I’ve been in dogs a long time, and more importantly I’ve worked in dogs a long time, and in a variety of capacities.  As such, I’ve seen a lot.  And worked with a lot.  For many years in private practice my primary case load was dogs with some variation of aggression complaint.  So often when someone tells me something, I have a bit of a skewed perspective.

I have a boarding dog here currently, her first time with me.  On drop off it was mentioned she is horrible for getting her nails trimmed.  Which was why they were incredibly long.  Like splay her feet out over grown.

My definition of ‘horrible for getting nails done’ is ‘panic, avoids muzzle being put on, attempt to bite with muzzle on, won’t eat, shakes, high level stress, no forgiveness, hours to days to recover, flailing, freak out’, my definition of ‘impossible for getting nails done’ is ‘requires medical sedation at the vet’s’.  I worked with so many clients and dogs on increasing the dog’s comfort with nail trims so they no longer had to be sedated at the vet’s for twice a year trimmings.  When I worked in the veterinary clinic, dogs toileting and/or releasing anal glands in stress response to nail trims was not uncommon at the clinic.

Regular readers know my thing about dog nails.  After a few days of developing a relationship with this dog, listening to her click click on the hardwood, and feeling bad about how painful her splayed feet must feel for her I decided to take a chance.

Zora’s white front feet with trim short nails

I now seriously have no idea what her owner’s definition of ‘horrible for getting nails done’ is.  At all.  Because she certainly wasn’t horrible.  She wasn’t even difficult.  Or hard.  I’d put her in ‘requires support, but with it, easy.’

I showed her the basket muzzle.  I put a treat in it.  She shoved her nose into it.  I fed her another couple of treats through the bars of the muzzle.  I buckled it on.  She stood there eating treats as I fed them to her.  No panic, no freak out, no trying to get it off, no refusing food.

Next I walked her to the grooming table.  She willingly walked with me on leash.  Still ignoring the muzzle on her face.

I gently lifted her onto the table.  No panic, no freak out, no resistance as I lifted her and placed her on the table.

I picked up a rear foot.  She stood there.  I fed her another treat.  She ate it.

I clipped the nails on her rear foot.  She stood there.  I fed her another treat.  She ate it.

I then proceeded to clip all of her nails.  She stood here.  Made no attempts to bite me through the muzzle.  No flailing.  No panic.  No freak out.  Ate treats as I offered them.  And stood there.

Once all nails were clipped, I lifted her down off the table, removed the muzzle and offered her more treats.  She ate them, wanted some petting, then followed me upstairs, for more wiggling and petting.

And now her feet clearly feel better.  And I don’t have to hear click click on the hardwood.

But it begs the question, what in the heck have people been doing to try to trim her nails that causes her to behave in a way they would define her as ‘horrible for getting nails done?’

I’m not sure how she would have been had I attempted this without muzzle, or had I not gradually tested her at each point ensuring her stress level was low enough to still willingly take and eat treats.  But in any case, I’m glad she trusted me enough and now feels better.  And now I know for me, in this setting, that she will let me trim her nails.  Which is good data to have, especially for any potential future stays.

0 thoughts on “Perception

  1. I like your approach with so much respect for the dog. I consider our dog to be terrible with nail trims, but after four years of careful patient work, there is rarely flailing, screaming, snarling, or biting which we experienced when we first got him. After struggling to trim his nails ourselves, we consulted with my friend who is a vet tech. Her solution was my husband and I pinning him to the floor and a muzzle while she clipped his nails. It was so terrible and made me so uncomfortable. I figured there had to be a better way, so I worked through desensitization of just holding his feet then holding his feet while I hold the clippers then tapping his nails with the clippers. It took a long time, and a lot of patience from me to not rush the process and just let him get comfortable. When I finally clipped a nail, I contented myself with just one a day. Now I can do a whole foot at a time usually (no muzzle), but I’m always trying to pay attention and back off if my dog is overly uncomfortable. I would also never ask him to let anyone else clip his nails. He and I have developed a trust, but a groomer, a vet or even my husband don’t have the foundation and I fear he would be uncomfortable again. Good for you for working slowly and making sure the dog felt comfortable with you.

    1. Trust is such an important and critical element. And one often overlooked by many in animal husbandry, as you found from the advice from your vet tech friend. It is sad, but there is often the “I’m the master, you are the weaker subordinate, I am stronger, you will submit. This is for your own good!” Mentality. Which blows any chance of trust, cooperation and mutual respect to no chance on earth. I’m so glad you trusted your empathic instincts, listened to your dog, and took the time needed to develop the relationship you and he now have. He is a lucky dog 🙂

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