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hi everyone,

we have a shih tzu dog that is absolutely terrified of being groomed. his previous owners didn't take care of him at all, and after years of having matted/knotted fur all over his body, they finally decided to take him to get groomed and i have no idea what they did, but he's absolutely petrified of people trying to groom him. the second he feels someone try and cut the fur on his underbelly or neck, he freaks out. we managed to get the majority of his fur shaved(it took us 2 weeks!)but he refuses to let us trim his neck or belly. does anyone have any tips on how to calm him down? it's heartbreaking seeing how scared he gets, but leaving his fur matted is just not an option. any advice is much appreciated.
 

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You might want to get meds from your vet to give him before getting him groomed the first several times. It will reduce his stress and he'll learn that grooming won't hurt him. I would also brush him every day, even if it's only with your hands at first, so that he gets used to being handled, eventually moving to a soft brush, and eventually to a slicker brush. Patience will obviously be the key.
 

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We never mistreated Bob but he- all of a sudden- hated us looking in his ears or between his toes/under his paws. He would start with a curled lip, then growl, and if we persisted would take a swipe at us!

It took about 2 months of daily practice and handling....but he now lets us groom him in every area. We still don't have as much time as we used to before he shifted, but we can handle him everywhere. I expect that in 2 more months, we'll be back to him not being anxious as we groom.

I started with just touching his paw. I watched his face, and when he started to bug his eyes out, I would move on to an area he liked. Then back to touching the paw- at first it was 1-2 seconds.
 

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You can try to desensitize him to the grooming process by playing training games. If he backs away from even being touch, start by bringing your hand near the "area" and give him a treat for not backing away. Repeat this over and over again, getting just a tiny bit closer to him until you're touching him. Touch him lightly and briefly, give him a treat, and gradually increase the time you have you hand on him. Change it up, touch and hold all parts of him, both to be grooming and not to be groomed areas: paws, bums, ears, etc. When he's alright with being touched, make it really fun! When you're playing with him and his excitement is up and happy, grab him and release, grab and release, flip over his ear to look inside and shove him away so that he comes running back (if he likes to play like that, lol), you get the drift. When you're relaxing on the couch or when he's snoozing, just ever to gentle touch and perhaps hold his paw and let go. Touch him ALL the time so he gets use to it, and always make sure he's comfortable and is enjoying.

The next step is to bring in the grooming tools, start with having them out and not quite near him. Have them out all the time so their presence is a common occurrence, pick up the tools and put them down randomly throughout the day. This way having them out doesn't equal grooming, so he get used to being around them. When training, he gets a treat every time he sees the tool, and every time the tool is taken out. When the grooming tool is near, he gets the most attention and the best of treats. Do not try to groom him yet, you want him to like to see and hear the tools first. If you have a shaver, when he's used to the sight, very quickly turn it on and off and give your dog a treat. Turn the shaver on randomly throughout the day like you're fiddling with it on your own. When he gets to the point where you can put a nail clipper or whatever next to him without freaking out, you can move onto just lightly and briefly touch him with the tools. This is only just a touch, don't turn anything on, open anything, or try to groom. When it touches, he gets lots of praise and treats. You want to gradually increase the duration of time the tool is touching, and different areas on his body.

Finally, when he's alright with the grooming tools touching him for a reasonable amount of time, you can very very gradually and slowly starting imitating "grooming" and treat and praise for every instance of grooming and for him remaining calm. Pretend to cut his hair near his body but don't cut yet, pretend to cut nails, pluck ears, and treat and praise every time. As he gets used to it, very discretely execute a little bit of grooming nonchalantly and give tons of praise and a treat... even if you only cut on lock of hair, lol.

This is what I did with my puppy. I hope this information helps. It's going to take a while, but it'll be worth all the work and effort. Goodluck!!
 
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