Groom problemOllie won’t let anyone groom him. He absolutely hates it.  The Border Collie has developed tangles inside his back legs and behind his ears which need to be cut out.

The only way a groomer can work on him is to muzzle him and then use force. The otherwise very friendly dog completely changes personality. He becomes aggressive, snarling and showing his teeth.

His last visit to a groomer was a year ago now.

Within a few minutes of being with them, I discovered two things that may be relevant. He had been jumping at me in a very friendly fashion. When his feet were on the floor I gently put my hand out to touch him behind his ears.

Immediately I saw his teeth. He growled, backing away.

Oh! I didn’t expect that.


That looked very much like a pain response to me. Their first step is a vet visit to specifically check out pain – behind the ears in particular.

Then I discovered that, though friendly and enthusiastic with people, he’s not actually asking to be touched. He might curl his lips and growl if they touch him. He will enjoy a sleepy stroke on the sofa in the evening with the lady, but less so with the man.

Demonstrating, the man touched Ollie’s feet. Immediately the dog growled and curled his lips.

If they can’t even freely touch him, it’s unlikely they will be able to groom him.

They had Ollie as a much loved puppy three years ago so know that his dislike of human hands hasn’t been the result of any abuse.  At worst it could be that touching was forced on him or maybe had been a bit too vigorous. I don’t know.

So this is about more than Ollie not allowing them to groom him. It’s about Ollie not being keen on anyone touching him in general – particularly his feet and behind his ears.

It;s just possible that pain in one area, behind his ears, could account for his associating a general groom with pain.

Getting the dog’s consent

It’s important with a dog that is touchy about being touched not to force touching onto him.

It’s about getting his consent.

They will try to remember now that when they do touch him, it’s to be something positive (to Ollie). Maybe the hand could deliver food.

I suggest they try to be very sensitive to what he’s trying to tell them and force nothing on him. A little twitch of his upper lip as a hand approaches lets them know.

Many dogs can’t get enough of being touched but some just don’t like it.

There five angles to deal with here.


Ollie can be very wired and pumped up as he was all the time I was there. Getting him calmer and under more self-control is important for my proposed exercises.

Agility, which he loves, can be his weekly arousal fix but I strongly advise they cut out the rugby ball play. This fires him up unnecessarily each time they take him out which can be up to five times a day. Fixating on the ball prevents him from doing the things that are much more natural and beneficial for his mental state.

While removing the more arousing activities, they can introduce enriching activities that involve his brain and his nose.

Bucket Game

The second job is getting him less resistant to being touched in general by respecting his space.

Thirdly, and in preparation to be able to groom him, they will teach him that he can control when they touch him. For this they will use the Bucket Game. This is a great way for giving the dog control of when we start and when we stop.

We worked on this together until Ollie had the hang of it. They need now to take it very slowly.

Loving the brush

Meanwhile, they will condition him to love the brush. They will get a completely different kind of groom tool and leave it about, put it near his food bowl and allow him to eat food off it and around it. They will generally associate it only with good things.

On no account for now will they try to touch him with it.

Finally, but only when they can touch him freely with a hand using the Bucket Game and when he loves the brush too, will they marry the brush with the Bucket Game.

Ready for groom

Now Ollie will have confidence that he can control how near the brush gets to him and whether it touches him at all.

Bit by bit, starting with the easy places, they should be able to groom him.

Part of their daily routine then should be a very short groom session to keep his coat under control in the future. Little and often is enough.

Ollie has a good life. He goes to work with the man from house to house,. Though left in the car, he has lots of breaks. He meets many different people and is very well socialised.

It’s unusual for such a friendly dog not to want people to touch him.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help