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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 12:34 PM Thread Starter
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Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

I apologize in advance, because this is going to be long. I'll try to keep it as short as possible, but I want to accurately describe what's going on so that, hopefully, I can get some advice.
I'm at my wit's end when it comes to trying to trim Riley's nails and could really use some suggestions.

He's had a couple very bad experiences at the vet's office, with nail trimmings, to the point where we can no longer do them at home. He completely freaks out so bad that neither mom nor I can physically hold him, growls, bites my hand, etc. Now I know the 'bad experience' thing can sound like an excuse for bad behavior, but it's not. I never had a problem trimming his nails until the one time a tech took it upon herself to "clean them up for me" (even though they didn't need it.) From that day on, I couldn't touch his feet. We started working on it, trying to gain his trust again, but in the meantime he desperately needed a trim and I had no choice but to take him in for another one. He was an absolute wreck when he came out of there -- he'd peed all over himself, his eyes were bloodshot, his anal glands had been expressed. It was very traumatic for him, so that only made matters worse. I don't know what the [heck] they did to him back there, but they obviously hurt him or scared the daylights out of him and he's not willing to forget about it.

We started working, diligently, on just handling his feet and have had some success. I can handle his back feet now, but the front are still a problem. There are days when I can handle them and days when he goes all growly/bitey again and refuses to let me near them. It's like we take one step forward and one back, and can't seem to get over that hurdle. I've been keeping it positive with lots of praise, treats when he cooperates and good play sessions immediately afterwards.

Sunday, I saw that he had one nail that desperately needed to be clipped, so we tried it -- didn't work. Mom's pretty strong, but he was fighting so hard that she couldn't hold him still and couldn't keep him from biting my hand long enough for me to clip. We broke out the old muzzle that used to belong to Alomar. He let me put it on and was immediately a different dog. Held still, let me clip the nail, everything was good. Treats, praise, playtime. We thought we had found the answer, at least in the short-term.
Wrong. We tried to repeat the success last night and he freaked out again. He let me put the muzzle on, but then he was fighting so hard that we had to stop. Mom said his heart was racing like crazy and I just didn't want to push him.

So my question is, what else can I do? I'm thinking about mixing a little NILIF in with his feet-handling. If he wants a toy, I touch the clippers to his nail first, if he wants a treat, I touch the nail first, etc. It seems like the reward for cooperation hasn't been enough and I need to up the ante -- make everything he wants depend on it and hopefully we can get to a point where the clippers on his nails are such a natural thing that it won't terrify him anymore. Do you think this is the right approach?

I should mention that we've tried the dremel as well, and he wants no part of that either.

Someone had suggested that I need to crack down on him and "show him who's boss." Suggested that I give him a good shake when he growls or bites my hand, but I really don't think that's the answer. He's not just being a brat - he's terrified -- and I believe that bullying him would only make it worse.

Any suggestions or thoughts are welcome. Like I said, short of the NILIF approach, I don't know what else to try.

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 12:52 PM
dd
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

We have had the same experience with a vet hurting the dog and nail trimming has become an issue. First of all, make sure he's really tired before you even attempt to trim.

Have you tried starting just with a nail file to get him used to someone working on the claws? I would try that - have one person hold him, play with one claw, give a stinky treat. Do this for short periods, then work up to several claws. Then work up to a nail file.

Next stage: file one claw a little bit - stinky treat. Work your way up. It will take a while, but you may be able to accustom him to clippers that way - again, one claw at a time.

dd


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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 01:36 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

It's great when someone else creates a problem for you, isn't it?

That's not a bad idea, with the file. Maybe I'll add that step in, before we move on to touching the clippers to a nail.

We're pretty much stuck at the first stage, right now. I either have mom distract him with a treat in her hand while I handle his foot for a second or two, then he gets the treat. Or I hold the treat myself, handle his paw for a second then let him have the cookie. It's just really difficult, trying to reward him in that split second when he stops struggling or pulling his foot away. Some days it works pretty well and others, treat or not, he's having no part of it.

I should have added that last night I backed the process up even further. I started teaching him to shake hands. I thought that maybe if I just teach him an innocent trick when I have no other agenda ( ) he'll get used to me holding his paw and we can move on from there with maybe that sort of NILIF approach. You want this toy? Shake hands first. Want the cookie? Show me the paw.

But definitely - I know that no matter what we do, it's going to take a long time and a lot of patience. Luckily, he doesn't need his nails trimmed very often (walking on the sidewalks everyday keeps them pretty well filed-down) so we have the luxury of taking it slow.

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 01:58 PM
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

I would not use his normal treats. I would get him some extra special stinky nail-trimming treats so he learns to associate the trimming with something good. Hot dog pieces, chunks of cheese, freeze-dried sardines - something totally different.

I always make sure my guys are so tired they are falling asleep before I do their nails - that also helps. Lots of activity beforehand.

dd


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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 02:18 PM
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

I dont even use clippers ... exactly for that reason. I use a dremel, which is just a motorized file ... But I have another friend who only files their dogs. ....

Sarah
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 02:39 PM
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

Don't know if my method will help or not...it takes me a month to trim River's nails...just in time to start again. It took several months to get her this far. I agree that nail trimming works best when she's tired. The vet is a traumatic experience for her; she is muzzled for her safety as well as the veterinarian's personnel. We decided that me doing her nails was the best for her (it doesn't make it easier that her nails are pitch black)

I have to close the other dogs out and let her lay across my lap; she loves belly rubs and having me all to herself. I started of playing with a foot, give her a treat. (I use dried liver, chicken or beef...very high value around here)

I graduated, very slowly, to touching her with the clipper, rub and treat. Wait for a day or two before goin farther. Then to 'skim clipping', taking off just the tip...belly rub, treat. Then wait for a day or two before going farther. Some days, I would just belly rub and treat, and touch her feet. Other days, I would belly rub, treat, touch her feet and 'skim clip'. Eventually, I got to where she will just lay there and I can take more than just the edge of her nail. Seriously, It took almost a year to get her to this point.

We follow nails with her very favorite thing besides eating: playing ball!

Good Luck to you

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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 02:43 PM
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

I'm sorry about this, I have had a similar problem, one thing I did was go out and buy a new set of nail clippers, the really really good ones that are VERY sharp. It helps with the pressure. But I had to start all over again with her, it has been frustrating, Once I got her to the point I could hold her paw again, I started clipping one nail, treating and then going out to play, I would clip one more....treat, play again. It took forever and she still doesnt like it, but now my problem is her nails have really gotten too long and I'm working them back again, she quicks too easily because of the issues we had I allowed them to get too long, my fault. I know. but we work on it a little bit every day.

Betsy

Ava GSD 3.5yrs

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

Quote:
Originally Posted By: ddI would not use his normal treats. I would get him some extra special stinky nail-trimming treats so he learns to associate the trimming with something good. Hot dog pieces, chunks of cheese, freeze-dried sardines - something totally different.

I always make sure my guys are so tired they are falling asleep before I do their nails - that also helps. Lots of activity beforehand.
Okay, tired is good. I can work on it in the morning. He gets a long, brisk walk and a real good game of tug or fetch so he's all tuckered out before I start working. That's about the only time he's completely worn out, so I'll just fit the 'footwork' in there.

LOL - I'll have to look for the freeze-dried sardines. I think Riley would lose his ever-lovin' mind over those. Whatever it takes! [heck], as disgusting as it would be, I'd stand there with a handful of canned sardines if it would help him get over this.

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-19-2010, 03:06 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

Thanks, Carol. That's a good idea about making it a "quality time with mom" thing. I can put Gunner in the other room and Riley will think he's getting some special treatment and extra attention. (Plus, if I go to a real high-value treat, dufus Gunner is going to have his nose right in there, trying to get some. lol.)

And thank you, Betsy -- that's a real good thought about buying some new clippers, too. The ones I have are a few years old and probably not very sharp anymore. I certainly don't want to hurt him! If I do that, we're done. I'd never get near them again. And yeah, it is frustrating. I mean, we have such a strong bond and he trusts me, completely, in every other sense. And he's so darn smart - I wish I could just make him understand that I'm not going to hurt him.

I even got so desperate with this that I let him sit right next to us and watch while I clipped Gunner's nails. LOL. I figured he's a very smart little guy and takes a LOT of his cues from Gunner, so maybe he'd connect the dots and see that Gunner just lays there like "Yeah, whatever - wake me when you're done" and would realize that maybe it's not so bad. LOL. Yeah... didn't work.

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-20-2010, 07:58 AM
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Re: Need help with nail trimming (non-GSD)

How about making it a requirement for Riley to exchange paw handling for ANYTHING he wants- if he wants to go outside, you gotta handle his left paw. If he wants playtime, you gotta handle his right paw. If he wants to eat, you gotta squeeze and rub his right paw. Very brief instants at first, but he will soon get used to the routine. At the same time, I would move to the Dremel and have it on while he eats, during a game of tug, during fetch, that way he associates the noise with pleasant things.

Sometimes, the environment makes a difference. For the longest time I could not Dremel Renji's nails inside but doing them outside in between tossing the ball with the Chuck-It made a huge difference. If Riley is a fetch demon, I would start incorporating paw handling in between each throw (remember to have that dremel on) and slowly work up to being able to touch a dremel to the nail. This is a totally different routine for nail trimming and it might be enough to break the bad cycle.

I would not use clippers anymore as they could take time to get the proper "aim," they can pinch, and if you quick him one more time it could be a lost cause.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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