Q: Our puppy hates being brushed. He runs and hides when he sees the brush come out. How can we get him to welcome being groomed?
A: Puppies have a good memory for experiences that are painful or scary. If you accidentally pulled his fur during previous grooming sessions, he may want nothing more to do with it. The secret to getting him back into the grooming groove is to pair brushing with positive and enjoyable experiences. Before you do that, though, schedule a veterinary visit to make sure he doesn't have a painful condition, such as an ear infection, that is causing him to balk at being touched. Once that is ruled out, you can start teaching him to love being groomed.
First, make sure the grooming tools you're using don't have hard metal bristles that pull at his fur, or bristles that have lost their protective ends, causing them to poke into his skin. Try a soft, flexible detangling brush and a dog-specific detangling product to help make tangle removal less painful. Work out tangles slowly and gently.
Start to associate the brush with good things. Place it on the floor and surround it with treats. Let him investigate it at his own pace — and snarf up the snacks. Once he's comfortable around it, sit on the floor and hold it. Let him approach it, and give treats and praise when he does, even if all he does is look at it.
When you start brushing, keep it brief. Continue only as long as he remains in place without struggling. Offer a plentiful stream of treats to hold his interest. You can gradually increase the amount of time you spend brushing before you hand out a reward.
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