I have been working with the poodlies for years now on reducing the stress of grooming. I started grooming Elly and Dancer myself in 2008, when I saw how much Dancer trembled every time I took her to the groomer. A goal has been restraint-free grooming, and sometimes I can actually groom without restraints. Mostly I notice, though, that restraints make it easier for the dog, because I can work faster and just get it over with.
Yesterday, though, I was working on grooming Rush and I started with his toenails, while I was waiting for the clipper battery to charge. No need for restraint; he was very cooperative. I got the clipper and started shaving his right front paw, the one that is so ticklish he can barely stand it. He let me work for a moment, then quietly moved his paw so that it gently pushed the clipper away. I gave him a treat, took a breath, and did a little more. He pushed the clipper away after that little bit more and I moved on to the other front paw. After a bit on that paw, he pushed my hand away, again, very gently.
Now, Rush’s approach before this has been to growl at me and snatch his paw away grumpily. “STOP IT!” By contrast, this was a polite “would you stop for a moment, please?” We continued. Every time he gently pushed my hand away, I stopped, gave him a treat, and worked somewhere else for a moment. I shaved his face. I trimmed the hair in his ears with my nifty little bitty nose hair trimmer (this one) which is very quiet and very tiny and perfect for getting a few hairs trimmed. I shaved his paws and between his toes. I never had to put the restraint on, and he never growled at me.
I’m not sure what’s changed, but he’s definitely learned how to tell me politely to back off for a moment. I’m impressed. It’s a skill.