How to Get a Dog to Be Still While Cutting Hair

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Ready to become a dog beautician? If you're a new pet owner and you've decided to forgo the cost and hassle of taking your dog to a professional groomer, you'll need to learn how to cut your own dog's hair. And when you're in the midst of this routine, juggling scissors and trimming away, you'll find that it can be hard to hold a dog still while grooming.

Many dogs don't like being handled for grooming.
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The reason? Grooming an animal, which can include haircuts, bathing, and nail trimming, isn't usually the most pleasant experience for a dog. And if you happen to display stress or anxiety when performing the task, it can actually rub off on your dog. A recent Swedish study found that the more chronically stressed a dog owner is, the more likely it is for the person's pet to mirror the same anxious feelings.

The best way to hold a dog still while grooming is to grab the right gear, practice the job regularly, and lavish your pet with praise (and yummy treats!). Here's what you need to know.

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Invest in a table

If you can swing the purchase, using a proper table is the way groomers keep dogs still during a haircut. A sturdy metal grooming table will sit at the proper height, without straining your back — and it'll come and with a grooming noose, which is a type of harness that helps to keep your dog still while you trim. But don't worry — these nooses come with a quick-release option to keep your dog safe.

Practice often

Before diving into your dog's haircut, practice a bit so he becomes used to the sensation of being up on the table and having this piece connected to his neck. Attach the grooming noose to the collar and then offer praise and a treat when he sits still with it on. Start with short table visits, then gradually work up to longer sessions. Keep in mind that if your dog jumps off the grooming table, the force will unfasten the connectors on the noose so he'll never be in danger when using this device.

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Treats can make grooming easier.
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Offer treats

Train your dog to stay still on the grooming table by using positive reinforcement, which means verbal encouragement, physical petting and cuddling, and tasty treats. The next step is to incorporate being handled into the training so that you can eventually work up to clipping and trimming. Instead of rewarding your dog for simply staying still, give praise and a treat when your dog stays still and allows you to brush certain areas that are more difficult to cut around, such as the ears, tail, and paws.

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Set the scene for grooming

You'll know you're ready to try a full haircut when your dog is able to sit still for the amount of time it will take, as well as have various parts of his body touched or brushed. To make the task more relaxing, choose a place for the haircut that's calm and quiet. Loud, sudden noises might startle your canine and make holding a dog still while grooming next to impossible. Places to consider: in the basement or garage, away from kids, TV, and the phone.

Never punish your dog while grooming

Never punish your dog during the grooming process.
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As frustrated as you may feel if your dog squirms, yelps, or repeatedly leaps off the table when you're aiming to keep him still for a haircut, never punish your dog during the process. Only a system of positive rewards when your dog is cooperating (kind words, treats), as well as withholding that same praise and tasty bits and ignoring behavior you don't approve of, will work for this and other training tasks. In fact, the punishment of a dog can lead to difficult behavior, including fear and aggression.

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