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.
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby