Grooming dogs and keeping up with their care can be hard, even without ADHD or autism.
Add either of those (or both!) to the mix, and it can feel almost impossible.
One of my biggest personal struggles (autistic and ADHDer here) is keeping up with my dogs grooming and maintenance, and almost all of my autistic clients would say the same.
As I've worked with dogs and their handlers more and more, I've developed several strategies to help overcome the struggle of grooming and maintenance while dealing with sensory overwhelm, distraction, and more.
Like any advice, try one idea out at a time. Keep what works, and don't be afraid to toss out the things that don't.
Here are some of my top tips for grooming and handling dogs for handlers with ADHD, autism, or other neurodivergencies. I hope you find them helpful!
Instead of trimming all your dogs nails, brushing them, bathing them, and brushing their teeth all in one day, turn it into part of your daily routine.
Many of us struggle with feeling overwhelmed when we have so many steps to think about. But if we just have to think about trimming one nail or brushing one side, it's a lot less scary.
I personally like to trim one nail per day and brush my dogs for a few minutes each day with breakfast. Much less overwhelming and time consuming!
Something I really struggle to remember is to brush my dogs' teeth.
But brushing my own teeth is easy for me to remember due to struggles with sensory issues while sleeping.
Since I already brush my teeth consistently, I just put my dogs toothbrush near there and brush both at the same time or one right after the other.
Pairing makes it much easier to remember and also to have the momentum of doing something already.
Because I do small things daily, when I have a rough anxiety day, I don't groom at all.
Think the mornings where you wake up with a pit in your stomach for no reason.
I don't even attempt grooming on those days, because I know it will be too overwhelming and result in a stressful meltdown.
Bathing is the hardest task for me - the bending, the wet, the grime, the soap, just all of it makes me feel yuck.
So I plan to get wet and actually sit in the tub with my dog.
That way there is less bending, and I'm not overly worried about soaking my clothes.
My assistant, Lauren, loves to wear her bathing suit for baths for the same reason!
Then after we're all dry, I can quickly get in the shower to get the hair off of me and rinse the tub out too. Cleaning myself and the bath for future me.
Your dog may love fish treats, but if that smell totally grosses you out - pick something you'll both enjoy.
Don't like shampoo smells? Opt for odorless!
Wear noise cancelling headphones for the sound of the blow dryer or opt to towel and air dry.
Don't like the feeling of dog slobber while grooming? Wear gloves!
Make things as comfortable as possible for you - it will help your dog feel more calm as well!
Grooming with ADHD, autism, and other neurodivergencies is difficult, but with accommodations, we can make it easier on ourselves and our dogs too!
I'm sure there are many more strategies that I haven't tried, and that's why community discussion of things like this is so beneficial.
If you are looking for a supportive and inclusive dog training community, you've come to the right place.
We even have private channels specifically for those of us on the spectrum of autism, ADHD, and many other neurodivergencies.