How to Sedate a Dog for a Haircut

Imagine this scene: It is time to clip your dog's fur and maybe trim his toenails, and he's sitting perfectly still, happy to let you flip him and flop him however you need in order to get the job done. This is obviously a fantasy scene because nearly every dog will instead wriggle, bark, whine, and try to jump away during a haircut. Taking your dog in the car to a groomer can be anxiety inducing, and then when he gets out of the car and is in a grooming salon with all of its unfamiliar sounds and smells, it can be even worse.

English bulldog sleeping on couch
Many people turn to dog tranquilizer pills as a dog sedative for grooming.
credit: Hanneke Vollbehr/Moment/GettyImages

To avoid this stress on their dog, many people turn to dog tranquilizer pills as a dog sedative for grooming. This way, they can try to perform the grooming themselves at home. It isn't recommended to sedate a dog with dog tranquilizer pills unless you're a veterinarian. There are some natural pet sedatives that might work and some over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl that might be used under supervision.

Natural relaxation for dogs

One of the problems with trying to get a dog ready for grooming is that dogs are hard to keep still. Try taking your dog for a long walk before grooming time. He may become so tired that he fights you a lot less.

Dog sedative for grooming

You can safely use human tranquilizers as an over-the-counter dog sedative for car travel or grooming, but make sure you know what you are doing. It can be very easy to underdose or overdose a dog in this situation when you're using medication that is not prescribed based on the dog's age, weight, and general health.

You can try using the medication Benadryl, which contains the ingredient diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used primarily for allergies, and in humans and in dogs, it can act as a mild tranquilizer. Talking to a veterinarian when using any sort of sedative or tranquilizer is recommended.

Benadryl is a tablet that dogs will usually take readily because it can be mixed in with their food or with some kind of treat that they enjoy eating, like peanut butter. Be sure to check with a veterinary professional to find the correct dose for your dog. The dosage of Benadryl in milligrams should not exceed your dog's weight. For example, the dosage for a five-pound dog would be no more than 5 milligrams, and a 30-pound dog should receive no more than 25 to 30 milligrams.

Training your dog for grooming

If you have a puppy, you might try training her to tolerate grooming behaviors from an early age. This can lessen your need for a dog sedative for grooming.

Start by brushing your puppy for short periods of time and then offer some playtime or treats to create a positive association with being groomed. Gradually increase the length of the grooming sessions, and be sure to handle your puppy's paws so that she gets used to nail trims and her mouth so that she can get used to tooth brushing too.