By Cecelia Sumner, YourNews contributor
VERO BEACH — Trimming your dog's toe nails should be a part of routine pet care. From the stories people tell me, it seems nail care is anything but routine. Just as we teach our dogs to sit or come, we can and should teach our pets to accept nail trimming. I hear about dogs needing to be muzzled, tranquilized, anesthetized and restrained by multiple people. Even if you only trim the dog's nails every other month, that is six traumatic experiences every year. And every time your dog is traumatized, the next attempt at nail care is likely to be more difficult.
Let's stop the madness and do some training! The logical place to start is by handling your dog's feet. You can start by having your dog sit in front of you. Begin at his elbow and gently run your hand down his leg. If he lets you stroke all the way to his paw, great! Give him a treat and repeat the process. Alternate between both front legs until your dog is enjoying the process.
If your dog pulls away, go slower. Go half way down the leg and reward. Then two-thirds, then three-fourths of the way. Keep slowly increasing how far down the leg you can touch while being really generous with the rewards until your dog has lost his anxiety about having his legs and feet touched.
This part of the training can take a while if your dog has been forced into nail trims. Be patient, gentle and generous. This is a process called desensitization and counter conditioning. It is a successful training strategy to help change the underlying emotion to the event. We want to teach dogs that nail trims are not dangerous!
As your dog learns to accept this handling, start to gently pick up his feet. When that is easy, softly squeeze his toes, one at a time. Again go in small steps and be calm and generous with the rewards. Make it easier for your pet by going in small steps and allow him to be successful at each one.
The homework takes time, but nail trims are a lifelong event. It's worth the effort to make the job fast and easy in the future. Here are some videos demonstrating how to teach your dog to allow nail trims. From Donna Hill- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JTKrJ2sVGo And another from Dr. Sophia Yin- https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=WWZUcLfHXLE
More on nails next week, we're not done yet!