7 Best Remedies for Grooming Fearful Dogs

What tools do I need to groom my fearful dog at home? How can I sedate my anxious dog for grooming at home? Can I use human clippers for dogs? What is the best dog grooming tool? These are some of the common questions we get regarding dogs that are afraid of the groomer or simply don’t enjoy a bath at home. Here we explore the seven best grooming remedies and tools for dogs.

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1. K9 Bath Buddy

Peanut butter* is considered one of the ideal solutions to distract a fearful, anxious or nervous dog during clipping, trimming, brushing and/or bathing, however the whole process of distracting your dog while trying to perform a grooming task can become messy. Enter the K9 Bath Buddy, a dispensing mat that delivers results to keep your dog calm when it’s grooming time. It is easy to use and clean and it can also be used to dispense medicine to your dog’s eyes and ears.

K9 Bath Buddy is made from BPA and phthalate free, food grade silicone and its suction cup works well with painted walls, cabinet doors, glass doors, tubs and showers according to the manufacturers.

How does it work? Simply spread peanut butter onto Bath Buddy, and then stick Bath Buddy to your tub or shower wall. To reduce anxiety you can also place a couple of towels on the bottom of the tub, so your dog can get a good grip on the surface.

K9 Bath Buddy image
K9 Bath Buddy is one of the best dog grooming remedies for anxiety and fear.

If your dog is not a fan of peanut butter you can use his favorite wet dog food, low sodium squeezy cheese or pumpkin butter.

*Caution: Avoid peanut butter that contains additional sugars, high sodium levels and/or the ingredient xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is very dangerous for dogs.

2. Quiet Moments Calming Aid

Quiet Moments is a natural supplement made by NaturVet for dogs with fears and anxiety. It combines a special blend of flowering plants, herbs, seed oils, Thiamine and L-Tryptophan. Thiamine (Vitamin B1) is known as the anti-stress vitamin because it plays an important role in normal nerve functioning. L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which may aid in balancing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays a critical role in regulating anxiety, impulsivity, and aggression in dogs.

Quiet Moments can be purchased as soft chews, tablets or drops. Give them to your dog 30 minutes prior to grooming time. The dosage on the label is based on your dog’s size. The manufacturer also sells a spray that may be used in the grooming area 5-10 minutes before the bath, but it is not as effective as the tablets or the drops.

3. Dr. Harvey’s Relax & Stress

There are only a few remedies available in the market that use the right blend of herbs and natural ingredients to help fearful and anxious dogs, and Dr. Harvey’s Relax & Stress herbal supplement is one of them. The key calming ingredients include kava kava root, chamomile, catnip, valerian root and skullcap.

An examination from a veterinarian is recommended prior to using this product.

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Dr. Harvey’s herbal supplement for dogs

A word of caution: This supplement is very effective, but it’s not an instant remedy. It is meant to be part of a fearful dog’s daily diet. The powdered formula can be mixed into a dog’s food. Please note that you shouldn’t mix it with other calming supplements or remedies. Select only one and be sure to follow the instructions for the correct dosage.

4. Low Noise and Low Vibration Clippers

The loud and prolonged sound of clippers can be terrifying for a sound sensitive dog. Trying to desensitize a dog to those sounds can take a long time and that is why some companies have created low nose/ vibration tools to make grooming time a smooth and comfortable experience for pets.

These are 2 best dog grooming clippers for fearful dogs:

Bonve Pet Dog Clippers are low vibration and noiseless clippers are highly recommended by pet industry experts and dog owners. They can operate with or without a cord and are rechargeable.

Similar to Bonve Pet, the CLEEBOURG Dog Grooming Clippers Kit is another favorite. The low-noise technology it uses keeps the volume at a very tolerable 50-60 decibels. It comes with 6 attachments guide combs, stainless-steel scissors and comb, cleaning brush and usb charging cable.

Both brands are good for dogs with fine to medium coats and for clipping on double-coated dogs.

5. Homemade Natural Remedies

To reduce anxiety and muscle tension during trimming, brushing and nail clipping, you can try a blend of oils like aspen, lavender, red chesnut and chamomile that can be added directly to a reed diffuser, or it can also be sprayed on your dog’s collar or a bandana.

The book titled Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, written by Kristen Leigh Bell, showcases a number of ways that essential oils can be used to keep dogs calm during stressful situations. For fearful dogs, she created a recipe that helps them to relax:

  • 2 drops Sweet Orange essential oil
  • 3 drops Sweet Marjoram essential oil
  • 4 drops Petitgrain essential oil
  • 2 drops Vetiver essential oil
  • 3 drops Valerian essential oil
  • ½ ounce of a carrier oil like sweet almond

Mix all the ingredients together and store in a small bottle with a dropper. You can use 1 to 6 drops (dependent on dog’s size) by applying first to your fingers and then touching your dog’s nose. Use this oil at least 15 minutes before clipping, brushing or trimming your dog.

6. Calming Dog Shampoos

Shampoos for dogs can be a matter of preference. Or, if your dog has a skin condition, you may need to use a medicated shampoo. Assuming your dog doesn’t have any skin problems, there are an enormous number of products from which to choose. Ideally, you should look for a shampoo that contains natural, plant-based ingredients, such as oats, lavender, chamomile, sweet orange and/ or valerian root. Avoid shampoos made with artificial colors or fragances and other harsh chemicals.

Here are some of the best calming shampoos today:

  • Burt’s Bees Natural Calming Shampoo. This shampoo has lavender and green tea extracts that can do away with fears. It’s free of parabens, petrolatum, SLS, synthetic fragrances and phosphates.
  • Paws4Pals All Natural Organic Pet Lavender Shampoo. Cleans, conditions, detangles, and moisturizes your dog’s fur every time you use it. It has lavender extract, almond oil and oatmeal. Formulated for sensitive, dry skin.

7. Pet Grooming Gloves

Grooming gloves are an ideal alternative for dogs afraid of combs and brushes because they mimic the touch of your hands. The gloves’ soft rubber tips quickly brush away loose hair, tangles and debris. You can also use them to bathe your dog. He will love getting a gentle massage.

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Pet grooming gloves provide a gentle brush for fearful dogs.

Here are a few of the most popular pet grooming gloves available at Amazon, Chewy and other pet supplies retailers:

  • Four Paws Magic Coat Dog Grooming Mitt. Good for all coat types. You can also use Four Paws to remove hair from sofas, carpet and fabrics. It has adjustable wrist straps and one size fits all hands.
  • HandsOn All-In-One Pet Bathing & Grooming Gloves. Recommended for bathing only.

How to Desensitize your Dog to Grooming Tools

Follow these steps to calm your anxious or fearful dog:

1. Begin by exposing your dog to a very low level or small amount of the grooming tool that is causing his fear. For example, if he is afraid of clippers, start with the clippers placed at a distance of 10 feet from your dog.

2. Reward him for calm, nonfearful behavior in the presence of the clippers. Gradually move the clippers closer to him. As long as your dog remains relaxed, reward him with treats and praise. If at any point he becomes anxious, move the clippers further away and proceed at a slower pace.

3. When your dog can remain relaxed in the presence of the clippers, move the clippers 15 feet away again, but this time turn them on. Again, gradually increase the proximity of the clippers, rewarding your dog for remaining calm and relaxed. Repeat this procedure as many times as necessary, gradually increasing the speed of the clippers.

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Tatiana is a Los Angeles, CA based dog care and behavior counselor with 26 years of experience working with dogs and their families. She holds a M.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Animal Behavior.