Canine Behavior/growling


We adopted a 8 yr old miniature poodle 2 months ago. She seems very good natured until we try to brush her or clip her face when being groomed. At that time she becomes very stiff and growls really bad and today snapped at the groomer. Can this habit be broken, and if so how? In all other ways she is very loveable.

Thanks, Lee

Aggression acquired at the hands of a bad groomer is VERY COMMON.  This dog is experiencing a fight/flight response; she's hooked to the grooming table, she can't flee.  She will attempt to bite, or will bite.  At age eight, she was dumped for a reason and this might be it.  I have a Toy Poodle and I go into the grooming environment WITH HER and observe.  I have now learned to groom her myself.  There are lightweight portable grooming tables that fold and tuck into a closet, available on line.  You can purchase an Andy's clipper (blades 10 for very short (belly), blade 7 for full body (including legs and face), blade 5 for winter coat (will need at least every three weeks).  You will need a nail clipper (be certain to buy the humane kind) and a pair of sharp scissors, as well as one curved (for around eyes and face unless you want to clip all the hair off her face.)  You will then require one of these:
A groomer experienced with dealing with dogs who have been harmed during grooming and who will come to your home; or
a certified applied animal behaviorist who can put the dog up on the grooming table and proceed from there.

The dog requires strong counter conditioning at certain intervals of grooming.  Obviously, if she is stripped completely (a number 10 blade, used cautiously, they get HOT) she will need grooming less frequently but will also need a winter coat.  This won't substantially reduce her fight/flight during grooming since these groomings will most likely be at least 8 to 12 weeks apart.

At age eight, not knowing the dog's history, you may run into response perseverance: a solidly acquired fear response that is quite difficult to extinguish.  In that case, your behaviorist might suggest you see a veterinary behaviorist for medication prior to the grooming experience.

To find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist:

Be aware that MANY GROOMERS are abusive and must be observed and the dog removed if you see anything you don't like.  You can be taught to counter condition your dog to being brushed by your behaviorist.  Is it possible to fully rehabilitate this fear response?  I think yes but it will take time, money and work.

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

©2017 All rights reserved.