Shiva and I are on holiday all week. Well, I am, Shiva still needs to work hard to earn her kibbles. Fortunately, some of our fellow bloggers have agreed to step in while I laze around drinking beer and eating cheese. Today’s post was written by Tena Parker of Success Just Clicks. She describes her blog as “tangents on dog training and life with dogs” but it is a whole lot more than that. Dog trainer extraordinaire, she combines helpful information with a wicked sense of fun. Her photos of her brilliant dogs Shayne and Rio are nothing short of stunning.
First of all, I want to thank Kristine for inviting me to do a guest blog! I was so humbled and quite excited – I’ve been a daily Rescued Insanity reader for quite a while (since probably right after I started blogging) and absolutely love her stuff! Once I accepted her offer I was suddenly hit with this mildly concerning thought….”What the heck am I going to write about… should it be serious? should it be funny? This is quite a lot of pressure writing for someone else!!” I got over it and decided to try a little bit of both. I first want to apologize to those who also read my blog since I sort of wrote on this topic recently, but it lent itself to my serious/fun game plan so I went with it. PLUS it involves the making of a video.
I’ve noticed a lot recently (since our weather has been extra rainy and getting colder) that more and more of the dogs I see have nails that are overgrown. Nail clipping really is an important part of dog ownership. Whether you do it yourself, take your dogs to a groomer, or have your vet do it, it is something that needs to be done. Extremely overgrown nails can cause a variety of problems from sores on the paws and actually growing into the foot, to even causing structural change in the foot (which in turn changes the gait, which in turn causes injuries to the wrist/elbow/shoulder like debilitating chronic arthritis if it’s an older dog).
It’s really easy to clip both of my dogs’ nails–mani/pedis happen probably every other week and both dogs are done in less then 5 minutes. Shayne, for all of her issues, came to me that way… she’s never once had a problem with me clipping her nails but I’ve also never clipped a quick or fought with her about her feet. When I got Rio, the very first handling work we did was about feet touching and ultimately nail clipping. It wasn’t a super slow process but it took some time on the final steps to get him to sit still long enough for me to clip more than one foot at a time–it wasn’t stress/fear but puppy wiggles. He’s not happy about nail clipping but he tolerates it without any fuss. Bandit, my mom’s Shih Tzu, on the other hand, is a pain. He tolerates me clipping his nails most of the time but he has given the groomer (our neighbor) such a hard time with his feet that I just do them for her. So I decided to teach him something that will help keep his nails short without me having to clip them (more on this in a moment ).
So, what are you to do if your dog currently HATES nail clipping? Basically a lot of desensitization and counter conditioning. I would start at getting my dogs used to getting their feet touched during normal cuddling/petting time. So while petting the dog I would start petting my dog’s shoulder and then running my hand down the top part of the front leg and slowly going further down the leg until I could run my hand all the way down to the feet. If the dog is extremely reluctant, even in the context of just being pet, you can use food to reward each time you pet the shoulder/leg/feet.
I would also start teaching the dog to shake and rewarding the dog for giving me their feet. I may start hold the foot for a little longer before rewarding and letting go. Eventually I would like to squeeze the foot gently and touch each toe like I would when clipping nails before rewarding.
When the dog has no problem with me handling their feet, I would introduce the clippers and just let the dog sniff them and get rewarded. Next step for me is to generally just have the clippers around when I’m handling their feet. If that doesn’t create any fear/stress response I’ll start just holding the clippers in one hand while I pet the pup with the the other. Then I’ll start picking up the feet while holding the clippers and eventually move to touching the clipper to the foot quickly (and rewarding after each time the clipper comes near). I slowly then work up to mock clipping of nails while gently pinching the toe to replicate the pressure of the nail clippers (rewarding after each nail) and if the dog is calm about all of that, I’ll start clipping one nail at a time. Clip a nail, reward with food and release the dog. I’ll do one a day for a while (being very careful not to clip a quick) and then slowly increase the duration to two toes, then three, etc.
You can also go the route of a getting a Dremel nail grinder (and I’d suggest desensitizing in a similar fashion) but I would only buy a professional grade one. The commercially available ones are okay for up-keep but take quite a long while if the nails are long and break easily.
One of my favorite tricks of the trade about nail clipping is that you can teach your dog to file their own front nails!! Just buy an inexpensive skateboard and you are ready to go! No fighting with your dog to get their mani/pedi, no worry about clipping the quick, and it’s basically fun to watch! I couldn’t get clear shots of the before/after of Shayne and Rio’s nails but with just a few scratches the nails were noticeably shorter and nicely rounded–Bandit hasn’t really gotten into it and his scratches were much lighter but I could still feel/see a difference! Here’s a video of all three of my dogs learning to file their own nails.
Now this is far from perfect for a variety of reasons… it doesn’t get the dew claws and it’s not effective for back feet. BUT it’s a great option if your dog, at this point, wont allow any type of nail clipping or for quick and easy up-keep of the nails. When training this, make sure you keep an eye on your dog’s nails so they don’t file down to the quick and so their pads don’t get scratched! I’ve also noticed that to get the back-feet, two or three fetch throws on the driveway keep the back nails under control without hurting the pads of their feet or quicking their nails (drivey Shayne has been known to do some SERIOUS damage to her feet while playing fetch while never showing a sign of pain until later).
I recently heard that some groomers/vets are charging upwards of $15 for a nail clipping… it depends on the dog, but I’d say nails need done an average of once a month (my dogs, who do most of their running on grass/mud, need it done more frequently). If you went once a month to a groomer charging $15, you’d save $180 a year on nail clipping for the cost of a $10 skateboard.
How would YOU spend the $170 you’d save by not going to a groomer/vet?
Have fun teaching your pup to do their own manicures and THANK YOU Kristine for sharing her blog with me today!!!