Why Does My Dog Shiver At The Groomers?

Why does my dog shake and shiver when going to the groomer?

“The poor little doggy must have had a very traumatic experience with that terrible groomer”

This is a sentence very often heard in the animal world of owners and groomers.  In all fairness, as in every other profession and walk of life, it cannot be denied that there are those who practise less than ethical grooming procedures and of course l will not deny that not every groomer can be trusted.  On this note l have to urge you to make sure that when you pick a groomer for your family dogs, you pick well. 

Make sure the person comes highly recommended by friends and family, and make sure your animal and also yourself are comfortable with the groomer you pick.  Because yes, your dog can indeed suffer from traumatic experiences from unethical and undertrained dog groomers.  It is just not worth saving a few bob and compromising the quality of care your pet will receive. 

Another thing that l have noticed, is that pets become use to the person that grooms them.  Most of my dogs (that is how l refer to my client’s dogs) that have been coming for years on a regular basis, l know so well by now that l am able to tell owners if l think their dogs are a bit under the weather or has a lump that we been keeping an eye on and it has gotten bigger.  If you stick to one groomer all the time, that person becomes part of your pet’s circle of care givers.

So you have picked a really good and reputable groomer and your dog still shivers going and or coming from the groomers? Dogs can shake and tremble for as many reasons as we humans do. They could be nervous, cold or even spastic with anticipation. Let us explore some of the reasons:

Shivers going in

Underlying Medical Condition

Amongst the many reasons that can cause your dog to shiver, you have to rule out that it is not medically related. In addition to disc problems and palsy, tremors can also be brought on by conditions like low blood sugar, degenerative nerve disease, kidney failure, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and even the presence tumours.

Disc Problems

If your dog has a disc problem, it can cause leg tremors caused by nerve damage and they may even shake because they are experiencing pain. Having to stand so that your groomer can work on your dog will make emphasize and aggravate this.


Palsy is most common in older dogs. It is exaggerated when they have to stand for extended periods such as having to stand to be trimmed and dried at the groomers.  We do try and accommodate such dogs if we are made aware of it by letting them sit as much as they want and taking little breaks during the groom.  You have to be aware though that this will extend the time before your dog can go back home and your groomer will very much appreciate if you book in during a time that they are not extremely busy.

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Nerves– A Projection Of Your Fear.

If you are nervous or apprehensive about taking your dog to the groomer and leaving them alone for a while, your dog will for sure pick up on your worried feelings.  They will copy your inner feelings and this manifests itself with uncontrollable shaking.  The next thing is you feel really bad because your dog is shaking and then they shake even more making you feel like the worst person ever. 

As soon as you take your dog home and relax, so does your dog. Some clients often would say they feel like punishing their dog by bringing them to the groomers when it couldn’t be further from the truth… the contrary is actually very true. Having a day at the spa is nothing but pure bliss and being spoiled!

Often it is little dogs that display this trembling the most.  The reason is they are being carried in which only makes this mirroring of your feelings even stronger.  In such cases l advise clients to bring their dog in on the lead if they are happy enough to tag along. Don’t make a fuss when leaving your dog, just hand over the lead, say a quick good bye and leave.  You have to know that you are leaving your dog in to be spoiled and be happy about this then these feelings will be mirrored onto your dog. 

I was having a conversation with a prospective client one day when another came in carrying in their dog trembling and everyone was doing the ritual “awe poor doggy” routine.  I told the new client to observe what is going to happen as soon as the owner leaves.  The owner eventually handed over the dog and left and as soon as the door shut and she was gone, the dog changed 100 per cent into a different dog. 

He instantly stopped shivering, started wagging his tail and was running around sniffing and greeting the other dogs, then ran into the bathers arms for cuddles.  It is a learned behaviour caused by owners, not by groomers being bad or mean to dogs.  Dogs are after all….our lives!

Lack Of Routine

There are some dogs without a doubt that hates coming to the salon.  The reason for this is first and foremost that they don’t come often enough.  By the time they come again, they had forgotten the last time they were here and do not get the opportunity to build up a bond with the groomer and maintain that positive experience.

The second thing that builds on that is that a dog that does not come in often, is in such a bad state that they have ingrown nails that hurt and needs to be cut and treated and they have bad mats that even when you shave as close to the skin as you can, still hurts to be removed.  Can you blame a dog then, for hating to come to the grooming salon if they do not have a pain free experience?

Shivers coming out

Short Haircut

Sometimes due to many reasons including shedding, lack of grooming or owner’s wishes, a dog needs to be shaved short.  If your did not want your dog’s hair short but your groomer tells you that there is nothing they can do, they will most probably explain to you that the hair is matted right down to the skin and the only way to remove it is by shaving it. 

There is no way to brush a matted coat out without putting your dog through extreme pain and even making them bleed.  When shaving, the blade needs to go under the mats in order to remove them, so the tighter the mats are to the skin, the shorter the clip will have to be. 

If a dog is use to getting “skinned” then they may be happily undisturbed by this.  Where l see it the most is with dogs that are only getting groomed every one to two years (yes! It happens!) or dogs that have been left until they are between 9 months and a year old before they get their first groom.

  Now imagine you come to me dressed in a shirt, a cardigan, and your winter coat, and then l tell you to undress and walk naked down the street.  Would you not also shiver and feel very out of place?  Does this make your groomer a bad groomer? Most certainly not! In this case, your dog will need a few days to adjust to his shorter cut coat and it is a good idea to keep them indoors especially at night.  If your dog is agreeable, you could put a nice woolly coat on for them.

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