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How to Groom an Aggressive Dog

Grooming an aggressive dog can be a dangerous and challenging task, but with patience, understanding, and the right approach, you can make the process smoother for both you and your furry friend. Below are a few tips to help you get the job done.

Aggressive Dog Behaviors During Grooming

It is not uncommon for dogs to show aggressive behaviors that are problematic for owners and families to deal with. While almost all wild animals are aggressive by instinct when guarding their territories, defending themselves or protecting their young, when animals are adopted as pets it's important to address aggressive behaviors quickly through diligent training. 

Aggression can involve a wide range of behaviors that could ultimately result in attacks and injuries (including dog bites when grooming).

Signs of aggression in dogs include:

  • Threatening growl or bark
  • Refusing to stay still and not obeying an owner's or carer's instructions 
  • Growling when the dog's wishes aren't followed 
  • Snarling (baring teeth when growling)
  • 'Mouthing' a person in an effort to exert control 
  • A quick bite that leaves a mark, bruise or puncture in or on the skin 
  • Quick succession of bites 
  • Biting followed by shaking 

In aggressive dogs, any of these symptoms may appear exclusively or in combination. 

Aggressive Dog Grooming

Dealing with aggressive dogs during grooming sessions takes extra care, caution and training to keep both the dog and the groomer safe (whether you choose to groom your dog yourself or make an appointment with our professional groomers at Oakwood Animal Hospital). 

Dog bites when grooming can occur for many reasons including anxiety, fear, confusion or previous bad experiences while being groomed. 

If your pup has had previous poor experiences while being groomed, they may act extremely defensive the next time they enter a grooming space. In such cases, the frightened dog may attempt to bite anyone who approaches or tries to touch them. 

Tips to Avoid Dog Bites when Grooming 

Since your canine friend will need to be groomed regularly, training them to tolerate grooming will be essential. Our groomers recommend keeping these tips in mind and building trust with your pup when it's time to bathe and groom your dog. The less stress any pet is put under, the more calm and cooperative they will be. 

Seek Professional Help

  • If your dog displays aggression during grooming, it's essential to consult your veterinarian, a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who specializes in aggression. These professionals have the skills and knowledge to assess your dog's behavior, provide guidance, and develop a tailored training plan to address the aggression, whether aggression occurs during grooming or any other time.

Consider Professional Grooming

  • OK, so this is unlikely to be the advice you are looking for, but for your own safety, and to help reduce stress on your canine companion, professional grooming may be the best solution. Professional groomers are experienced in handling various behaviors and can often work with your veterinarian or trainer to ensure a safe and positive experience. In some cases, sedation prescribed by a veterinarian may be necessary in order to get the job done. 

Gradual Desensitization

  • Be patient and take time to gradually introduce your dog to grooming tools and procedures in a positive and controlled manner. Start with short sessions where you simply show the tools to your pup while you offer lots of treats, and praise. Gradually increase the exposure time while keeping the experience positive.


  • Associate grooming tools and procedures with positive experiences. Be sure to pair each step in this process with an abundance of treats, praise, and rewards to help create positive associations in your pup's mind. Over time, your furry friend may come to associate grooming with positive feelings.

Use Positive Reinforcement

  • When it comes to training our four-legged family members positivity is the cornerstone! Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward desired behavior. Whenever your dog remains calm or cooperative during grooming, reward them with treats, toys, or affection.

Respect Their Limits

  • Pay attention to your dog's body language and be on the lookout for signs of stress. If your dog becomes visibly uncomfortable or agitated, stop the grooming session and give them a break. Pushing too far can escalate their aggression and make things worse for both you and your pup.

Choose the Right Environment

  • Before grooming begins take the time to create a calm and quiet environment. Minimize distractions, and do what you can to prevent loud noises and other stressors that might contribute to your dog's anxiety.

Short and Positive Sessions

  • Starting by keeping grooming sessions short and then gradually extending their duration, can help to keep your dog calm and comfortable with the process. Focus on one area at a time, such as brushing or nail trimming, to avoid overwhelming your dog.

Incorporate Desensitization Techniques

  • Use desensitization techniques like touching and handling your dog's paws, ears, and other sensitive areas when they are calm and relaxed. This helps them become accustomed to being touched without associating it with discomfort.

Use Calming Techniques

  • Incorporate calming techniques, such as playing soothing music, using aromatherapy (ask your vet for suggestions), or using calming aids like Thundershirts, to help reduce your dog's anxiety during grooming.

Be Patient and Consistent

  • Grooming an aggressive dog requires an abundance of patience as well as consistency. Progress is going to be slow, but with time and effort, you can help your dog become more comfortable with the grooming process.

Use preventive measures to help avoid emergency situations. 

Some aggressive dogs may not calm down during grooming sessions despite your best efforts. However, they'll still need to be groomed. Some solutions may include special anxiety-reducing jackets (during nail trims), organic and all-natural medications or muzzles. Speak to your vet about which option(s) will be best for your dog, and consult your vet about any medications you're thinking of using before administering them to your pup. 

If you choose to have our professional groomers in Oakwood do the job for you, rest assured that we have the knowledge and experience needed to groom all types of dog coats and work with animals of a wide range of temperaments, including those that are stressed, anxious or aggravated. 

In circumstances where an animal is especially aggressive or fearful, we may recommend sedation during a grooming session. However, most of the time we are able to manage these types of dogs by doing the things listed above, and taking the following steps:

  • Ensuring the environment is quiet, calm and peaceful 
  • Asking your dog to perform an easy trick or action (such as 'sit' or 'shake paw')
  • Offering treats
  • Taking frequent breaks 
  • Playing music or opening a window. 

At Oakwood Animal Hospital, we always look forward to meeting your four-legged friends and providing advice to help keep your dog happy and healthy. Alternatively, we'd love to take the job of grooming off your hands to get this important task done right, with minimal fuss. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

If you would prefer to leave grooming your dog to the professionals, we can help! Contact Oakwood Animal Hospital today to speak to one of our grooming team about your pup's needs.

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