Shake shake shake...shake your....puppy? Does your dog shake when you are dropping them off at the salon? Why do you think they do that? When I first started grooming I used to feel bad because I wanted every dog to come in bounding and happy to be at the shop. Then I realized that just like people dog's have different personalities, different emotions and different ways of handling stress. I also put myself in my dog's paws, so to speak, and imagined what going to the grooming shop is like from their perspective.

How many people do you know that break into a sweat at the mention of the dentist? Or a shot? While others are totally unfazed by routine checkups. Dogs are no different. They have varying emotions, and anxiety levels. Know your pet and how they handle different situations so you can see what is a normal level of stress for them. 

For some, the car ride in and of itself can be stressful if they are only in the car for utilitarian purposes. The car says to them "vet, shots, polking and prodding", or "boarding, time away from family", or "grooming shop, nails trimmed, dryers". You can see how when your pet gets into the car in this circumstance how they're already beginning to chant "Grooming and boarding and vets, oh my!" So that's the first step. One way to help your pet conquer this fear is to take them for rides now and then, no real destination, just in the car to pick up the kids, run errands, see the foliage, etc. Your pet's stress level with then be at a normal level for whatever they may have to face next.  

Next, imagine what it's like when you walk through the salon door. As hard as we try to maintain an immaculate environment and spa like feel, to a dog there are still a barrage of sights, smells and sounds. If this is their first time to the salon then it's a completely foreign sensory overload, many dogs will be timid since they are not sure what to expect. Picture your reaction to walking into a new room with new people and a new routine. While you may not be visibly shaking cause hopefully you have a little more pride, a dog has a lot less ego to protect and isn't embarrassed about communicating it's feelings of the new situation. 

One way to help your pet with the grooming process is to make it routine. Anything that only happens to them once or twice a year is going to be much scarier than something they do every month. This is especially true for dogs as their concept of time is not quite as realistic as our own. Think about when you run out to the store for that item you forgot and are back within 10 minutes, do you get almost the same greeting from your dog as when you've been gone for work the whole day? Often that is the case, so just think about how much longer it is between groomings for them therefore they build up a lot more anxiety in the interim. 4 weeks seems like a decade and waiting 4, 5, 6 months is like a whole lifetime for them. So the more regularly they are groomed the more comfortable they are remembering that, "Oh this isn't so bad, I remember what we did last time and I survived no problem, in fact, I felt pretty good after". Over time that routine building helps build confidence and even joy in a dog that at one time had fear and trepidation at the thought of going to the pet spa.  

On the same note, they know you, their mom or dad, is leaving them which is also scary! "Mom and dad brought me to this place and....are....leaving me! And yesterday I tore open the garbage bag...what if they're mad?!? And are leaving me for good!!! Oh the horrors!" Granted a little overdramatized, but honestly this is what it looks like some dogs are thinking. Or they're thinking if they act like they're so scared then maybe mom or dad will feel bad and take me home. If you have been a dog owner for more than 2 weeks, you know that they know how to manipulate us, or perhaps a better word is train us and they can tug at our heartstrings with the best of them. The best way to handle drop off if this is how your dogs is acting is like it's nothing to even bat an eye at. If you needed a friend to hold your dog for a second while you ran back into your house to grab a sweatshirt, you'd say here hold Fluffy for a sec, be right back, without even a second thought. Your dog probably wouldn't shake while you ran inside and back out again. Really think about what you are communicating to your dogs when you are dropping them off. If you are nervous, or feeling guilty and sorry for them, or worried about their shaking then all they see is you handing them to a stranger with the look of "I'm sorry I'm doing this to you" in your eyes. Then their minds run wild with the possibilities of never seeing you again, or being tortured for secrets they don't know they have, or worse! So the more relaxed and nonchalant you are at drop off, but you have to be convincing to a dog who reads body language and smells pheromones better than we can ever dream, the more relaxed and nonchalant your dog will be.  

In summary (or if you skipped the novel above and are looking for just the bullet points), know what is normal for your pet and how they express their stress, make grooming a normal routine to build a healthy confidence and experience, and don't act like you're sending your dog overseas for 3 years, it's a bath and a haircut, no big deal, act that way and they will follow suit. Hope this helps give you a little insight as to how your pet is feeling and why they act the way they do upon drop off. Happy pet parenting!