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Discussion Starter #1
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.
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
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.
 

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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.
 

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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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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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We have a boxer that behaves like that partly because she's Banshee and partly because she's had her quick hit to many times. So for years DH let her get away with it and didn't trim her nails.

So I started by walking by her, when she was sleeping, clip a nail real quick, praise and praise. the next day I repeated this. We are now up to clipping several nails at one time before she decides she's had enough. I also play with her feet when I walk by, without the clippers in my hand. Sometimes I walk by, show her the clippers, let her sniff, pet her head and walk away.

Her anxiety is slowly receding....if a 10 year old snarky boxer can do...you can too!
 

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Originally Posted By: DianaMHow 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.
Yes, that's what I was getting at when I asked about taking sort of a NILIF approach -- I just didn't describe it very well! I taught him to 'shake' and since Monday night he's had to do that for everything he wants. He has it down pat and already gives me his paw without hesitation. (Though, sometimes, he tries to give me both of them - nutty dog. lol.) I'm really hoping that if we do that a couple hundred times a day, everyday, giving me his paw will become such a natural thing for him that when I need to "do" something, he'll just give me his paw without really doing the math. I'm sure it's going to take time for us to get to that point, but I think it's a good start.
I think it speaks to the change in environment, too, and I think that's a great idea. I mean, if we're in the kitchen next to the treat jar, he's perfectly willing to give me his paw now because he knows that we're not going to do anything. When he's up on the couch (which is where we always try to 'do' things to his feet) he's immediately suspicious and on the defensive before we even start. So I really like that idea - thank you!

Originally Posted By: Jax08So I started by walking by her, when she was sleeping, clip a nail real quick, praise and praise. the next day I repeated this. We are now up to clipping several nails at one time before she decides she's had enough. I also play with her feet when I walk by, without the clippers in my hand. Sometimes I walk by, show her the clippers, let her sniff, pet her head and walk away.

Her anxiety is slowly receding....if a 10 year old snarky boxer can do...you can too!
LOL. I sure hope we can. Riley's proving to be a real tough nut to crack, but we're going to stick with it. Even our new vet said that our best bet, now, is trying to work with him and get to a point where we can do his nails ourselves, at home. She's perfectly willing to do them for me, but she said that we'd HAVE to muzzle him to get it done and he's not going to like it. She's afraid that it would only fuel his fear and continue to make matters worse. I'd have to say that I agree with her, so we have our work cut out for us!
I tried that, too - sneaking in there and clipping one when he's sound asleep. LOL - didn't work. Man, he goes from zero to Cujo in like, two seconds flat! He can be on his back, SOUND asleep, and the second I even touch his foot, he's wide awake! I figured it probably wasn't a good idea to try that again. Let him jerk and let me hurt him and it's over. I'm afraid that would really mess him up even more.
I really wish there wasn't the language barrier between us and I could just tell him "Look, I'm not going to hurt you" and he could understand that.


Thank you so much, guys! I really appreciate all the suggestions and advice.
 

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Cordless Dremel + Chicken McNuggets/cheeseburgers + Dog Park (or safe off leash park) =

Enter park, touch Dremel to nail, release dog. Call dog back, feed a nugget, touch Dremel to nail, release dog. Call dog back, feed cheeseburger, touch Dremel, release dog. By the end of the day, Riley should be loving the nail trim time! Or at least not acting like unspeakable acts are being committed upon him.


The couch and even the room with the couch may forever be a no-trim zone but environmental changes really do help break vicious cycles and bad associations. Keep us posted, I'm really curious to see how this pans out for you both.
 

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Yeah, ditch the clippers completely, and get a dremmel. I did that after Indy was traumatized with the clippers and it made a tone of difference.

Also, when you try to mess with the front paws, do you go straight for the paws? Have you tried massaging the front legs, from the elbow down, and working your way down to the paw?
 

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Originally Posted By: DianaMCordless Dremel + Chicken McNuggets/cheeseburgers + Dog Park (or safe off leash park) =

Enter park, touch Dremel to nail, release dog. Call dog back, feed a nugget, touch Dremel to nail, release dog. Call dog back, feed cheeseburger, touch Dremel, release dog. By the end of the day, Riley should be loving the nail trim time! Or at least not acting like unspeakable acts are being committed upon him.
Would it be as effective letting him run around in the back yard while we do this? I've never tried to touch his feet out there, so there's no association. I don't care for dog parks and I don't know of any places around here that allow dogs and would be safe to let him off-leash. (Too suburban - too much traffic.) We'd probably be okay - his recall is pretty solid - but if it failed once, it could be very dangerous.

And I think I will go ahead and get a dremel. I wanted one for Gunner anyway. We've only tried the PediPaws thing and it has since gone in the garbage because it's useless. lol. But Riley has no bad associations with a dremel. I'm sure the vet tech just used clippers, so that might be the way to go - something totally new.

Originally Posted By: LisaTAlso, when you try to mess with the front paws, do you go straight for the paws? Have you tried massaging the front legs, from the elbow down, and working your way down to the paw?
I initially went right for the paw, but have since backed up on that and now I do start higher on his leg and work my way down. We have a lot more success doing it that way. I think environment plays a role too, even going slowly. If he's on the bed and I start slowly, just petting him, work my way to his leg and eventually his foot, I can usually pet or handle his paw for a good ten seconds (maybe longer) before the lightbulb goes off and he pulls it away. But if he's laying on the couch with me, he starts giving me the eye as soon as I get to his leg. Some days, he'll let me handle the paw for a couple seconds and some days he won't.
This is where some people (not here) have suggested that I need to crack down, tell him that I've had enough of his foolishness and correct him. I don't see how that's going to be productive. He has a desire to please that I've not seen in ANY dog I've had, so I have to think that I'm better off using that to my advantage than I would be trying to butt heads with him. I mean, at the end of the day, he's stronger than I am and he has the teeth - if he wants to win, he will. Plus, I would really be afraid of damaging the relationship I have with him, if I treated him that way when he's already in fear mode. Am I totally off-base, looking at it that way?

I think there are bright spots, though. It's not like he just refuses to let me handle his paw, anywhere at any time. We'll just have to keep building on the positive moments. One at a time. Probably for a LONG time.
 

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Deni, yes the backyard should be fine. I have the cordless Mini Mite, you might want to go one higher but I really like the Mini Mite. Also, remember to act natural yourself and BREATHE. If your voice pitch changes, you hold your breath, you get quiet and your movements get too slow, dogs seriously react to that. You know what really helped us at first? SINGING while doing the nails! I sang songs about how great Renji was and it kept him AND me a bit calmer.


No, DO NOT CRACK DOWN. If people had that mindset with elephants, lions, killer whales, and apes, we would have a lot of dead zookeepers.
Stress is no one's friend. What you are trying to do is the CORRECT way. All the Cesar Millan people (thinking of that poor Jindo now..) need to just listen more and talk a heck of a lot less. The next time you get that sort of advice, tell them they are bargaining with their face.
 

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i got my dog at 9 weeks old. in his puppy class (10 weeks old) they started with the Dremel. the pups were petted with the Dremel on.
while the pups were playing someone would touch the pups with the Dremel. when it came to their nails we would touch
the nails. i mean for a split second. just touch the nail and that was it. at home the same thing. the Dremel was part of the
everyday activities. the Dremel was on during feeding (touching
the pup all over his body), we would touch a nail or two.

we always treated and praised the pup during his Dremel training.
we didn't wait untill his nails needed trimming to work
with the Dremel. we played with him with the Dremel all
of the time and in many different situations.

now when we use the Dremel my dog just lays.

now our Grey Hound, we couldn't get close to her feet.
if we were thinking nails she got rammy. our groomer
could cut our Grey Hounds nails with no problem.
our groomer could cut our Grey Hound nails with no leash
on her or muzzle. our Grey Hound would sit there with her
paw/paws in the air with a smile on her face and let
the groomer do what ever.

like everything else you have to start the nails
introduction when they're young, young, young.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Originally Posted By: DianaMDeni, yes the backyard should be fine. I have the cordless Mini Mite, you might want to go one higher but I really like the Mini Mite. Also, remember to act natural yourself and BREATHE. If your voice pitch changes, you hold your breath, you get quiet and your movements get too slow, dogs seriously react to that. You know what really helped us at first? SINGING while doing the nails! I sang songs about how great Renji was and it kept him AND me a bit calmer.


No, DO NOT CRACK DOWN. If people had that mindset with elephants, lions, killer whales, and apes, we would have a lot of dead zookeepers.
Stress is no one's friend. What you are trying to do is the CORRECT way. All the Cesar Millan people (thinking of that poor Jindo now..) need to just listen more and talk a heck of a lot less. The next time you get that sort of advice, tell them they are bargaining with their face.
Me... singing in the backyard. Oh lord - I'd have every dog in the neighborhood howling. They'd probably think it was a cat in distress.


But all joking aside - I never gave any thought to how I come across to him when I'm trying to handle his feet. I'm so busy trying to act casual that, now that I think about it, I DO tense up. When he lets me hold his paw, it's like "Oh my god, he's letting me hold his paw... don't move... don't breathe..." Which is right about when he pulls it away. (Gah - major "duh" moment here!) Just last night, he was sitting in the chair with me, letting me hold and pet his paw. I said to mom, in a real hushed voice, "Are you seeing this?" No sooner got the words out and he pulled it away. My demeanor changed. Makes sense. Especially given how tuned-in he is with me. He watches me like a hawk and immediately picks up on any change in body language or anxiety level, as quickly as Gunner does, if not quicker.
I'll have to work on my own behavior too.

And thank you! I do tend to baby him. I admit it. (He's my snugglebutt - it's hard not to baby him!) I was starting to worry that maybe I am going a little too easy on him. It's really nice to know that others agree and think that I'm on the right track.

Originally Posted By: doggiedadlike everything else you have to start the nails
introduction when they're young, young, young.
That's the part that really ticks me off about this. We had learned from past mistakes and were determined to do everything right. We started everything - ear cleaning, brushing, nail trimming... all of it, when he was about 8 weeks old. He was so laid back about all of it. Never had a problem until the one vet visit.
Now we have to undo what they did.
 

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So I think I've found the solution -- I should just bite his nails for him.


I've discovered that he lets me kiss his feet. He gives me a look - the one that says "You're really weird, mom" - but he lets me do it and doesn't pull his foot away. So... maybe I should just bite his nails.

But all of my joking and weirdness aside, I think we're making a tiny bit of progress. He's been having to "shake" for everything he wants and already I don't even have to ask him. I just put my hand out and he plops his paw right into it and will let me handle it for a few seconds to get what he wants.
It might not be a huge leap, but I'm happy with baby steps for now!
Going to see about a cordless dremel this weekend, so we can start getting him used to seeing it and hearing it.
 
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