Grooming a Dog Who Doesn’t Want to Be Groomed…Trimming Nails!!

One of the most intimidating parts of grooming a dog is trimming their nails!  Most dogs have very sensitive feet, and really don’t like to have them touched much, so that only adds to the difficulty!  Adding to that issue, is the fact that most owners let their dog’s nails grow too long between trims, so it’s often a painful and negative experience for a dog.  The quick continues to grow daily, so keeping nails trimmed short will keep the quick back and help prevent paw injuries like broken nails.  Long nails are very uncomfortable for a dog, so good paw health involves keeping them short and trimmed on a regular basis.  We try to do a quick trim on a weekly basis so that Rugby’s nails never get too long.

I prefer using a dremmel tool to sand Rugby’s nails rather than standard clippers.  With standard clippers, it’s easier to accidentally cut the quick of your dog, which will bleed like crazy!  It’s painful for your dog, and will definitely create a negative experience for him.  Clippers leave behind sharp edges, which can still scratch you.  When I use a dremmel, I never have to worry about injuring the quick, so it’s more positive for both of us.  A dremmel also will create smooth nails and elimate any rough edges.  I use a cone shaped stone because it’s much easier to get in those tight spaces on Rugby’s paw, like his dewclaws!

For all of the things that Rugby hates about being messed with, he’s actually not too bad about nail trims!  What a shocker, right?  When he was a younger puppy, I tried to trim them by myself, but honestly, Rugby’s fur is what gets in the way, and makes me want some help with this job.  I need a little help distracting him, so that he doesn’t get his fur caught in the dremmel, which has happened several times, unfortunately!  We try to trim Rugby’s nails around his supper time, and he gets hand fed by Michael as I trim his nails.  He often gets a little bit bigger meal, but because he’s cooperating with us, I really don’t mind giving him a bit extra.

I dress Rugby in his Thundershirt so that he is already calmer when we start the process.  Then, I elevate him by using a grooming table without the arm or noose. Putting a dog in an elevated state tends to make him more calm, which will certainly help!  By accident one Winter day, we forgot to bring the grooming table out of the garage early enough to let it come to room temperature, so we put Rugby’s pillow dog bed on the grooming table, and found that it really helped him relax.  He was already used to sleeping and relaxing on this bed, so it was very comfortable for him.

Next, because of the long fur on Rugby’s legs, I wrap his paws with a baby sock that has the toes cut out of them.  This hides all of his long fringe, and keeps it safely away from getting caught in the dremmel!  I also drape a big dog towel over him which helps add calming weight to him, but primarily, it protects his wagger floof!  He’s prone to jump if I get too close to his quick, and that wagger goes flying everywhere!! He is so patient with all of this effort, and it really does help make the experience more pleasant for us all.  Truth be told, I think he appreciates this extra effort we put into making him comfortable.

The other thing that I do, is let Rugby decide when he’s done.  I try hard to quickly get all four paws trimmed, but honestly, some days….for whatever reason…he just wants out!  Generally he always lets me trim at least two paws, so I pick left side or right side, and we do one side on a given day, and save the other side for the next day…or whenever we can fit it into our schedule that week.  I start with his front paw and then do his back paw.  He really tries hard to cooperate with the process, but if I get a bit too close to the quick several times….he’s ready to be done!

Michael and I team up as we trim Rugby’s nails.  When I’m ready to touch his nail with the dremmel, Michael feeds him a kibble of his dog food.  It’s enough distraction to help him tolerate the process so that it’s a positive experience for him.  Rugby lays on his side, and I trim the nail that’s on the bottom…nearest to the table.  Since Rugby is laying on it, he’s not as reactive and doesn’t pull his paw away as much.

What’s really important to remember when you use a dremmel, is that the high speed generates a good amount of heat, and that can be painful to your dog.  So I typically trim a bit on one nail, then move to the next and trim a bit, and move to the next, etc. until I have all four nails trimmed.  Then I go back to the first nail and trim a bit more, and so on, going back and forth until they are at the length I want.

When the last nail is finished, Rugby gets a very special treat, like a dehydrated chicken foot one week, and a jerky chew the next.  He really looks forward to his extra special treat, and since I rarely ever give him anything special like this….in my opinion….he worked hard for that treat by cooperating with the process, and it’s a wonderful way that I have to thank him for being such a great little dog!

If you’re trying to make grooming your dog more enjoyable, try these things:  When you’re home and just relaxing, try just handling your dog.  Rub his feet, his ears, pull up his lips to get a peek at his teeth, etc.  I suggest  sitting somewhere comfortable where your dog can sit next to you, whether it’s the floor or furniture.  If the dog is on my right side, I have a stash of small treats on my left side, and when the dog lets me handle him comfortably, I give him a little nibble while I’m doing the touching.  I’m paying him for letting me handle him, and turning that into a good thing in his eyes.  When he’s relaxing, he’s going to tolerate more handling, so be sure to just keep it light and easy.

If your dog has some reactivity or sensitivity to grooming, remember to take things slowly….even if you trim one paw at a time.  If your dog is aggressive over being handled, you might want to try a muzzle or have a professional trim his nails while you’re working to get him more comfortable with the process.  In some cases, it may be worth paying someone else to do a job like grooming, but I think many dogs honestly feel more comfortable being groomed by their owners.  At the very least, if you can help your dog get comfortable with being handled in general, even if you choose to have your dog groomed by professionals, it will help reduce your dog’s stress, and that’s a good thing!



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