Do you trim your dog's nails or have someone else do it for you? Either way, life will be much easier and less stressful for everyone involved if your dog learns to happily get his nails trimmed. If not happily, at least tolerate it quite well so it's not a traumatic event each time.

One day I spent some time at the local animal hospital watching the vet techs putting in catheters, drawing blood, giving nail trims and some of the other things they do when they take your dog “in back” where owners don't normally go. One dog was getting his nails trimmed. He was muzzled and pinned to the ground by 3 people in order to get his nails trimmed. Even then, it was very difficult for the vet tech actually doing the nail trimming. I can only imagine what the stress level was like for this dog who was fighting the process as mightily as he could.

After watching that, I wondered how many people who have others trim their dogs' nails actually knew what went on and how stressful it was for some of these dogs. Some dogs tolerate it, and some tolerate it better if someone other than their owner is doing the dirty work. But for many dogs, it becomes more difficult each and every time because the dogs have never had a good experience with this process.

I do all of my dogs' nail trims myself and won't let anyone else do it. I am determined NOT to let my dogs have a bad experience. Rather than having to pin my dogs to the ground, I have them lie down in their “go to sleep” positions flat on their sides with no restraint from anyone. Once they are relaxed, I trim nails on the rear paws first, which seem less of an issue for my dogs. Then I move to the nails on the front paws.

I started just by getting my dogs into the “go to sleep” position and very relaxed. Sometimes food rewards were given, sometimes petting, sometimes both. Once comfortable, I moved to touching and handling feet. From there, I moved on to handling between the toes and positioning feet as if to trim nails. Then I moved on to actually trimming one nail at a time with food rewards after each nail. Now, I can trim the nails on an entire foot or maybe even two before rewarding, but I do still reward. I want to ensure there is something worthwhile for my dogs as payment for their cooperation.

Even if you have someone else do the actual nail trimming, it pays to help your dog to be comfortable with having his feet handled. It comes in handy when having to wipe muddy paws or remove stickers from pads.

Nail trimming is not a major ordeal for my dogs. I wish it weren't for so many other dogs.


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