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Teaching Your Dog to Enjoy Nail Trims


Most dogs don’t enjoy having their nails trimmed. Because they don’t enjoy it, they often try to avoid having it done. This generally means they’re going into fight or flight mode. When this happens, and the nails have to be trimmed it often leads to a lot of restraint. Of course, being restrained isn’t something they enjoy either and it just gets worse and worse. I am happy to tell you that it’s very possible to trim your dog’s nails with zero restraint. Believe it or not, it’s actually a pretty smooth process for most. The entire time during this process your dog is able to get up and leave if they choose to. If they choose to stay, this makes them a willing participant! My first recommendation is to teach a down/stay. This way we can ask them to come on over and lie down. (Again, they can get up and walk away if they choose to.) Next, instead of grabbing those clippers that they likely have a negative association with, I recommend using a small nail file/emory board. When in the down/stay, you’ll start working on touching the file to each nail followed by a tasty food reward. This should be relatively easy because you’re not touching the paws with your free hand. You’ll notice some pulling away in the beginning and it’s perfectly fine to feed a treat even if that happens. Once you see a happy response, you’re ready to move on to the next step. Next, with your free hand, very gently grab a nail and then take the file and touch that nail. Follow that with a treat. Do this to all nails and stick to this step until you see a happy response. For some dogs you’ll see it during the first session while other dogs will take multiple sessions. Once you see it though, you’re ready to start a small swipe with the file while singling out the nail and then you’ll reward. (Be sure to reward every time!) Before long you’ll be able to apply enough pressure and add in more and more swipes so that you’re actually filing the nail down. If this is done daily you’ll be able to maintain your dog’s nails. I also like to condition a Dremel tool. To condition it, you’ll need a very high value type of food. I like to use Vienna sausage for this. When your dog isn’t expecting it, you’ll turn on the Dremel and directly after turning it on, you’ll pop open the can of VS and start feeding one or two. You’ll then turn off the Dremel and stop feeding. It should only take a few days before your dog starts to get very excited when they hear the sound of the Dremel. That happy response is what we’re after! Once you have it, and once you’ve worked on the steps with the nail file, it’s pretty easy to add it in to the nail care routine. If you want to use clippers again, it’s best to condition those as well. It takes much longer to turn a negative association to a positive one, so be prepared that it’ll take more than a few days of showing the clippers and following with food. But if you do it enough, it’s likely your dog will be excited to see them. Once there is excitement you’ll be ready to add it into your nail care. *This is a general guide and the actual plan for your dog may differ.

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