Does this sound familiar?
It’s that time again. Time to trip your dog’s nails.
This is something that both you and your dog dread.
As soon as you take out the nail clippers your dog high-tails it out of there and goes into hiding. You then have to chase him down and force him to sit still while you attempt to cut his nails and try hard not to get bit.
Not fun for either of you.
This scenario is unfortunately pretty common and isn’t limited to nails. Dog’s often also aren’t crazy about getting medications (like ear drops), getting brushed and taking a bath.
Since we can all agree that chasing our dog and then forcing them to do something they dislike sucks, lets talk how we can change this and even prevent it from happening.
As soon as you bring you new puppy home you should make a it a priority to handle them regularly – I recommend somewhere between three to six times weekly.
Pick a time when your pup is in a mellow mood (not when he’s got a case of the puppy crazies) and take a few minutes to touch him all over. Rub his head, look in his ears, open his mouth, move your fingers around his eyes, gently hold each paw for a few seconds, touch his nails, rub his belly and back legs, and run your hand down his tail.
Repeat this ritual for the first month or two until you dog is super cool with being touched all over.
Doing this get him used to being handled and will make grooming and first aid a simple task.
If you didn’t get your dog as a pup or didn’t know to handle them and now have a dog that is not thrilled with some stuff, we can change that with a little effort.
Lets use the example of nail trimming. So your dog hates to get his nails cut and runs at the sight of the clippers leaving you either trying to quickly clip them when he’s asleep or having to chase them through the house.
To change his behavior we need to first change his association to the nail clippers. You always want to start counter conditioning at the point where your dog’s mood changes (when he goes from happy to anxious).
In this case, it’s at the mere sight of the clippers. So what you need to do is take the clippers out and show them to your dog and give him a very high impact treat like chicken (the more he hates them the better the reward), and put the clippers away. Do this 10 – 30 per day until instead of heading for the hills at the sight of them, he runs to you to get his snack.
Congrats, you’ve successfully changed his association to the sight of the clippers. Nice work, but we’re far from done here.
Now you have to move to the next step. You show him the clippers and put them near his paw, then give him a treat and put the clippers away. Continue that a bunch of times per day for a while until he’s okay with that.
Then you take it a bit farther – you put the clipper on one nail but don’t clip. Give him his snack and repeat often.
Once you’re looking good there you move to clipping one nail only. Reward and put the clippers away and repeat through out the day and weeks.
Are you seeing how this works? You have to gradually change your dog’s association to the tool and then show him that it’s worth putting up with to get some yummy food. I’m not saying he’s going to love it, but he can learn to tolerate if we move slowly and make it in his best interest.
If you do this properly you will never have to chase your dog for anything again. Just remember, the less he likes to do something the more you up the reward.