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English Cocker Spaniel being brushed by a girl.

While many pooches love being pampered, some of our canine companions go berserk when they see a brush. But brushing your pup’s coat isn’t just a great way to keep them in tip-top shape—it’s a vital part of responsible dog ownership. Routine grooming sessions keep you connected to their overall health so you can examine their coat, body, and paws for any problems. Don’t lose hope if your dog wiggles, hides, bites, or runs away at the sight of a brush—there are ways you can make the ritual much more positive for you both.

Why Does My Dog Not Like Being Brushed?

Your dog may hate brushings for a lot of reasons. Dogs have good memories. They will remember previous scary or painful experiences, especially negative experiences that happened during puppyhood.

Pay attention to how your dog reacts before, during, and after brushings. Do they react negatively to certain motions? If your dog is flinching every time you get near them with a brush, they likely have bad experiences associated with brushings.

Some dogs become anxious about brushings. This could be because they have anxiety or because they find new experiences scary. It’s also possible that your dog has a past, or a history of abuse, you don’t know about. Rescue dogs, in particular, will often have a fear of abandonment and may be negatively reacting because they don’t trust you. If your dog is biting while being brushed, it may be because they don’t enjoy brushing, they’re scared, or have been abused.

It’s also possible that your beloved pup may have had a bad grooming experience before. Their fur may have been brushed too hard or that they might have sensitive skin, and will avoid your brush to prevent potential pain.

And, of course, some dogs are also just impatient. They’ve got energy to burn and don’t want to sit still.

Regardless of the reason, it’s possible for all these pups to learn to love brushings.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi enjoying getting brushed outdoors.

How to Brush a Dog that Hates Being Brushed

Since dogs can’t communicate why they don’t like being brushed, you need to treat them respectfully and gently as you brush them.

It can be easy to get angry or frustrated when you’re having a difficult time brushing your dog. But showing frustration will equally frustrate your dog and make the process more difficult. You need to show them lots of love and patience.

Load up on treats to give your dog as you brush them. Don’t hesitate to give them a treat every couple of seconds—you want to give them a reason to cooperate.

  1. Create a relaxing environment for your brushing adventure. Make them comfortable by placing them on something soft, like their bed or a towel. It also helps to keep them in a contained space where they can’t run away from you, like a patio or porch.
  2. Always start by giving your pooch a treat. Have them sniff the brush first to introduce them to it. If your dog doesn’t react well to a brush, try a grooming glove that fits your hand to make it seem like they are being petted, not brushed.
  3. Start by brushing one small section at a time. Focus on sections that are easy to reach that don’t bother your dog. As you move the brush through their fur, offer treats.
  4. Try short brushing sessions. Praise your dog as you brush, then stop after a few strokes. If you discover an area where they don’t mind being brushed, try practicing there.
  5. Be patient as you brush them and constantly compliment them.
  6. If your dog is tolerating you, you can use a treat to reposition them so you can get to more areas. You can use a treat to get them to roll over or turn around so you can get to their other side.
  7. You may only be able to brush a few small sections at a time when you start brushing your brush-hating dog. That’s okay! The goal is to show your dog that this is a positive activity.

If you hate brushing your dog as much as they hate being brushed, you could try giving them baths more frequently to help remove hair and decrease shedding. For dogs who hate sitting still, you may have better luck brushing them after an energetic activity like a long walk or Agility training. If treats aren’t enough to distract your distressed dog, try using a puzzle toy filled with treats to make them think as they eat.

Remember, every time you brush your dog, the goal is to build trust with them. You want to make every brushing session a positive memory to reinforce that it

What To Do When Your Dog Is Aggressive While Being Brushed

Biting or growling during brushing is not acceptable and often requires professional intervention. If your dog is biting you or your brush, or acting aggressively, consider working with a trainer to curb the fear or aggression.

You may also need to work with a groomer who is trained to deal with aggressive dogs. They will often team up with other groomers to restrain your dog so everyone stays safe.

It may be time for a vet check-up, to rule out medical conditions causing pain during brushing sessions. Arthritis, infected ears, or inflammation in the joints could cause your dog to jerk when you’re near those sensitive spots.

Even though your dog may hate brushings, it’s an important part of pampering them. In time, your canine companion may even grow to love being brushed.

Need some help training your dog? While you may not be able to attend in-person training classes during COVID-19, we are here to help you virtually through AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This live telephone service connects you with a professional trainer who will offer unlimited, individualized advice on everything from behavioral issues to CGC prep to getting started in dog sports.

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