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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dog Nail Care

The Dreaded Doggy Clippers...
The Saga Continues

In a previous post I covered why it is important to cut your dog's nails, and how to go about doing so in a manner that aligns itself with positive training.
Doggy Nail Care - Dremel vs. Clippers: How to cut your dogs nails, and why.

Ziva has always hated having her feet touched ever since we first adopted her over a year ago.
Touching her paws would result in shaking, trembling, nervous panting, and "whale eyes". 
We've spent this last year working hard to desensitize her using positive training, and LOTS of high value treats. We've hand filed her nails, handled her feet constantly, exercised her before working on her feet, and even painted her toes regularly to get her used to having her paws handled.



Being that we do a lot of outdoor activities and agility, her nails need to be cut for her safety. She's broken one in the past and we'd like to avoid repeating that experience if we can.

Our sad puppy with her broken nail.
Back when she broke her nail. This was it healing nicely.
We eventually worked her into allowing us to use a dremel.

Usually our setup would require two people, hubby would dremel Ziva's nails while I held her in my lap feeding her treats and attempting to keep her relaxed. If things got too scary we'd take a break. But this seemed to be working.

Relaxing while daddy does her nails.

Well, for whatever reason something was different last time and she panicked, total flash back, the poor girl freaked out. We only managed to finish one foot using a dremel and had to stop. We knew that if we pushed the issue we'd only end up damaging her trust and further cementing that fear in her head.

Feeling hopeless, we considered just quitting. For fear of being accidentally bitten due to panic, maybe we should take her to the vet and have her sedated once a month to get her nails done.
We talked about it...but didn't like the idea of sedation. But the reality is we needed a better solution. This should ideally be a one person job, and we had hoped that by now she would trust us more with her feet. Honestly no one else would be able to handle her feet without having her sedated.

After a couple days we decided to start over. So I researched nail files and found a nice glass file, and came up with a game plan.


We need new associations.

New location.

She can't think we're going to do her nails.

Sounds easy right?

First off, when it arrived this file is supposed to be used wet. So I took Ziva outside, nail file and tennis ball in hand. Dipped the file in the water, introduced her visually to the file, let her lick the water off, and rewarded her by tossing the ball.

Turns out she loved licking the silly file!

Next step, ask for "shake" a trick she knows and is comfortable with, tap her nails with the file, reward by throwing the ball.

Turns out she didn't mind the tapping, since the file was wet she enjoyed licking it while I tapped on her toes. She was a little flinchy at first but quickly relaxed because tapping meant I would throw the ball - her ultimate high value treat.

Next step, I gently held her paw and applied gentle pressure to hold a nail while beginning to file. 

Any attempt on her behalf to escape I would allow and then throw the ball. As that got easier I began to ask her to let me file for a little bit longer in order to earn her reward.

Well baby steps seem to be working!

Our first session took two days to do all her nails, mostly because I didn't want to push my luck.

Our second session we finished in a day! And I managed to paint her nails. All by myself, no helper needed!

For some dogs relaxation therapy is a great place to start, but that didn't work for Ziva.

For dogs that are terrified of having their nails worked on, just remember to be patient, be creative, if you get frustrated or if your pup gets upset - stop and take a break. Figure out what works for you, if you can only accomplish one nail a day just remember to rejoice in those small successes.
If your dog works for a toy or treat, try shaping him/her into tolerating you messing with his paws like we did.

*I have considered teaching her to scratch a surface to essentially file her own nails, but I like being able to control the length, and remove sharp edges.*

Dante is our easy child, usually Dz Dog dad or myself just takes a few min to cut his nails. But this time I decided to infuse some fun in for him as well.
Every nail cut equaled me playing tug with him, this was also great practice for him to "release" his toy and be able to consistently get super excited, and then quickly calm again for another nail.

How do you guys conquer the dreaded clipper experience?



This month we are joining the Positive Pet Blog Hop hosted by: Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days, and Tenacious Little Terrier.

Bloghop (1)



23 comments:

  1. Awesome job! Nice to see such great efforts have a great payoff. Using many of the same tactics I got my two used to having their nails grinded without a fuss. They associate it with lots of good treats and know that if they sit pretty it will be over quicker and quicker to get the treats.

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    1. Hahaha! I wish we could've started with Ziva before she developed her phobia. It would be so much easier I imagine. <3

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  2. Just thought I would say a big THANK YOU for the tip on the glass nail file. I had no idea such a thing existed. I've been using people nail files and people heel files for Blueberry's nails and they always wear down so quickly. I just chatted with Lola at Dog Fashion and after asking a bunch of questions decided this really sounded like a great idea. I also bought some lotion for B's coat. I couldn't resist. :)

    You are right, it takes a LOT of patience, treats, and it is sometimes days before getting to be able to file a dog's nails down. When I first adopted Blueberry, she was fine with it. But I guess that was just her still being shut down. Once she was more comfortable, she decided she did NOT appreciate having her paws or nails handled. We've come a long way, but it is still an issue and I just do what I can. For a while, I was taking her to the vet to have them trimmed every 4-6 weeks. But they started cutting at least one quick every time she was in. Needless to say, I decided that was doing more harm than good, so I just use the file.

    P.S. Love the pink dog toe nails. :)

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    1. Thanks! I love painting her nails and making her look girly. <3

      We considered the vet but her last panic attack had me concerned she'd bite me because she was just "out of her mind" so to speak. I hate the thought of a muzzle and I think a professional would've had to either muzzle her and make the experience more terrifying, or sedate her....such a challenge.
      I hope you like the glass file! It does a great job, we too were using human files and going through them way to quickly. This file is great because it really grinds her nails down, no sharp edges, and we aren't damaging it every time we use it. :-) Good luck with Blueberry! Hope she has as good of an experience as Ziva with it!

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  3. Great job and awesome post! I love Ziva's painted nails! I really need to do the girls'!! :D

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  4. I haven't yet, but just got a dremel and am working up the nerve to try it out.

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    1. Dante doesn't mind the dremel or the clippers. I like the dremel because then we don't cut the quick. But you have to be careful it doesn't get too hot so you can't stay in one spot for too long. :-)
      And don't use a cheap pet dremel, the real dremels work best and have more power!

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  5. Great post. Bain doesn't like his nails being clipped, but he has no problem with paw touching and fiddling around with them. Normally Bain's claws are filed down from walking on the cement getting into the park, but during the winter I stopped going to that area since there are no lights and his nails got fairly long.

    If I have to, I can get one or two claws a day.

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    1. Maybe try the file?
      It isn't as scary. :-)

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  6. Have you thought about training her to file her own nails? You get a board with sandpaper on it and teach them to scratch it.

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    1. We did think about it, but I like the control of being able to do it myself, and I can get rid of sharp spots. :-)

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  7. Aw, matching tootsies! Mom better not get any ideas cuz we are boys! We are a grinding family. Stanley just sits there like he is at the spa. I resign myself to it as long as dad doesn't tickle me!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

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    1. What good boys you are! I bet you get lots of cookies for sitting so nicely. :-)

      P.S...
      hey mom...they do make blue polish! Hahaha!

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  8. It takes a lot of patience, doesn't it? It's hard to resist the urge to give up. Ours don't like the nail clipping, but the girls aren't terrified, so they're pretty easy. One nail, one treat and so on.
    Our young Lab mix Luke though was more challenging. We continue to handle his paws on a daily basis. What finally worked for us with nail trimming was a trick I learned from another blog....smearing peanut butter all over a plate and letting him lick it off as I trim his nails. He's still resistant, especially with his back paws, but we can usually get it done all in one sitting.
    Sometimes you just have to persist and try different things until you hit on the right one! I like that glass nail file, it looks better than the metal nail file I have.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Great idea with the peanut butter on a plate!
      We tried distracting her by putting some in her mouth once, but that didn't work for us. :-)
      Dante isn't a huge fan, but he does sit nicely for me. I bet he'd love a peanut butter distraction.

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  9. GAH I hate doing Sampson's nails and they need to be done. Not because he's afraid, but because his quick is so sensitive and I've cut him before. I have a dremmel but the battery is dead and I don't know how to change it. :-(

    Delilah will see me pull out the clippers and usually just lift her paw for me to trim. See, Delilah is good in some things. :-)

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    1. Hehe, good girl Delilah!
      We were using an electric dremel, I loved how easy it was. :-)

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  10. Great tips. My dog still does not like his nails clipped, but will tolerate it now atleast. Treats and not trying to force it on him is the key. Thanks for spreading the word.

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    1. Good job! I love hearing about other owners working through it too. :-)

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  11. I really neglected my previous dogs' nails before I knew how important it was to keep them at a proper length. Boca is easy-peasey for hers, I can do them while she lounges in the sun and she never pulls her paw away. Ruby is predictably a little trickier, but we've worked out a great routine with peanut butter in a squeeze tube and she runs to the sofa for her manicure now when I say "Peanut Butter Paws." Thanks for joining the hop and the great nail trim training tips!

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    1. That's so awesome!! I wish my pups were that easy. Maybe someday we'll be same status as you guys! :-)

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  12. Thanks for joining the hop this month! I shudder when I think back to how my brother and I would pig pile onto our huskies while my mom or dad clipped their nails. *sigh* All part of my positive reinforcement training journey, right? Anyways, I have definitely learned how long it takes and how patient one must be with certain dogs and nail trimmings. I now have one who is an angel at any type of nail fussing, one who will not tolerate the dremel and one who will not tolerate the clippers. What has worked the best in our house, for all of the pets, even the parrot, is learning from watching one another. The parrot, who used to scream at 120dB upon the clippers just touching his foot, actually wanted his nails trimmed after seeing the dogs and cat have it done. And he doesn't even get a piece of freeze dried salmon like the furries do! Anyways, your advice in this post is so right on to just keep trying and being creative. Our worst nail dog at the dog daycare I worked at was suddenly fine when the facility changed locations. Amazing! I hope you'll be joining the positive reinforcement hop again soon and throwing in for Multiple Pet Mania at least once during June. Enjoy your weekend!

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Barks & Howls are always welcome!!

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