Saturday, November 26, 2011

When Nail Trim Training Doesn't Go Well

It's important for dogs to not just tolerate, but to willingly participate in nail trims.  But even following a good training plan, sometimes it just doesn't seem to work.  Now what?

Your Dog Doesn't Understand:  Maybe at some point in the process, your dog stopped participating and just tolerated the process. At what stage was the behavior -not- loopy, being offered right after you reinforced? When did your dog start hesitating?  Go back through and be careful to work only under the threshold of "participating" not that threshold of "tolerating."
Your Dog is Not Sufficiently Motivated: Some dogs have more sensitivity, making the nail trims uncomfortable.  Often a higher value reinforcer or a greater history of reinforcement can help to motivate your dog to participate.
Your Dog Is Not Physically or Mentally Capable:  Maybe your nail clippers are not sharp enough or you are moving the leg/paw in a way that is uncomfortable.  Is there a way to make the situation look different?

Some dogs do seem to be more sensitive to pressure on the foot or nail. Dull nail clippers only make the problem worse.   Dogs don't move in all directions and many dog owners will unintentionally move the dog's paw in a way that isn't all that comfortable for him.

When I was grooming, the preferred-by-dogs way was to have the dog standing. Move the foot backwards and flip the toes up (think "like a horse"). Be sure to keep the paw/leg underneath the body and to not pull it out to the side.

One of the shelter dogs who went from growly to pretty great has recently stopped participating. She'll let me clip a nail or two but isn't enjoying it like she used to. She doesn't move as well as she was before.  Her arthritis is getting worse...and moving her toes/feet to get a good angle is uncomfortable.   Some fresh-cooked chicken did motivate her to be a participant today.

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