Updated: Jan 14
As Wild Thing Dog Training prepares for the New Year, I find myself looking back to things my dog has struggled with and ahead to how I can help others overcome the same issues with their dogs. It's no secret I'm a huge fan of husbandry training, the majority of which is centered around helping dogs feel comfortable with routine grooming and veterinary procedures. Ideally, I want dogs to not only feel comfortable, I want them to be willing participants in this oh-so necessary part of their lives.
Because of this I will be rolling out a series of single husbandry topic online classes in the New Year. The first class is titled "Fancy Feet" and is a 4 week introduction to in-home nail care that has the benefit of not stressing out your dog (or you) in the process. Gone will be the days of carting your dog to the vet every time her nails need a trim.
So let's talk about why nail care is so important for dogs to begin with. First I'll talk about why it's so important to me personally and how teaching my dog to consent to having her nails trimmed became one of the most transformative aspects of our relationship.
When my husky was just a puppy, I would occasionally trim her nails with the typical pliers-style trimmers. Though she didn't love it, we soldiered through without much fuss. Then one day I clipped too far up, into the quick. She yelped as her nail bled, and that was the end of it.
From that point on until she was about 8 years old, I alternated between taking her to the local vet clinic and trying it at home when an extra set of hands were available. Both options included a lot of vocalizing and struggling. Because she was so desperately trying to get away, whoever was doing the trimming often ended up cutting the quick, causing pain and furthering her negative conditioned emotional response to nail trimming.
I recall one day being told by the receptionist at our vet clinic that their price had gone up for nail trims. No worries, I thought. Later as I reviewed the the bill, it occurred to me that we had been relegated to a different line item in the nail trim category - "Nail Trim II." This was reserved for dogs who required multiple techs and a lot of drama to accomplish what was seemingly such a simple task.
It didn't seem to matter what the set-up was. Whether in the exam room or waiting in the lobby, I always heard my dog crying, screaming even, in fear. If you aren't familiar with why exactly restraint is so scary for dogs (and all animals), you can learn more by reading my previous post "Head Under Water."
It broke my heart each time. I cried as three techs wrestled my dog to the ground as she thrashed and vocalized to no avail. She had to be muzzled for the safety of the staff. I'm a huge proponent of muzzle training dogs. However, it's necessity because of her extreme duress was hard for me to swallow.
I would let her nails grow out as long as possible between trims because I didn't want to put either of us through it again. I often referred to her nails as "talons" due to their length.
Then one day help arrived. A friend was starting an online program of her own and needed a few people to beta-test the training plan. I immediately volunteered. The rest, as they say, is history. We have continued to refine our routine as times goes on. Now it not only includes comfort, but consent also.
What do I mean by consent anyway? I mean that my dog has learned to communicate with me when I can and cannot proceed. For her, this means laying on her side. If she sits up, I stop and give her a break. When she reclines again, I go back to work.
That's the story of my dog. Perhaps your dog isn't quite that averse to having her nails trimmed, but dislikes it enough to cause you to procrastinate. This is why it's important to know that keeping nails at a proper length is important for your dog's long-term orthopedic health.
In the article "Veterinarian Advice: Why It Is Important to Trim Your Pet's Nails," the Pet Health Hospital writes,
...your dog may actually develop arthritis over time due to the long nails pushing toe bones into un-natural positions .... Even worse than this is the fact that dogs actually walk on their toes, and when their toes hurt due to long toenails they begin to compensate by attempting to take weight off them and distribute it to the backs of their paws. This is very much like attempting to walk on your heels all day ... and will usually result in intense backaches, sore muscles and joints, and eventual arthritis over time.
This is not the only issue that plagues dogs with overgrown nails, Pet Health Hospital explains,
Untrimmed nails will often get caught on carpet fibers and other things in your home, potentially tearing the nail from the bed and resulting in a costly and painful trip to the veterinary emergency room .... [Furthermore,] the growth patterns of dog’s toenails is in a curved shape, meaning that if left completely untrimmed they will curve under the dog’s paws and begin to dig into the skin, causing ongoing pain as they walk. The dew claw is especially prone to this type of problem, becoming ingrown quite easily if left without trimming.
For all of the reasons listed above, proper nail length is not just an issue of aesthetics but of long-term health. Therefore, it is extremely important to me to share my knowledge with others.
Beginning January 21st, 2021 I will be teaching a new online course titled "Fancy Feet: A Stress-Free Introduction to In-Home Nail Care." The course will enable you to stop driving your dog to the vet every time her nails get unbearably long. Instead, you'll be able to do them at home, worry-free.
If you would like to learn more about the class, please click here. I hope to see you there and wish you all a very Happy New Year!
PS. Dogs aren't the only ones who need their nails trimmed. The same goes for cats, birds, rabbits, and other small companion animals. It even applies to our hooved friends - goats, horses, pigs, cows, and sheep!