A natural trim
With the advent of technology to do almost everything for us – we tend to have a more sedentary life style. Unfortunately the same happens for many dogs. People are just too busy to take the dog for a walk or go for a run with him. As a result many dogs are not able to move around enough to naturally trim their nails. Dog’s nails are not retractable – so as they get too long they affect the way the dog stands on his paws and hence affect his balance. When things go out of balance – we may get trouble!
The safest thing to do then is to intervene and trim the dog’s nails. This may be easier said than done. Many dogs will not allow their paws to be touched – let alone held while their nails are clipped. This may be because of a bad experience or just plain sensitivity. I’m sure many of you have found that if you try to pick up your dog’s paw – even to just LOOK at the nails the dog pulls back his paw and walks off in a huff.
Dealing with challenges respectfully
TTOUCH© is not just about doing particular touches or slides or groundwork – it is a philosophy of working respectfully with animals. When we are presented with a challenge – we will make a plan with any tools available to us, as long as they fit into the criteria of being kind and respectful.
In the TTOUCH© world we talk about ‘chunking’ things down. So the first thing we want to do is to get the dog comfortable with us touching the legs. When your dog is lying comfortably by your side in front of the TV – try stroking him along his back and then down into his legs. If he pulls his leg away immediately – you know he’s sensitive. If something doesn’t work – we change it. Try stroking his leg with the back of your hand. Using the back of your hand is much less threatening – as you can’t grab. If that still elicits the same response – try using a soft paint brush. Keep changing until you find something that the dog is comfortable with. Once you have found the tool that your dog finds acceptible, use it to do small clockwise circle-and-a-quarter movements down the leg. If you can use your fingers – remember to move the skin – and not dig into the muscle. As your dog gets to be really comfortable – try extending these touches down onto the paws. You may have to take a step back (like go back to the paint brush for the paws), but no matter.
These sessions should be short and over a period of time – we’re not going to get Fido handing over his paw for nail clipping in one evening!
Once you are able to touch the paws comfortably (comfortably for both you AND Fido that is) – try picking up the paw in your hand and holding it gently. If that’s ok – start separating the toes and rubbing between them and moving the nails around a bit.
When moving around with your dog – ideally doing some TTOUCH© groundwork, make sure you take your dog over different surfaces. This helps with awareness in the paws and the dog’s proprioception. The more the dog is aware of his body – the better he is able to cope with what life throws at him.
Now that you’re happy that Fido is comfortable with you touching his paws and feeling between the toes – you haul out the clippers – and guess what? Fido walks out. Do not despair. Using treats and/or clicker training – you may encourage Fido to stick around and see what it is all about. Start using the clipper to just do the circular touches that you did before along the leg and on the toes. Make sure this is a fun experience for him – and giving a few treats always helps ensure that. Chewing also helps animals from going into flight mode (sympathetic nervous system), and so helps keep them where they may be able to think and learn.
For many dogs it is that loud ‘clip’ noise that upsets them. Get some matches and clip them near his feet, while treating him for staying and being calm. Once you have all these pieces together – take his paw in your open hand – breathe audibly while you hold the paw gently and clip the nails. Often when we come to do the deed we get so nervous, we hold our breath and clamp the dog’s paw – no wonder many of them are not that keen!
It is a good idea to clip very little nail regularly, this will prevent accidents of cutting into the quick – which can be very painful and messy. As this becomes a routine – Fido will not even turn a hair when the clippers come out – more likely look keen as he waits for his treats!