t be slippery. Then, lift your pet onto the covered surface and gently but firmly hold her under the belly and under the chin at the same time to help her feel safe. Having a second person nearby to steady and calm your dog or cat is helpful. Reward your pet with a small treat for calm and quiet behavior while on the table.

To prepare your pet for the use of grooming tools, begin by using a brush or comb gently on their hair in the areas you would naturally pet them. As well, gently tap both front and back toenails using a metal spoon or closed nail clippers. Try using the groom-stop-reward process to encourage positive behaviors. Briefly stop grooming, allow your pet to smell and see the comb, brush, spoon or clippers, and reward them with a small treat each time they show positive interest in the tools. Additionally, allow your pets to see and inspect a hairdryer, first in the off position, then turned on low, with the air blowing down (never in their face).

If your pet shows any biting, nipping, barking, whining or other negative behaviors during the grooming practice, immediately but briefly stop. Then, resume when your pet is calm and reward good behavior with a small treat.

If you still have questions about preparing your pet for their first grooming, PetWow can help you like we help the more than 20,000 pet owners throughout the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas who trust their pets’ care to us! Call 513-738-9691 or email [email protected]. For more pet care tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn!