“Pawsitive" Pampering

How To Create A “Pawsitive" Grooming Experience For Your Pup

by Vanessa Davis // January - February - March 2023

We call our dogs “fur babies.” However, when they’re puppies, that’s not just an endearing phrase – puppies are truly babies! Like human babies, everything is new to puppies, and they share the same emotions our furless children have. New situations can be “ruff” for them, and if not handled properly, that stress can mean a lifetime of anxiety over one single event.

Take, for example, grooming. Dogs require regular grooming to keep them looking and feeling their best. And while most experts agree that professional grooming should begin at 12 weeks for dogs, the process can be intimidating, and not all pups (or their human parents) are automatically emotionally prepared for it.

Here are a few tips to prep your pup for a seamless grooming introduction, and what you should expect as your fur baby begins its lifelong journey of health, cleanliness, and comfort.


A puppy’s first grooming is a lot like a human child’s first haircut, in much the same way that it’s a rite of passage – however, while your human baby is likely too young to recall this momentous occasion, it’s one that your dog will always remember. So it goes without saying that you want that memory to be a positive one. A pup’s initial experience at the salon can set the stage for how it responds to grooming for the rest of its life. Thus, it’s crucial to make the experience as pleasant as possible. You can begin preparing your puppy for its first grooming on the day you bring it home – give it tons of hugs and love, but be mindful to gently handle its paws, ears, face and teeth, backside, and inner thighs … all the areas the groomer will focus on during grooming.

You can also introduce your new pup to water by dipping it in a tub or sink with very shallow water, increasing the depth as it adjusts to getting its paws wet. Speak in soothing, calm, encouraging tones during this process, and make sure there is enough room to splash and play – remember, this is supposed to be fun! Speaking of bath preparation, contact your chosen groomer for a sample of the shampoo they’ll be using, and let your puppy smell it to get used to the scent prior to the initial appointment.

Once your puppy adjusts to being handled, it’s time to tackle brushing and combing. It is important to acclimate your pup to these tools of the trade early on, so that it becomes familiar with what will become a normal part of the grooming process.

With plenty of handling, waterplay, and encouraging treats, your puppy will be ready to take that big step toward its first spa day.


Your fur baby’s big day has finally arrived! You’ve safely loaded your puppy into the car, filled a bag with its favorite treats, and now you’re officially on your way to your first grooming appointment. Let’s talk about what you should expect during the session.

When the appointment is scheduled, be sure to let the salon know that it is your furry family member’s first groom. Once at the facility, your groomer will slowly introduce themselves to your puppy in a gentle, soft tone – followed by lots of petting and affection. Once a comfort level is established, the groomer will introduce your pet to the grooming environment – it’s very important that it become familiar with and used to the surroundings.

After the “formal introductions” are made, the groomer will initiate the puppy’s first bath. This will include bathing, blow drying, nail clipping, and a light trimming of the face, feet, and sanitary area, if needed. The process will be administered gently, with positive encouragement each step of the way, along with a treat or two (if approved by the pet parent).

The focus during the first groom is on a most positive introduction. Just as it would be unrealistic to expect a young human child to sit still for a long period of time, it’s impossible to expect a puppy to be willing to stand still during the initial visit for the timeframe that a full grooming requires.

Moving forward, grooming every four to 10 weeks (based on breed and activity level) should be considered a regular part of your dog’s health and wellness routine. Those pups that only see a groomer once or twice a year (such as when they need shave downs due to matting) will perceive this process as punishment, resulting in a very stressful event for them.

It may take two to three sessions for your pup to become completely accustomed to and comfortable with the grooming process, so be patient. But proper preparation will help to make your’ pup’s first grooming experience a “pawsitive” one, and allow future appointments to go more smoothly. Ultimately, the goal is to make the grooming salon a happy place for your dog, one it looks forward to visiting, full of people who are waiting to fawn over and pamper it its entire lifetime.

Vanessa Davis

Founder and CEO of Dirty Dogs Spa, with locations in Wake Forest (929 Heritage Lake Road, Suite 500) and Raleigh (Stonehenge Market, 7490 Creedmoor Road).