How to Groom a Dog That Bites

How to Groom a Dog That Bites

How to Groom a Dog That Bites

Dog That Bites
Photo by Halfd / CC BY

Do you fear that task of grooming a dog that bites?

Almost every dog owner has had a dog he/she was unable to groom. Or a difficult dog that groomers wouldn’t accept…

Many times the difficulty of grooming a dog boils down to one reason…

The dog has had a bad experience. Its toenail was cut too short causing bleeding; the comb or brush was hurting the dog’s sensitive skin or simply because it “hated” a bath.

Let me ask you:

Are you in one of the following situation?

  • you are a dog owner and your professional groomer tells you to go somewhere else with your dog (i.e. your dog bites during grooming)
  • you are a dog owner and your dog bites you when you perform a certain grooming procedure (like brushing, clipping etc.). But other times, your dog is an angel.
  • you are a dog groomer and you are facing some very difficult dogs just hours/days ago, and you are looking for advice on what to do should you come across another

If your answer is “Yes” to at least one of the question, you are at the right place!

getting attention and time with youRegardless of the reasons, with a little bit of dog grooming training, you can raise a dog to tolerate the task.

The idea is to train your canine friend to get acclimated to what you typically do when you groom him/her like placing him/her on a grooming table or softly handling the feet and mouth. The same ideas can be applied to train your dog to accept your groomers.

If you want to groom a difficult dog successfully, you need to get familiar with all the procedures that go into the task.

Keep in mind that dogs must be trained for good grooming manners so they’re used to be cleaned or maybe even enjoy the grooming process.  And, remember, when you’re grooming your dog, he/she is getting attention and time with you.

Determining the Cause for Bite

natural wolf instinctWhen it comes to how to groom a dog that bites, the first thing you want to do is to determine the cause of your dog biting.  When a dog shows displeasure the animal will growl or snarl. But dogs bite for several reasons during the grooming process.

Dogs will bite out of self-defense (in this case the person is causing harm to them) or if they are in pain. This is the natural wolf instinct in the dog. When grooming the dog you need to be aware that even the most docile dog has the potential to bite.

A dog that has medical conditions such as hip dysplasia or arthritis may bite when the pain is pushed beyond their threshold during the grooming process.

Dogs can be fearful
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY-SA

If your dog bites, have your dog checked to determine if it has one of these medical conditions, which might be causing the biting problem.

Dogs can be fearful of the grooming procedure and equipment.

Imagine if you knew nothing about these procedures and tools, what would your reaction be when you saw these sharp clanking metals gathered beside you for the first time? Run!!

And in some cases, the dog may have had a bad experience with grooming..

Perhaps he had been mistreated before during grooming, perhaps he suffered from those clipper burns and he had associated this unwanted experience with clipping. Out of fear and without an outlet for escape, there is a chance the dog will bite in self-defense.

How To Successfully Groom A Dog Using Positive Reinforcements

If you want to groom a dog, you should begin when your dog is still a pup. The reason is that puppies enjoy experiencing new things, which allows you time to get them acclimated to the grooming process.

puppies enjoy experiencingWhen the dog hasn’t experienced any negative aspects to grooming, your canine friend will be more accepting of all the procedures.

Having said that, this doesn’t mean you can’t groom an older dog that’s had a bad experience. After all, you can always retrain him/her to enjoy it. It just means it’ll take some additional time and a little more training.

Positive reinforcements are the best dog grooming training method available and it works for the majority of situations. When you using the positive reinforcement method, what you’re doing is rewarding their good behavior and ignoring the bad ones.

For instance: your dog gets up on the grooming table, give him/her a treat and some praise. If the dog fails to get on the table, no treats and no praise are to be given. Of course, you don’t want to punish your canine friend either.

What you’re looking to do is reward them enough that the dog will do it every time on his/her own.

dogs are driven by foodThe majority of dogs are driven by food so using it during training is important. And, it’s easy to give them after they’ve done what you’ve asked them to do.

Of course, you’ll need to do some experimentation on what treats are good for your pup and how much – sometimes one treat isn’t enough.

When you hand treats to your dog, be sure they’re small. If you give your dog too many big treats, it can cause them to gain weight and get fat.  If you have big treats, consider splitting them up into two or three pieces.

There are some dogs that don’t like treats as a reward. If you find your dog is not food-driven, you can try using a toy or activity that he/she likes for the reward.

Train Your Dog To Enjoy The Grooming Experience

What must you do to ensure your dog has good grooming manners? You need to make the whole grooming experience enjoyable. If you don’t, your dog won’t want to partake or will begrudgingly partaking in the experience.

shampoos Bear in mind that when you go to a groom a dog, they won’t understand that it’s for his/her advantage…even if you’ve explained to your dog while you’re doing it.

Obviously, they won’t understand about dog brushes, combs, dog nail clippers, shampoos and anything else that pertains to grooming.

However, you can reduce the fearful feelings he/she has by getting them comfortable with all of it and giving them rewards and praise when they act or respond in a positive way.

Begin by spending up to 10 minutes every day training your dog on how to handle the grooming issues. If you notice your dog is unhappy or scared with the grooming process, you need to make it as short as humanly possible for his/her benefit… at least in the beginning.

Provide treats so that the attention is diverted away from the grooming tools. Once you’re done grooming, end the activity with something fun for them such as fetch or tug.

When you groom a dog, you need to make sure that the sessions are not too long for their comfort.

Photo by Kathleen Tyler Conklin / CC BY

If you notice your dog is reacting negatively to the grooming, allow them to nibble on a treat. When he/she is distracted, softly brush his/her coat. And, when he reacts in a positive manner, give them praise and the rest of the treat. The idea is to work up to longer brushing sessions.

With the help of the above dog grooming training tips, you and your canine friend can feel comfortable with the whole process, from start to finish.

Just remember to begin things slowly and to back off slightly if you notice any uncomfortable feelings coming from your canine friend. You can make the experience enjoyable; it’s just going to take time to do.

In the subsequent section, I’ll show you exactly how to correct your dog’s bad grooming behavior in 6 simple steps below.

Read on…

How to Groom a Dog That Bites – What You Can Do About It?

touching his sensitive areasPreparing your dog for grooming is therefore important for your safety, in a sense. If your dog has a painful ailment, get to the bottom of it to remove the cause for pain. When you decide to groom your dog, start the sessions short and make it fun for your dog.

The most important thing is to make grooming a pleasurable experience for your dog. This will help eliminate fear and let the dog associate grooming as a pleasant activity.

To do that, you would need to make sure that your dog gets accustomed to you touching his sensitive areas (such as their feet – most dogs don’t like their feet touched) as well as to the grooming tools that you will be using.

And here’s how… step-by-step.

Getting Your Dog Comfortable With the Grooming Equipment and Procedures

You can help to eliminate or minimize your dog’s uneasiness or fear of a grooming equipment/procedures through the steps below.

Once your dog understands that the equipment are harmless and the procedures can be enjoyable, your dog will let you groom him and grooming will become easier for you.

Grooming Equipment
Photo by Mickeysamuni / CC BY-SA

To get your dog desensitized with the grooming equipment and procedures, start with short but frequent sessions by doing the following:

  1. Find a time when your dog is a little tired or a little hungry.
  2. Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions. If you have a grooming room, take your dog there, but make sure that the room is quiet so he is not distracted.
  3. Get your dog familiar with each piece of equipment by showing it to her one at a time slowly. Show your dog the brush, let him sniff it for a few seconds and then give him a small treat.
  4. Next, gently touch your dog with the brush and the treat. Once he has fully accepted the object, gently brush one stroke and immediately follow with a treat. Repeat this about three more times until she realizes that being brushed is a great feeling.
  5. The same procedure goes (Step 3 and 4) for the nail clipper, toothbrush, and other grooming tools. Work on the areas of your dog that equipment is designed for. Remember: Take the time to introduce them to your dog. Break down the procedure into small steps as this will give your dog the chance to create a positive experience within each step.

If your dog is uncomfortable with you touching a certain area when you are grooming him with that equipment, stop and don’t push it. Your dog may be feeling sensitive and nervous about it.

your dog relaxesMove on to another area of his body that he’s comfortable with you touching, or move on to the next equipment. As your dog relaxes, go back and gently try touching the sensitive areas again. If your dog is still uncomfortable about this, try giving him some treat to distract him.

  1. Keep each session short (about 1 -2 mins) and do this often by interspersing the sessions throughout the day. You can progressively increase the length of each session as your dog starts to get used to the grooming equipment and procedures. Do not lengthen the session beyond his comfort level.

As the session progresses, your dog will get more and more used to your touch, grooming equipment and procedures. Work up the length of your grooming sessions slowly to a full-blown session length. This will take time.

Remember, patience is the key!

Preventive Measures When Grooming An Aggressive Dog

You may have tried to make your dog to stop biting even after training the dog during a grooming procedure.

muzzleOr you may find that it’s going to take more time to remove the fears of grooming from your dog. But you need to have grooming done now because the dog has just dropped into a mud pit and needs a bath.

And the animal is struggling….

There are a couple of “emergency” options to tackle the problem. You could muzzle the dog or medicate the animal – but we think that these options aren’t satisfactory solutions. They should only be done in extreme cases because you can endanger the health of your dog if they aren’t done properly.

Use a Muzzle For Dogs

The dog muzzle will slip over the nose and mouth of your dog and prevents the animal from biting.

If you know that a grooming procedure tends to make your dog snap then the muzzle is an ideal solution. Combing the dogs coat or trimming toenails are two common grooming procedures that can cause a dog to bite. Pulling and tugging can cause pain to your dog.

nylon strap muzzlesOn the market are several different types of dog muzzles. There are nylon strap muzzles which are simple. These slip around the nose of your dog. Muzzles can be padded so your dog doesn’t have any discomfort when wearing the muzzle.

Other muzzles allow your dog to drink and eat while wearing the device. You must be sure that whatever muzzle that you use is suitable for the size of your dog’s head so the animal has room to breathe while wearing the muzzle.

If you use a muzzle, you can put it on the dog shortly before the grooming procedure is to begin. Once the procedure is over, you should take the muzzle off immediately.

Only use the muzzle when it’s needed to avoid a bite. Use the muzzle as little as possible when grooming the dog.

The muzzle won’t make the dog more cooperative during the grooming so you can’t rely on it to calm the dog down. The dog might become more difficult the next time because the animal knows that restraint will be used.

Once you take the muzzle off provide praise and treats for the dog so the animal feels at ease.

You should not leave the dog alone when you use a muzzle. This is important in hot weather because the dog needs to pant to stay cool to avoid overheating. In some cases the dog may try to remove the muzzle and could get injured if the muzzle is caught on something sharp.

Try to keep the muzzle on for just a few minutes and avoid having it on for long periods. If you use the muzzle too much the dog may become aggressive as he is restrained and learns not to like the muzzle.

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Medication of any kind is not recommended for restraining a dog.

If you must use it be sure to speak to a veterinarian to learn about side effects of the drugs. Dogs are usually calmed with the drugs cloricalm and acepromazine.

Some medications can have adverse side effects for the animal. Try to use naturally essences one good one is “Calm Down.” Your local veterinarian can provide you with information on medication alternatives.

To sum it up, none of these 2 methods beat preparing and training your dog for grooming.

For the daring…

And finally, if you are experienced enough (then you probably won’t need this article) :), check out how a groomer groomed an aggressive dog in the video below:

Apart from learning how to deal with a dog that bites during grooming, you’ll also need to discover the proper methods to grooming your dog, this can be found in a comprehensive eBook I’ve created for you to tackle your question on “How to Groom a Dog”. Check it out


Disclosure: Please kindly note that the above muzzle links is an affiliate link ( and will earn a commission when you purchase via the link (at no additional cost to you). We recommend readers to do their independent research prior to purchasing any products or services. This article here is not an endorsement, recommendation or usage guideline of the specific product.

22 thoughts on “How to Groom a Dog That Bites

  1. This was very helpful. My dog, Boomer, is a Lhasa just like Buddy and displays the same behavior.

  2. I have a cocker spaniel, he let’s you groom his body but will not allow the groomer come near his muzzle to trim. Please advise.

    Thank you.

    1. You need to uncondition your dog for that. Find what triggers the behaviour. For example, the electric clipper buzzing and what negative experience had you dog associated with the trigger. You’ll need to “rehabilitate” your dog by associating the trigger as a positive experience. Thanks!

  3. I have brother living with me because of a stroke so we have his dog here . And I’m have trouble giving him a bath he want let me pick him up are give her a bath because she will bite for blood so what can I do

  4. I like how you used the large comb to keep him from turning to bite. I did feel your clippering technique is a bit ruff. I have found a lighter touch and going slow is better. I get a smoother finished clip too.

    1. I agree with your comments. The groomer in the video NEVER praised the pup, his name is Buddy, right? She never said his name, never praised his good behavior and never even tried to make it an enjoyable experience. In fact, besides telling him to “settle” the only thing she really said to Buddy was to mock him for the face he made while growling. You’d think if she knew what the video was going to be used for that she would have been nicer and more gentle to the dog. I’m sure that when he first came to them his behavior was much worse. But it’s not the dog’s fault. More than likely he was abused at some point or was groomed by someone with no compassion and he/she hurt him. Poor Buddy!

  5. Dog has dirty face from eating her poop and long hair and always has a smell problem. She is a rescue and was mistreated and abused. She is hard to even wash let alone cutting her hair. Please help and advise on how I can manage her.

  6. My dog will not let anyone give him a bath he doesn’t just bite once he comes back 3-4th times if he bites it ends up being more like a attack. He is a rescue dog and was abused when he was a puppy we have had him 5 years he has never bit anyone but us , he will like something and the next day he decides he don’t like it anymore and attacks. He has a awesome vet who handles him wonderful but we need some pointers on maybe trying to give him a bath . We don’t want to sedate and muzzle him he has a history of seizures probably from the abuse when he was a puppy . If you have any ideas please let us know . Thank you .

  7. My Scottie pup is seven months old and hates being groomed. He’s fine for his bath, but as soon as I turn on the blow dryer I can see him getting nervous. He’s bitten me while using the clippers. I don’t want to use a muzzle because I think that would make things worse. Help!!

    1. Hey Beth,

      I’m sorry to hear that. Your pup needs to be trained so that it will associate grooming positively. Try taking incremental steps by first introducing the blow dryer without switching it on. When your dog shows a positive behavior towards it, pet your pup. When its comfortable, you can start to switch it on at a distance, and let it get used to the warm air from a distance first. Take incremental steps as well, but don’t push further than your dog is comfortable with. This will take a while, from a few days to a week. And most importantly, stay calm yourself, dogs are good at picking up the energy of its “pack”.

  8. We have beautiful dog rescue,but he bit my husband 3 different times,my husband is nothing but love him… We try not to tell anyone because the once we did they said put him down l just cant thinking about it breaks my heart…If anyone has some solution please let me know ..Sincerely

    1. Hi Daniela,

      Tough call. I’m sorry to hear this about your dog. There may be reasons for this, and it’s best to ask a dog behaviorist for help.

  9. If you groomed the aggressive dogs that I groom you’d have no fingers left ,that dog is not aggressive

  10. I have a 3 month old male shihtzu that nips at me during brushing. When he was 6 to 8 he will allow me to brush him now I have no idea what’s going on with him.

  11. Thanks for sharing this post, this is very helpful for everyone though my pet is not like that. She is so very gentle, and I thank God for that.

  12. At no point was the dog rewarded with either a treat or verbal praise for non-aggressive behaviour, so at which point does the dog know he is behaving???
    My shih Tzu, spaniel and 2 german shepherds were desensitized with all grooming equipment in play, and rewarded for good behaviour as well as ‘good boy/girl’ as we were doing this, then going on to touching the dogs paws, pads, tummy,chest, tail and head areas moving onto longer periods of holding their paws and legs, if the dog reacted negatively a firm NO! all it took, then soon as they were ok again a reward.
    This will be carried out with clippers, at first no power on, for the dog to get used to the smell, feel of the clipper, then switching it on with the clipper away from the dog, working upto bringing the clipper near the dog.
    Make this fun for your dog not a nightmare.

  13. My dog buddy was kicked out of petsmart for his growling and attempts to bite clippers. I groomed him first day went ok. Still unable to get near his face. Rescue dog. Abuse?

  14. I have a rough collie that has very long fur. Ever since I got him at 8 weeks he hated to get brushed.just having the brush in my hand he gets aggressive, even if I’m brushing my hair he does. I tried everything in the books to get him to like it. He’s going on 4 and I’m even worried one day he will bite the groomer, which he goes to twice a yr. I have a muzzle but have to buy a basket type as he can bite with the breathable muzzle. If I run my fingers through his fur he will look to see if I’m using the brush or comb. He growls and barks when I try to brush him. Even if I can do a different section on him every day I’ll be happy. I had no problems with other dogs I had during my lifetime. I have patience but he’s wearing me down. He’s going to be the last one I own due to me being 65 and his lifespan. With the new law if he shows aggression and someone reports him they have the right to take him and put him down.

  15. I have two dogs . I love my dogs too. I will teach them according to your advice. Thank you very much for giving advice.

  16. I have a Yorkie mix who is great with bath time, but snarls and bites everytime I try to clean her eyes. I have tried everything I can think of and nothing works with her. And being that her eyes need to be done daily, I need to find out the best way to do it. Any suggestions?

  17. Thanks for mentioning how getting your dog to realize that grooming equipment is harmless will allow them to be calm when it is time for them to be cleaned up. The dog that I rescued suffers from a lot of anxiety and needs to be cleaned soon, but she gets so scared whenever I try to clean her myself. It might be a good idea to find a grooming service that can help her realize that the grooming tools are harmless.

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