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Training your Pup to enjoy Grooming Sessions

If there's one thing (well, a few actually...) we'd do differently with a new puppy, it's working on co-operative care for future grooming or vet visits!

None of our dogs are fans of being handled by strangers let alone having their paws touched so to ensure your grooming journey is an easier one, we reached out to the experts at - Australia's No.1 Grooming Educational Resource.

Whether you’re a new puppy parent or a 'soon-to-be', there are some important considerations to be made aware of as these will determine your puppy’s enjoyment, temperament and the possibilities for their ongoing grooming. 

Factors such as knowing when to start, what tools to own and how you can desensitise your puppy at home are all determinants in how the overall experience will be for your puppy.

Just as we weren’t born knowing how to get our hair washed and cut, neither were puppies. It’s a foreign and generally speaking, quite a daunting process for them. They’re being held in new ways by strangers, feeling vibrations from clippers and required to sit still whilst having to watch tools such as combs and scissors up very close and personally.

Making sure their introduction to grooming is smooth sailing will help them see grooming as a positive experience rather than a punishment, which will have a consequent effect on their behaviour during the process.

When should you start grooming your pup?

The short answer is it's never too early! Brushing and handling your dog at home from an early age helps them acclimatise to the feelings of touch and the pressure of a brush. Professional grooming can start once your puppy has had their second vaccination, which is due when they're between 10 and 14 weeks old.

What grooming tools should I have at home?

For medium and long coats, a slicker brush and comb will be your best friend. 

A slicker brush consists of tightly packed wire pins that are designed at an angle to work through the coat whilst avoiding the skin. 

Your slicker brush will do most of the hard work, but a comb is essential to ensure you aren’t surface brushing (only brushing the top of the coat and leaving mats towards the roots of the hair) and identify any pesky knots you may have missed.

What should be included in your pup's first grooming session?

Their first appointment with a professional should be a basic service. It’s better to start small and work towards a full groom. 

With short-haired dogs, they should only every require a bath, nail clip and brush out, but for medium and long coats, a full groom can take upwards of one and a half hours - that’s a very long and tiring process to experience straight off the bat. We suggest starting with a bath, brush out and minimal trimming around the eyes, feet and hygiene areas where required.

How long will it take for my puppy to be ready for a full groom?

There is no universal answer for all puppies. 

There are many dependents to be considered such as their condition and your preference for their coat length and style

In an ideal world, your dog would have had at least one to two sessions prior to their full groom however, if they have a matted coat, your groomer may have no choice but to undertake the full service.

What is a coat change?

It’s important to be aware that puppies will experience a coat change between 4 and 6 months old. Coat change is when their puppy coat will be replaced by a thicker adult coat which can – seemingly overnight – become very matted. 

Frequent brushing with a slicker brush and comb will help release the puppy coat to ensure they’re free from tangles and pin knots, both of which are early signs of matting.

Double-coated dogs like Shiba Inus, typically shed heavily twice a year

What are my options if my puppy's coat is matted?

Prevention is always the best solution when it comes to matting as depending on the severity, it will limit the options for dog grooming as well as having the potential to make it a more traumatising experience for your pup. 

Just as it is with our own hair, tugging and pulling on knots can be extremely uncomfortable and if your pup associates those sensations with their grooming experience, they will understandably have animosity about the process. 

This Goldendoodle required shaving as his
coat was severely matted!
Whilst puppies are resilient, they are also very impressionable during these early months, so having your groomer spend long amounts of time brushing out knots is not only impractical for their wellbeing but can lead to behavioural issues in the future.

If your dog is matted, generally the best option for them is to be shaved. This means they spend less time on the table and will experience less discomfort. 

With that being said, removing matting even with shaving isn’t completely free of irritation and discomfort so it’s best for everyone involved to avoid it where possible!

What can you do at home to prepare a puppy for professional grooming?

If you had never had your hand touched by another before, handshakes would feel quite uncomfortable. Well, the same goes for puppies. Having their paws touched can feel strange but if you start with gentle handling from a young age, they’re more likely to associate this as the norm. 

Cocker Spaniel keeping still during nail clipping
No, we’re not saying to shake their paws each night, but when you’re having a cuddle on the couch you can gently hold a paw at a time and run your fingers over and between their paw pads. 

This will enable your groomer to trim between their paw pads to stop them slipping on flat surfaces and clip their toenails to make sure they continue to distribute their weight evenly when walking. 

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a groomer to have to refer a dog to the vet to get their nails done when a dog is either too distressed with the process or they become too aggressive. Whilst this is mostly seen in adult cases, good habits start from a young age and those behaviours grow with them.

Another sensation that is beneficial to prepare your pup for is the vibration of the grooming clippers, particularly around their head and face. 

Naturally, when puppies begin grooming and feel a vibration their curious nature wants to look at what is causing the noise and movement, but wriggly heads can become increasingly difficult to groom. 

If you have access to an electric toothbrush or electric clipper, using the back end (please avoid sharp or moving parts), gently run the base over their heads and nose. 

The first few times you’ll notice the energetic squirming we’re talking about but persist with it and they’ll begin to learn there is nothing too exciting about what is producing that vibration feeling. If you’ve got the time, this can be done on all areas of the body, particularly the front legs!

Finally, we have the face holds and we encourage you to use these if you are undertaking the clipper preparation above.

There are two common holds when it comes to grooming your puppy's face, the first is the chin grip. This is where they hold the chin hair between their thumb and forefinger. 

This hold isn’t designed to pull your dog's head towards them but to stabilise your dog from sudden movements such as throwing their heads back and sideways, which puppies like to do when they’re bored with the process. 

The second hold is the muzzle hold, this is either done with a thumb on the chin and fingers across the nose or vice versa. Not only is this another way to stabilise the head from sudden movements, but puppies are lickers and sharp scissors and tongues are not friends. 

Like the rest of these tips for desensitisation, practicing these holds when your pup is at home and in a familiar environment will help prepare them for the grooming table and ensure they’re calm and relaxed throughout. 

If you are practicing these holds at home, make sure you are being gentle or better yet, head down to your local groomer to get an in-person demonstration from the professionals.

What kind of frequency is required for dog grooming?

If only there was one simple answer! Frequency is dependent on a multitude of factors including coat type, skin condition, what style you’re wanting, lifestyle and their behaviour. 

Short coats will generally only require bathing, de-shed brushing and nail clipping at a frequency anywhere from every 4 to 10 weeks. 

Dogs with skin conditions such as dermatitis, may require bathing with a medicated shampoo more frequently. Medium and long coats require higher regularity, we recommend between 4 and 6 weeks for bathing and brushing. 

For full grooms, 8 to 10 weeks is generally a good amount of time between appointments. Style plays an important part in frequency, as longer coat clips require more maintenance. For advice on how often your puppy or soon-to-be puppy will require grooming, we encourage you to contact your local groomer for specific time frames and availability.

It’s important to be aware that your puppy may require nail clips between grooms and many grooming salons will offer this as a walk-in service. If you can hear your dog’s nails tapping on the ground as they walk, they’re in need of a trim! When nails are too long, it creates an unnatural angle of the foot which puts additional pressure on the nailbeds, toes and can result in the splitting or splintering of the nail itself.

Whilst it may seem like a lot, all the information and tactics above are only to better your puppy's health, well-being and sequentially their grooming experience. After all, they’re too cute to be stressed!

written by the igroomhub team, June 2023 for Australian Dog Lover.

About igroomhub

In 2017, Natalie West and Nicky Renwood, the owners of two of the longest standing dog grooming schools in Melbourne joined up to create igroomhub.  

igroomhub is Australia's original online resource for Dog Grooming education. Hosting regularly updated information, video tutorials, text and interviews from leading Dog Groomers, igroomhub has been designed as a continuous wheel of education with the ultimate aim of developing and improving Dog Grooming standards.

For more information, please visit

You can follow them on Facebook at and @igroomhub on Instagram.

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