Dogcharmer: Casey

Heading for the hills at the sound of scissors.

Casey — Courtesy Pamela Boyer

Dear Dogcharmer,

Our Irish setter, Casey, refuses to allow anyone to groom her. When I approach her with a grooming brush, she backs off. I have been feeding her by hand for two months, and gently brushing her, but as soon as she sees the scissors, she finishes her food and will not allow me to brush her.

During Casey’s recent visit to the vet, even the vet was unable to remove some of the mats behind her ears.

How can this be corrected?



Dear Pam,

Casey reminds me of my good friend’s 4-year-old grandson, Quentin. If he sees any activity whatsoever that could portend “It’s time for a bath!” he goes into hiding. I’m not just talking about behind a door or in a closet, he’s serious. I was over at the house recently when he must have overheard his mom mentioning (with stress in her voice) that today was bath day. After a 20-minute frantic search, a neighbor called to say that she discovered Quentin in her basement when she went down to do the laundry. 

Rather than get into what ensued with Quentin after that revelation, let’s segue into Casey’s attitude when she’s aware of an approaching grooming. And Pam, you can be sure that she probably knows it’s coming before you even get the brush, when you’re just thinking about grooming her. That’s because there’s no domestic animal that reads the body language and voice of humans better than our domestic dog. 

Pam, Casey is aware of the sounds emitted when you’re at the location of the grooming tools, and reaching for them, not to mention your “discomfort vibe” in anticipation of the imminent struggle. So, the first thing I might suggest is that you get new, and somewhat different looking brush and scissors, and a different location for them. Next, positive associations! You will act (think Meryl Streep) absolutely joyous as you take the new brush and scissors and place them on the floor in front of Casey with tiny pieces of chicken or steak on the tools for her to nibble off. This will be the only time on Planet Earth that she gets people food! Do this once or twice a day for a bunch of days until you see a positive attitude toward her grooming tools. Then pick up the brush while continually offering tiny pieces of the steak from your hand, while brushing so lightly that she hardly feels it. As Casey’s comfort level presents itself, exchange the scissors for the brush, with occasional scissor snipping sounds, eventually actually brushing and cutting. 

Pam, this will take patience and perseverance on your part, but will be worth it in the long run. I’d also suggest a DAP (dog-appeasing pheromone) collar or plug-in, or CBD drops to help Casey relax. 

Pam, please keep me apprised of your progress in the event we have to take a different tack.

Good luck,

The Dogcharmer  

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