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Friday, January 16, 2009

Nail Trimming Problems

Hi Jan,
A question regarding our inside dog not wearing his nails down nearly as much as in the warm months. He is about 90 lbs., Ger. Shepard, and won't let my wife and I clip his nails. It gets a little expensive at the vets and I have to believe he has more important things to do. Tried muzzle and he can nip us through it. Wondered about a screen over the eyes like someone described a few weeks ago? Do you have any suggestions? --Curt

I'm wondering what kind of muzzle you've tried where he can actually nip at you through it. Am thinking if it's a soft nylon muzzle of the right size that that would be really difficult, so you might have someone assess the size and fit for you. He does need a long one, for a long muzzle.

That said, he still has to be desensitized, and that's a big job. We trainers will all say what you've heard before...handle his feet, try to do one nail a night, yadayadayada....and truth is, some dogs are just TOO difficult to do without sedation or professional help. It is cheaper to take him to a groomer (instead of a vet) to have it done every couple weeks, and most groomers will let you just walk in for it. That's one option.

The best way, of course, is to get him past this if you can. Is he combative at any other times when you're working with him or training him? If he's a tad rebellious at other times, I'd do the "famous neck massage" that I believe they still do at Manning Dog Training. It's a calming
exercise that helps him release energy and resistance. That, followed with intensive Leadership Game, will wear him down mentally and help him accept your handling his feet or doing virtually anything else that you need to do to him.

There are many new styles of trimmers on the market, but my favorite is still the type that looks like pliers. They're easier to operate, with less chance of jerking the dog's nail or getting it too short. Some people like the new electric trimmers, but you have more desensitization issues with those (the noise and vibration) and I believe they're best for smaller dogs.

I don't think the "Calming Cap" (mesh screen) would help in your situation. But I do think it's worth trying some Rescue Remedy (homeopathic calming agent available at health food stores) and maybe even trying some essential oils (aromatherapy) that calm anxiety. Those, too, you can get at health food stores.

When you do trim nails, remember you don't have to get it "all at once." Just take a sliver, or a tiny nubbin, off the very end each time, and you'll eventually work your way down to the right length without cutting into the quick and causing discomfort.

One more thing....when you ARE holding your dog's paw, and preparing to trim a nail, take stock of how tightly you're gripping his foot. I think sometimes, in our desperation, we clamp down so hard on the foot that it causes discomfort and anxiety before we even get to the nail-trimming part.

Good luck,

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