This time, my first demo dog was Honda. Honda is a wiggly little thing who just couldn't get enough kisses in. Like many of the pitties in the shelter, she had some dry skin and dandruff and she was shedding like crazy. It made me think of how all the dogs I've taken in as fosters have started out with dry skin and patchy, dull, scrappy-looking coats that have shaped up and gotten nice and glossy after just a week or so at home. This is through no fault of the shelter, and is not to toot my own horn--it is just a function of how stress causes dogs to dump their coats, and regular brushing, even with those short pittie coats, distributes the oils and makes skin healthy and coats shine.
Next up was a shy little pup who didn't really want to do anything but hide. She would definitely benefit from some calming touch, but in a room with multiple people I didn't want to introduce her to grooming tools for the first time. She will likely be going to a rescue or to foster care where she can get the one-on-one attention that will help her build confidence.
Then I got to work with Danny, an absolutely ridiculous little mini-Fozzie. Good God. I'm supposed to remain coherent when you give me a little thing like that? Once I pulled myself together, I was able to brush Danny's teeth and demonstrate how great it is to get a little gum/muzzle massage in.
Then, we settled in to a nice demo of nail clipping. Danny was surprisingly amenable to the whole thing! Unlike many dogs, he let me clip those nails with no trouble at all. It didn't hurt that he had a room full of people stuffing his face with treats as I trimmed each nail.
How is YOUR dog with nail clipping? In the event that you don't have an easy time of it like I did with Danny, I have recorded below a step-by-step process for nail clipping that, over time, will help even the most sensitive dogs accept the process.
- Get your dog used to having his paws touched. For a few days, just touch each paw, then give a treat. If your dog is really nervous about this, just touch one paw during a session, then rest and play, and come back to the next paw later.
- Bring out the clippers and place them near your pup. If she sniffs them, click and treat. Leave them out for a couple of days.
- Put some treats near the clippers. If your dog gets the treats, praise.
- Use a “touch” cue to get your pup to touch the clippers. Do this multiple times until the pup is touching the clippers readily.
- Now sit down near the clippers with some really good treats and have your dog lie down near you. Slowly bring the clippers over to a paw and gently touch one nail with them. If she pulls her paw away, look away and ignore her for a moment.
- Try again until you are able to touch the paw with the clippers. When that happens, click and treat. Repeat several times, for several days.
- If your dog keeps pulling his paw away, then click and treat for even allowing the clippers within a couple of inches of the paw. Gradually get closer.
- When you can touch the paw with the clippers easily, raise the criteria by touching the paw twice before you click and treat. Then three times.
- Repeat the process for all the nails/ paws. When your pup is comfortable with this, you can clip the smallest edge of the nail. Then click and treat. Do just one paw at a time and keep sessions short.
- Trim nails a tiny bit at a time, and keep them short so quick never grows out.
- For very nervous dogs, don’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks of slow introduction and counterconditioning before you can clip any nails. The process can, however, go surprisingly fast if you do not rush it, and use high-value treats.