It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

Nicely trimmed toenails!

Nicely trimmed toenails!

There are two things I can’t tolerate when it comes to dog care: obesity and long nails. There are no fat dogs in my house and I like nails Dremeled short and smooth.

The weight thing is never an issue in my house. My dogs are active and eat well for their level of activity. They are lean and muscular. It helps keep them active and feeling good. It’s especially beneficial to older dogs with joint issues (Risa) and for preventing future problems (Kyu).

Nails are equally important to your dog’s health and well-being. Long nails can cause pain and deformation of the dog’s feet. They can also cause your dog to place their weight improperly and cause injury. Short nails keep your dog sure-footed and protect your thin human skin from injury from sharp claws!

Risa does not enjoy nail trims. She never has. She tolerates them far better when I use the Dremel than she did with the nail trimmers and I am far less likely to cut the quick and hurt her. I just have to be cautious I use the tool properly so I don’t burn her with the speed of the file. When utilized properly; you get nice, short, rounded nails. It’s easier to drive back long quicks and you avoid the pinching pressure that nail trimmers can cause. No sharp points on the freshly trimmed nails either.

When I brought Kyu home, I wanted to start with him right away to get him to enjoy nail trims. I didn’t want it to be a war of wills. I knew several people who did nail trims by flipping their dogs over onto their backs and cradling them in their lap so that’s how I started. I got treats and I placed him on his back between my legs. And he fought it. He hated it. I kept calm and tried to soothe him but he wasn’t buying it. I kept working on it. Eventually, he would calm down enough to eat food but I could tell he was still not comfortable. I did it sporadically so he wouldn’t associate it with a nail trim. Sometimes I had the clippers and sometimes nothing. Occasionally I’d touch his nails with the Dremel (turned off). Sometimes I’d have the Dremel on nearby and gave him treats. He hated it no matter what I did. Kyu did not like to be restrained and he especially didn’t enjoy being on his back.

After failing to acclimate my puppy to this position, I started to question myself about it. Why does he have to be on his back? I don’t trim Risa’s nails this way. I have her lay on her side for nails. Is there any reason why Kyu has to be on his back if he hates it so much!? I changed my vision of what nail trims should look like and started working with my dog in a position he felt more comfortable being in.

I got out a container of treats, the clippers, and my clicker. I waited for him to lie down and told him he was good. I briefly touched a toe and click/treated him. I repeated it several times on different toes, back feet, front feet, with a click/treat each time. I spent only a few minutes and stopped. I did it again the next day. And the following day. I started working on this with him every single day. I slowly progressed to making it harder by having the clippers out, holding a paw, squeezing a toe, stretching out a leg, touching a nail with the trimmers briefly, etc. If he pulled away, I let him. If he wanted to get up and leave, he could. I wanted him to have the choice to let this continue. His nails, of course, continued to grow so I had to have them trimmed professionally twice so that my work could continue but his nails wouldn’t become overgrown.

There were times I doubted it was going to work. However, after working on it pretty much every single day for 2 months, I can now trim Kyu’s nails with little fuss. He still flinches a bit when I actually trim a nail (I spend more time “fake trimming” than actual trimming) but he doesn’t leave. And he doesn’t hesitate when I try again (whether a fake trim or not). He almost looks forward to the little sessions every morning. I haven’t been able to progress to the Dremel yet but I’m hopeful we’ll get there someday. If nothing else, I’m extremely thrilled to see how quickly we’ve progressed from “Oh no! You’re not trimming my nails!” to “Yeah, I can accept this part of my life.” All because I changed my preconceived notion and vision of our final goal and decided to listen to my dog.

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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