Getting a Dog Used to a Hair Dryer
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The sound of a hairdryer can be fairly piercing even to human ears. Since dogs can hear almost twice as many frequencies of sound than humans, hair dryers can appear to be shrieking monsters rather than helpful appliances. For this reason, it is understandable your dog can become agitated or even frightened in the presence of a hair dryer. This is particularly common for dogs that have not been properly introduced to them or those that have experienced previous trauma associated with similar noises.
A certain level of fear is normal for dogs, but hair dryers are very useful when it comes to bathing. For this reason, it might be in our mutual interest to know to blow dry a dog. This requires getting the dog used to a hair dryer, something that AnimalWised details below.
Why are some dogs afraid of hair dryers?
The presence of an unknown and noisy object in a home can generate insecurity in our dogs. This is something natural. All animals (including humans) have an instinct for survival. This instinct makes them flee or hide from the unknown, as they can represent imminent danger.
Predators in the wild often make loud and scary noises to intimidate potential prey. So too do weather events, landslides and other natural phenomena which can pose a danger to an animal. It is natural for dogs to fear loud and disorientating noises for this reason. Hair dryers also have cords which can make the appliance seem more animalistic, as if the hair dryer has a tail.
With this in mind, some dogs may be more scared of a hair dryer than others. This is for the following reasons:
- Breed: while it is not the main factor in their level of fear, some dog breeds are more skittish than others. A study in 2020 showed that some breeds have a greater predisposition toward fearing loud noises than others. This does not mean they will all be fearful, but it does mean we need to be particular considerate during their training and education.
- Trauma: dogs which have experienced neglect, abuse or other forms of trauma can be particularly scared of loud noises such as those created by a blow dryer. Since their experiences make them insecure, they are often afraid that any noise can be a sign of violence.
- Socialization: the most important period of a dog's socialization is when they are a puppy. Not only should they be socialized with other animals, people and environments, but it is important to ensure they become used to various stimuli. This includes loud sounds like those of a hair dryer. If a dog has not been introduced to a dog groomer, the dog grooming blower can provide a particular threat.
- Education: dogs need education and training to live well in the human environment. Without proper education, dogs can become very insecure and be set off even by the sound of a blow dryer.
- Stress: if there are elements in a dog's environment that cause stress, they can become very reactive. This means various sounds can make them bark or react negatively. In addition to a hair dryer, these can include knocking at the door or even cars passing by on the street. Learn more with our article on 10 signs a dog is stressed.
If you want to get your dog used to a hair dryer, it is important you bear the above in mind. If your dog has issues relating to stress, poor socialization, improper training or any of the issues mentioned above, addressing them will be an important first step. We also need to pay close attention to the dog's body language and calming signals to ensure we don't push them too far and seriously damage the bond we have together.
How to blow dry a dog
The first objective in getting a dog used to a hair dryer is to present them with the object in a positive way. The aim is to associate the object with positive experiences so that it does not generate fear and insecurity. This steps should be used for all dogs, even if they only have mild to moderate fear. This technique requires a positive reinforcement approach for dogs as it is both effective and reduces harm
Take note of this step by step guide on how to familiarize your dog with a hair dryer:
- Start with setting the unplugged blow dryer near your dog. If the dog has already been scared of a hair dyer, they may even react to the sight of it, so this process will take longer. If they have never seen one before, they shouldn't react with suspicion, but they may be interested in it. Do not make any sudden movements, especially with the cable. Encourage your dog and use positive reinforcement such as kind words, petting or even a treat.
- Once your dog appears to feel calm in the presence of the hair dryer, you can move onto the second step. This requires accustoming your dog to the noise which the hair dryer makes. In this stage, the main objective is to ensure that your dog observes how set the example. You will use the hair dyer safely and calmly, reacting positively. Have a calm and happy demeanor and put the blow dryer on its lowest setting. Blow it slowly up and down your skin for 2-3 minutes then stop. Even if the dog reacts suspiciously at first, we should persevere (unless they are terrified).
- The next step is usually the most difficult due to the sensation of the hot air. Dogs do not like it when you blow on their face, so they can be particularly resistant to a hair dryer. When they show no fear such as barking or putting their tails between their legs, they should be ready. You need to get the dog used to the dryer on their skin.
- Do not sneak up on the dog with the dryer, but turn the hair dryer on at its lowest setting and use it on yourself in front of them. If they are calm, turn the dryer towards the dog and blow on their legs. Once you are sure they are comfortable with the air, then you can move it over their back and even the top of their head. Always avoid blowing on their face, even when you are actually drying them after a bath.
When you are using the blow dryer on the dog, you need to always cultivate a calm and secure space. This can be helped with relaxing music for dogs, petting the dog, providing treats and generally ensuring a positive experience.
Always remember the importance of recognizing your dog’s good behavior and awarding them appropriately. These rewards can come in the form of a treat, play session or petting. You should notice your dog will progressively start to create a positive relationship with the hair dryer. The more accustomed your dog becomes with the hair dryer, the more it will associate it with a time of relaxation and affection.
It is always fundamental to remember that, depending on the individual animal, adaption time will vary and it is indispensable to respect it. You must never force your dog to live through an experience that is stressful, scary or threatening to them. Not only is this dangerous, but it will also prove to be counterproductive in their learning process and cognitive development. Invest in positive reinforcement to stimulate your dog’s cognitive, emotional and social abilities, as well as reinforcing your bond with your best friend.
Learn more about dog grooming with our guide to cutting a dog's hair.
Dog grooming blower
The advice we have set out here is to help your dog get used to a hair dryer in the home. When you take the dog to a professional groomer, it can be a different experience. On the plus side, the groomer is a professional who should know how to make the dog as relaxed as possible. Their experience and training means they should know how to deal with problem dogs.
On the other hand, the dog will be in a new environment which can be enough to make them feel insecure. This is especially the case when there are other dogs present as well as various other stimuli. The dog grooming blower is also usually much more powerful than the one we have at home. Even a dog that has become used to a handheld hair dryer can become scared of the professional groomer dog blower.
In these cases you will have to work with the groomer to provide suitable support. You may need to be with the dog while they are being groomed since your presence can help them feel more secure.
Learn some general techniques to keep your animal calm by learning how to relax a dog.
What do I do if my dog is still afraid of the hair dryer?
If after performing this step by step guideline you notice that your dog is still uncomfortable, we suggest consulting a dog trainer or canine ethologist. Provided they are specialized in behavior modification, these professionals can establish specific guidelines according to the individual needs of your dog. These guidelines will aim to help your dog overcome their fears and phobias, resulting in a better quality of life.
As we mentioned in the introduction, it is also essential to consult your veterinarian if you notice any strange behavioral changes in your dog. If your dog is very scared, stressed or restless, do not hesitate to go to a veterinary clinic to rule out any possible pathology that may be causing this appearance of fear.
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1. Hakanen, E., Mikkola, S., Salonen, M., Puurunen, J., Sulkama, S., Araujo, C., & Lohi, H. (2020). Active and social life is associated with lower non-social fearfulness in pet dogs. Scientific reports, 10(1), 13774.