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Does your dog hate nail trims?

"Hello! I would like to enquire about having my dog [Fluffy]'s nails clipped. [Fluffy] is a 1 year and 4 months old [breed of dog]. He loves people and other dogs and is super cuddly, but he absolutely hates having his nails clipped and will bite. I stopped trying to do them at home as he gets upset and has bitten me a few times. Please let me know if that is something you can help with.

This is a real enquiry - tho' identifiable details have been changed for obvious reasons - and is very typical. It's incredibly common and I get lots of enquiries from owners whose dogs intensely dislike having their nails done, asking for help.

The answer is yes, I can help.

One of the key business values is 'transparency' so, in the first instance, the best way I can help is by letting you know what your options are, so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Option 1 (Recommended): Low-stress Groomer and Counter-conditioning at Home

Following the processes and methods outlined in this EXCELLENT and SUPERBLY HELPFUL e-book, written by a world authority on canine behaviour and psychology, Deb Jones, your best option is to use co-operative care methods at home to gently accustom your dog to having its nails trimmed in a way that gives your dog agency, so that they feel safe and in control.

The most important thing I need to tell you is that there is no silver bullet, and that 95% of the progress happens at home. It's a partnership between you, your groomer and your dog.

You choose a method, or mix of methods that suit your dog, and help them to overcome their nail-trimming anxiety at home. These include using:

  • nail clippers

  • electric nail grinder (we commonly use the word dremel as a catch-all term for this)

  • scratchboard (I have trained my own dog on the scratchboard)

Understandably, not everyone is comfortable with actually trimming their dog's nails themselves.

In these cases you can bring your dog to me for regular, low-stress nail trims.

When you combine this with putting the work in at home with love and patience to counter-condition your dog to the tools and experience, this yields great results.

Option 2: Vet

a dog with a dangerously overgrown dew claw

Sometimes a dog's nails are overgrown to the point of being dangerous to their health or safety, and they need more immediate results than Option 1 provides. For example, if they are curling round and piercing into the pad.

In the case of fearful or reactive dogs with a 'grooming SOS' that don't tolerate me handling their nails, I always recommend you consult a vet. The vet can advise whether a nail clip under partial or full sedation is the best way forward, and is qualified to prescribe &/ administer the appropriate sedatives.

Option 3: Everyday Groomer

Whether it's a salon, a mobile groomer or a 1-1 groomer, almost all groomers in the UK today lack sufficient training in canine behaviour and psychology, and are trained to 'get the job done' above all else. In the case of an anxious or reactive dog needing a nail trim, this will likely involve the use of one or more people; a muzzle; and restraining the dog so it can't move whilst its nails are clipped.

If this is your preferred option then, whilst I understand your reasons, I am not the groomer for you.

This is because dogs are 'one-time learners' - all it takes is one, short negative experience for the trauma to stay with them and make them more anxious or fearful of the trigger next time. I'm not going to be the person that does that to your dog, I just can't do it. I'm sure you understand.

If your dog hates nail trims and you need some help, don't hesitate to get in touch via the enquiry form on the home page.

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