The importance of puppy habituation for your Doodle


Recently I did a poll in my Doodle and Oodle Self Grooming FaceBook group to see which sort of live workshops Doodle owners are in need of. As I expected, the workshop "How do you trim the ideal, fluffy Doodle head?" peaked everybody’s interest. But what I didn't expect was that the Puppy Habituation Workshop got only 1 vote. And that got me thinking.

Do owners know what Puppy Habituation is? And how important is it?

So I decided to write a blog about it. Because if you don't get your puppy used to grooming, the first grooming sessionyou’re your Doodle a lot of unnecessary stress.
We all know there is a lot involved in Labradoodle, GoldenDoodle, Cockepoo and any Oodle coat care. But I feel that the concept is still very abstract for many new owners. Because what does it mean in concrete terms?

In concrete terms, it means that from the age of 5 months, your Doodle must be trimmed EVERY 8 WEEKS to keep the coat healthy and tangle-free. In practice, this usually means that a dog groomer gives a puppy at 3 to 4 months an acclimatization session (to get him used to standing on the table and surrendering to the groomer) and then the first real grooming session at 5 to 6 months. In addition to brushing the coat, such a session usually consists of plucking out the ears, cutting out the feet, cutting nails, cutting the eyes free, clipping your pup’s rear. A bit of the basic grooming skills. Simply, to let your pup become familiar with those first stimuli in an accessible way.
Usually your puppy will be washed and blown out with the pet dryer.

What does NOT happen (at least I really hope it doesn’t) is that your puppy will be shaved right away at that age. If cutting is already done, it is done by hand and usually only the paws. The adjustment grooming session is really meant for letting your pup get used to regular grooming. At that age, the coat is not long enough to trim. At the age of 5 months however the coat IS often long enough, but the reality shows that most owners wait to get it trimmed until THEY think the coat is long enough, which is usually too late. Because even if you don't see it from the outside, there can be a lot going on IN the coat, especially once the coat has started to change. Especially if you bought the wrong grooming tools in the beginning (which almost every owner does because they lack the right knowledge). A coat that looks easy to brush on the outside may already have a lot of felting on the inside. And if something is a bad experience for your puppy, it is that the first time on the table she needs to be detangled or shaved, because the groomer sees no other option. This is an unpleasant experience for every puppy and especially for sensitive Doodles. The loud sound of the clippers, the pushing against the fur to be able to shave underneath the tangles, the feeling of a hard shaving head over that delicate body ... just try to imagine it.

And YET it is recommended by many breeders to have your puppy shaved before his first year, so that the puppy coat makes room for an adult coat in one go, making you “skip” the coat change.

This however is utter is nonsense, because
A. That's the BEST way to give your puppy a negative association with grooming
B. A coat does not mature by being shaved, a coat takes time to mature. It grows, very logically may I ad, into adulthood

There are 3 factors to consider when buying a Doodle..

1. Most Doodles and Oodles have a challenging, tangle-sensitive coat. So an optimal coat care for 15 years long will cost many times more than the purchase of your dog (and not every groomer can or will trim your dog, the way YOU like it). That steep price you paid to get your Doodle is just the beginning. The sooner you realize this, the better off your Doodle will be.
2. Doodles are super sensitive dogs that ALSO handle stimuli differently than most breeds and therefore often need a special approach. A LOT of groomers don’t realize that.
3. Most owners have no idea what goes on in a grooming salon. But it takes a lot of upbringing and training to make a dog surrender to grooming from a sense of trust and security. A great opportunity if you, as the owner, would take this up YOURSELF.

And picking up the grooming yourself starts with getting your pup used to it in the right way.

I used to give Puppy Habituation Workshops where, in addition to washing and drying by the owners, the puppies could get used to being on the table, surrender to all basic grooming skills and form a team together with the owner. As soon as the puppies were on the table and the owners started working with them, it was immediately clear which puppy had already done some getting used to and which had not. It was also immediately clear what kind of relationship the owners had with their puppy and what “pattern” had already developed between the two in a short time. The perfect time to get started with this as well, because if your puppy does not see and respect you as its natural leader, then that is a bad start for a strong owner / dog relationship.

And because every dog shows his true colors on the grooming table (because he is being taken from his own territory, limited in his freedom of movement and asked to do what someone else asks of him), THIS is the perfect opportunity for the first bit of training and education. By YOU!
For you as the owner can just do that yourself. You DO have to get a good grooming table (but if you want to teach to groom your own Doodle you will need it anyway) and get the right training, by the right professional who knows Doodles through and through, but that's where I come in.

Years ago I stopped giving the Puppy Habituation Workshops, because on the one hand I had to cancel the space I rented and on the other hand even though the approach for the workshops WAS very good, it was always chaos. Pups react to each other and when they are on the table all they want is to approach each other, they start barking etc. Although it is super fun, such chaos is NOT the most educational environment, because it is far more difficult for the owners to calm their puppy.
Puppy habituation is key. I'm convinced of that. And especially now, during Corona, dog groomers are not allowed to work and therefore the coat care comes down to you as the owner.
I am thinking about including an online Puppy Habituation Workshop as part of the Doodle Comfort & Care membership I am developing. Newly Puppy owners could start the program here, owners with older Doodles or Oodles could start immediately with the grooming module. What do you think? 

Please leave a comment and let me know if you would be interested in this? Then I can help you give your Doodle or Oodle a good start on a life full of coat care.

Happy grooming!

Lots of Doodle love,
Wanda & Joy

Labradoodle grooming workshop