Why Is My Dog Depressed After Grooming?

dog getting groomed and depressed

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Both of my dogs have hair instead of fur, which helps keep my house clean and mostly fur-free. But the downside of these “hypoallergenic” dogs is that they require a ton of grooming.

We usually do the grooming ourselves, but we recently didn’t have the time and both of the dogs were in need of a haircut, so we decided to bring them to a groomer that our friend recommended.

They both looked great when they came back, but to our surprise, one of our dogs seemed extremely depressed, almost traumatized by the experience.

It was especially odd since our other dog was totally fine, even happy to have had a haircut.

I quickly turned to the Internet for help figuring out why my dog was depressed after getting groomed.

Why is my dog depressed after grooming?

Your dog is likely depressed after being groomed because they feel fearful, submissive, or painful after the grooming process. They may also be responding to any negative feelings of those around them or they may just not like feeling different now that they have been groomed.

Figuring out what exactly your dog is feeling can be extremely difficult, but there are some tell-tale signs you can look for to help figure out if your dog is feeling blue.

There are also some signs you can look for to help figure out why your dog is acting lethargic, depressed, traumatized, or just plain weird after being groomed.

Read on for more detailed information about why your dog is acting depressed after being groomed and ways you can help make the grooming process a better experience for your dog.

You Or The Groomer?

Before we begin, it’s important to acknowledge that maybe you did the grooming yourself or perhaps instead you brought your dog to a groomer, and now they are acting depressed.

If you did the grooming yourself (and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that if you have the equipment, skills, and patience), then figuring out why your dog is depressed after grooming will be much simpler.

You may be able to tell that they were doing alright with things up until you started doing a particular step, like trimming their nails or cleaning their ears. 

You being there the whole time means you know everything that your dog went through while being groomed, so pinpointing it exactly is just a matter of retracing your steps and keeping an open mind.

If your dog is acting depressed after going to a groomer, you’re likely going to need to do some investigating to find out what’s going wrong with your dog.

Whether your dog is acting depressed after you groomed them or after they were groomed by a professional, the signs of depression (or whatever your dog is feeling), will be the same.

Dog Depression

It’s far too easy to over-empathize with our dogs and assign them characteristics that they simply do not have. 

While they are highly intelligent animals with a huge capacity to experience many of the same emotions that humans do, “depression” is not one of them.

The modern consensus among scientists today is that dogs are capable of experiencing the following emotions, and not much more:

  • Excitement
  • Distress
  • Contentment
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Joy
  • Suspicion
  • Shyness
  • Affection

This means that your dog isn’t actually “depressed” in the way that a person may be depressed if they received a bad haircut.

Instead, your dog is more likely presenting signs of fear, distress, anger, suspicion, or shyness.

Keep this in mind as you examine your dog’s behavior. Splitting up a general term like “depressed” into smaller, more concrete lenses will help make figuring out “why” your dog is acting that way much simpler.

5 Reasons Your Dog Is Depressed After Grooming

With the background information out of the way, let’s get into the 10 reasons post grooming depression is possible.

Reason #1 – Fearful

Understanding a dog’s fearfulness often requires a lot of patience and a wide, open mind on behalf of the pet parent.

While fear often gets a bad rap as one of the “bad” emotions, it’s actually one of our most powerful and instinctual coping mechanisms. Fear prepares us to deal with potential danger.

“Fear” can be defined as the anticipation of harm, be that physical or psychological, real or imagined.

Your dog may have been physically hurt in one of the ways I discussed above and is now afraid that they are going to experience more pain after getting groomed.

Or perhaps you or your groomer was overly harsh with your dog while grooming, and now they are afraid that they are going to get in trouble.

Or it could simply be that your dog REALLY didn’t like the experience, and now they’re afraid that you’re going to groom them again!

Whether your dog has good reason to be afraid or not, the signs of a fearful dog can easily be misidentified as depression.

Signs your dog is fearful include:

Fear of grooming, unlike pain or discomfort from grooming, is unlikely to get better on its own and, if left unaddressed, will likely get much worse.

Reason #2 – They Are Responding To You

Let’s be real: did you laugh at your newly groomed dog when you saw them? Did someone else? Do you even like the haircut? Are you resentful of how much the haircut cost or how much time it took you to do?

Your dog has no vanity about themselves. Dogs cannot recognize themselves in mirrors and have no understanding of their outward appearance.

It is impossible for them to feel embarrassed by their appearance. Frankly, it’s not possible for a dog to feel embarrassed at all.

However, they can feel social rejection, which would make them sad and therefore seem depressed.

And dogs are highly intelligent animals, many of whom can tell when they are being laughed at. Or if they are in a room with someone with negative feelings. 

You know how connected you and your dog are, so don’t laugh at them if your groomer gives them a bad haircut!

Dogs will pick up on the energy and mood of those around them, so if you’re acting negative about their grooming, they likely will too.

Reason #3 – Submissive

Think about the physical nature of dog grooming. You’re holding your dog in weird positions for a long time, lifting and poking and rubbing and prodding them all over. 

There’s no dignity to it all, so it’s not at all surprising that a dog may come out of their grooming session feeling a little bit powerless.

After all, nothing like having your privates unwillingly trimmed to show you where you stand in a relationship. 

Grooming your dog requires that you get them under your physical control, which can leave them feeling powerless in the relationship and like they were forced to be submissive.

These feelings may manifest in ways that could easily be confused with depression, like laying excessively, avoiding eye contact, low vocalizations, and generally seeming kind of down.

Or, they may seem angry and lash out at your or other people or pets in the house in order to re-establish themselves in the pecking order.

Either way, it’s no great leap to understand that a dog would feel a bit robbed of their power and dignity after a few hours on the grooming table.

Reason #4 – Feels Different

All of the above reasons can be easily pinpointed back to something that went wrong.

The dog got hurt, or they felt afraid or put in their place, or their owner made them feel bad in some way.

All of those have causes that are pretty easy to identify, but you may end up overlooking the simple fact that your dog may just feel physically very different after their grooming than they did before.

And they may not really like the change!

I grow out my dog’s hair in the winter so she has extra insulation when it’s cold out. Every spring when it gets warm, I shave it down for her summer cut.

It may be 80 degrees out when I do this, it doesn’t matter, my dog will always act like she’s freezing cold after getting her summer cut.

Imagine having a full, thick coat over every inch of your body and then one day, suddenly, it was all gone.

A dog who gets a dramatic haircut may suddenly feel every single draft or touch when they didn’t before. Or they may have little hairs poking or tickling them where they weren’t before. 

If the dog was heavily matted, they may even have sores on their body that are now able to start to heal. 

If you plucked their ears, they may be hearing more now too!

All that to say, the more dramatic of a groom that you give your dog, the more dramatically different they are going to feel.

And feeling very different may cause some discomfort or growing pains in your dog after getting groomed.

Reason #5 – Painful

The most common reason that a dog would act depressed, lethargic, or somehow bad after being groomed is that they are in pain or are uncomfortable.

This depends a lot on what your dog went through while being groomed.

Check your dog’s skin all over. It’s possible that they have a knick somewhere on their body from the scissors or clippers used during their haircut. Check carefully around their hips and armpits, as these are easy places to accidentally injure while giving your dog a haircut.

Keep in mind too that a short haircut may result in an uncomfortable razor burn for your dog. Imagine how uncomfortable a razor burn would feel around your entire body? That’d be enough to get me feeling depressed. 

Check in their ears for rawness, redness, or moisture. Some dogs get the hair from their ears plucked when their groomed and, even if you or your groomer used a numbing powder, it’s still possible your dog is experiencing irritation around their sensitive ears.

A bath may have let water into your dog’s ears that could be causing an infection, though this will take at least a day to develop. If your dog was fine after their grooming but developed signs of depression or irritation later, they may have gotten an ear infection. Look for irritation around the ear or more interest from other dogs in the recently groomed dog’s ears

Nail trims can often cause chips or cracks to occur in your dog’s nails that may be painful. 

And it’s all too easy to clip their nails a bit too short, especially if your dog has black toenails.

The point here is that you need to thoroughly, physically inspect your dog all over for signs of an external injury. This is the most likely reason your dog would be acting weird after being groomed.

Remember, though, that not all physical injuries are external.

If you groomed your dog yourself, you’re likely aware of any type of incident that would be severe enough to cause an internal injury.

But if you brought your dog to a groomer, it’s entirely possible that your dog sustained an internal injury at the groomer that you won’t be able to spot from an external exam.

Your dog could have aspirated some water during their bath and now have water in their lungs.

Or they could have fallen off of the grooming table. If they were strapped in by their collar, they could have injured their necks or backs by the sudden stop.

If they weren’t strapped to the table, they could have injured themselves from the fall, especially if you have a small dog. 

Your groomer 100% should have told you if anything like this occurred while your dog was with them, but it’s possible, for whatever reason, that they did not. So if your dog looks totally fine on the outside but is still acting depressed, it’s time to call your groomer and double check. 

Keeping Your Dog Happy After Grooming

No one wants their dogs to regularly feel depressed after grooming. And for many pet parents, grooming is a regular occurrence that can either be a great chance for the two of you to bond or a nightmare in the waiting.

Below are some tips to help make sure that your dog enjoys grooming and stops being so depressed afterward. They might even show their appreciation by grooming you!

Step #1 – Choose Your Groomer Carefully

If you need to use a groomer, be sure to find out as much as you can about them before you hand your dog over to this scissored stranger.

Getting a referral from a trusted family member or friend is usually the best way to find a great groomer.

If you can’t get a referral, be sure to check out their reviews online. While it’s nice to help out someone without any or only a few reviews, you’re likely better off going with a well-established groomer with lots of positive reviews online.

Once you pick your groomer, feel free to check out their facilities before you bring your dog there.

The area should be clean and well cared for. Busy locations with lots of other clients is usually a good sign.

Your groomer should let you see where they groom your dog. Some may find you watching is distracting for the dog, but they should be reasonably accommodating to all of your requests.

And hey, if you don’t like the results your getting, feel free to shop around and find a new groomer. They’re cutting your dog’s hair, you’re not getting married to them after all.

Step #2 – DIY The Right Way

Some pet owners, myself included, have decided to skip the expensive visits to the groomer and groom their dogs themselves. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but knowing exactly what you’re doing and being prepared with all of the right equipment is an absolute must.

Before you begin, do some background research on grooming. I do recommend picking up a general reference book on dog grooming like the one from the Dummies series, which should help you get some foundational knowledge of what all you need to do when you’re taking on responsibility for your dog’s hygiene.

If you don’t have time for that, at least check out a quick, general guide on Youtube:

Then, you’ll need your equipment. The main sources of discomfort for dogs after grooming are usually getting their fur and their nails trimmed, so I’ll go over those.

Personally, I recommend using two, affordable battery-powered razors like these from HOLDOG. Some more expensive clippers claim not to get hot, but the amount of friction involved in cutting all of a dog’s fur is simply going to create friction and, thus, heat.

By using two, when one gets hot, you can simply switch to the next one while the first recharge and cools down. 

They make a lot of fancy tools to trim a dog’s nails, but I haven’t found anything more effective than a Dremel tool with a very fine-grit sandpaper. Since it slowly grinds away their nails instead of sharply cutting them off, you’re less likely to cause them to crack or accidentally cut them too close.

I could go on and on with recommended products, but the point with all of your equipment is to ensure that you are doing everything you can to get the job done as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Step #3 – Be Positive!

After coming in prepared, a positive attitude is the best way to ensure that your dog loves getting groomed. 

Smile often, use a goofy voice, and treat the process like a game.

Don’t lose your patience and definitely don’t lose your temper. They can’t help that they need your help being groomed, so treat it like you’re doing your friend a favor. 

More than that, go a step further and flatter your pup. And I mean yes, compliment them!

They won’t understand the words, but they’ll understand your tone and they may even get excited and into the grooming process if they think of the end result as being a good thing.

While yeah, it is a chore, it’s also a chance for you to spend some time together one on one.

Step #4 – Rewards

It’s one thing to just be positive, but positive reinforcement often involves rewards when it comes to dogs, and it can be easy to forget to bring a bag of treats with you to the grooming table.

Treats are a great way to relax your dog and distract them while you’re grooming them. Some dogs may like pausing every few minutes to bite at a toy or simply to get some scratches with your hand instead of a brush.

Figure out what type of reward your dog likes and make sure you’re giving it to them often while they are getting groomed and also before and after to make sure it’s an all-around positive experience.

Step #5 – Soothe Their Skin

If you use clippers, you can expect there to be some discomfort on your dog after grooming.

Applying coconut oil and then rinsing it from your dog after you clip their hair is a great way to rehydrate and soothe their irritated skin without breaking the bank.

If your dog seems extra itchy, you can try this soothing skin balm available on Amazon. It’s basically an all-natural after-shave for your dog, which can help soothe that burning, itching sensation left by the clippers.

Step #6 – Groom Them More Frequently

This may seem counterintuitive, but grooming your dog more frequently actually has a few benefits when it comes to making sure your dog likes getting groomed.

First of all, it will acclimate them to the process so it’s not just some horrible thing that happens once every 6 months. 

If they get used to this process and know that it’s not really all that dangerous, they will eventually come to fear it less and will be less likely to act depressed afterward.

In addition, your dog will have less time in between grooming to get dirty, their hair to grow, their nails to grow, etc. This means that you won’t need to spend as much time grooming them in a single session, which should make the process less traumatic for everyone (even if it means you’re doing it weekly instead of monthly).

Step #7 – Do Some Things Yourself

By learning how to do some of the more basic steps of grooming yourself at home, you can avoid the process of going to the groomer, which makes your dog depressed.

It will also give you a chance to help mellow your dog out if they get stressed during grooming so that they are better off the next time they go to the groomer.

While you may not be able to express your dog’s anal glands at home (are you disappointed?) you may be able to wash their faces and trim their nails yourself.

Step #8 – Know When To Enlist Help

The flip side of the above is knowing your own limitations. Sometimes, for some things, it’s just not worth it for you to learn how to do certain necessary tasks yourself.

Expressing a dog’s anal glands comes to mind. Or plucking the hair from deep within their ear canals.

Groomers are trained professionals who should be able to take great care of your dog way easier than an amateur should, so don’t be afraid to use them for some aspects of grooming.

Step #9 – Inspect Them Carefully Before And After Grooming

This makes sure that you are not overlooking a physical injury that they may have received in the process of grooming. 

Step #10 – Exercise

Get your dog super tired before grooming with lots of exercise (like running) so that they don’t have any pent-up energy while they are getting groomed. If you get the hang of it, you can even run with two dogs

Then, when they are done, get them extra worn out again with a second dose of exercise!

At the end of their grooming day, they’ll be too worn out to be depressed.