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DON'T TOUCH my Front Legs, Paws and Nails! (2/2)

Updated: Jun 26, 2023


I recently posted a link to a good YouTube video on how to apply counter conditioning techniques to a dog who dislikes having its nails, paws and legs touched.

Then I remembered that many owners don't even realise that their dogs are reactive to having their legs handled in the first place, because at home we don't need to handle our dog's legs or use equipment on them.

How to test for leg sensitivity

Lots of dogs have been taught the "paw" or "shake" command which is the best start.

In order to groom a dog's legs or paws we need to go further, and hold them steady for minutes at a time with one hand, whilst using equipment with the other. If your dog has a long or curly coat, this also means brushing and combing their legs methodically, section by section, down to the root.

Does your dog allow you to hold their leg for longer than a few seconds?

Whilst holding their leg, does your dog allow you to stroke and ruffle their fur from the armpit down to their paw?

Can you run an implement (like a hairbrush or spoon) from their armpit down to their paw?

Can you brush and comb their legs (front, back, inside and outside) without them fussing?

Signs of anxiety or fear include: withdrawing the leg; moving away; bucking; standing up; fidgeting; snapping.

Some examples

Here's when I learned about Sami's dislike of the clippers on his front paws for the first time:

Why do I hold onto the leg after he bucks?

If a dog tries to escape a particular part of the groom, I don't let go immediately. I don't want to teach it that unwanted behaviours will work. But I don't squeeze tight either, which NEVER works.

So I hold on, gently, and see if a firm hand works to settle them, whilst observing their body language.

If the dog doesn't respond, or calm down, then I stop, but I make sure that I am the person to place their leg down, so they know we're stopping on my terms too.

Why do I put the blade against my cheek?

When Sami reacts to me clipping the lower half of his foreleg, I first check to see if the clipper blade is warming up to rule out whether it is an aversion to the heat of the blade.

Here's what I learned about Dora

Dora's thick, fluffy coat is prone to tangles in her legs and paws.

In order to remove a tangle first I have to find it, using a comb. But Dora will always tell me when I am near as she starts to jiggle and jump, and I assume she is anticipating an uncomfortable tug on her skin.

Paw tangles, especially, are painful for dogs and need to go, so I have to proceed, but gently, making sure I don't hurt her. (This is when a third hand would be useful, then I could to find the tangle and hold onto it with the fingers of one hand; steady the Dog with another hand; and pick up my scissors to safely remove the tangle with the third hand I don't have...)

She will need some daily counter conditioning training at home in order to overcome her touch sensitivity before it becomes problematic, and to build her confidence.

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